2021 NHL Trade Deadline: Live Grades for All the Biggest Deals

Lyle Richardson@@SpectorsHockeyFeatured ColumnistApril 11, 2021

2021 NHL Trade Deadline: Live Grades for All the Biggest Deals

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    Michael Dwyer/Associated Press

    The NHL's annual trade deadline is Monday at 3 p.m. ET. Usually held during the final week of February, this year's deadline was moved ahead on account of a shortened 56-game schedule.

    The weeks leading up to the trade deadline tend to see an increase in trade activity. As of April 9, however, only 14 trades have taken place over the course of the season.

    A flattened salary cap at $81.5 million left many teams with limited dollars to take on additional talent. Teams acquiring players signed beyond this season must also ensure they can be protected in this summer's expansion draft.

    Nevertheless, the names of several notable players are popping up in media-generated trade speculation as the deadline approaches. Buffalo Sabres left wing Taylor Hall, St. Louis Blues right wing Mike Hoffman and Columbus Blue Jackets forward Nick Foligno are among those who could be on the move.

    Here are our grades for the most noteworthy deals leading up to the deadline.

Detroit Red Wings Ship Anthony Mantha to Washington Capitals

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    Mark Zaleski/Associated Press

    One of the biggest deals of deadline day saw the Detroit Red Wings and Washington Capitals make a genuine hockey trade that had nothing to do with shedding unrestricted free agents. In a stunning move, the Red Wings shipped winger Anthony Mantha to the Capitals for forwards Jakub Vrana, Richard Panik, a 2021 first-round pick and a 2022 second-round pick.

    The Capitals get a big scoring winger in the 6'5”, 234-pound Mantha. The 26-year-old had two seasons with 20-plus goals and 48 points with the rebuilding Red Wings. He has 11 goals and 21 points this season in 42 games. He could see a big jump in his stats joining the talented Capitals as they strive to keep their Stanley Cup championship window open beyond this season.

    Mantha will also be part of the Capitals' long-term future. As per Cap Friendly, he's in the first season of a four-year contract with an annual average value of $5.7 million. Injuries, however, could be a concern. The big winger's been frequently sidelined over the past four seasons. He must stay reasonably healthy for the Capitals to get the full benefit from this return.

    Meanwhile, the Red Wings get a good scorer in Vrana. The 25-year-old winger reached or exceeded 24 goals and 47 points over the past two seasons. He has 11 goals and 25 points in 39 games this year with the Capitals while averaging third-line minutes (14:22) this season. He'll get more opportunities for regular top-six playing time in Detroit.

    Vrana's in the final season of his two-year contract with a $3.35 million annual cap hit, becoming a restricted free agent with arbitration rights this summer. With just $31.1 million invested in just six players for 2021-22, Wings general manager Steve Yzerman shouldn't have any difficulty re-signing him.

    Panik now joins his sixth NHL team since 2012-13 and could see a depth role with the Wings. An inconsistent forward, he wasn't panning out in Washington. The Capitals had to clear cap space to take on Mantha's contract and provide themselves some cap flexibility beyond this season. The Wings had no problem absorbing Panik's $2.75 million annual cap hit through 2022-23.

    The Wings, however, also set themselves up well for the long term. They now have 12 picks in the 2021 NHL draft, including two first-rounders. Yzerman could use them to select more promising prospects or use some of them as trade chips to bring in some established players.


    Red Wings: A

    Capitals: A-

Buffalo Sabres Trade Taylor Hall to the Boston Bruins

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    Matt Slocum/Associated Press

    The biggest name on the trade block was moved in the early hours of deadline day as the Buffalo Sabres sent left wing Taylor Hall to the Boston Bruins.

    TSN's Darren Dreger reported the Sabres packaged Hall with center Curtis Lazar to the Bruins in exchange for winger Anders Bjork and a second-round draft pick. Dreger's colleague, Pierre LeBrun, added the Sabres retained 50 percent of Hall's $8 million salary to facilitate the deal.

    This is an opportunity for Hall to salvage what's been a difficult season. He surprised the hockey world last October by signing a one-year, $8 million contract with the Sabres. The move, however, failed to improve the struggling club as the former Hart Memorial Trophy winner managed just 19 points in 37 games. He's due to become an unrestricted free agent this summer.

    The Bruins need Hall to regain his offensive form if they hope to stage a Stanley Cup run. A lack of secondary scoring has plagued them throughout this season. The 29-year-old left winger should be a good fit alongside second-line center David Krejci. If they click, it will ease the burden on the top line of center Patrice Bergeron and wingers Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak.

    Lazar, meanwhile, is a versatile two-way forward. The 26-year-old can play center or either wing and could provide additional depth to the Bruins' checking lines.

    It was a big move by Bruins general manager Don Sweeney, who also acquired defenseman Mike Reilly from the Ottawa Senators on Sunday in exchange for a 2022 third-rounder, per NHL.com. Sweeney has added a highly skilled left winger, bolstered his checking lines and shored up the left side of his blue line without giving up a first-round pick or one of his better young players.

    Sabres GM Kevyn Adams gets a young winger in the 24-year-old Bjork, who struggled to play up to expectations in Boston and might benefit from this move. The second-rounder gives the Sabres 10 picks in the 2021 NHL draft. Nevertheless, it's a disappointing return that shows how much Hall's value has dropped.


    Bruins: A

    Sabres: C+

New York Islanders Acquire Kyle Palmieri and Travis Zajac

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    Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

    On April 7, the New York Islanders brought in forwards Kyle Palmieri and Travis Zajac from the New Jersey Devils for forwards A.J. Greer and Mason Jobst, a first-round pick in the 2021 draft and a conditional fourth-rounder in 2022.

    Palmieri is a five-time 20-goal scorer. The 30-year-old can skate on either wing and plays an energetic style that should fit well within Islanders coach Barry Trotz's defensive system. The 35-year-old Zajac is getting long in the tooth, but his leadership and two-way ability should make him a valuable depth centerman.

    Both players are unrestricted free agents. Zajac's annual average value is $5.75 million, while Palmieri's is $4.65 million. The Islanders freed up salary-cap space for both guys by placing sidelined captain Anders Lee and his $7 million cap hit on long-term injury reserve. The Devils also agreed to retain half of Zajac's and Palmieri's respective cap hits.

    Jockeying for first place in the MassMutual East Division and the overall standings, the Islanders are a serious Stanley Cup contender. This deal could help them reach their goal. Palmieri enables them to offset some of the offense lost because of Lee's season-ending knee injury. Zajac brings experienced skill to their checking lines.

    The Devils, meanwhile, got themselves a low first-round pick in this year's draft for Palmieri and a conditional fourth for the aging Zajac. Greer and Jobst are career minor leaguers who'll fill the gaps on the farm team as the Devils transition younger players into their regular lineup.


    Islanders: A

    Devils: B

Tampa Bay Lightning Land David Savard in Three-Team Deal

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    Tony Gutierrez/Associated Press

    Tampa Bay Lightning general manager Julien BriseBois had to bolster his depth on the right side of his blue line. However, he was pressed against the $81.5 million salary cap with almost no long-term injury reserve space to draw upon for wiggle room. BriseBois, however, got creative by using a three-team deal to land defenseman David Savard from the Columbus Blue Jackets.

    As reported by TSN's Pierre LeBrun, the Blue Jackets traded Savard to the Detroit Red Wings for minor-leaguer Brian Lashoff. The Jackets retained 50 percent of Savard's $4.25 million cap hit.

    Detroit shipped Savard to Tampa Bay for the Lightning's fourth-round pick in the 2021 NHL draft. The Red Wings retained 50 percent of his $2.125 million cap hit they acquired from the Jackets. As per Cap Friendly, the Lightning will only be charged $1,062,500 against their salary cap.

    The Jackets traded Lashoff to Tampa Bay for the Lightning's first-round pick in the 2021 draft and their 2022 third-rounder.

    It was a complicated deal but BriseBois lands an experienced top-four playoff rental defenseman in Savard while staying cap compliant. The 6'2”, 233-pounder is a big-bodied, rugged shutdown blueliner. Before the trade, he led the Jackets with 89 blocked shots, finished second in hits (95) while averaging 1:48 in shorthanded ice time per game. He's due to become an unrestricted free agent this summer. 

    The deal cost BriseBois a first-round pick but the Lightning GM appears determined to put up a strong defense of his club's Stanley Cup championship. The Jackets, meanwhile, have two picks in this year's draft while the Wings get themselves an additional fourth-rounder simply for helping out.


    Lightning: A

    Blue Jackets: B

    Red Wings: B-

Toronto Maple Leafs Deal for Nick Foligno in Three-Team Trade

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    Paul Vernon/Associated Press

    Toronto Maple Leafs general manager Kyle Dubas seemed to take a page from the Tampa Bay Lightning's playbook for landing talent with limited salary-cap space. Following the Lightning's creative acquisition on Saturday of defenseman David Savard from the Columbus Blue Jackets in a three-team trade, Dubas went the three-team route to add Blue Jackets captain Nick Foligno to his roster.

    The Blue Jackets sent Foligno to Toronto for the Leafs' first-round pick in the 2021 NHL draft and their fourth-rounder in 2022. The Sharks, meanwhile, shipped forward Stefan Noesen to the Leafs for their 2021 fourth-round pick.

    Cap Friendly reports the Jackets also retained 50 percent ($2.75 million) of Foligno's $5.5 million salary-cap hit. The Sharks retain $1.375 million of his cap hit, meaning the Leafs will only be charged $1.375 million against their cap.

    The Leafs get themselves a respected, versatile forward in Foligno as they load up for the playoffs. The 33-year-old former Blue Jackets captain can skate at center or wing, playing a hard-working, two-way style. His offensive game has declined from his career-high 73-point effort in 2014-15, but he will still be an effective part of their forward lines in any given situation.

    Noesen played only five games this season with the Sharks, spending most of his time on their taxi squad and their farm team. He'll likely face the same fate with the Leafs.

    Blue Jackets GM Jarmo Kekalainen now has three first-round picks in this year's draft, having also received the Lightning's pick on Saturday in the Savard deal. Those selections will come in handy as he eyes the future in what could be a retooling process for his struggling club this summer.

    Sharks GM Doug Wilson used his salary-cap space to help broker this deal between the two clubs. The fourth-round pick from the Leafs and the fifth-rounder received from the Colorado Avalanche in the Devan Dubnyk trade gives him eight picks overall in this year's draft.


    Maple Leafs: A

    Blue Jackets: B+

    Sharks: B-

Buffalo Sabres Ship Eric Staal to the Montreal Canadiens

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    David Kirouac/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

    Buffalo Sabres general manager Kevyn Adams waived the white flag on his club's miserable season by shipping center Eric Staal to the Montreal Canadiens for a third-round pick and a fifth-round pick in the 2021 draft.

    Staal is slated to become an unrestricted free agent this summer. Adams had no intention of re-signing the 36-year-old center and opted for the best return possible as he looks toward a potential roster rebuild in the offseason. Given the Canadiens' limited salary-cap space at the time, the Sabres GM agreed to retain half of Staal's $3.25 million cap hit.

    The Canadiens entered this season hoping promising youngsters Nick Suzuki and Jesperi Kotkaniemi could blossom into full-time top-six roles. However, the kids needed some experienced depth and leadership at the center position to help them shoulder load down the stretch toward the playoffs.

    Staal is well past the days when he was among the NHL's elite centers. However, he's still capable of putting up respectable numbers in a second- or third-line role. While he has just 10 points in 32 games with the Sabres, he tallied 47 points in 66 games last season with the Minnesota Wild.


    Canadiens: B+

    Sabres: B-

Colorado Avalanche Acquire Devan Dubnyk

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    John Locher/Associated Press

    Injuries to goaltenders Philipp Grubauer and Pavel Francouz derailed the Colorado Avalanche during the 2020 Stanley Cup playoffs. Hoping to avoid a similar fate this season, Avalanche general manager Joe Sakic acquired Devan Dubnyk from the San Jose Sharks in exchange for defenseman Greg Pateryn and a fifth-round pick in the 2021 NHL Draft.

    Goalie depth was once again an issue for the Avs with Francouz on long-term injury reserve and an inexperienced Jonas Johansson filling in as Grubauer's understudy. They needed a more seasoned netminder with playoff experience in that backup role.

    Dubnyk should address that need. A former starter with the Minnesota Wild for over five seasons, the 34-year-old has 26 playoff games under his belt. His stats with the Sharks aren't that great, sporting a record of three wins, nine losses and two overtime defeats with a 3.18 goals-against average and a. 898 save percentage. However, those numbers should improve behind a deeper Avalanche defense corps.

    Cap Friendly indicates the Sharks have $11.3 million in trade deadline cap space following the Dubnyk trade. GM Doug Wilson could be establishing himself as a third-part broker by using some of that space to aid cap-strapped clubs hoping to free up room for other trades before the deadline. He could take on an onerous contract from another team if the deal also includes a quality draft pick or prospect.


    Avalanche: B+

    Sharks: B-

Pittsburgh Penguins Acquire Jeff Carter from the Los Angeles Kings

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    Ross D. Franklin/Associated Press

    Ron Hextall made his first trade as general manager of the Pittsburgh Penguins by turning to one of his former clubs. On Sunday, he acquired forward Jeff Carter from the Los Angeles Kings in exchange for a conditional third-round pick in the 2022 NHL draft and a conditional fourth in 2023. CapFriendly indicates the Kings also retained 50 percent of his $5.273 million cap hit.

    The conditional picks could depend on how long Carter plays. The 36-year-old center has a year remaining on his contract after this season.

    Hextall knows Carter well, having served as director of player personnel with the Philadelphia Flyers when they selected the forward in the first round of the 2003 draft. He was also assistant general manager of the Kings in 2012 when they acquired Carter from the Columbus Blue Jackets.

    Carter reached the 20-goal plateau 11 times in his 16 NHL seasons but his production has declined since tallying 32 goals in 2016-17, as injuries and age have taken a toll. He had just 19 points in 40 games with the Kings this term. However, his experience and ability to play center or wing will provide a boost to the Penguins' bottom-six forward lines.

    The Kings have been rebuilding for the past two years under GM Rob Blake. He'll use those picks to continue filling his prospect pipeline. Depending on the conditions attached, he could also use them as trade chips.


    Penguins: B

    Kings: C+

Florida Panthers Trade for Brandon Montour

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    Adrian Kraus/Associated Press

    The Florida Panthers' blue line suffered a significant blow when top defenseman Aaron Ekblad fractured his left leg during a March 29 game against the Dallas Stars. To address his absence, the Panthers acquired Brandon Montour from the Buffalo Sabres in exchange for a third-round pick in the 2021 NHL Draft.

    With Ekblad sidelined for 12 weeks, the Panthers needed a top-four defenseman with a right-hand shot. Montour won't be able to fully replace Ekblad's impressive offensive skills and big minutes but the 26-year-old blueliner has solid puck-moving skills and experience. He averaged 20:32 in time on ice per game with the Sabres this season while collecting a respectable 14 points in 38 games.

    Montour has put up better offensive numbers earlier in his career. He tallied 32 points with the Anaheim Ducks in 2017-18 and a career-high 35 points with the Ducks and Sabres the following season. Injuries limited him to 18 points in 54 games in 2019-20. His stats should improve skating on a deep playoff contender like the Panthers.

    Sabres GM Kevyn Adams continues to look toward his club's future as he peddles his pending unrestricted free agents. That third-round pick joins the third-round acquired from the Montreal Canadiens in last month's Eric Staal trade.


    Panthers: B

    Sabres: C+