Re-Grading the Most Important Deals from the NHL Trade Deadline
It's become a must-circle date on the NHL calendar.
Coaches, general managers and organizations as a whole rev up for the annual trade deadline and go about making moves designed to gird champions, propel contenders and rescue wayward rosters.
And no sooner is the ink is dry on the transaction paperwork that we writer types are grading deals and declaring teams winners and losers, often before players have even tried on their new sweaters.
But it's not quite so frequent that we review our work.
Being the self-aware sorts that we are, the B/R hockey writing team looked back at marks given for six significant deals leading up to April 12 with an additional five weeks of evidence to peruse.
Not surprisingly, some deals look better. Some not so much.
Click through to see our input from then and now, and feel free to drop a line or two of your own to let us know where you got things right or wrong as well.
Detroit Red Wings Ship Anthony Mantha to Washington Capitals
The Deal: Detroit sent winger Anthony Mantha to Washington for forwards Jakub Vrana and Richard Panik, a 2021 first-round pick and a 2022 second-round pick.
The Reaction: "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."
Grades Then: Red Wings: A, Capitals: A-
The Aftermath: Mantha had eight points in 14 points for the Capitals afterward, so the stats didn't exactly spike down the stretch. But he's in the playoffs and has two assists in three games of a first-round series with the Boston Bruins. But the future's the thing. He's just 26 and signed for three more seasons past this one, so if he manages to stay healthy, he's got plenty of time to pay off.
Vrana, though, is the one who may have benefited the most. He had eight goals and 11 points in 11 games with the Red Wings and probably played himself into a nice bump from the $3.35 million he's getting this season on the second half of a two-year deal. Panik was useful enough and has two years remaining on his contract, and the draft picks will help Detroit GM Steve Yzerman continue his rebuild.
Grades Now: Red Wings: A, Capitals: A
Buffalo Sabres Trade Taylor Hall to the Boston Bruins
The Deal: Buffalo packaged Taylor Hall with center Curtis Lazar to Boston in exchange for winger Anders Bjork and a second-round draft pick. The Sabres retained 50 percent of Hall's $8 million salary to facilitate the deal.
The Reaction: "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."
Grades Then: Bruins: A, Sabres: C+
The Aftermath: It was the sort of high-profile move that defines a general manager, and it would be hard for it to look any better than it has for Boston's Don Sweeney thanks to Hall's resurgence, which saw him produce 14 points in 16 games after he had just 19 in 37 appearances with the Sabres. He has a pair of goals in three playoff games as well and has indicated the Bruins are a team he would considering staying with long term.
Lazar has five points in 20 games (regular season and playoffs) with Boston and is signed through next season. For Buffalo, Bjork had more points (six) in 15 games than he had with the Bruins (five) in 30. He got some top-line minutes down the stretch and should fit in well with two more years remaining on his deal. Considering Hall's stretch run, though, Bjork and a second-rounder still seems too paltry a price tag.
Grades Now: Bruins: A+, Sabres: C
New York Islanders Acquire Kyle Palmieri and Travis Zajac
The Deal: The New York Islanders acquired forwards Kyle Palmieri and Travis Zajac from New Jersey for forwards A.J. Greer and Mason Jobst, a first-round pick in the 2021 draft and a conditional fourth-rounder in 2022.
The Reaction: "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 [Anders] Lee's season-ending knee injury. Zajac brings experienced skill to their checking lines."
Grades Then: Islanders: A, Devils: B
The Aftermath: Given that he scored just two goals in 17 regular-season games after the trade, the early returns on Palmieri on Long Island weren't overwhelming. But then he scored twice, including an OT winner, in the playoff opener with Pittsburgh and all was forgiven. Zajac, meanwhile, was never a factor and had just two points in 13 games while also spending time in the press box as a healthy scratch.
Greer played one game for the Devils and Jobst spent the balance of the season in the minors, so New Jersey's return on dealing their two imminent free agents will come from the draft picks. Maybe not a whole lot, but it was better than simply letting them walk after playing out a meaningless playoff-less string.
Grades Now: Islanders: B, Devils: C
Tampa Bay Lightning Land David Savard in Three-Team Deal
The Deal: Columbus traded David Savard to Detroit for minor-leaguer Brian Lashoff. The Blue Jackets retained 50 percent of Savard's $4.25 million cap hit. The Red Wings shipped Savard to Tampa Bay for the Lightning's fourth-round pick in the 2021 draft. Detroit retained 50 percent of his $2.125 million cap hit it acquired from the Blue Jackets. Columbus traded Lashoff to Tampa Bay for the Lightning's first-round pick in the 2021 draft and their 2022 third-rounder.
The Reaction: "[Tampa Bay GM Julien] 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 Blue 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 Aftermath: Savard was never mistaken for Bobby Orr, so the fact that he didn't record a point in his 14 regular-season games with the Lightning shouldn't surprise too many people. In fact, he wasn't much of a presence on the stat sheet at all beyond his minus-eight rating for Tampa Bay. Still, he did log 18 or more minutes in all but one of those games and was past 20 minutes nine times.
Simply put, he was brought in for the playoffs, and the deal will indeed be considered worthwhile if he's skating a lap with the Stanley Cup in a couple months. The Blue Jackets will base their success on what becomes of the two draft picks, and the Red Wings got a mid-round pick just for being a facilitator, so it's not all bad for them, either.
Grades Now: Lightning: A, Blue Jackets: B, Red Wings: C
Toronto Maple Leafs Deal for Nick Foligno in Three-Team Trade
The Deal: Columbus sent Nick Foligno to Toronto for the Maple Leafs' first-round pick in the 2021 NHL draft and their fourth-rounder in 2022. San Jose shipped forward Stefan Noesen to Toronto for their 2021 fourth-round pick. The Blue Jackets 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 are charged $1.375 million.
The Reaction: "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."
Grades Then: Maple Leafs: A, Blue Jackets: B+, Sharks: B-
The Aftermath: They play different positions, but like former Columbus teammate Savard, Foligno was brought in by his new team for a postseason payoff. He had four points in seven games and was a plus-five for Toronto down the stretch, but providing the sort of grit necessary for a Cup run will be how he's judged before becoming a free agent. For the Blue Jackets, the deal adds to a cache of three first-round draft picks to kickstart a renaissance, and the same goes for the Sharks, who now have eight selections overall.
Grades Now: Maple Leafs: A, Blue Jackets: B, Sharks: C
Pittsburgh Penguins Acquire Jeff Carter from the Los Angeles Kings
The Deal: Pittsburgh got 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. The Kings also retained 50 percent of Carter's $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.
The Reaction: "[Carter] 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."
Grades Then: Penguins: B, Kings: C+
The Aftermath: More than any of the others so far, this is the deal that's provided the biggest unexpected jolt. As suggested, Carter, at 36, was a dutiful and experienced role-player brought in by a new executive (Ron Hextall) with whom he had a working relationship. But he woke up the echoes to net nine goals and 11 points in 14 games with the Penguins and has added another goal and assist through two playoff games.
Though simply escaping the East Division minefield of Boston, Washington and the New York Islanders is hardly a given, the impact Carter—a two-time Cup champion in L.A.—has already had gives Pittsburgh the appearance of a veteran team poised for a long run. Meanwhile, for the Kings, getting back to that banner-hanging level won't be impeded by getting a couple picks and shedding the aforementioned salary.
Grades Now: Penguins: A+, Kings C