- Who pulled off the best deal prior to Monday's trade deadline? What does it mean for the playoff race? Here's how the major trades will affect the rest of the season.
When the rumor winds finished roaring and the dust finally settled on Monday afternoon's NHL trade deadline, the wider landscape looked every bit as muddled as before. Contenders reloaded. Sellers retooled. And who the hell knows what to make of the Metropolitan Division meat grinder, still jammed with upwards of seven teams jockeying for seeding? Go ahead, friend. Pour another sip of whiskey. Take a deep breath. We have much to discuss.
It wasn't the busiest deadline day ever--that honor belongs to March 3, 2010, when a whopping 31 deals were consummated and 55 players swapped clubs--nor the splashiest, considering prized targets such as Erik Karlsson, Mike Green and Max Pacioretty all stayed put. But five first-rounders were packaged, a record according to Sportsnet. Five of six teams with at least 80 standings points added significant pieces, not including Rick Nash heading to Boston and Tomas Plekanec hopping to Toronto over the weekend. And finally a last-second blockbuster reverberated from Broadway to the beaches of Tampa Bay.
Six weeks remain until the playoffs as we barrel down the home stretch of the '17-18 regular season. The Stanley Cup crown resides in Pittsburgh for now, still clutched by the artist formerly known as Sid the Kid. With these moves in mind, here is a look at where various storylines stand, less than 24 hours after the deadline bell tolled:
LIGHTNING GET EVEN BETTER
Brandishing salary cap space like a battle axe, Lightning general manager Steve Yzerman reportedly worked until the literal last minute to pry captain Ryan McDonagh and forward J.T. Miller from the Rangers' firesale. Tampa Bay already sat at the head of the NHL, first in total points (89) and goals per game (3.54) through Monday with a blue line led by perennial Norris Trophy candidate Victor Hedman. But how scary do the Lightning look now, not only this spring but entering next season with every key piece slated to return under contract?
Of course, this being hockey and all, Tampa Bay might not even advance beyond the second round with either Toronto or Boston perched in its path. Both divisional foes got better too, between the Maple Leafs shoring up their center depth by adding Plekanec from Montreal and Boston fortifying its scoring punch through Nash, a scoring chance machine who should hit 20 goals in short order. Both are rental acquisitions, slated to hit the unrestricted free agent market July 1, but addressed present needs for clubs looking to keep the Lightning from striking big.
METRO DIVISION DIDN'T MAKE A SPLASH
Aside from the three-team trade that sent forward Derick Brassard to the Penguins (via Vegas), giving the repeat Stanley Cup champions the third-line center desperately needed behind Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, the Metro Division was marked by relatively minor moves.
The Devils landed winger Patrick Maroon, no stranger to riding shotgun beside former superstar teammates like Connor McDavid and Ryan Getzlaf, as well as the supersonic Michael Grabner last Thursday. Between Mark Letestu, Thomas Vanek and Ian Cole, the Blue Jackets added around the edges of their young core. Washington general manager Brian MacLellan reportedly waded into the Karlsson sweepstakes but found the price too high, understandable given the buyer's remorse felt after shelling a first-round pick for Kevin Shattenkirk last year, and instead settled for depth blueliners Michal Kempny and Jakub Jerabek.
Heaven knows how the eventual standings will shake out, though another Penguins-Capitals collision course seems inevitable, if only because that is how demons get exorcised. The Islanders and Hurricanes stood pat despite residing only four points behind Columbus for the second wild card spot. Buckle up, boys and girls. The shuffling didn't simply stop at 3 p.m. Just look at the first-place Philadelphia Flyers, unbeaten in regulation since Feb. 1.
VEGAS SURPRISE CONTINUES OUT WEST
Not even the boldest fortune tellers at the seediest strip malls would've dared project the Golden Knights as deadline buyers six months ago. But there we were, against all odds, wondering whether general manager George McPhee would somehow assemble a lucrative enough package to lure Karlsson from Ottawa.
Alas, first-place Vegas settled for bolstering its forwards by shelling a first-, second- and third-round pick for Tomas Tatar. It was a hefty price tag for a projected third-liner, but the 27-year-old has consistently controlled more than 50 percent of even-strength shot attempts throughout his career and remains under contract through 2020-21 at $5.3 million in average annual salary. Plus, the Golden Knights had assets to burn. Who saw that coming?
Elsewhere out in the Western Conference, the Sharks took a low-risk flier on winger Evander Kane (20 goals, 20 assists), banking that a sunny change of scenery for the 26-year-old will help vault them back into contention. Picture a power play featuring Kane, Brent Burns, Logan Couture, Joe Pavelski and, assuming he returns from a recent knee injury, Joe Thornton. That unit looks downright toothy.
In the Central Division, meanwhile, Nashville and Winnipeg each shelled out first-rounders to keep pace with one another. It was a steep price on paper to snag Ryan Hartman from Chicago, but Predators general manager David Poile believes the scrappy winger--a restricted free agent at season's end--can factor into their middle-six for years to come. Winnipeg, on the other hand, might only receive two months' work from center Paul Stastny, but the Jets are bonafide contenders. Credit GM Kevin Cheveldayoff for capitalizing on a sudden liquidation in St. Louis.
Speaking of which...
WHERE THE SELLERS STAND
Six straight losses can churn a stomach and change plans fast. Then again, the Blues sold Shattenkirk last year and reached the second round nonetheless. They were only one point behind Los Angeles for the second Western Conference wild card through Monday, but have been blanked in consecutive games by divisional rivals Winnipeg and Nashville. And so GM Doug Armstrong wisely milked what he could from Stastny's expiring contract, snagging a low first-rounder and prospect Erik Foley with an eye toward the future.
A similar on-the-fly rebuild ethos ushered the Rangers toward shipping out Nash, Grabner, McDonagh, Miller and defenseman Nick Holden, but a return haul packed with prospects, picks and capable winger Vladislav Namestnikov wasn't too shabby. Patience might run short among fans in midtown Manhattan, but GM Jeff Gorton isn't half-assing anything for now. No doubt his pro scouting staff is thrilled to have seven picks in the first three rounds this year, with the potential for seven total first-rounders over three NHL drafts if Tampa Bay wins the Stanley Cup in 2018 or 2019.