Ranking the Best and Worst NHL Trades This Season

Lyle RichardsonFeatured ColumnistMarch 6, 2014

Ranking the Best and Worst NHL Trades This Season

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    Tony Gutierrez/Associated Press

    The NHL's 2014 trade deadline is now history. Unlike recent deadline days, this year's was filled with notable deals involving star players. A couple of significant trades also took place in the days leading up to deadline day. Several of these deals could have a considerable effect upon the current playoff race.

    This recent swapping of stars enlivened what was an otherwise quiet NHL trade market. Throughout most of this season, many trades involved second- and third-tier talent. The lowered salary cap was largely to blame. Still, there were a couple of notable moves earlier in the season.

    Many fans and pundits tend to view NHL trades in terms of winners and losers. Time will tell how this year's deals pan out. In the meantime, here's a ranking of the five best and five worst deals of this NHL regular season.

     

    Trade details courtesy of NHL.com.

5th Worst: Ladislav Smid to the Flames

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    Gerry Thomas/Getty Images

    The Trade: The Edmonton Oilers traded defenseman Ladislav Smid and minor league goalie Olivier Roy to the Calgary Flames for center Roman Horak and prospect goaltender Laurent Brossoit.

     

    Smid was the Oilers' best defensive blueliner. He was among the league leaders for defensemen last season in blocked shots and hits. He's in the first season of a four-year deal. Given the Oilers' struggling defense, trading their best shutdown rearguard was a puzzling move. Shipping him to a hated rival like the Flames was downright odd. Smid has since become a valuable member of the rebuilding Flames defense corps.

    At the time of the trade, The Edmonton Journal's Jim Matheson speculated the Oilers shed Smid's $3.5 million salary to make room for another player. That deal has yet to materialize. Horak or Brossoit must develop into quality NHL players for justify this move.

5th Best: Michael Del Zotto for Kevin Klein

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    John Russell/Getty Images

    The Trade: The New York Rangers ship Michael Del Zotto to the Nashville Predators for Kevin Klein.

     

    As The Hockey News' Rory Boylen observed, this deal satisfied the needs of both clubs. The Rangers wanted to move Del Zotto, who was struggling under coach Alain Vigneault and had no future in New York. The Predators wanted to add a young, affordable, puck-moving defenseman.

    The still-promising Del Zotto gets a chance to get his career on track under a more sympathetic coach in Nashville's Barry Trotz. With renewed confidence and improved defensive skills, Del Zotto could blossom with the Predators. Klein's experience and shot-blocking skills should help the Rangers reduce their shots-against totals. He's also signed through 2017-18 at an affordable cap hit of $2.9 million.

4th Worst: Tuomo Ruutu for Andrei Loktionov

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    The Trade: The Carolina Hurricanes trade winger Tuomo Ruutu to the New Jersey Devils for forward Andrei Loktionov and a conditional third-round pick in 2017.

     

    A lack of scoring punch threatens the Devils' playoff hopes. In late January, The Star-Ledger's Rich Chere reported they were in the market for a top-line left wing. Ruutu is not the answer to the Devils' offensive woes. His offensive production is in decline, and he's best suited for checking-line duty. The Hurricanes picked up part of his remaining salary, but the Devils are still on the hook for $3.8 million per season through 2015-16.

    Loktionov joins his third team since 2011-12, having washed out with the Devils and the Los Angeles Kings. He's on a one-year contract, and this could be his last chance to prove himself as an NHL player. At least the Hurricanes managed to dump most of Ruutu's salary. 

4th Best: David Legwand to the Red Wings

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    John Russell/Getty Images

    The Trade: The Nashville Predators traded David Legwand to the Detroit Red Wings for center Patrick Eaves, prospect Calle Jarnkrok and a conditional third-round pick in 2014.

     

    Despite recent injuries to Henrik Zetterberg and Stephen Weiss,  MLive.com's Ansar Khan reported Red Wings general manager Ken Holland insisted he wouldn't acquire a rental player. Subsequent injuries to centers Pavel Datsyuk (knee) and Darren Helm (concussion) changed Holland's mind. Legwand is an experienced two-way center who should help the Wings hang onto a playoff berth down the stretch.

    Prior to this trade, The Tennessean's Josh Cooper reported Legwand said he had no contract talks with the Predators. Nashville GM David Poile obviously wanted to get something for Legwand at the trade deadline rather than lose him for nothing to free agency. It's a decent return, with the promising Jarnkrok being the key piece. He could become a future star for the Predators.

     

3rd Worst: Roberto Luongo to the Panthers

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    Graig Abel/Getty Images

    The Trade: The Vancouver Canucks trade Roberto Luongo and minor league forward Steve Anthony to the Florida Panthers for goalie Jacob Markstrom and center Shawn Matthias.

     

    Receiving a struggling young goalie and a third-line center for Luongo does nothing to improve the faltering Canucks. The saving grace is they only carry 15 percent of Luongo's $5.33 million annual cap hit for the remaining eight years of his contract. That frees up cap space for other moves this summer.

    The Panthers bring back an older, more expensive version of Luongo than the one who played for them from 2000 to 2006. He'll face a heavier workload than what he was used to in Vancouver. The 34-year-old goalie isn't as durable as he once was. At least Luongo's happy to rejoin the Panthers and they didn't overpay to get him.

    Fun fact: If Luongo retires before his contract expires in 2022, both clubs get tagged for salary-cap recapture penalties.

3rd Best: Marian Gaborik to the Kings

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    Jamie Sabau/Getty Images

    The Trade: The Columbus Blue Jackets ship Marian Gaborik to the Los Angeles Kings for Matt Frattin, a second-round pick in either 2014 or 2015 and a conditional third-round pick.

     

    The Kings are among the NHL's lowest-scoring teams this season. They need more than stellar goaltending and stingy defense if they're to challenge for the Stanley Cup. Gaborik has a long injury history but is also a former 40-goal scorer. If he remains healthy down the stretch, he could be a valuable playoff rental player. The Associated Press' Rusty Miller reports (via Yahoo! Sports) that the Blue Jackets will pick up part of his remaining $1.9 million salary for this season.

    It was thought the Blue Jackets might retain Gaborik for a run at the playoffs, but they were playing well without him. They get a depth player in Frattin, while those draft picks from the Kings can be stockpiled for other moves in the offseason.

2nd Worst: Thomas Vanek for Matt Moulson

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    Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

    The Trade: The Buffalo Sabres deal Thomas Vanek to the New York Islanders for Matt Moulson, a first-round pick in 2014 and a second-round pick in 2015.

     

    This was a rare early-season swap of notable players. It was also the equivalent of two sinking ships rearranging their deck chairs. This early gamble by the Sabres and Islanders didn't pan out. Vanek and Moulson failed to improve the playoff hopes of their new teams, which remain mired at the bottom of the Eastern Conference standings.

    By the trade deadline, both players were with new clubs. The Sabres shipped Moulson to the Minnesota Wild, while the Islanders dealt Vanek to the Montreal Canadiens. At least the draft picks the Sabres received from the Islanders could benefit them in the long run. They also got two second-round picks (2014 and 2016) from the Wild for Moulson.

2nd Best: Marty St. Louis for Ryan Callahan

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    LM Otero/Associated Press

    The Trade: The Tampa Bay Lightning ship Martin St. Louis to the New York Rangers for Ryan Callahan, a first-round pick in 2015 and a conditional second-round pick in 2014.

     

    This rare swap of team captains favors the Rangers in the short term. Despite his age, the 38-year-old St. Louis remains among the league's elite forwards. He is the reigning Art Ross Trophy winner and should significantly bolster their offense. He's also signed through next season at a cap hit of $5.625 million.

    Considering St. Louis would only accept a trade to the Rangers, the Lightning received a good return. Callahan is a skilled two-way star who should prove invaluable in their quest for the playoffs. They also have an opportunity to re-sign him before he becomes eligible for unrestricted free agency in July. Picking up an additional first-round pick in what could be a deep 2015 draft is a plus. If the Rangers advance to the Eastern Conference Final, that conditional 2014 pick becomes a first-rounder.

The Worst: Thomas Vanek to the Canadiens

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    Mike Stobe/Getty Images

    The Trade: The New York Islanders trade Thomas Vanek and a conditional fifth-round pick in 2015 to the Montreal Canadiens for prospect Sebastian Collberg and a conditional second-round pick in 2014.

     

    Last month, ESPN.com's Katie Strang reported on Vanek's intention to test this summer's free-agent market. Islanders GM Garth Snow had no choice but to move him before the trade deadline. ESPN.com's Scott Burnside revealed Snow's asking price was a first-round pick, a top prospect and another pick or prospect. Unfortunately for Snow, his rivals weren't interested in overpaying for a playoff rental. As the deadline loomed, Snow was forced to accept far less than he originally sought. This trade was another embarrassment for the sad-sack Islanders.

    Canadiens GM Marc Bergevin probably couldn't believe his luck. He landed a much-needed scoring forward for a minimal return. Bergevin also has Vanek's negotiating rights until July 1, giving him a shot (albeit a long one) to re-sign the winger. 

     

The Best: Ryan Miller and Steve Ott for Jaroslav Halak and Chris Stewart

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    Ralph Freso/Associated Press

    The Trade: The Buffalo Sabres trade goaltender Ryan Miller and forward Steve Ott to the St. Louis Blues for goalie Jaroslav Halak, right wing Chris Stewart, prospect William Carrier, a first-round pick in 2015 and a conditional pick.

     

    This was a good, old-fashioned hockey trade benefiting both teams. The Blues wanted to bolster their Stanley Cup hopes. The Sabres needed pieces to boost their rebuilding roster. Miller is a former Vezina Trophy winner who gives the Blues stability between the pipes. Ott's grit and leadership makes him a solid addition to their checking lines. The pair are eligible for unrestricted free agency in July. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch's Jeremy Rutherford reports Miller is "very open" to re-signing with the Blues.

    The Sabres picked up a return that helps them now (Stewart) and in the future. They also flipped Halak, a pending free agent, to the Washington Capitals for goaltender Michal Neuvirth, who's signed through next season. NHL.com reports that if the Blues advance to the Western Conference Final or if Miller re-signs with the Blues, that conditional pick becomes a first-rounder in 2014.