Winners and Losers from the 2023 NHL Trade DeadlineMarch 4, 2023
Winners and Losers from the 2023 NHL Trade Deadline
The NHL took a nod from reality at the trade deadline this season. Like how some enjoy turning their birthday into a weeklong event, general managers across the league got a jump on the deadline by stretching out the fun and games (and transactions) over the course of about a month or so.
Although spreading out the moves might not have made for great television on deadline day, what it did allow was taking a wider look at all the moves that came through up until 3 p.m. ET on Friday. Even when it came to picking winners and losers, it allowed us to get a bit more creative when passing judgment.
That's why while the players pack up and head to their new teams, we're handing out the W's and L's in ways you've (probably) not seen before. Out with the old team-by-team breakdowns...in with hammering on trends, copycat notions and outright totally bad moves.
What constitutes a winner or a loser? Apart from that being somewhat of a philosophical question, it's the snap judgment that takes care of it. If your team brought in a big name or addressed a serious need, there's a good chance they came out ahead. If they didn't do much of anything, that's not necessarily bad, but if they did that when they had moves to make, then that's bad. No, I'm not Captain Obvious; I just play one on the internet.
Is your favorite team a winner, a loser or one that could be construed as such? Let's find out.
Winner: Building an NHL Superteam
The arms race in the Eastern Conference before the deadline was truly incredible to see. Six of the seven best teams in the NHL reside in the East (entering Friday), and they all have designs on winning the Stanley Cup. However, only one of them can do it. Heck, two of those top teams won't even get out of the first round of the playoffs.
When the situation presented itself to go for it, a couple of teams decided to take that to the extreme by trying to build the ultimate Cup contender. The Boston Bruins, Toronto Maple Leafs and New York Rangers were already three of the best teams in the NHL—and the Bruins might shake out as one of the best regular-season teams in league history—but none of them could rest easy knowing the competition is so stiff.
The Bruins acquired Dmitry Orlov and Garnet Hathaway from Washington and then Tyler Bertuzzi from Detroit. Did they need to get a point-scoring, puck-rushing defenseman who helped the Capitals win the Stanley Cup in 2018? Probably not, but they did.
Did they have to add two physical forwards, one who's very offensively capable, to help out the middle of their forward lines? Maybe the injuries to Taylor Hall and Nick Foligno are troubling, but they still could've weathered them over the rest of the regular season.
The Maple Leafs went whole-hog wild before the deadline, adding Ryan O'Reilly, Noel Acciari, Jake McCabe, Sam Lafferty, Erik Gustafsson and Luke Schenn while giving up a boat load of draft picks, including two first-round picks, and younger support players like Joey Anderson and Rasmus Sandin.
Maple Leafs general manager Kyle Dubas is in the final year of his five-year contract, and the Leafs haven't advanced past the first round since 2004. If the all-in push works, Dubas will have a job for life and a statue in downtown Toronto. If not, well...things might get ugly all around.
The Rangers, meanwhile, really leaned into the "Broadway" part of being called the Broadway Blueshirts when they added Vladimir Tarasenko and Patrick Kane while not really having to give up too much. A conditional 2023 first-round pick for Tarasenko and a conditional 2023 second-rounder for Kane, along with some lower prospects and picks, were mixed in on both deals. They brought back Tyler Motte and sent out Vitaly Kravtsov.
The superstar factor of the Rangers will ensure that every game is worth watching, but they're looking at facing either the New Jersey Devils or Carolina Hurricanes in the first round. It's that prospect that makes it easier to pull the trigger on adding a pair of players whose superstar years are just a little bit behind them.
The key here for all these moves is they're exciting and they show commitment by all the teams to go for broke to win it all, and we love to see that.
Losers: Philadelphia Flyers
We are aware the Flyers have been losers more than winners for most of the season, even if they've been more winners than most thought they would be before the year. That said, the trade deadline was the time to start rearranging the roster to prepare for the offseason. They did not.
Philadelphia has upcoming unrestricted free agents this summer in forward James van Riemsdyk and defenseman Justin Braun. The Flyers have a center in Kevin Hayes who has seemingly been in coach John Tortorella's bad graces for most of the season. They don't have second-round picks in the next two drafts as well. They could have addressed that by moving one or two of the players mentioned.
Instead, the Flyers' only moves at the deadline, or even anytime close to the deadline, were trading Patrick Brown to Ottawa for a 2023 sixth-round pick and sending rugged forward Zack MacEwen to Los Angeles for upcoming UFA Brendan Lemieux and a 2024 fifth-round pick. Searching "Chuck Fletcher" on Twitter will give you all the information you need to know how well that was met by the Philly faithful.
The entire season for the Flyers has been a slog, and perhaps they've got their eyes on making moves during the NHL draft in June or perhaps even free agency, but it's difficult to trust the process that's going on. Tortorella, for all of his brusque behavior, has gotten a lot out of the Flyers. Getting Sean Couturier and Cam Atkinson back will do wonders for the group next season, but their prospect pipeline is in dire need of depth, and they didn't recoup any top-100 picks in any future drafts via trade.
It was a classic "you had one job" deadline for Fletcher and the Flyers, and they came up well short on doing it.
Losers: Vancouver Canucks and Pittsburgh Penguins
There are some teams during the deadline that left you wondering if they were aware of what their situation was. Both Vancouver and Pittsburgh left us scratching our heads as to what in the world they were trying to accomplish.
Let's just lead off with the reported deal that was worked on between them that didn't happen. TSN's Darren Dreger said Friday morning the two teams were close on a trade that would've sent J.T. Miller back home to Pittsburgh that would've involved draft picks going to the Canucks. What it didn't include was a young center for the Penguins to send to Vancouver, something the Canucks said they needed to be able to do the deal.
You might remember the Canucks traded Bo Horvat to the New York Islanders on January 31, and a key part of that was getting the Islanders' conditional first-round pick this year. That pick wasn't theirs too long because it was sent to Detroit to acquire defenseman Filip Hronek.
The Canucks are adamant that they're not rebuilding, but whatever they're doing sure doesn't seem to make sense from the outside. Moving upcoming UFA defenseman Luke Schenn to Toronto for a 2023 third makes sense and sending Curtis Lazar to New Jersey for a 2024 fourth is fine, too. Adding prospect forward Josh Bloom from Buffalo for defenseman Riley Stillman even makes sense, but these moves are disjointed and don't point to an end goal, either in the near future or distant.
You could say the same about the Penguins. The Pens are in the middle of a battle for the wild card in the Eastern Conference, and their core isn't getting younger. But the Penguins are thin up front and on defense and don't have much in the way of prospects on the way. Add in that they're obscenely tight to the cap and you've got yourself a mess.
Pens GM Ron Hextall made moves, but they're a net-zero gain.
It started when they waived Kasperi Kapanen, who was picked up by St. Louis. It helped them against the cap, but their forward group got thinner. Their big trade was adding Mikael Granlund from Nashville for a 2023 second to be their new third-line center (if he's not on a wing in the top-six).
They also sent checking forward Teddy Blueger to Vegas for a 2024 third and a player but brought back Nick Bonino from San Jose for a 2024 fifth and a 2023 seventh to maybe be their fourth-line center. To fortify their defense, they brought in veteran Dmitry Kulikov from Anaheim for Brock McGinn and a 2024 third-round pick.
Losing the picks is a toss-up, but can you say the Penguins are vastly improved and in a better position to make the playoffs and maybe stir things up there? It's hard to tell and even more difficult to believe.
Winners: Winning at Losing
There's no bigger prize in this year's NHL draft than phenom center Connor Bedard. It feels like we've been talking about him since he was 13 years old, and maybe some people have, but it's clear there's a five-team race to see who can hit the absolute bottom to secure the best odds of winning the draft lottery to pick No. 1.
Watching Chicago and Columbus pare down their rosters to send some of their top players elsewhere was breathtaking.
Chicago had a hand in helping out a few teams by a) supplying them with top talent (Kane to the Rangers; McCabe and Lafferty to the Maple Leafs; Max Domi to Dallas), b) assisting them in taking on salary to help facilitate other trades or c) just straight-up taking a guy with a big contract (like Nikita Zaitsev from Ottawa). They made minimal adds to at least make sure they have some added NHL talent on the roster (Anders Bjork from Buffalo; Austin Wagner from L.A.), but the aim is abundantly clear. But the main capital acquired were draft picks, and they increased their kitty by five over the past month, including a 2025 conditional first and a pair of conditional seconds.
Columbus eventually moved Vladislav Gavrikov and Joonas Korpisalo to the Kings for a first-round pick, a third-round pick and goalie Jonathan Quick and then spun Quick to Vegas. They also moved Gustav Nyquist to Minnesota, and they teamed up with fellow bottom-lurker Arizona to send them injured Jakub Voracek's contract.
Arizona functioned like the NHL lending office with how it jumped in to help take on money for picks, alleviating Vegas of Shea Weber's contract to go along with Voracek's from Columbus. The Coyotes also finally dealt Jakob Chychrun to Ottawa for three picks, including a 2023 conditional first, and also moved forward Nick Bjugstad to Edmonton and defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere to Carolina. The Coyotes were able to add eight more picks over the past month.
Anaheim and San Jose by comparison didn't really put in a ton of effort. The Sharks moved Timo Meier in a massive deal with New Jersey but only completed smaller one-for-one deals after that. The Ducks were able to send John Klingberg to Minnesota and Dmitry Kulikov to Pittsburgh but were unable to trade forward Adam Henrique or UFA-to-be defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk.
With four out of five of these teams in the Western Conference, there's bound to be some gnarly hockey played deep into the night.
Winners: Edmonton Oilers
Grading the trade deadline when it's an Eastern Conference team versus a Western Conference team requires a curve. With the East contenders trying to load up on as many key players as possible and West teams...well, West teams are there, it makes it feel like a letdown to look at what the West leaders did to improve.
One of the teams that put in a respectable effort out west was the Edmonton Oilers. Edmonton made three moves, addressing key concerns with all of them.
Something the Oilers are criticized for perpetually is their defense, and they addressed that by trading for Mattias Ekholm from Nashville. The Oilers didn't get a buyer's price to get him, as they sent defenseman Tyson Barrie, 2022 first-round pick Reid Schaefer, their 2023 first-round pick and a 2024 fourth to the Predators. It's a stiff price, but Edmonton is beyond messing around and taking the slow road to getting back to the Stanley Cup Final for the first time since 2006. Adding Ekholm gives the Oilers a very good no-nonsense defender, something they've lacked for some time.
Edmonton also brought in forward Nick Bjugstad in a trade with Arizona. Bjugstad gives the Oilers a big-bodied center to anchor into their bottom-six forward group and provide them with depth and some touch around the net. Giving their depth lines some extra size and talent can only help them.
The Oilers also helped find Jesse Puljujärvi a new place to play, sending him to the Carolina Hurricanes for prospect Patrik Puistola. For the past few seasons, it just hasn't worked out right for Puljujärvi in Edmonton. Ever since they drafted him with the fourth pick in 2016, it hasn't clicked. Now he heads to Carolina where there are plenty of Finnish countrymen to help him blend in and perhaps unlock his potential in the NHL.
Winner and Loser: Los Angeles Kings
We praised the Oilers for doing something at the deadline that addressed apparent weaknesses, and it's only right that we do the same for the Los Angeles Kings...except they did it in a really awkward way.
The Kings' goaltending all season has been an issue. Between Jonathan Quick, Cal Petersen and Pheonix Copley, the collective numbers are bad, but the Kings have won despite the poor netminding. Looking for some kind of help in goal at the deadline would've behooved the Kings, and they were also hunting some help on defense.
Luckily for the Kings, the Columbus Blue Jackets had one of the prized defensemen in Vladislav Gavrikov and a goalie whose play has been decent this season in Joonas Korpisalo. The two sides came together to make a deal, and L.A. dealt its first-round pick in 2023, a third-rounder in 2024 and a goalie to balance out the net situation.
The goalie the Kings traded was Quick. As you might expect, Quick, the best goaltender in Kings franchise history who helped them win the Stanley Cup in 2012 and 2014 and won the Conn Smythe Trophy in 2012, was not pleased about going from a playoff team to a draft lottery favorite. Hockey as a business can be cruel, but to deal a player whose number is probably going to hang in the rafters in the future is bonkers. It shocked Quick and it made longtime teammates Anze Kopitar and Drew Doughty quite upset.
The Kings are in a big-time battle with Vegas, Seattle and Edmonton for playoff seeding. Anyone of them could wind up winning the Pacific Division or wind up as one of the wild-card teams. Quick didn't last long in Columbus, however, as the Golden Knights acquired him from the Blue Jackets, meaning there's a chance Quick could face his former team in the playoffs and boy oh boy do we want to see that.
Seeing how Quick has made a career out of proving doubters wrong, a playoff matchup with the Kings would set the stage for some delicious revenge and retroactively show that the Kings caused their own downfall.