The dust has finally settled after the NHL trade deadline and, with just over a quarter of the season left to play, the landscape of the NHL is vastly different than it was back in the fall. Many teams will be integrating new talent into their lineup, while others are looking to fill holes left by players shipped away. This year’s deadline saw many surprises, with multiple big-name players made available for trade. Obviously, we’re not sure how these moves will pan out, but here are the initial winners and losers of the 2018 NHL trade deadline.
Loser: Henrik Lundqvist
After many previous trade deadlines saw the Rangers as buyers, this year’s deadline saw the them as big-time sellers, as they look to completely rebuild their depleted farm system. While the Rangers as a whole are winners of this year’s deadline (which I will discuss later), it is not the same story for aging goaltender Henrik Lundqvist. Sadly, it is beginning to look like he might never reach hockey’s highest stage of winning the Stanley Cup.
Lundqvist has come out and said that he wants to remain in New York for the Rangers rebuild, but at 35 years old with his performance trailing off in the twilight of his career, will Lundqvist still be playing by the time the Rangers’ rebuild will begin to bear fruit?
Winners: New York Rangers
While their best goaltender in franchise history may be considered a loser of this year’s trade deadline, the Rangers were one of this year’s biggest winners. They’ve finally begun to inject new life into a depleted prospect pool, which had largely been traded away in hopes of bringing home their first Stanley Cup since 1994. Finally, the Rangers are looking to the future after coming up short on their championship dreams.
In the biggest blockbuster of this year’s deadline, the Rangers shipped off their captain Ryan McDonagh and 40-point scorer J.T. Miller to the Lightning in exchange for 25-year-old Russian forward Vladislav Namestnikov along with two prospects: Brett Howden and Libor Hajek. In Howden, a 2017 first-round selection, New York got a big-bodied center with high offensive upside, while Libor Hajek was one of the best defenseman in this year’s World Junior Championship. Also included in the trade were Tampa Bay’s first-round pick in the 2018 draft and a conditional second-round draft pick in 2019, which will become a first-round selection if the Lightning win the Stanley Cup in the next two years.
Rick Nash, another long-time Ranger, was sent off to Boston to join a Stanley Cup contender in the Bruins. In exchange for the 33-year-old winger, the Rangers acquired four pieces: prospect defenseman Ryan Lindgren, Ryan Spooner, Matt Beleskey (a salary dump by the Bruins), and a 2018 first-round pick. At this year’s deadline, New York was able to add three young options on defense in Lindgren, Hajek, and Rob O’Gara (acquired in a separate trade with Boston).
By adding young players to their team and prospect pool, New York also set themselves up nicely for this June’s draft. For a team that went without a single first-round pick for four years, it’s safe to say the Rangers are ready to rebuild through the draft. After holding two first-round selections in 2017, the Rangers will have three first-round picks in 2018 and selections in the first three rounds.
Losers: Erik Karlsson & the Ottawa Senators
The hottest name of the trade block was that of Erik Karlsson. Ottawa reportedly had talks with many teams, but were ultimately unable to reach a deal to send off their franchise defenseman, who could have netted them a huge haul of players, picks, and prospects. Hanging on to Karlsson longer is only going to make things worse for Karlsson and the team’s future.
Karlsson is currently being severely underpaid at $6.5 million per year for the next two seasons. After a magical run to the Eastern Conference Finals that saw them finish one win away from a Stanley Cup berth, things have taken a turn for the worse for the Senators and the relationship between the organization and Karlsson. Ottawa could have received a king’s ransom for the services of Karlsson in two playoff runs.
This isn’t fair to Karlsson, who could have been off to a contender to chase his first Stanley Cup, but instead will have to ride out the rest of a lost season in Ottawa, only to go through the same ordeal this summer.
Winners: Tampa Bay Lightning
How often do both sides of a blockbuster trade come out as winners? In a trade involving the league-best Tampa Bay Lightning and (finally) rebuilding New York Rangers, both sides came out better for the long haul. In McDonagh, the Lightning now have perhaps the best 1-2 punch on defense in the league, with the former Rangers captain joining forces with Norris Trophy candidate Victor Hedman. Not to mention, Steve Yzerman (Tampa Bay GM) did it without trading away a fine, young defenseman in Mikhail Sergachev or Brayden Point, who most thought would likely be involved in a trade for a big-time defenseman like Karlsson or McDonagh.
In J.T. Miller, a 40-point scorer in New York, they have their immediate replacement for Vladislav Namestnikov, who was shipped to New York along with two prospects in Nick Howden and Libor Hajek, a 2018 first-round pick, and a conditional 2019 second-round pick which could ultimately become a first round pick if the Lightning win the Stanley Cup in the next two seasons.
This move by Yzerman further cements the Lightning as favorites to win the Stanley Cup (and they should be). The Lightning had to give up a decent haul to land McDonagh and Miller, but to further improve a team which has topped the NHL all season long, and was already considered a favorite to win the Stanley Cup, the deal was well worth it for Tampa Bay.
Losers: Max Pacioretty and Alex Galchenyuk
After being placed on the trade block back in November, Pacioretty began to pick up his play and did the Canadiens a favor by driving his price up during a mess of a season in Montreal, yet Canadiens GM Marc Bergevin stood pat during the trade deadline when it’s clearly time to cut ties and start fresh. The Canadiens have been stuck in neutral since they reached the Eastern Conference Finals in 2014.
This year’s deadline could have been the start of Montreal’s retooling, with valuable, tradable assets in Max Pacioretty and Alex Galchenyuk, but it was not to be. Instead, the Canadiens sent Tomas Plekanec to Toronto for Kerby Rychel and a 2018 second-round pick. A good trade for Montreal or sure, but that should not have been their biggest move of deadline day.
Winners: Winnipeg Jets
Jets GM Kevin Cheveldayoff finally made a trade. After several years of inactivity on deadline day, the Jets seemingly came out of nowhere and scooped up Paul Statsny from the folding St. Louis Blues, who are retaining half of Stastny’s $7 million cap hit. In return, Winnipeg sent prospect Erik Foley, a conditional 2018 first-round pick, and a conditional 2020 fourth-round pick in a rare trade between division rivals.
In an incredibly competitive Central Division, Winnipeg has held their own and established themselves as legit Stanly Cup Contenders this summer. Stastny must have liked what he saw in Winnipeg, as he waived his no-trade clause to join the up-and-coming Jets, as they look to make a run in this year’s playoffs.
Stastny may not have been the Jets’ first option after the team had reportedly been in on Chicago’s Ryan Hartman and Montreal’s Tomas Plekanec, but the Jets came out with a solid rental player in Stastny, who will become a free agent at the end of the season. He gives the Jets another big-bodied, talented forward to go along with an already-stacked group of forwards.