Trades That Should Have Happened at 2021 NHL Trade Deadline

Lyle Fitzsimmons@@fitzbitzFeatured ColumnistApril 14, 2021

Trades That Should Have Happened at 2021 NHL Trade Deadline

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    Adrian Kraus/Associated Press

    Just as quickly as it arrived, it's gone.

    The NHL's trade deadline came and went Monday afternoon with a flurry of deals—including one involving last fall's highest-profile free agent—that reshaped the rosters of the league's top contenders while restocking the cupboards of some teams most in need of a talent upgrade.

    But while Taylor Hall to Boston and Anthony Mantha to Washington provided plenty of buzz, there's just as much chatter in the aftermath about players and organizations that didn't produce a blip.

    That's surely a downer for some fans. But it's just fine for the B/R hockey squad.

    Our cadre of puck heads took a look at things through an analytical lens and came up with a handful of deals that should have—or at very least could havebeen made before Monday's window slammed shut at 3 p.m.

    Click through to see what we came up with and take a moment to drop a thought or two of your own in the comments section. And hey, if your team is among the ones mentioned, consider it free therapy session.

Rickard Rakell to Edmonton from Anaheim

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    Chris Carlson/Associated Press

    Of the offensive players perceived as available at the deadline, few surpassed Richard Rakell.

    The Swedish-born winger has been a go-to scorer for most of his NHL career, peaking at 34 goals in 2017-18 and adding double-digit seasons of 33, 20, 18 and 15 for a per-year average of 23.

    That's attractive enough, without mentioning he's got another season on a deal paying $3.8 million per.

    Meanwhile, you have the Edmonton Oilers.

    Their top-line players have both Hart and Art Ross trophies on their mantel, but the need for proven and consistent scoring to fill out the top six was no secret heading into the weekend.

    And while the salary cap situation was surely challenging, several other teams with equally difficult financials—Tampa Bay, for example—still managed to bring in a worthwhile asset by Monday.

    Rakell seemed a good fit for a team in need of help against the likes of Winnipeg and Toronto in potential playoff matchups. You have two of the league's best players in the primes of their careers, why not take a chance?

Sam Reinhart to Pittsburgh from Buffalo

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    Keith Srakocic/Associated Press

    Sam Reinhart was the second overall pick in the 2014 draft, between two guys named Aaron Ekblad and Leon Draisaitl, and has been a consistent performer in the NHL since his arrival,scoring 20-plus goals in four of five full seasons with a low bar of 17 in the other.

    So, given that he's making $5.2 million this season heading into restricted free agency, getting the 6'2", 193-pound winger at age 25 was going to require a long-term investment.

    Exactly the kind of ambitious splash a new regime in Pittsburgh might have made to keep a title window propped open for another exciting spring.

    The Penguins have established, albeit aging superstars in Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, and they entered Tuesday's games just two points off the pace of Washington and the New York Islanders for first place in the East Division. They're fourth in goals per game, but just 14th in goals allowed and could use the conscientious approach to defense that Reinhart has offered alongside a career average of 0.64 points per game.

    Evening out money would have mandated sacrificing a prospect or two, but quality doesn't come cheap.

    Neither, for that matter, do championships.

Elvis Merzlikins to Boston from Columbus

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    Paul Vernon/Associated Press

    The Boston Bruins had played 39 games heading into Tuesday night.

    In doing so, they had four goalies log at least three starts.

    And while that approach has provided spectacular moments—and, in the cases of rookies Dan Vladar and Jeremy Swayman, feel-good stories—it's not the traditional recipe for a team striving to hang a banner.

    The Bruins began Tuesday holding the fourth and final prospective playoff position in the East Division, eight points in back of third-place Pittsburgh and just four ahead of the New York Rangers in fifth.

    So while consistent goaltending is a necessity just to compete viably in the NHL, it's an absolute mandate for a team with championship pedigree in the midst of a heated stretch run.

    Enter the Columbus Blue Jackets.

    The league's mid-Ohio reps are on the outside looking in when it comes to the Central Division playoff chase. General manager Jarmo Kekalainen made it clear throughout the deadline process that his organization was open for business and willing to accommodate reasonable offers.

    Toward that end, captain Nick Foligno was shipped to Toronto and veteran defenseman David Savard is off to Tampa Bay in exchange for a slew of draft picks both this summer and in 2022.

    Given Kekalainen's willingness to deal and Boston's need to solidify the crease, a trade sending 26-year-old goalie Elvis Merzlikins would have made perfect sense. Not only would the Bruins have gotten a young, expansion draft-exempt netminder to depend on this spring and beyond, but the Blue Jackets also would have cleared their own crowded crease and provided a full-time gig for another 26-year-old, Joonas Korpisalo.

    If Vladar or Swayman are starting a Game 7 in May, Don Sweeney might seriously be regretting this one.

Josh Manson to Carolina from Anaheim

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    Marcio Jose Sanchez/Associated Press

    The Carolina Hurricanes are in it to win it.

    Flush with a bevy of young offensive talent and stingy goaltending, the Hurricanes are just four points out of the league's top spot and in the thick of a heated divisional battle with the defending Stanley Cup champs.

    So while their needs aren't as glaring as teams on the opposite end of the standings, it's not as if GM Don Waddell wasn't at least on the lookout for available talent through Monday.

    Among the areas of need is defense. Particularly a shutdown-type defender on the right-hand side who would allow coach Rod Brind'Amour to better deploy the talent he's already got.

    Thing is, the Anaheim Ducks were that team on the opposite end. Ready and willing to unload older talent in the hopes of reconfiguring the youthful mix into something resembling a contender on the West Coast.

    Defenseman Josh Manson is six months away from 30, possesses a big body—6'3", 224 pounds—and has another year remaining on a contract paying him $4.1 million per season. He's hardly a scorer, as 101 points in 402 games indicate, but he's got toughness to spare along with smarts and playoff experience.

    Maybe it's just us, but when it comes to a team on the hunt for a banner, parting with a first-round pick and a prospect doesn't seem too big a price for a piece that could've put things over the top.

Luke Glendening to Florida from Detroit

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    Paul Sancya/Associated Press

    It reads like a wish list for teams eyeing a deep playoff run:

    * Ace penalty killer

    * Above-average faceoff man

    * Gritty competitor

    And what do you know? Luke Glendening checks off each and every box.

    The versatile Michigan-born forward made the NHL as an undrafted free agent and has carved out a tidy niche ever since, becoming a regular with the Detroit Red Wings upon arrival in 2013-14.

    But with his home-state team plugging holes across the board, it seemed more sensible to ship the role player to a situation where his skill set would have been well suited to a better supporting cast.

    The Florida Panthers could have been that team.

    They're in the aforementioned Central Division mix with Tampa Bay and Carolina and arrived to Monday in need of reliable depth at center behind first-line stud Aleksander Barkov. They were also craving defensive zone prudence to help alleviate the injury loss of Norris Trophy candidate Aaron Ekblad.

    Cap room to accommodate Glendening's modest $1.8 million salary wasn't an issue and the Panthers are flush with early and mid-round picks for the next three drafts, so we're left to wonder what else was at play that kept GM Bill Zito and coach Joel Quenneville from pulling the trigger.

    As for Florida fans, we'll hope for your sake that the postseason margin for error won't be that thin.