Only one team is going to lift the Stanley Cup on a sultry night in June, so really there was only one winner and 29 losers at the trade deadline, well 30 if you include the Vegas Golden Knights. Actually, there were 31 losers, the last of which was the group of people who booked a vacation day to watch this exercise in ennui.
But, alas, the guy who hands out the assignments around here insists that we run a list of winners and losers from the trade deadline. So here goes, with any deals consummated within seven days of the deadline being considered.
NO. 1 WINNER – WASHINGTON CAPITALS
The Capitals were already the leading contender to win the Stanley Cup before the deadline, then solidified themselves in that department by getting the crown jewel of the proceedings. Getting Kevin Shattenkirk from St. Louis not only bolstered their defense corps, it kept him out of the greedy hands of the New York Rangers and Pittsburgh Penguins, who undoubtedly would have been in the running for him. The Capitals are counting on winning the Stanley Cup, which would make that first-round pick going to St. Louis the 31st overall. That used to be a second-rounder.
NO. 1 LOSER – OTTAWA SENATORS
Look, we like depth just as much as the next guy, but that’s all it is, depth. Adding Alex Burrows and Victor Stalberg to your lineup is not exactly tilting the balance of power in the Eastern Conference. The Senators gave up what could turn out to be an excellent long-term project in Jonathan Dahlen to get Burrows, then signed Burrows to a two-year contract extension. Head scratch. But the real error, in this writer’s opinion, was dealing Curtis Lazar, who will flourish in Calgary after being almost ruined by the Senators.
NO. 2 WINNER – VANCOUVER CANUCKS
Canucks GM Jim Benning came to the realization that his attempt to retool the Canucks on the fly was a flawed strategy and went all-out to add depth to the franchise’s prospect list. As we’ve already mentioned, getting Dahlen might be one of those deals that pays off in four or five years. And dealing Jannik Hansen’s expiring contract and getting a 2014 first-rounder and a point-per-game player in the AHL in Nikolay Goldobin gives the Canucks another bump in the future skill department.
NO. 2 LOSER – ST. LOUIS BLUES
The Blues had the undisputed best and most coveted player at the trade deadline and they got a middling prospect, a career minor leaguer, a late first-round pick in this year’s draft and a second-rounder in two years. Not enough. The Blues may very well have been better off rolling the dice and keeping Shattenkirk this year for a playoff run and lose him for nothing in the summer. When you trade a player of Shattenkirk’s potential impact, even as a rental, you have to get at least one sure thing in the deal. The Blues did not.
NO. 3 WINNER – TAMPA BAY LIGHTNING
There’s a reason why Steve Yzerman is so highly regarded in the hockey world. And his moves at the trade deadline, particularly in the dying hours of the day, illustrated that perfectly. The Lightning have a glut of young players who are doing well and that’s creating a salary cap headache. Jonathan Drouin, Brayden Point and Andrei Vasilevskiy will all earn bonuses this season that will put a serious strain on the Lightning’s salary cap but the $1.7 million they're going to save this year means they can apply those bonuses to this season and not have them carry over to next season. And if there’s any hope of re-signing Ondrej Palat, Tyler Johnson and Drouin this summer, Yzerman needed to dump some serious salary. Unloading an unproductive Valtteri Filppula and his $5 million cap hit is a great start.
LOSER NO. 3 – JAROME IGINLA
Iginla had a full no-trade clause, which meant he could have held out for a team that has a better chance to win the Stanley Cup, but those teams never stepped forward to make a deal. So he’s on his way to Los Angeles, a team that hopes to buck the speed and skill trend by continuing to work the puck down low. Even though he has only eight goals, Iginla does give the Kings a player who can find the back of the net, but does anyone seriously view this team as a serious Cup contender? They have to make the playoffs first.
WINNER NO. 4 – PITTSBURGH PENGUINS
It’s easy to be a good poker player when you have one of the most talent-laden teams in the league, but you have to give Penguins GM Jim Rutherford a lot of kudos for showing some steely resolve. He kept Marc-Andre Fleury, something that seemed unfathomable a couple of months ago, giving the Penguins a viable option if starter Matt Murray either gets injured or falters. And he will make a deal with Vegas to keep the Black Knights from taking Murray. In picking up Mark Streit, Ron Hainsey and Frank Corrado, he also bolstered the Penguins blueline depth.
LOSER NO. 4 – MONTREAL CANADIENS
If the playoffs were a heavyweight title fight, the smart money would be on the Canadiens. But a team that desperately needed some scoring depth went out and got bigger and slower and more defensive. Canadiens GM Marc Bergevin set a record at this deadline for picking up fringe players when what he needed to do was find Max Pacioretty and Alexander Radulov someone who could take the offensive pressure off them. Radim Vrbata would have been nice, or even a return of Thomas Vanek. The Canadiens were the busiest team in the league at the trade deadline, but what exactly did they accomplish? Montreal can’t score goals and did absolutely nothing to rectify that.
WINNER NO. 5 – MINNESOTA WILD
Did the Wild overpay for Martin Hanzal and Ryan White? Hell, yeah they did. But the fact they were in a position to do so is a testament to Wild GM Chuck Fletcher and his scouting staff. The Wild have a ridiculous bounty of prospects in the form of Luke Kunin, Jordan Greenway, Kirill Kaprizov and Joel Eriksson Ek and some young players who are seriously hitting their strides. So Fletcher was able to part with picks for a 6-foot-6 center who wins faceoffs, kills penalties and can contribute offensively. Size down the middle is crucial in the Western Conference and now the Wild have Mikko Koivu, Eric Staal and Hanzal there.
LOSER NO. 5 – EDMONTON OILERS
We’re also as much for exercising caution at the deadline as the next guy, but not when your team hasn’t been to the playoffs since 2006. GM Peter Chiarelli was loathe to accelerate the program, but the Connor McDavid-Leon Draisaitl factor on this team screamed out for more than just adding David Desharnais. The Oilers could have used a big center or a stud defenseman. Both of those commodities were available at this deadline, but the Oilers stayed away.