NHL Trade Deadline 2016: Winners and Losers from Around the League
There weren't many big deals made at the 2016 NHL trade deadline, which may go down in history as one of the most yawn-worthy leap days in history.
The Chicago Blackhawks and Florida Panthers were aggressive buyers over the past few days, hoping to solidify their playoff positions and make waves in the postseason.
The Anaheim Ducks may have gotten the biggest steal by prying Brandon Pirri from the Panthers for a sixth-round pick.
But there were plenty of moves not made, which means some teams will see their unrestricted free agents walk away for nothing at the end of the season.
Deadline day was anything but a hotbed of activity, but there were plenty of winners and losers Monday. Click ahead to see our take on who landed where.
Winner: New York Rangers Fans
The New York Rangers have been a perennial playoff threat since the 2004-05 lockout. It's no coincidence that 33-year-old goaltender Henrik Lundqvist began his NHL career in 2005-06. The team knows its window to win a Stanley Cup is closing as Lundqvist's age climbs.
So, as they did with the addition of defenseman Keith Yandle last season, the Rangers made a big move at this year's deadline by adding former Carolina Hurricanes captain Eric Staal—a Cup winner in 2006—to the mix at forward on the weekend.
Not only did the Rangers add experience and talent up front, but they also refrained from dealing away depth on the blue line by keeping impending unrestricted free agent Yandle for the playoff run, essentially adding a second top-end rental to the mix.
Neither of these guys will likely remain Rangers come July, as Staal's contract is also up at the end of the season, but if the team is hoisting a Stanley Cup (or at worst millions of dollars richer for a deep playoff run), then the losses won't sting much.
Loser: The Carolina Hurricanes and the Return for Eric Staal
It can sting having to deal away your franchise player when, thanks to a no-trade clause, he holds all the cards in deciding where he will go. Ask the Calgary Flames, who had to give Jarome Iginla to the Pittsburgh Penguins for a less attractive package than they would have received from the front-runner Boston Bruins in 2013.
So it should come as no surprise that the return for Eric Staal—who likely handcuffed the Hurricanes by wanting to head to the only other NHL team currently employing one of his brothers, the New York Rangers—was absent a first-round pick. Two second-rounders and a mediocre prospect in Finland's Aleksi Saarela are going to do nothing to help the Hurricanes anytime soon.
Maybe if Carolina was able to wait until Monday to make a deal, the price would have jumped. But Staal's power was too strong—and that makes the move a loser during this deadline.
Despite that, the Hurricanes may have been winners in the bigger picture by sticking with the rebuilding process and dealing Kris Versteeg and John-Michael Liles to the Los Angeles Kings and Bruins, respectively, largely for prospects and picks.
Winner: Florida Panthers GM Dale Tallon
Florida Panthers general manager Dale Tallon proved that a few shrewd moves during a rebuild can net you a team worthy of challenging for a playoff spot. His addition of veterans Roberto Luongo and Jaromir Jagr in the past couple of years have helped a talented young team challenge for the Atlantic Division title earlier than expected.
At the 2016 trade deadline, Tallon made sure he's going to make the most of the playoff opportunity this spring. The Panthers aren't in the same category as the Washington Capitals or even the New York Rangers. But with the addition of finesse player Jiri Hudler, the gritty Teddy Purcell and some depth on defense with Jakub Kindl, the former Chicago Blackhawks architect showed he has a winner's mentality and isn't satisfied with just a playoff berth.
The budget team didn't part with too much either, giving up second- and third-round picks this year, a sixth-rounder in 2017 and a 2018 second-round selection.
Loser: Anyone Expecting Excitement on Monday
For anyone who woke up early to tune into the radio or a sports network on television, there was a whole lot of filler taking place for much of the day.
With the big names of Eric Staal and Andrew Ladd already off the market before Monday's final countdown, the pace was like molasses.
The gaps on the Sportsnet Trade Tracker are almost comical. It wasn't until the Arizona Coyotes dealt Mikkel Boedker to the Colorado Avalanche with less than two hours remaining that things started to pick up, and even then, the action was sparse or littered with minor league deals. Between midnight and 1 p.m., the only transaction analysts had to talk about was the Sergei Plotnikov trade to Arizona from Pittsburgh.
In fact, on Monday, there were more transactions reported after the 3 p.m. ET deadline than before.
The NHL trade deadline is fast becoming one of the most disappointing sports entertainment events of the season.
Winner: The Anaheim Ducks
Most of Monday's trade-legal hours had passed, and it looked like one of the Western Conference's hottest teams was going to be standing pat.
Then word came out that the Anaheim Ducks made a deal for Florida Panthers forward Brandon Pirri. Pirri scored 22 goals in 49 games two seasons ago but has just 11 in 52 this year. He clearly fell out of favor in Florida, and there has been chatter about his potential departure since his time in the press box as a healthy scratch in January.
The Ducks pounced on a no-brainer bargain when you consider Pirri is just 24, has some size (6'0", 183 lbs), can play center or wing and flashed such huge potential less than a year ago. The cost was a measly sixth-round selection in June's draft. Most teams would give that up for a shot at a 20-goal scorer.
Jamie McGinn was also brought over from Buffalo later in the day for a conditional pick. The Ducks' depth was greatly improved up front, and they didn't even have to deplete their stellar defense to do it.
Loser: Toronto Maple Leafs
Although the moves the Toronto Maple Leafs did make resulted in a plethora of picks in upcoming entry drafts, there is going to be a whole lot of losing in Toronto for the rest of the year—and likely for many seasons still to come.
Going the Buffalo Sabres' route from a year ago, the Leafs traded as many assets as possible ahead of the deadline, including their best goaltender, James Reimer, their best defenseman, Roman Polak, and forwards Daniel Winnik, Nick Spaling and Shawn Matthias in the last week.
Somehow, though, they failed to make a deal for one of their top assets in P.A. Parenteau and still have impending UFAs Brad Boyes and Michael Grabner on the books.
The bags will have to remain on the fans' heads a little longer.
Winner: The Colorado Avalanche
Give the Colorado Avalanche brass credit for making some moves despite their clinging to the final wild-card spot in the Western Conference. The team got more dangerous up front with the addition of 26-year-old speedster Mikkel Boedker and bolstered the back end with New Jersey Devils defenseman Eric Gelinas on Monday.
The Avs gave up a third-round pick next season for Gelinas, who still has another year on his contract at an affordable $1.575 million. For impending UFA Boedker, they gave up only prospects Conner Bleackley and Kyle Wood while also dumping the contract of UFA-to-be Alex Tanguay.
Expected to play with Boedker and fellow speedster Nathan MacKinnon, Avs captain Gabriel Landeskog told the Associated Press (via the Gazette) he likes the move:
It's exciting to get somebody of Boedker's caliber. It sends a message to everybody here that they're willing up top to give us the best chance possible to win and go deep in the playoffs. That's what we want to do.
Perhaps Colorado will get a leg up in re-signing Boedker. But even if the Avalanche don't, the additions could help the team lock up a playoff spot to create some more revenue. And once you're in the postseason dance, anything can happen.
Loser: The Vancouver Canucks
The Vancouver Canucks let the 3 p.m. ET deadline pass without making a move to gain assets for defenseman Dan Hamhuis or winger Radim Vrbata.
They are both impending UFAs. Hamhuis may be a candidate to stick around in Vancouver after the season, but the inability to add a draft pick or prospect or some combination as the Calgary Flames did with Kris Russell is a complete failure on the part of GM Jim Benning.
Vrbata is having a disappointing year but did produce 31 goals with the Canucks last season. Even if the return was a mid-round pick, the Canucks should have pulled the trigger. The team is eight points out of a playoff spot, which led to some mocking on Twitter from media types like Jason Brough of NBC's ProHockeyTalk.
Winner: The Chicago Blackhawks
The Chicago Blackhawks strengthened their already impressive chances of repeating as Stanley Cup champions with some smart moves in the final days leading up to the trade deadline. They made the biggest splash by securing the consensus top forward available, Andrew Ladd, from the Winnipeg Jets.
But they didn't stop there. The Blackhawks bulked up with Dale Weise and added more forward depth with Tomas Fleischmann, giving the Montreal Canadiens a 2018 second-round pick and prospect Phillip Danault.
Dealing defenseman Rob Scuderi to the Los Angeles Kings for Christian Ehrhoff was a move made with next year's salary-cap hit in mind, but Ehrhoff could pay off in the playoffs for a Blackhawks team that has some great top-end talent at the position but potential depth issues on defense.
It's the Ladd addition that solidifies the Blackhawks as a Western Conference powerhouse. He immediately joined the top line alongside former teammate Jonathan Toews and had an assist as his Blackhawks beat one of the NHL's best teams in the Washington Capitals on Sunday.
Loser: Brooks Laich
How would you feel as the longest-tenured member of the Washington Capitals—having watched the team slowly become a Stanley Cup front-runner—after being shipped off for salary-cap purposes to one of the league's worst teams just as the franchise you've been with for 12 seasons appears poised for a deep playoff run?
That's the situation for former Caps forward Brooks Laich, whose $4.5 million cap hit next year is now the Toronto Maple Leafs' problem. Laich was traded to the Leafs along with defensive prospect Connor Carrick and a second-round pick for forward Daniel Winnik and a fifth-round draft pick.
The deal came just before midnight while Laich was watching the Oscars with his fiancee Sunday night.
Winner: The Calgary Flames
If one team came out of nowhere to shock the league on a big return that was unexpected, it was the Calgary Flames.
GM Brad Treliving turned impending UFA defenseman Kris Russell into an NHL-ready defensive prospect, Jyrki Jokipakka, a young forward prospect who plays a few hours north of Calgary for the Edmonton Oil Kings, Brett Pollock, and a second-round draft pick that would turn into a first-rounder if the Dallas Stars can make the Western Conference Final.
You can bet there will be a whole lot of Stars fans in Calgary the rest of the way.
Russell is a prolific shot-blocker and solid two-way defender, but the advanced stats would suggest that he gets in the way of a lot of pucks because he spends too much time in his own end. In Corsi-for percentage on Stats.HockeyAnalysis.com, Russell ranks 171st out of 181 defenseman who have played at least 500 minutes this season with a 44.1 rating.
The divergent opinions on the defenseman and the fact that Vancouver's Dan Hamhuis was also on the market makes the big haul even more surprising and impressive.
Start the slow clap for Treliving, who brought in second- and fourth-round picks in the Jiri Hudler deal with the Florida Panthers earlier in the week and added a sixth-round pick from the Minnesota Wild by dealing impending UFA David Jones at the 11th hour, absorbing UFA goalie Niklas Backstrom in the return.
Loser: Jonathan Drouin
Jonathan Drouin's power move turned out to be a total bust. He's still a member of the Tampa Bay Lightning after the deadline.
GM Steve Yzerman didn't get a deal he liked, so he didn't make a move just to rid the team of its disgruntled former third overall draft pick.
That leaves the 20-year-old in limbo. He walked away from the AHL's Syracuse Crunch in the hopes of forcing Yzerman's hand and will now have to wait until the offseason. And by sitting out the rest of the year, he won't be improving his value.
According to Postmedia's Michael Traikos, via the Toronto Sun, Yzerman told reporters Drouin was welcome to return. But can the youngster swallow his pride and work his way back into favor?