The top of the Western Conference just became more dangerous: Mark Stone is a Golden Knight, the Winnipeg Jets fortified the middle of their roster with Kevin Hayes, and the Nashville Predators rounded out their top six forwards with a pair of trades. The 2019 NHL trade deadline initiated an arms race in the West that trickled to the East, with the Bruins, Capitals and Penguins improving the fringes of their roster. Here’s a look at the winners and losers of Monday’s deadline:
Vegas Golden Knights
The Vegas Golden Knights acquired Mark Stone, the trade deadline’s prized possession, from Ottawa and reportedly agreed to an eight-year extension with the 26-year-old. That’s as good an outcome for any team who hoped to nab Stone. He will play alongside William Karlsson and Jonathan Marchessault on the Golden Knights’ first line, boost the their offense and provide a lift to the team’s below-average power play (their 17.1 PP% ranks 23rd in the NHL). Vegas’s top six is on par with the top teams in the West and, hey, they were just in the Stanley Cup Final a season ago. Another deep run could be in store.
The Winnipeg Jets added Paul Stastny at last year’s deadline, who slid in as a second-line center and helped the Jets to a 15–4–1 record the rest of the regular season and the franchise’s first conference finals appearance. This year, the Jets made a similar move and brought in Kevin Hayes in exchange for Brendan Lemiuex, a 2019 first-round pick and a conditional 2022 fourth-round pick. Hayes will operate well as a pass-first, playmaking center potentially next to Patrik Laine. He drives possession and his defensive prowess gives Winnipeg strength down the middle of their lineup. With a 3–5–2 record in their last 10 games, it’s the move the Jets needed to make to put themselves ahead of Nashville and into the conversation with the Flames and Sharks.
Ottawa Senators … in 2020
The Ottawa Senators hemorrhaged assets, trading away Erik Karlsson, Matt Duchene, Stone and this year’s first round pick in the past year and a half. That hurts. Sens fans will acutely feel that pain through the 2019 draft. But, at the trade deadline, Ottawa did what it could to restock and build for the future: they will have 17 draft picks in the first three rounds over the next three years. No other team in the league will have more. On top of that, the Senators acquired 19-year-old defenseman Erik Brannstrom, who should form their blue line’s core with Thomas Chabot. It finally looks like the bleeding has stopped. One final note: All of this will mean nothing if owner Eugene Melnyk doesn’t show he is willing to spend money.
San Jose Sharks
The San Jose Sharks could have to done nothing and they still would have been in the elite tier of teams. Instead, they acquired Gustav Nyquist and didn’t send away a first round pick to do it. Nyquist, who ranks 45th in 5-on-5 points, will slide into the Sharks’ third line alongside Joe Thornton and Kevin Labanc. The Sharks paid the lowest price on the second-tier wingers (Nyquist, Dzingel, Zuccarello, Simmonds) and can roll three lines with ease, while Nyquist’s playmaking ability should add to a dangerous top-five power-play unit.
The Sharks decided to trust Martin Jones, whose 2.69 goals against average and a .906 save percentage in his last nine games is a significant improvement on his season numbers, instead of acquiring another goalie.
TO BE DETERMINED
Columbus Blue Jackets
The Columbus Blue Jackets and GM Jarmo Kekäläinen shirked a rebuild for a bid at a potential Stanley Cup playoff run. Not only that, the Blue Jackets holed out their future to do so and could be left without a pick in the first three rounds in two consecutive drafts. But here’s what we know: Columbus is the only NHL franchise without a playoff series win while also having the best roster in team history.
It’s a good sign when small-market teams make big-name acquisitions and are willing to spend money. The Blue Jackets’ outlook, however, will look beyond grim if unrestricted free agents Duchene, Ryan Dzingel, Artemi Panarin and Sergei Bobrovsky all walk. It’s a major risk, one that has the potential to lift the franchise out of mediocrity or place them in the cellar for the foreseeable future.
Ottawa Senators Fans
The last 18 months haven’t been kind to Senators fans. Karlsson is gone. Duchene is gone. Stone is gone. This year’s first-round pick, potentially the No. 1 overall pick, is gone. GM Pierre Dorion asked the fans for patience after the Duchene trade. It’s going to be a lengthy rebuild, as the Senators are structuring their lineup of the future around Brady Tkachuk, Thomas Chabot and a whole lot of hope. Add in an arena situation that’s in flux and an owner who doesn’t want to spend money, and that’s a recipe for short-term ill will and impatience. They’re far away from their 2017 Eastern Conference Final appearance, and the light of the future seems even further away.
The Calgary Flames remained quiet, while the Vegas Golden Knights and Winnipeg Jets added Stone and Hayes, respectively, and the Predators, Stars, and Avalanche improved around the edges. The Flames, riding a five-game winning streak, sit perched atop the Western Conference and didn’t need to make a move. No line in the NHL has been as productive as Johnny Gaudreau, Steve Monahan and Elias Lindholm, and they’ll need that production to continue to make it through the gauntlet of the Western Conference playoffs. There’s no reason to shade the Flames Stanley Cup hopes after today but they lost out by way of doing nothing.
The Edmonton Oilers, sitting at 26th in the NHL, failed to do anything at the deadline. They failed to move their unrestricted free agents and the Oilers are still saddled with Milan Lucic’s seven-year, $42 million contract (which was unlikely to be moved), while the front office will have only $7.8 million to play with in free agency according to CapFriendly. Maybe there wasn’t a worthwhile move out there—but the Oilers are no better off after the 3 p.m. deadline hit.