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NHL Trade Deadline Review – Grading the Biggest Movers of 2018

This year’s trade deadline saw some the league’s best teams get even better.

It seems like nearly half the league is in win-now mode, with high-end talent in play in both conferences

Ryan McDonagh, Evander Kane and Paul Stastny to name a few, all say goodbye to their former teams and join Stanley Cup hopefuls.

With players, prospects and picks all changing hands, the biggest movers are evaluated here on their deal-making abilities.


Tampa Bay Lightning:  A+

RD        Ryan McDonagh
C/LW    J.T. Miller

C          Vladislav Namestnikov
C          Brett Howden (Prospect)
D          Libor Hajek (Prospect)
1st  Round Pick (2018)
2nd Round Pick (2019) *Conditional, becomes 1st if Lightning win the Stanley Cup

Tampa Bay is easily the biggest winner of this year’s deadline. They were favoured to win the cup before the deadline even happened and now they’re starting to look like a super team.

The addition of McDonagh makes their D-core one of the best in the league, if not the best. The Anaheim Ducks won in 2007 by having Chris Pronger and Scott Niedermayer, 2 of the best defenceman in the world, on separate pairings and shut down every team they faced. Having Hedman and Stralman on one pair and McDonagh and Sergachev on the second could create the same imposing results.

J.T. Miller is an interesting addition as well. Almost a lateral move, Miller and Namestnikov seem to play similar roles and produce at a similar rate. Miller gets the edge however because of his outstanding 54.3% Faceoff percentage.

The price for this upgrade was incredibly steep, as expected, but worth it for a team that is all in. 2 years of a cost-controlled McDonagh is huge and both their picks are likely to be late in the round if they make it far. The prospects they gave up are both promising, but Tampa Bay still has a deep pipeline.

Brett Howden is a 6’3 centre for the Moose Jaw Warriors in the WHL who also played for Team Canada at the U20 World Junior Championship this year. He was a 2016 first round pick.

Libor Hajek was the second round pick from the same 2016 draft and appears to be the player the Rangers sought most in this trade. He has 35 points in 52 games in the WHL this year.


Boston Bruins:  C+

LW          Rick Nash
RW         Brian Gionta  *signed as free agent
C             Tommy Wingels
               LD           Nick Holden
3rd Round Pick (2018)

C/LW      Ryan Spooner
C/LW      Frank Vatrano
LW          Matt Beleskey   (AHL)
LD           Ryan Lindgren   (Prospect)
1st Round Pick (2018)
5th Round Pick (2019) *Conditional
7th Round Pick (2019)

The Bruins certainly did their part in the Atlantic division arms race, but was it worth it?

Rick Nash was a costly addition but adds some skill, experience and defensive help. He’s not the superstar he once was but he is an upgrade over Ryan Spooner who has the offensive chops but lacks at times on defence.

Brian Gionta is an interesting pickup. He’s 39 years young but may still have some gas left in the tank to help out the bottom 6. Tommy Wingels is a similar story.

Nick Holden on defence is an interesting acquisition as he has shown some offensive flair in the past, posting 34 points last season. He spends a lot of time in his own end as well with a 39% Offensive Zone Start Percentage and could prove more than useful.

The problem here is that these additions may not be enough to overtake the Lightning who went all out. And these rentals weren’t cheap. If the Bruins get knocked out in the first round this could end up being a huge failure.


Toronto Maple Leafs: B

C             Tomas Plekanec
RW         Kyle Baun            (AHL)

LD          Rinat Valiev        (AHL)
LW         Kirby Rychel       (AHL)
2nd Round Pick (2018)

Much the same as last year, the Leafs took the easy route and shored up their 4th line centre position.

Tomas Plekanec is a defensively responsible centre who can win draws and chip in offensively if need be.

Electing not to add a defenseman may be worrisome, given all the upgrades from the competition, but you can’t lose points for staying the course.

Many Speculated James Van-Riemsdyk would be dealt but it seems the Leafs will use him as their own rental. They’ll hope their red-hot offence will stay that way into the playoffs.


Columbus Blue Jackets: B+

RW         Tomas Vanek
C             Mark Letestu
LD           Ian Cole
C             Ryan Kujawinski       (AHL)
G             Jeff Zatkoff                 (AHL)

RW        Jussi Jokinen
C             Tyler Motte
RW         Nick Moutrey    (AHL)
RD          John Ramage     (AHL)
C             Jordan Maletta (AHL)
3rd Round Pick (2020)
4th Round Pick (2018)

Sometimes less is more. The Blue Jackets made some pretty decent upgrades without giving up much value at all.

Tomas Vanek is a liquid injection of scoring and has already accumulated 41 points this season playing alongside the Sedins in Vancouver.

Mark Letestu is a nice bottom 6 addition that can win draws and play at both ends of the ice. He was crucial last year for Edmonton’s playoff run and hopefully can do the same for Columbus.

Ian Cole also stepped up in the absence of Kristopher Letang and Justin Schultz during last year’s cup run by the Penguins. A responsible player at both ends of the ice, he is definitely a worthy pickup.


New Jersey Devils: B+

RW         Michael Grabner
RW         Patrick Maroon

RW         J.D. Dudek          (Prospect)
LD           Yegor Rykov      (Prospect)
2nd Round Pick (2018)
3rd Round Pick (2019)

The Devils added 2 quality wingers for very little for their final playoff push.

Both wingers are capable scorers in opposite ways. Grabner will add some speed and penalty kill chops while Maroon adds some grit with his scoring.

With Marcus Johansson sidelined with a concussion, these were two cheap additions that will more than make up for the absence.

A healthy Cory Schneider for playoff time will put New Jersey in a good spot to succeed.


Nashville Predators: B

LW          Ryan Hartman
C             Mike Fisher        *signed as free agent
LW          Brandon Bollig   (AHL)
G             Troy Grosenick  (AHL)
4th Round Pick (2018)
5th Round Pick (2018)

LW          Pontus Aberg
RW         Victor Ejdsell      (Prospect)
1st Round Pick (2018)
4th Round Pick (2018)
6th Round Pick (2018)

When you look at the Predators lineup right now, it’s hard to spot any holes, anywhere.

The big addition here is Ryan Hartman and that’s all they really needed. They now have enough depth on each forward line and they already had one of the deepest defence cores in the league.

It will be intriguing to see how Mike Fisher fits into this lineup as Nashville’s already has 4 quality centres. Still, last season they were hit with some tough injuries late in the playoffs and having solid depth is always a plus.

Pontus Aberg never really panned out as the Predators hoped and so his absence will not be hugely missed. The 1st rounder though might…


Winnipeg Jets: A

C             Paul Stastny
LD           Joe Morrow

LW         Erik Foley             (Prospect)
1st Round Pick (2018)
4th Round Pick (2018)
4th Round Pick (2020)      *Conditional

High offensive ability? Check.
Faceoff ace? Check.
Playoff Experience? Check.

As if Winnipeg’s offence wasn’t scary enough, Paul Stastny will now be centring Patrik Laine and Nikolaj Ehlers.  With Mark Scheifle back full time, the Jets’ lines are going to be a handful, to say the least.

With Jacob Trouba injured, Joe Morrow comes as a cheap replacement and will slot in on the bottom pairing.

Erik Foley has been doing quite well with Providence College and a giving up 1st rounder is always tough but given the return, who can complain?


Vegas Golden Knights: A-

LW          Tomas Tatar
LD           Philip Holm         (AHL)

Traded: LW          Brandon Leipsic
1st Round Pick (2018)
2nd Round Pick (2019)
3rd Round Pick (2021)

The Golden Knights continue their golden year by adding Tomas Tatar, a solid 40/50 point winger. They are walking into the playoffs ready to compete.

The return was steep, and is admittedly the only thing keeping this rating down from an A, but the picks are spread evenly over the years. Tatar also is signed for the next 3 years after this making it more than just a rental.

George McPhee put Vegas into such a prime position by staying far below the salary cap and has allowed them to take on large contracts such as Tatar’s (5.3 million). They also received Ryan Reaves from Pittsburgh about a week before the deadline for basically free, by retaining salary on Derrick Brassard’s contract.

Watch out for the Golden Knights down the stretch, it didn’t seem possible but they just got even better.


San Jose Sharks: A

LW          Evander Kane
6th Round Pick (2018)

C             Daniel O’Regan
LW          Brandon Bollig   (AHL)
G             Troy Grosenick  (AHL)
1st Round Pick (2019)      *Conditional, if Kane does not resign it becomes a 2nd

4th Round Pick (2019)      *Conditional, San Jose may choose to push to 3rd Round  (2020)


After all the speculation, San Jose finally landed Evander Kane. And for pennies on the dollar.

The Sharks earn an A solely for the Evander Kane trade alone. Given the return on Rick Nash, speculation had Kane going for ridiculous amounts. Instead, San Jose found themselves a win/win situation where Kane either resigns with them long term, or they get one of the cheapest impact rentals in recent years.

San Jose’s cup hopes may have dwindled after losing Marleau this offseason but with a deal like this on Evander Kane, there’s no reason not to make a hard push this playoffs.


That wraps up the biggest teams at play this trade deadline.

An honourable mention goes out to the New York Rangers for fully embracing the rebuild and getting some substantial returns for their talent.

The Pittsburgh Penguins as well deserve a mention for making yet another big play in acquiring Derrick Brassard before all the trade deadline madness unfolded.

And remember, just because a team didn’t make flashy enough moves to warrant a review here doesn’t mean they did poorly. Sometimes staying quiet is the best move you can make on deadline day.

Keep an eye peeled for all the new talent in play as the playoff race begins!

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