With the NHL trade deadline now passed, it’s time to take a look at which teams made the moves that could potentially put them over the top… or at least aid them on their quest for the Stanley Cup.
Fears of disrupting chemistry be damned. Often times at the NHL trade deadline, general managers, coaches and players will speak of not trying to disturb the rhythm of their roster.
This was the justification Julien BriseBois used last year when asked why he and the Lightning decided not to make any deadline additions. It makes sense, not wanting to ruffle the feathers of guys on the team by shipping out one of their buddies to bring in a new toy. However, when things go south, like they did for the Lightning in their first round matchup vs Columbus last year, the question can always be asked: “why didn’t we do more?”
This year’s deadline saw many teams throw caution to the wind and choose to buy, buy, buy. Because while your team may be good, it can always get better. That appears to be the mindset of these clubs as we examine the five teams that improved their Stanley Cup odds at the deadline.
Tampa Bay Lightning
Notable Additions: F Blake Coleman, F Barclay Goodrow and D Zach Bogosian (via Free-Agent Signing)
The Lightning got an early jump on the deadline, sending former first-round pick Nolan Foote and a 2020 second-rounder to the New Jersey Devils for Blake Coleman early last week. A lone bright spot in the Devils season, Coleman — or “Pickles” as he’s affectionately known among the New Jersey faithful due to his affinity for drinking pickle juice — brings some offensive punch and responsible two-way play to the Lightning lineup.
Prior to joining the Lightning, Coleman racked up 21 goals, just one shy of the career-high 22 he scored last season. While he won’t be looked upon as a contributor on the power play — just one of his 21 goals have been scored on the man-advantage — he can be counted upon for his play at the other end of the special teams battle. Coleman averages 2:45 on the penalty kill per game this season and has three shorthanded goals as an added bonus.
The Lightning further bolstered the bottom of their lineup with the addition of Barclay Goodrow from the Sharks. While the price was quite steep, sending away a first-round pick in the package, Goodrow adds a stabilizing presence to Tampa’s fourth line. He won’t score as much as Coleman, but he has a playoff Game Seven overtime goal under his belt and sports a 52.2 Corsi For percentage this season, according to Hockey Reference, which is a tremendous 2.8 percent higher relative to the rest of his former team.
The Lightning also signed defenseman Zach Bogosian to a one-year contract. It can be argued how much Bogosian can add to the Bolts’ back end, as he’s played in just 19 games this season for Buffalo, recording one goal and four assists. However, throughout his career, Bogosian has been a minute-muncher on defense, averaging 21:43 per game. While the Lightning would be wise not to utilize him to that extent, he does give them an extra body on the blue line come the playoffs.
For a team that decided to stand pat at the deadline last season, general manager BriseBois took a different approach this time. Might have something to do with last year’s first round debacle — just a hunch.
Notable Additions: F Jason Zucker, F Patrick Marleau, F Evan Rodrigues and F Conor Sheary
The Penguins dove in to the trade deadline head first this year and emerged with one of the league’s most consistent scoring wingers, as well as a brand new third line. The line to help Jim Rutherford just keeps on growing.
By acquiring Zucker from the Minnesota Wild, the Penguins seem to have answered the age-old question of “what could Sidney Crosby do with a bonafide top-line winger?” The answer: directly combine for five goals in the first seven games they’ve played together.
We’ve watched Crosby drag nearly 40-year-old Bill Guerin to his second Cup in 2008-09, morph Chris Kunitz into an Olympic gold medalist, aid Sheary in his first and only 20-goal season (more on you later), officiate my parents’ wedding and mitigate their subsequent divorce, etc, etc.
Sure, there was a brief love-affair with Phil “the thrill” Kessel, but Crosby has never had a partner like this riding shotgun. The chemistry they’ve already displayed is staggering and it’s likely to get better.
The Penguins have added a plethora of new depth players. Pittsburgh sent promising young forward Dominik Kahun to Buffalo for Rodrigues and old friend Sheary. Rodrigues has flown under-the-radar the last few seasons in Buffalo, but brings some jump and play driving ability to the Pens bottom-six. It’s been well documented what Sheary has done with Pittsburgh (see above), and it’s not hard to think he’ll have an easy transition plugging right back in wherever the Penguins slot him into their lineup.
On top of that, Marleau, one of the most prolific scorers of the last 20 years, now slots in as a middle-six forward for the Pens. The depth on this team is absurd and may even give Tampa a run for their money scoring-wise. Through all the injury troubles they’ve dealt with this year, the Penguins have developed a “plug and play” mentality that has paid dividends. With the addition of four new forwards, Pittsburgh once again looks like a team primed to win a Stanley Cup.
Notable Additions: F Andreas Athanasiou, F Tyler Ennis and D Mike Green
The Oilers made a pair of trades with the ailing Detroit Red Wings, acquiring the speedy Athanasiou and veteran defenseman Green. It’s easy to love the Athanasiou move, as it gives the Oilers more depth at center, as well as the addition of a player that can not only keep up with the speed of its roster, but potentially outpace much of it.
We’ve seen flashes of what Athanasiou can do, topping 15 goals in his first two full seasons and netting 30 last year. Now he may be utilized in a lineup that is built upon his greatest asset — speed. Whether or not he gets a shot to skate alongside Connor McDavid or winds up centering the Oilers third line, Athanasiou is a move that seems too perfect not to work out.
The Green deal, however, is much more of a question mark. Long gone are the days of Green potting an outrageous 30 goals from the back end. He hasn’t scored double digit goals since 2016-17 and only has three to his name this season.
Yet, Green can still work a man-advantage if needed, as he averaged 2:25 minutes worth of power play time per game this season, and chewed up a healthy 21:39 of ice-time per night during his tenure in Detroit. For a team whose major flaw is often seen as the defense, it can’t hurt to have a veteran like Green to rely on for bottom pair minutes, instead of stop gaps like Joel Persson and noted good-guy Brandon Manning.
Ennis, despite his age and diminutive size, has remained an effective forward the last few seasons. Sporting 14 goals and 33 points this season, Ennis adds some depth scoring to a roster that is often seen as top-heavy.
After failing to reach the playoffs in three of the first four seasons of McDavid’s career, Edmonton went all-in at the this year’s trade deadline to assure that the fifth season won’t go to waste.
Notable Additions: D Brenden Dillon and F Ilya Kovalchuk
During the height of his career, the case could have been made that Kovalchuk was the most well rounded player of his time. Consistent 40-plus goal scorer, elite playmaker, shorthanded specialist and power play quarterback. Before his foray into Russia, Kovalchuk was a Swiss army knife (Swiss hockey stick?) of a player.
Today, that’s not the case. However, Kovalchuk’s play has surprised many during the second-half of the season following his tumultuous departure from the Kings organization. After the Canadiens took a flyer on him for a league-minimum deal, the Russian winger has recorded six goals and seven assists in 22 games. This was enough to convince the Caps to acquire him for a third-round pick in 2020.
Kovalchuk, a good friend of Alex Ovechkin, has seen his best days come and go. Yet, he should be able to add some scoring punch and special teams production to the Capitals roster. Also, how great would the post-Cup shenanigans be between Kovy and Ovi?
Dillon, while lacking the instant name recognition of some of his peers, has been a model of defensive proficiency during his nine-year career. He can’t be counted on for anything in the offensive zone, but he can chew up tough minutes and provide a steadying force to the penalty kill. Besides that, Dillon is a heart and soul player who will endear himself to his new teammates in short order and establish a strong voice in the locker room.
Notable Additions: F Vincent Trocheck, D Sami Vatanen and D Brady Skjei
This one might be more aptly titled an “honorable mention” if we’re being honest. There’s little doubt that following these three moves, the Carolina Hurricanes roster is now better than the one that finished out that wild game in Toronto last week. Considering the team lost Brett Pesce and both of its NHL goalies in that game, that isn’t tough to believe.
While Sami Vatanen and Brady Skjei are solid NHL defensemen that will keep the Hurricanes alive in their push for the postseason, it’s just not reasonable to believe they can totally fill the holes in the roster left by Pesce and Dougie Hamilton — who was on a Norris Trophy candidate pace.
Also, the Canes surprisingly did not pursue any options in goal, despite Robin Lehner, Louis Domingue and Michael Hutchinson being available. For now, it seems as though the plan in net is to roll with the unproven Anton Forsberg and rookie Alex Nedeljkovic. Not necessarily a recipe for success.
Vincent Trocheck is a tremendous addition that will help the Canes offense in short order. Though it came at the cost of Erik Haula — a great player in his own right — Trocheck is a bit like a Barkov-Lite player. He’s got tremendous offensive instincts, a wicked release and a sound two-way game. Plus, he’s got term left on his contract and appears to fit right in with the Hurricanes plans for the future. But does it do enough to put this team over the top?
While the Canes were active on deadline day, it’s tough to say how much more of a contender they’ve become given their injury woes. However, if there’s a team that’s used to shirking the expectations and traditions of the hockey world, it’s this bunch of jerks.
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