For doing something not enough general managers are willing to do in the NHL: Make a bold hockey trade that is not related to a trade demand or salary cap structuring.
As the trade deadline approached it seemed like the day itself was going to be a major dud on the trade front. All of the major deals had already been made and the weeks and days leading up to the deadline, and outside of a few smaller moves earlier in the day there was not really anything that stood out.Then the Red Wings and Capitals swung the Anthony Mantha blockbuster.
It is such a great trade for deadline because, 1) nobody expected it, and 2) both teams are getting exactly what they want. The Capitals get the best player in the trade that fits their team, is signed long-term, and they probably save salary cap space in the future, while the Red Wings get a very strong haul centered around Jakub Vrana and additional draft picks to add to their cupboard.
Loser: Kevyn Adams
The return on the Taylor Hall trade was, in a word, underwhelming. Now, granted, Hall is having the worst offensive season of his career, he has a big salary cap hit, and his no-trade clause clearly impacted what the Sabres could do with him. Hall ultimately had the final say, and if he wanted to go to Boston, well, Adams’ hands are tied. But the Sabres are the ones that put themselves in this position. They signed Hall to a one-year contract in a year where everybody knew they had almost shot to make the playoffs and gave him a no-trade clause knowing that would mean he could dictate where he would go.
In their defense, they should have expected more production from Hall. But this signing clearly did not work the way they wanted and now they are left just looking embarrassed.
Winner: Taylor Hall
He gets a chance to rebound from an awful start to the season on a better team with more talent around him, while also getting a chance to play in the playoffs for just the third time in his career.
Loser: Ken Holland
The Oilers only trade leading up to the deadline was to send a draft pick to the New Jersey Devils for Dmitry Kulikov which is … fine. It does not make or break the team or its chances in any meaningful way.
But what puts Holland and the Oilers in the loser column was Holland’s comment about how you can’t go all in every year and you have to pick and choose your spots.
Question: Why isn’t this year one of the years you want to pick?
The Oilers have two megastars in Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl playing at the top of their game. Dominant players. MVP level players in the prime of their careers playing at their peak. A duo that most teams never get. And it is a year where you are in a division and in a playoff format where it might be possible to go on a deep run. It’s not so much the lack of moves, but the publicly stated reasoning behind it. Just seems like a defeatist attitude for a team that should be taking advantage of its window. If not this season, then when?
Winner: Julien BriseBois
He worked some magic with the salary cap to get the player he wanted (David Savard) to strengthen his defense. It is the second year in a row he went bold at the trade deadline and he still has Nikita Kucherov‘s return looming for the start of the playoffs.
Loser: Nashville Predators
The Predators have played their way back into playoff contention, and instead of adding somebody that could make an impact, they only added Erik Gudbranson. That does not really move the needle much.
Winner: Teams using salary cap space to buy draft picks, prospects
San Jose, Chicago, and Detroit all used some of their extra salary cap space to get involved in trades over the past few weeks to gain some free assets.
The Blackhawks were willing to take Brett Connolly‘s contract from Florida, while the Sharks and Red Wings were the third team in separate trades where they would retain a portion of contracts (David Savard and Mattias Janmark) in exchange for draft picks. Just a little salary cap creativity to give yourself an extra lottery ticket in the offseason. If you have the space, use it.
Winner: New York Islanders
With Anders Lee done for the season the Islanders had to get another forward in a close division. Their trade for Kyle Palmieri and Travis Zajac was a huge win given the low cost involved and the fact Lou Lamoriello convinced New Jersey to retain half of the remaining salary.
Loser: Philadelphia Flyers
Weird day. They were sellers by trading Michael Raffl and Erik Gustafsson, which makes sense given the way their season has gone. They retained salary on both trades, but only added a fifth and seventh round pick. The one player they could have traded for a meaningful return (Scott Laughton) they re-signed to a five-year contract worth $15 million. There is always a risk in signing a depth player to a long-term deal. Seems like a confused team right now.