Revisiting the Biggest Trades of the 2015-16 NHL SeasonJune 5, 2016
Revisiting the Biggest Trades of the 2015-16 NHL Season
With just two teams left standing in the 2015-16 NHL playoffs, now is a good time to look back at the trades that took place over the past 12 months and see what sort of impact they had on this season.
In today's salary-cap world, trades don't happen as much as they once did. Every deal needs to be carefully balanced in terms of not only talent, but also cap hits, contract lengths, waiver and free-agency eligibility. The equations are tricky, and even the pros can find themselves on the losing end of deals if players don't deliver as expected.
Here, we'll take a look back at some of the most impactful trades of the last year. The window for these deals begins after the Chicago Blackhawks received the Stanley Cup on June 15, 2015, so it includes last summer's deals around the time of the draft and free agency.
Most of the trades that are highlighted here have impacted this year's playoff picture in one way or another. I've also tried to shine the spotlight around the league rather getting too consumed by the most active teams, or the ones that have had especially long playoff runs.
The trades are presented in chronological order. Are there other deals that you think notably succeeded—or failed—this year?
Flames Acquire Dougie Hamilton from Bruins
June 25, 2015
Boston Bruins trade defenceman Dougie Hamilton to Calgary Flames in exchange for a 2015 first-round draft pick and two 2015 second-round picks.
Hamilton signed a six-year contract with a cap hit of $5.75 million, but struggled during his first season in Calgary. His 12 goals and 43 points were both career highs, but Hamilton finished with a team-worst minus-14 among defencemen as the Flames fall 20 points in the standings and miss the playoffs.
The Bruins used their three acquired draft picks to select right winger Zach Senyshyn at No. 15, centre Jakob Forsbacka-Karlsson at No. 45 and defenceman Jeremy Lauzon at No. 52. Senyshyn scored 45 goals with the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds of the OHL in 2015-16, Forsbacka-Karlsson posted 30 points in his freshman season with Boston University and played for Team Sweden at the World Junior Championship and Lauzon reached the Memorial Cup with the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies of the QMJHL.
The Flames didn't get the instant blue-line boost they were anticipating when they brought in Hamilton, but he got better as the year went on and, at age 22, has plenty of upside. Calgary can still win this trade, depending on the future development of the three players selected by the Bruins.
Sharks Acquire Martin Jones from Bruins
June 30, 2015
Boston Bruins trade goaltender Martin Jones to San Jose Sharks in exchange for a 2016 first-round pick and centre Sean Kuraly.
The Sharks were looking for stability in net after four up-and-down seasons with Antti Niemi, and they got it from Jones. Signed to a new three-year contract at a reasonable $3 million per season, Jones came through with a respectable .918 save percentage and 2.27 goals-against average to amass a 37-23-3 record in his first full season as a starter—good enough to get the Sharks back into the playoffs.
Through a postseason that has seen plenty of goalie swaps, Jones has been one of the most consistent netminders—raising his numbers to .920 and 2.16 and backstopping the Sharks to their first-ever Stanley Cup Final.
The Sharks picked ninth in the 2015 draft, days before dealing for Jones. The pick they traded to Boston will now be either No. 29 or No. 30 in the first round, depending on whether or not they're triumphant in the Stanley Cup Final. Prospect Sean Kuraly just completed his senior year as team captain at Miami University and is said to be in the mix for an NHL job next season, according to Stephen Harris of the Boston Herald.
If the L.A. Kings had known their once-trusty backup would end up back in their division as the winning goaltender when they were eliminated from the first round of the playoffs, they might not have been so willing to deal Jones to the Bruins as part of the Milan Lucic trade a few days earlier. Could Kings general manager Dean Lombardi have negotiated a clause to ensure that Jones wouldn't be shuffled back to the Pacific Division to torment them as he did?
Mission accomplished for Sharks general manager Doug Wilson with this trade. Jones has given the Sharks' veterans Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau a legitimate chance to win a Stanley Cup while they're still at the top of their games—at a price that doesn't appear to have been too high. The Bruins converted a valuable player acquired in the Lucic deal into a future asset that should benefit their team over the long run.
Penguins Acquire Phil Kessel from Maple Leafs
July 1, 2015
Toronto Maple Leafs trade forward Phil Kessel, defenceman Tim Erixon, forward Tyler Biggs and a conditional draft pick to the Pittsburgh Penguins in exchange for forward Nick Spaling, forward Kasperi Kapanen, defenceman Scott Harrington, a third-round pick in 2016 and a conditional pick.
Kessel shook off his reputation as an underachieving slacker at midseason when he joined up with Nick Bonino and Carl Hagelin to form the best third line in hockey. One year after being identified as a piece that needed to be moved in order to revitalize the Maple Leafs, Kessel and the Penguins are playing for the Stanley Cup.
Of the other pieces in the trade, Kapanen had a so-so first season with the Maple Leafs organization, playing mostly with the AHL Toronto Marlies. Also, Pittsburgh's success has dropped those conditional draft picks going both ways. The Leafs will acquire the 29th or 30th pick, depending on whether or not Pittsburgh wins the Stanley Cup, while the Penguins will re-acquire their own second-rounder, which they gave up at the 2015 deadline when they traded for Daniel Winnik.
Much like the Martin Jones deal, this one is a win straight out of the box for Pittsburgh. Kessel has found arguably the best playing situation of his career to date on the HBK line and is showing that he can be a big-game contributor in the playoffs.
Kessel's long contract was likely a deterrent when the Leafs started shopping him last summer, but at this point the Penguins should be thrilled that they have a 28-year-old sniper locked up for another six seasons.
Maple Leafs: C
Capitals Acquire T.J. Oshie from Blues
July 2, 2015
St. Louis Blues trade forward T.J. Oshie to Washington Capitals in exchange for forward Troy Brouwer, goaltender Pheonix Copley and a 2016 third-round draft pick.
Looking at the three-for-one structure of this deal, it looks like the Capitals thought they were acquiring the best asset in this trade when they brought in now-29-year-old Oshie to play right wing on their top line with Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom.
Oshie had a great regular season, scoring a career-high 26 goals and adding 10 points in 12 games in the playoffs, including a hat trick in Game 2 in the second round against Pittsburgh.
But Brouwer turned out to be the real story of the playoffs, scoring the series-winning goal in Game 7 of the first round that ousted the Chicago Blackhawks. He finished the playoffs with eight goals and 13 points in 20 games before the Blues fell to the San Jose Sharks in the Western Conference Final.
Brouwer turned up the heat in the playoffs and helped the Blues shake off their reputation as a team that couldn't get it done in the postseason. But after just one year, he's headed to unrestricted free agency. At 30 years old, he'll be looking to cash in, which means the Blues might not be able to retain him under their tight salary structure.
Oshie will spend one more year in Washington before becoming a free agent himself. This trade is a rare scenario where both sides received good benefit from the deal.
Blackhawks Acquire Andrew Ladd from Jets
February 28, 2015
Winnipeg Jets trade forward Andrew Ladd, forward Matt Fraser and defenceman Jay Harrison to the Chicago Blackhawks in exchange for forward Marko Dano, a 2016 first-round pick and a 2018 conditional third-round pick (not applicable, since Chicago did not win the 2016 Stanley Cup).
The Blackhawks were hoping to reignite old chemistry with Ladd, who was part of their 2010 Stanley Cup roster before being traded for salary cap reasons. Individually, Ladd performed pretty well, putting up 12 points in 19 regular-season games and chipping in two points during the playoffs. His acquisition went for naught, however, when the St. Louis Blues ousted the Blackhawks from the postseason in the first round.
Limited salary-cap space in Chicago makes it unlikely that the Blackhawks will be able to re-sign Ladd to a new contract, which means they essentially gave up a promising young center in Dano and a first-round pick for about two months of service from Ladd. It could have been worth the risk for the defending Cup champs, but Ladd didn't deliver the desired reward. Well played, Winnipeg.
Rangers Acquire Eric Staal from Hurricanes
February 28, 2016
The Carolina Hurricanes trade forward Eric Staal to the New York Rangers in exchange for forward Aleksi Saarela and two second-round picks—one in 2016 and one in 2017.
One year after winning the Presidents' Trophy but losing to the Tampa Bay Lightning in the Eastern Conference Final, the New York Rangers thought they could ignite their sluggish team for the playoffs by bringing in Staal, a big-bodied 31-year-old pivot who had led the Carolina Hurricanes in scoring as a 21-year-old when they captured the 2006 Stanley Cup.
Staal's Broadway audition was a bust. He contributed just six points in 20 games after the trade and was pointless in five playoff games as the Rangers lost to the Penguins in the first round. Staal is now headed toward unrestricted free agency.
The Rangers have been mortgaging future assets for present-day success for awhile. The price they paid for Staal wasn't overly excessive, given what might have been, but when high draft picks are scarce for an organization, a rental philosophy only makes matters worse.
The Rangers need to make changes this summer and will need to do it without their first- or second-round picks in 2016 or the second-rounder in 2017 that they gave up for a couple of months' work of service from Staal. The franchise is in a tough spot going forward.
All trade details from ESPN. Salary information from General Fanager. Stats from NHL.com.