NHL trade deadline winners and losers

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Whew. Breathe. Take a sip of water. Have a shower beer. Whatever you need to come down from the craziness. The 2022 NHL trade deadline has come and gone.

Did the big day itself deliver the excitement we craved? Yes and no. We saw deals a plenty but few legit stars changing teams aside from goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury. But to interpret the trade deadline that way is to view it through the lens of the media and worry about viewership on the actual day. The way I see it, the entire weekend leading up “counts” as the trade deadline. Just because big names don’t get moved on the final day doesn’t mean the trade deadline failed us.

With that glass-half-full mentality in mind, I name my 2022 trade deadline winners and losers not just based on what happened on Monday, March 21. The days and even weeks leading up are factored in. Which buyer teams scored the crucial upgrades necessary to chase a Stanley Cup? Which seller teams laid promising foundations for the future?

Here are my winners and losers.

Trade Deadline Winners

Colorado Avalanche

So GM Joe Sakic didn’t land that big, earth-shattering piece a la Claude Giroux. That’s OK. A team as rich in talent in Colorado didn’t necessarily need to add a marquee player and risk disrupting team chemistry. Instead, it landed a malleable weapon in Artturi Lehkonen, who can play either wing in any situation and help on the penalty kill in particular. That’s a glove-like fit considering the Avs have one of the weaker penalty kills in the NHL among contending teams, sitting 18th at 78.4 percent. Andrew Cogliano, also added in a minor trade Monday, can help there, too. Each player led his now-former team in shorthanded minutes per game among forwards this season. Between Lehkonen, Cogliano and last week’s additions, defenseman Josh Manson and center Nico Sturm, the Avs have made themselves deeper and tougher to play against.

Does it sting to give up 2020 first-round pick Justin Barron, a promising right-shot blueliner? Sure. But when you build up your talent crop as well as Colorado did, eventually the prospect pool overflows and players like Barron become necessary sacrifices in the pursuit of a championship. Sakic is following the Julien BriseBois blueprint.

Florida Panthers

It’s fun seeing the Panthers and GM Bill Zito pushin’ the big stack at the poker table, not intimidated by their neighbors in Tampa. The Panthers overpaid for defenseman Ben Chiarot by including a first-round pick but offset that acquisition cost by arguably underpaying for center Claude Giroux, capitalizing on the fact he would only waive his no-movement clause to come to Florida, which gave the Philadelphia Flyers no leverage. Giving up a first-round pick and Owen Tippett didn’t constitute peanuts, but adding Giroux without surrendering top prospects Grigori Denisenko and Mackie Samoskevich was a coup. Giroux brings so much, from soft hands to play-driving ability to outstanding faceoff skill to leadership. The Panthers entered deadline week as the favorite to represent the Eastern Conference in the Stanley Cup final and exit deadline week still the favorite in my mind.

Minnesota Wild

I flip-flopped on this pick for the Winners column. My initial reaction upon hearing of the Fleury acquisition was, “Were they good enough to chase him? Can he put them over the top?” But think about how dominant the Wild were earlier this season when they were getting competent goaltending from Cam Talbot and Kaapo Kahkonen before both netminders slumped miserably. Now ask yourself: after the Avalanche and Flames, is there another West team on paper you’d take over the Wild in a playoff series? Fleury might be joining the third-best team in the conference – or solidifying Minnesota as the third-best team. He brings Cup-winning experience, Vezina-Trophy talent and dressing-room intangibles. He’ll have a better defensive club in front of him than he did in Chicago. He also comes at a reasonable cost given the Wild only surrender a first-round pick if they reach the Western Conference final and Fleury is the winning goaltender in four or more games. Otherwise, the pick is a second-rounder. Better yet, GM Bill Guerin flipped Kahkonen to the San Jose Sharks for a handy depth piece on defense in Jacob Middleton. The deep Wild are equipped to put up a fight against almost anyone in a seven-game series now.

Montreal Canadiens

The thing to remember about the Habs’ current trajectory: last year was an anomaly. They had the 18th-best record in the NHL before embarking on their miracle fun to the Stanley Cup final. Good on GM Kent Hughes, then, for understanding how much work still needs to be done to repair this franchise in the long term. He scored a 2022 first-rounder in the Tyler Toffoli trade and a coveted 2023 first-rounder in the Chiarot trade. Monday’s deadline deal sending heart-and-soul winger Lehkonen to the Avs yielded a legitimate blueline building block in Barron. Between him and Kaiden Guhle, the Habs are beginning to beef up the defensive talent in the system. 

New York Rangers

The Rangers spent a good portion of deadline day laying low, and then, in a blink, they added two useful forwards in a flash. Andrew Copp brings tremendous versatility. He can be deployed at any position on any line and in both special-teams configurations. Meanwhile, Tyler Motte will bring the feisty physicality the Rangers lost when Sammy Blais tore his ACL in November. Most of the moves GM Chris Drury has made since taking over from Jeff Gorton last year have revolved around making the Rangers tougher to play against, better able to blend grit with their enviable finesse, and both Monday’s moves add balance to the lineup. Any team with Igor Shesterkin in net and Adam Fox controlling the play on defense, not to mention Artemi Panarin and Mika Zibanejad leading the scoring up front, has a chance. The Rangers look as deep and deadly as any team in the Metro after Monday’s upgrades.

Tampa Bay Lightning

BriseBois continues to put on a clinic, year after year. His third line of Blake Coleman, Yanni Gourde and Barclay Goodrow was instrumental in Tampa’s back-to-back Cup wins in 2020 and 2021, and the Lightning lost all three in the off-season, Gourde because Seattle claimed him in the expansion draft, Coleman and Goodrow because they priced themselves into big money as UFAs. No problem, said BriseBois. In Brandon Hagel and Nick Paul, both of whom can mix scoring with gritty two-way play, BriseBois has his successors. Hagel cost multiple first-round picks plus upside forwards Taylor Raddysh and Boris Katchouk to acquire but has two more years on his contract at an itty-bitty $1.5-million AAV. He’s worth it. And, lest we forget, Tampa first-round picks tend to come at the end of the round. They’re glorified second-rounders.

The Murky Middle

A few teams fall somewhere between winners and losers for me but warrant mentioning:

Anaheim Ducks

The Ducks and GM Pat Verbeek did well getting a haul in separate trades for left winger Rickard Rakell, defenseman Hampus Lindholm and defenseman Josh Manson over the past week, landing an asset list that includes four second-round picks, a first-round pick and defenseman Urho Vaakanainen, but the trades have to be bittersweet if you’re a Ducks fan. This team showed promise early in the season, riding a breakout campaign from right winger Troy Terry and some scintillating highlight-reel offense from center Trevor Zegras. Selling off the trio of prominent UFAs for a boatload of picks sends a message that the Ducks, who haven’t made the playoffs since 2017-18, are still a ways from competing.

Arizona Coyotes

Sure, it would’ve been nice to get something for expiring asset Phil Kessel. That’s an ‘L’ for GM Bill Armstrong. But not trading cornerstone defenseman Jakob Chychrun is a win. For one, there’s still a strong case to be made that he should be part of the rebuild going forward. A 23-year-old blueliner who has three seasons left at a $4.6-million AAV and has already led NHL defensemen in goals in a season is typically a piece you acquire as a rebuilding team. The other reason it was wise not to force a Chychrun trade: if Armstrong decides he wants to make the move, the list of suitors will be far longer if it’s an off-season trade. The buyer teams tend to clog up the phones on deadline day. Moving Chychrun would invite a bidding war and gargantuan return. That’s not something you want to rush if you’re looking to maximize your haul.

Los Angeles Kings

I understand if any Kings fan feels underwhelmed today. This team has been competitive in 2021-22, holding down second place in the Pacific, and GM Rob Blake transitioned to Kings from rebuilder to contender over the summer when he signed center Phillip Danault and traded for right winger Viktor Arvidsson. The Kings are also bursting with prospect capital and thus could’ve gone big-game hunting Monday. There’s no rush there, though. This team is trending exactly the way it should be. It’s likely too early for Blake to go all-in. Maybe that changes in a year or two, but this season was not the time to start mortgaging the future. The Kings’ contention window is just starting to open. There was no point paying up for a rental in hopes of throwing down with Colorado or Calgary in the playoffs. It’s not L.A.’s time quite yet.

New York Islanders

I get it if your reaction to a day that consisted of (a) no trades and (b) curiously timed extensions for wingers Zach Parise and Cal Clutterbuck is to call it a dud. But the message to me is that GM Lou Lamoriello sees 2021-22 a fluky writeoff. The Isles reached back-to-back conference final Game 7s in the two seasons before this one. Because of the Belmont Arena construction, they opened this season on a 13-game road trip, losing eight times. Despite having a points percentage north of .500, they are miles away from a wildcard position during a bizarre season in which the Eastern Conference was seemingly clinched by Christmas. Perhaps the Isles, then, want a mulligan and thus don’t intend to break up their group. It’s a fair proposition given the gains we’ve seen from two crucial long-term pillars, goaltender Ilya Sorokin and defenseman Noah Dobson, this season.

Trade Deadline Losers

Edmonton Oilers

Mikko Koskinen is 11-1-2 with a .916 save percentage across his past 15 appearances. Will that hot run do more harm than good? Did it deter GM Ken Holland from hunting for a goaltender? The market dried up once Dallas took Braden Holtby off the table, and it seemed like Marc-Andre Fleury would only go to Minnesota, but Kahkonen was on the table Monday, right? The Oilers, a team trying to break through and do damage in the post-season during Connor McDavid’s and Leon Draisaitl’s primes, walked away with depth defenseman Brett Kulak – for a second-round pick! – and journeyman center Derick Brassard. The Oilers do have a 12-5-1 record and .694 points percentage under coach Jay Woodcroft, but isn’t that all the more reason to get aggressive in a wobbly Pacific Division? What kind of message did Monday send to Edmonton’s superstars?

New Jersey Devils

The Devils had an uphill climb in a stacked Metro this season despite making splashy moves in the summer, most notably when they signed top UFA defenseman Dougie Hamilton. So they can be forgiven to a point for sinking to last place in the division. It was always going to be them or the Columbus Blue Jackets. It hasn’t helped that goaltenders Mackenzie Blackwood and Jonathan Bernier have dealt with injuries this season. But to hold the second-worst record in the Eastern Conference and walk away from the trade deadline with no future assets secured, no picks or prospects, was quite a surprise. There are two sides to every trade negotiation, of course, so perhaps GM Tom Fitzgerald couldn’t find a fit for a deal. It’s also possible that right winger Jesper Bratt and defenseman Damon Severson are still part of the Devils’ long-term plans, as Frank Seravalli surmised in his final Trade Targets board Monday morning. But…nothing? Not a single deal? The Devils have no additional picks lined up in Rounds 1 to 3 in the next three drafts.

Toronto Maple Leafs

Mark Giordano will bring tremendous leadership and stability to a Leafs blueline ravaged by injuries on the left side, while Colin Blackwell was a sneaky depth forward to land in that trade with the Seattle Kraken, too. The good news ends there, however.

The Leafs, who waived Petr Mrazek, are betting on a rebound from injured goaltender Jack Campbell and continued magic from rookie Erik Kallgren, who has impressed over just four appearance and three starts. Simply put, Toronto needed to find a way to upgrade in net, no matter how barren the goalie market was, and that didn’t happen. The Leafs’ deadline moves look especially disappointing when compared to those of the teams they’re battling in their own division. The Panthers got Giroux. The Lightning beefed up with Hagel and Paul. The Bruins acquired and signed Hampus Lindholm. Even the New York Rangers on the Metro side of the bracket made major noise. Several weeks ago, the Leafs looked like a top-three team in the East. Now? They’re depleted on ‘D,’ betting on a prayer in net. What happens if Kallgren’s next start is a bad one? How quickly will panic spread? The ice is that thin in Hogtown right now.

Vegas Golden Knights

A cursed, injury-plagued season has made the Golden Knights a tough team to appraise all season long. They were a Cup contender to everyone on paper entering 2021-22 but have essentially spent no time with a fully healthy lineup. From that perspective, it’s understandable why Vegas didn’t do much on Monday aside from move Evgenii Dadonov’s contract. But this team, if it gets healthy on time, can still do damage in the Pacific. The problem is that goaltender Robin Lehner is the biggest question mark in that regard, nursing a torn labrum in his shoulder and a lower-body injury for which there is no timetable for a return. I’m not saying GM Kelly McCrimmon needed to shoot for the moon and reacquire Fleury Monday, but could he not have made a move for someone like Alexander Georgiev? James Reimer? Andrew Hammond? Any warm body with NHL experience? Rolling with Laurent Brossoit and Logan Thompson going forward is, ahem, a choice.



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