I have to admit, this year offered more action at the Trade Deadline than I would have expected.
Back in February, I predicted a quiet deadline compared to previous years, but I’m happily surprised to see teams fairly active on the market. None of the really fun trades I was hoping for went down (Goodbye Jack Eichel to Colorado fantasies). In fact, I think the only one of my trades from that piece that went down was Alex Galchenyuk moving from Ottawa to Toronto. Only four more Canadian teams to go before Bingo!
The biggest buzz word of this year has been Cap Space Retention, as we saw Detroit and San Jose essentially buy draft picks from teams by acting as a trade buffer. It’s a fun trick that could help rebuilding teams jumpstart their process. The procedure isn’t exactly new, but this year offers the most blatant examples.
Let’s start with the biggest trades of the deadline first.
Taylor Hall to Boston was a match made in heaven. Hall tried last year to become a Bruin, but the two sides couldn’t figure it out and thus Hall signed his one-year $8-million contract. In principle, the deal with the Sabres made sense. Go there, rack up points with Eichel, sign a long-term contract with a contender. Only the last part of that sentence came true. Hall has had a disastrous season by most accounts and is primed to earn significantly less on a contract unless he does a complete 180 and returns to MVP form. The good news is that he’s on a Boston team that, when healthy, can do some serious damage. On a second line with David Krejci and Craig Smith, Hall should be able to get his stride back and start putting up points again.
Hall handcuffed the team with his NMC and forced his way to Boston, limiting the return Sabres GM Kevyn Adams could have gotten in a true open market. But they gave him that contract, knowing full well this situation could arise, so very little sympathy from me here. Anders Bjork is a fine player, and a second-round pick is fine, but it doesn’t match Hall’s true value.
Great work by Boston to bring Hall in at the exact moment they needed reinforcements and a kick-start to their roster. The price was right and they pulled the trigger. Certainly helps when the player on the other side exercises their contract to make the deal happen too.
Jakub Vrana has a similar career point total as Mantha (157 points in 284 games), as well as a Stanley Cup ring from the 2018 Caps run. He’s not quite as good as Mantha, but if you told me that Detroit traded Mantha for Vrana and a second-round pick, I wouldn’t have been surprised. But then Washington threw in a 2021 first-round pick and Richard Panik as well, and well folks, that’s why you don’t pick up the phone when Steve Yzerman calls you about a trade.
Mantha is a very solid addition to this roster, and as we saw in his first game with his new team, should fit in nicely. Especially for a long playoff run. He’s big, can score and will play alongside the best teammates he’s ever had at the NHL level. This move signals that Washington is ready for a deep playoff push.
Seeing Mantha go hurts short-term, but Stevie Y does it again and picks up another set of draft picks for the rebuilding Red Wings. He now has 22 picks over the next two years, as well as a potential perennial second-line scorer in Vrana. Not a bad day in Detroit.
Okay now here’s the part where Toronto fans will start heading to the comment section to yell at me. I like this trade for Columbus. I like this trade for San Jose. I do not like this trade for Toronto.
Nick Foligno is a solid player, a good addition to any bottom-6, plays well defensively and has shown to be a leader as evidence by the captaincy he held with the Blue Jackets. But to give up this much for a player seems excessive to me. For every argument I’ve seen in favour of this move, I’m left thinking “Isn’t this why they brought Joe Thornton in for? Isn’t this why they brought Jason Spezza in for? Isn’t this why they brought Wayne Simmonds in for?”
I understand wanting to bolster heart-and-soul guys for a postseason push and hey, maybe it pays off for the Leafs. I don’t ever root for players fail, to me this trade is a simple overcompensation by GM Kyle Dubas.
My initial reaction to the trade was more negative than was probably deserved. Foligno is a solid player, but to give up this much for a player whose role is already filled on your team seems unnecessary. If this materializes in a deep playoff run, then I’ll gladly eat my words.
Blue Jackets: B+
Nice haul by Columbus GM Jarmo Kekäläinen. He maximized the return for his captain and set his team up nicely for the upcoming drafts. There’s also a good chance that Foligno returns to Columbus in the off season similarly to how Tomas Plekanec returned to the Habs after his Leafs stint.
Tampa is as stacked as they come, and they don’t even have Nikita Kucherov back yet. GM Julien BriseBois made a solid move to help his D-core and paid a steep price to do so. It helps when you’re paying 1/4 of his contract, thanks to Columbus retaining 50% of his salary, trading him to Detroit, who retains 50% of that remaining salary before sending him off to Tampa. Not the flashiest move, but the type of move that can only help an already strong team.
Blue Jackets: A
Yet another impressive return by Jarmo Kekäläinen here. David Savard is a solid player and a good role defender, but in a regular market is not worth this type of haul.
First and third-round picks for your second/third pairing defenceman? A tad heavy in my opinion, but there weren’t many areas the Lightning needed to bolster.
It’s been clear for a while that Sam Bennett wasn’t working in Calgary. His teammates love him, and it seems like the Calgary management did as well. Shipping him to a deeper team with a real shot at a playoff push could be the change of scenery that the former first-round pick needed.
Essentially two second-round picks for a player who’s historically struggled to produce? A nice move by GM Brad Treliving.
A depth move for a Florida team that’s ready to go all-in for probably the second time in franchise history. As long as you’re not expecting too much from Bennett, he’ll do you well. Once playoffs hit we’ll have to see if he can step up again.
I’m fairly high on Montour compared to others. He doesn’t replace Ekblad’s production, but he’ll be an improvement on a Florida team looking to keep up with the rest of the heavy-hitters in the Eastern Conference.
Remember when Buffalo traded a first-round pick for Montour? The Sabres management certainly don’t.
When the price is right…A good move by the Penguins, although Carter not being a rental potentially causes cap issues this summer (unless they expose him in the draft, which is very possible). For now though, Carter should be able to help the Penguins try and push for a Cup before their window slams shut.
The Kings’ rebuilding process has been underway for a minute here, but this return is a bit below what I would have expected.
Maple Leafs: B+
The Leafs needed a back-up goalie and got a very competent one for a very fair price. Rittich had obviously been squeezed out of the crease in Calgary. He won’t get much playing time once Frederik Andersen returns, but for now, he’s a more than fine fill-in.
Decent return for fan favourite Big Save Dave. It also paves the way for the eventual call-up of goalie prospect Dustin Wolf next season.
A decent acquisition by GM Marc Bergevin, and for a good price. It’s too bad that this move basically pushed Victor Mete off the island (worse so because the Habs weren’t able to get anything in return). Merrill should help the botton-pairing. After all the jokes about the Habs being small, they now host one of the league’s biggest defensive corps.
Red Wings: B-
Merrill is an extremely underrated defender, and sports one of the best mullets in the league. Tough to let go of a player with those kinds of qualities, but the Red Wings are in tear-down mode and if Anthony Mantha isn’t safe, no one is.