The Real Winners and Losers from the 2021 NHL Trade Deadline

Lyle Fitzsimmons@@fitzbitzFeatured ColumnistApril 13, 2021

The Real Winners and Losers from the 2021 NHL Trade Deadline

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    Jeffrey T. Barnes/Associated Press

    The lead-in seemed endless.

    But once it arrived, the day was kind of a blur.

    The NHL's annual trade deadline came and went Monday with something between a bang and a whimper. There was the long-awaited move of last fall's highest-profile free agent as well as a bevy of lesser deals that, if precedent holds, could be the ones responsible for galvanizing a championship team.

    Top-line buzz was provided by Taylor Hall, who'd stunned the hockey world by signing with Buffalo in October before suffering through a historically bad season with the Sabres and managing just two goals and 19 points in 37 games. He's off to a new competitive life with the Boston Bruins, who acquired Hall and journeyman Curtis Lazar in exchange for 24-year-old winger Anders Bjork and a second-round pick in July's draft.

    Boston entered Monday's games in fourth place in the East Division, 22 points ahead of the last-place Sabres.

    The Hall deal actually went down late Sunday, capping off a run of 18 trades from April 1 to 11 before 16 more deals were made Monday prior to the window officially closing at 3 p.m. ET.

    The flurry of activity prompted the B/R hockey team to get together for its annual transaction dissection party, which yielded a list of winners and losers from the prolonged deadline frenzy.

    Take a moment to peruse our collection and drop a viewpoint or two of your own in the comments.

Winner: Taylor Hall's Morale

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    Michael Dwyer/Associated Press

    OK, we alluded to it in the intro. But it bears repeating here.

    Ignoring whatever impact a 29-year-old left winger may ultimately have on a Bruins club that sat 20th in the league in scoring—2.72 goals per game—heading into Monday night, just think about what waking up Monday morning must've felt like to a player who's never played on an elite team in the NHL.

    Hall was the first pick in the 2010 draft and immediately became the best player on a series of lousy rosters in Edmonton. He missed the playoffs in each of six seasons with the Oilers—five before the arrival of Connor McDavidbefore he was dealt to the New Jersey Devils in the offseason prior to the 2016-17 campaign.

    He finally made the postseason with the Devils in 2017-18 but the team lasted just five games. Hall didn't return to the playoffs until last summer with the Arizona Coyotes, with whom he had two goals and six points in nine games before elimination by the Colorado Avalanche.

    The Bruins entered Monday's games four points up on the New York Rangers for the final postseason berth in the East Division with two games in hand. In fact, Boston has made the playoffs for four straight seasons and 11 of the past 13, including a seven-game loss to the St. Louis Blues in the 2019 Stanley Cup Final and a seven-game win over the Vancouver Canucks for the franchise's sixth title in 2011.

    Whether Hall gets them anywhere near a seventh banner, he figures to at least enjoy the ride.

Loser: Patrick Marleau's Dreams

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    Tony Avelar/Associated Press

    Patrick Marleau is not without hockey accolades.

    The Saskatchewan native, now 41, has scored more goals than all but 22 players to ever wear an NHL uniform, is on track to establish a league record for games played before the end of this season and had Olympic gold medals draped around his neck in both 2010 and 2014.

    But he's never won a Stanley Cup. And unless his San Jose Sharks leapfrog two teams into the playoffs this spring and embark on perhaps the unlikeliest run in history, it's not going to happen anytime soon.

    Though Marleau had said he was open to the idea of a deal to a contender, he began and ended Monday on the San Jose roster after the Sharks failed to make him a part of either of their deadline-day deals.

    Marleau has appeared in all but 18 of his 195 career playoff games with the Sharks, but he got within reach of the Cup just once when San Jose advanced to the championship round before a six-game loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2016. He spent two seasons with the Toronto Maple Leafs and one with the Penguins, too, but never made it past the first round.

    So while we'll hold off on tears for a guy who's played 23 seasons and made nearly $100 million, if Marleau ultimately retires with the distinction of most games in NHL history without a celebratory title lap, there may at least be a melancholy twinge.

Winner: Toronto's Title Hopes

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    Paul Vernon/Associated Press

    We'll concede one point: Casual fans may have never heard of Nick Foligno.

    But the die-hards who follow the Toronto Maple Leafs are anything but casual fans.

    So you'll forgive them if acquiring the rugged son of a former Leafs sparkplug has them dreaming even more vivid dreams of the end of a championship drought that stretches back to the Original Six.

    At 6'0", 208 pounds, Foligno provides a durable frame to go with a high-character rep that's followed him through 14 seasons with the Ottawa Senators and Columbus Blue Jackets. The latter sent him to Ontario's hockey-mad capital on Sunday for a pair of draft picks—a first-rounder in 2021 and a fourth in 2022.

    And whaddya know? Leafs general manager Kyle Dubas wasn't done.

    He continued the wheeling and dealing by grabbing goalie David Rittich from Calgary for a third-rounder in 2022, then added to defensive depth by plucking fifth-year man Ben Hutton from Anaheim for a fifth-rounder that same season. The trades leave Toronto with just two guaranteed choices in both the 2021 and 2022 drafts, but, given that the Leafs have led the North Division for much of the season and have to be favored to emerge into the playoff final four this spring, he'd have been vilified for not taking a win-now shot.

    But if the tale doesn't end with a victory lap at Scotiabank Arena, Dubas might opt to go into hiding.

Loser: Buffalo's Fire-Sale Return

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    Bill Wippert/NHLI via Getty Images

    It's no surprise Kevyn Adams was busy this weekend.

    But given the pieces the Sabres GM dealt away from competitive oblivion—and given the prices that had been paid to bring them to Buffalo in the first place—it seems as if the activity wasn't all that productive.

    Adams laid out $8 million to bring the oft-aforementioned Hall as a free agent, then sent him to Boston along with another former first-rounder (Curtis Lazar, 2013) in exchange for the Bruins' second-round pick this summer and a 24-year-old winger (Anders Bjork) with precisely 39 points in 138 NHL games.  

    Not to mention the team is still on the hook for 50 percent of Hall's salary.

    Elsewhere, defenseman Brandon Montour, who'd arrived from Anaheim in 2019 for a player and a first-rounder, was dispatched to the Florida Panthers for a summertime third-rounder on Saturday. And that deal came 15 days after Eric Staal, whom Adams brought in from Minnesota for former first-rounder Marcus Johansson last September, headed to Montreal for the Canadiens' third- and fifth-round picks in 2021.

    It's a lot of future hope for a lot of present production.

    OK, if Adams and the Sabres turn their 10 selections this July into instant playoff contention, all is forgiven. But if Western New York fans are forced to sit through too many more months in the NHL hinterlands, it'll be Adams who ultimately pays the price.

Winner: The Reigning Champions

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    Steve Nesius/Associated Press

    The Tampa Bay Lightning have hit some speedbumps lately.

    The reigning Stanley Cup champs lost five of their last nine games after losing just six times in their first 32. And the skid has cost them sole possession of first place in the Central Division, which they shared with Carolina heading into Monday's games—just two points clear of the Florida Panthers in third.

    But don't spend too much time in mourning.

    Though GM Julien BriseBois was pressed hard against the salary cap, he nevertheless managed to acquire a necessary asset in the form of veteran Columbus defenseman David Savard.

    The 6'2", 233-pounder was a fourth-round pick of the Blue Jackets in 2009 and has played each of his 597 games with them, racking up 166 points and a plus-24 rating across parts of 10 NHL seasons.

    He instantly adds size and grit to the right side of the Tampa Bay blue line, which has been rattled by injuries. He was second in the league in blocked shots last season and is fourth thus far this year, not to mention his 95 hits in 40 games would lead the Lightning by 17.

    Oh, we almost forgot. Recent Hart Trophy winner Nikita Kucherov, who's missed all season after undergoing hip surgery following last year's Cup win, will return in time for this year's playoffs.

    This just in: There's not a team in the league who can match that acquisition.

    Bravo, Julien.

Loser: The Reigning MVP

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    Paul Vernon/Associated Press

    Two Edmonton Oilers have won two of the past four Hart trophies. 

    Two Edmonton Oilers have won three of the past four Art Ross trophies. 

    Which means the Edmonton Oilers ought to be an annual participant in the NHL's championship chat.

    They're not.

    The Oilers arrived to Monday night sitting 11th in the league in points and third in the all-Canadian North Division, seven points behind first-place Toronto and a point behind second-place Winnipeg.

    Their need for consistent scoring beyond Leon Draisaitl and Connor McDavid was no secret heading into the deadline, yet GM Ken Holland suggested his restrained approach this year was in line with a mandate to pick and choose his deal-making spots. In fact, the only move Edmonton made yielded them defenseman Dmitry Kulikov from New Jersey in exchange for a conditional draft pick in 2022.

    No offense intended to Kulikov, who was picked in the first round in 2009 and has been good enough to play 715 NHL games and rack up 172 points across parts of 13 seasons with four teams.

    A worthwhile move. But not the sort of thing that'll get Holland's dynamic duo substantially closer to the championship. Since McDavid's arrival as the No. 1 overall pick in 2015, the Oilers have just two postseason appearances consisting of 17 games and one series win.

    It may be the right thing to do, but it's not the right optics.