Championship Trades: A look at deadline moves made by Stanley Cup-winning clubs

Some went big, others went small, but each Stanley Cup winner in the salary cap era has made at least one tweak to their lineup in the weeks leading up to the deadline. What were those moves and how did they help propel each team into the NHL's winner's circle?
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There’s truly no telling, not at this point, which deadline deal will be the one that puts a team over the top.

As we noted yesterday, no one would have fathomed that the Capitals acquiring Michal Kempny would have been a game-changer for a club that perennially flamed out in the post-season, yet here we are inching towards the post-season with Washington set to take their shot at a championship defense. In the same breath, though, sometimes there’s a headline-making move or two made that make a difference. While it took him time to contribute, Antoine Vermette showed up at the right time during the Chicago Blackhawks’ 2014-15 Stanley Cup run, and he was a major deadline acquisition. There’s two sides to the coin.

But what do we see if we look back through the deadline deals of championship clubs during the cap era? What type of trade — if any — reigns supreme?

First, some parameters. In order for it to qualify as a “deadline” move, we’re going to limit the timeline for the deal to any trade that occurred within one month of the trade freeze. So, an acquisition made in November? That’s not going to count. One made three weeks and six days out? That makes the cut. It might not be a perfect system, but you need a cutoff on this kind of thing. In addition, deals for minor-league talent or pick-for-pick swaps won’t be included. If the acquired player didn’t skate with the team en route to its Stanley Cup victory, the trade won’t be listed.

With that out of the way, here’s a look at the deadline moves Stanley Cup-winning clubs have made in the salary cap era:

2017-18 WASHINGTON CAPITALS
Acquired:
D Michal Kempny from CHI for 2018 third-round pick
D Jakub Jerabek from MTL for 2019 fifth-round pick

Kempny was the only impact player among the two defensemen acquired at the deadline, as he skated on the top pairing alongside John Carlson. It was a pairing thrown together early during Kempny’s tenure in Washington and one that remained intact throughout the post-season. Meanwhile, Jerabek saw (limited) minutes in the post-season. However, his two games and 26 minutes of ice time pales in comparison to 425 minutes Kempny saw during the Cup run.

2016-17 PITTSBURGH PENGUINS
Acquired:
D Ron Hainsey from CAR for RW Danny Kristo, 2017 second-round pick
D Mark Streit from TB for 2018 fourth-round pick

Few would have expected Hainsey to slot in as anything more than a second-pairing defender for Pittsburgh en route to the 2017 Stanley Cup, but the veteran rearguard turned out to be an incredibly important piece, particularly in the wake of an injury to Kris Letang. Only one Penguins defenseman, Brian Dumoulin, had a higher average ice time than Hainsey during the post-season, and the then-35-year-old contributed two goals and eight points in 25 games. As for Streit, he only saw action in three games and played third-pairing minutes.

2015-16 PITTSBURGH PENGUINS
Acquired:
D Justin Schultz from EDM for 2016 third-round pick

Schultz’s second post-season run with the Penguins shouldn’t be conflated with his first. An excellent second-pairing contributor the second time around, Schultz only saw limited ice time during the 2016 Stanley Cup pursuit, though he did contribute in those minutes. Across 15 games, he registered four assists and averaged 13 minutes of ice time. Depth matters, and Schultz provided that.

2014-15 CHICAGO BLACKHAWKS
Acquired:
D Kimmo Timonen from PHI for 2015 second-round pick, 2016 second-round pick
C Antoine Vermette from ARI for D Klas Dahlbeck, 2015 first-round pick

As noted above, Vermette’s impact was delayed, but he came up big when it mattered. In the Western Conference final, Vermette scored the Game 3 winner and had three points in the final four games of the series. Then, he produced the game-winning goal in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup final before netting the winner in Game 5. His fourth-line contributions were massive. Meanwhile, Timonen saw a lot of the action from the bench. He was used sparingly as a sixth defenseman in what was largely a four-defender rotation for the Blackhawks. Still, he got to hoist the Stanley Cup and retire on top.

2013-14 LOS ANGELES KINGS
Acquired:
RW Marian Gaborik from CBJ for RW Matt Frattin, 2014 second- and conditional third-round pick

Gaborik’s acquisition wasn’t the biggest blockbuster of the deadline, but it was undoubtedly the most impactful move made by any team entering the post-season. He arrived in Los Angeles and flourished immediately before becoming a playoff force. He led all goal scorers in the post-season with 14 tallies in 26 games and his 22 points were the fourth-most among all Kings. Truly a home run acquisition.

2012-13 CHICAGO BLACKHAWKS
Acquired:

C Michal Handzus from SJ for 2014 fourth-round pick

This falls into the Kempny category, a seemingly nothing acquisition that wouldn’t do much beyond bolstering the bottom line. Turns out Handzus was exactly what the powerhouse Blackhawks needed, though. His regular season contributions were limited, but through 23 playoff games, he fired home three goals and 11 points while logging upwards of 16 minutes per game as a middle-six center. It was the right move at the right time and one that helped put Chicago over the top.

2011-12 LOS ANGELES KINGS
Acquired:

C Jeff Carter from CBJ for D Jack Johnson, 2013 first-round pick

A tumultuous relationship with the Blue Jackets meant it was only time before Carter moved along, and the eventual breakup led to a match made in heaven. Carter was the triggerman the Kings sorely needed, and in 20 games, he managed a playoff-best eight goals and 13 points while skating top-line minutes in Los Angeles. Here’s the incredible thing about the trade in hindsight: because the Kings made the post-season — which was up in the air at the time of the trade, you’ll recall — the Blue Jackets got to pick which first-round selection they wanted, the 2012 or 2013 pick. They passed on the 30th selection in 2012, which became Tanner Pearson, to use the 27th pick in 2013, which became Marko Dano.

2010-11 BOSTON BRUINS
Acquired:
C Chris Kelly from OTT for 2011 second-round pick
C Rich Peverley, D Boris Valabik from ATL for D Mark Stuart, RW Blake Wheeler
D Tomas Kaberle from TOR for C Joe Colborne, 2011 first-round pick, 2012 second-round pick

The first team on this list to add three players in the month leading up to the deadline, and each asset they added made an impact. Kelly, the first addition, wound up centering the third line and contributed five goals and 13 points in 25 games during the Stanley Cup run. Peverley managed four goals and 12 points as a versatile middle-six forward for Boston. And Kaberle’s first foray outside of Toronto saw him pick up 11 points and skate third-pairing minutes en route to a Stanley Cup victory.

2009-10 CHICAGO BLACKHAWKS
Acquired:
D Nick Boynton from ANA for future considerations

Not much of what was done ahead of the 2010 post-season made much impact on the Blackhawks roster. Boynton, a depth addition, played in only three games and saw 25 total minutes throughout the playoffs. Astute readers and Blackhawks fans might notice that Chicago’s other deal — acquiring Kim Johnsson and Nick Leddy from Minnesota for Cam Barker — isn’t on the list, but Johnsson, expected to be a decent depth addition in his own right, fell injured before the post-season and Leddy didn’t step into the lineup until the following season.

2008-09 PITTSBURGH PENGUINS
Acquired:
LW Chris Kunitz, LW Eric Tangradi from ANA for D Ryan Whitney
RW Bill Guerin from NYI for 2009 second-round pick

Guerin, as noted yesterday, is one of the best budget deadline pickups of the cap era. The veteran winger absolutely came alive once he arrived in Pittsburgh, and his post-season output of seven goals and 15 points in 24 games was the best of his career. But Kunitz was no slouch himself. Though he didn’t find twine often — just one goal in 24 games — he mustered 14 points as the Penguins went on to win their first title of the Sidney Crosby-Evgeni Malkin era.

2007-08 DETROIT RED WINGS
Acquired:
D Brad Stuart from LA for 2008 second-round pick, 2009 fourth-round pick

A top-pairing defenseman with the Kings, the Red Wings had to pony up a pair of picks to pluck Stuart out of Los Angeles, but the move paid dividends. While his best offensive days were behind him, Stuart contributed one goal and seven points in 21 playoff games and logged some tough minutes along the way. He was the fourth defenseman in a quartet that include Nicklas Lidstrom, Brian Rafalski and Niklas Kronwall.

2006-07 ANAHEIM DUCKS
Acquired:
LW Brad May from COL for G Michael Wall

Still during the time when team toughness was one of the more desirable attributes a club could possess entering the post-season, the Ducks went out and nabbed veteran pugilist May from the Avalanche to bring more sandpaper to the lineup. And hey, it’s hard to knock a move that works, particularly when not much of anything is given up the other way. May played 18 games in the post-season in a crash-and-bang role and hoisted the first Stanley Cup of his career in Anaheim.

2005-06 CAROLINA HURRICANES
Acquired:

RW Mark Recchi from PIT for C Krystofer Kolanos, LW Niklas Nordgren and 2007 second-round pick

This is one where the cutoff hinders the whole story, as Doug Weight, acquired Jan. 30, was excellent during Carolina’s Stanley Cup run. However, sticking to the parameters we put in place, Recchi is the only player who makes the cut and he, too, was a force for the Hurricanes. Coming aboard on deadline day, Recchi was an instant fit and managed seven goals and 16 points in 25 post-season outings while skating in a middle-six role. Recchi put one of the four daggers in the Edmonton Oilers in the final, scoring the game-winner. He also assisted on the game-opening goal in Game 7, which Carolina won 3-1 to capture the franchise’s first title.

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