The 2020 NHL Trade Deadline has come and gone. Which teams came out as the winners and the losers of this season’s deadline?
Who said this years trade deadline was going to be boring?
Over the past few years, the NHL trade deadline has usually been disappointing. This year however, was not the case. There were 32 trades on trade deadline day this year, crushing every other deadline from the last decade. The story for the most part remained the same. Buyers spent future assets in order to win a Stanley Cup now, while the sellers looked build their teams for the future.
Plenty of teams made moves in order to bolster their chances at a Stanley Cup or build a foundation for the future, however some teams did much better than others. Which ones came out as the winners and losers of this season’s trade deadline? Let’s take a look.
Being a Penguins fan must be the best feeling in the world. Once again they are going all-in at a chance at a Stanley Cup, this time making a trade with the Minnesota Wild to acquire Jason Zucker. The price they had to pay was a bit expensive, giving up one of their best prospects in Calen Addison and their first-round pick, but where the Penguins championship window is right now, that’s a price they will no qualms paying in order to win a fourth Stanley Cup in the Crosby-Malkin era. Better yet, Zucker is under contract for three more years after this season.
The Penguins also added to their offense with two more trades on deadline day. They brought in Patrick Marleau to give him one last chance at a Stanley Cup in exchange for a third round pick to bolster their scoring depth. Conor Sheary is also back in town, as he and Evan Rodrigues were packaged in a deal for Dominik Kahun.
Since the Zucker trade, they have placed him on the top line with Crosby, and it’s been a perfect fit. The Penguins have already stormed back to battle with the Washington Capitals for the division lead. Though they have lost four straight heading into the deadline, a team this good won’t stay down for long, and nobody will want any part of them in the playoffs.
New Jersey Devils
This season has been one failure after another for New Jersey, After the firing of Ray Shero in January, expectations for the Devils at the trade deadline were low after already dealing Taylor Hall. However, interim GM Tom Fitzgerald went wheeling and dealing leading up to the deadline, and set up his team wonderfully for the future.
Andy Greene was the first one traded, as he was sent to the the New York Islanders for a second-round pick in 2021 and David Quenneville. Greene was the captain in New Jersey, but that level of return for a 37-year-old on his last legs is borderline wizardry from Fitzgerald. In the same day, Blake Coleman was traded to the Tampa Bay Lightning for a monstrous return including the Vancouver Canucks first-round pick and Nolan Foote, which arguably a better return than they got for Taylor Hall in December.
On deadline day, New Jersey moved Wayne Simmonds to Buffalo for a 2021 conditional fifth-round pick. Then right at the buzzer, Sami Vatanen was traded to the Carolina Hurricanes, but had the return stifled due to Vatanen being out until early March.
The Devils now potentially have three first-round picks in the stacked 2020 NHL draft, and their search for another general manager looks to be over after the solid moves Fitzgerald made. Even though the expectation of making the playoffs crashed and burned, this deadline has been a pretty nice consolation prize.
The Oilers finally went out and got the depth that the team has been needing for years. The trade for Andreas Athanasiou finally gives Connor McDavid a winger that can not only keep up with him, but is almost just as fast. Those two on the ice at the same time is going to be an unmitigated nightmare for defenses across the league. With McDavid and Draisaitl running their own lines with talented wingers, they might both reach new heights that might’ve never seemed possible.
The additions of Mike Green and Tyler Ennis are also fantastic depth pickups, and can help push some of talent down the roster as well. Edmonton managed to hang onto their first round pick too, which is something that Holland stressed before the deadline. All around, a just about perfect deadline for an Oilers that’s needed all the depth it could get for a long time now.
Alex Ovechkin and Ilya Kovalchuk are going to play on the same team. That alone makes this a win for every NHL fan. It may be a decade too late, but it’s still two of the best Russian hockey players of all time getting together for a chance at a Stanley Cup. Considering where Kovalchuk was at the start of the season in Los Angeles, it’s amazing that everything was worked out this well for him. Now he has the chance he’s always wanted by playing for a Stanley Cup contender, but also with his best friend.
As for the Capitals themselves, there is no problem to be had with the adding Kovalchuk at the deadline. It’s essentially a no-risk depth move to help inject some offense into the Capitals’ bottom-six forward group. With the Canadiens retaining 50 percent of Kovalchuk’s salary, he only costs $350,000 against the salary cap, which as small a cap hit you can possibly get. Even if Kovalchuk is a total bust in Washington, he’s on a two-way contract, and can be sent to the minors without waivers.
I think the argument can start to be made that Don Waddell is one of the best general managers in the NHL. The Carolina Hurricanes came out of the trade deadline as not just a winner, but The Winner. Acquiring Vincent Trocheck from Florida finally got them the center depth that they’ve needed on offense for some time now, and took advantage of his down season to pry him out of Florida for a reasonable price. For the next three seasons, their center depth looks like Sebastian Aho, Trocheck, and Jordan Staal. That’s the kind of depth that can bring home a Stanley Cup.
Adding Sami Vatanen and Brady Skjei were also great pickups on defense with Dougie Hamilton out for the season. It took a first-rounder to pry a long-struggling Skjei from the Rangers, but if he thrives under a new system, that will turn into a bargain with his contract still having four seasons left. Even with all these moves, the Hurricanes still have five picks in the first three rounds of the draft.
The Florida Panthers are clearly sick of not getting results and still being on the outside of the playoffs, and now they’re starting to make emotional moves in order to just get something done. Trading Vincent Trocheck, who’s been having a great year everywhere except in the point totals, was an awful idea. Sure they got an alright return, but they gave up the far and away best player in the deal when the goal is to make the playoffs right now. Not to mention that it’s not at all Trocheck’s fault that the Panthers are struggling, it’s Sergei Bobrovsky who hasn’t been able to stop a beach ball for most of the season, despite getting paid $10 million a season for the next seven years.
If the Panthers do end up missing the playoffs once again this year, Dale Tallon in all likelihood will be out of a job, and at this point it’ll be justified. He’s had plenty of opportunity to build a playoff team, but these moves are just not working. This Trocheck trade is just another example of that.
Toronto Maple Leafs
The Toronto Maple Leafs lost a professional hockey game to a 42-year-old zamboni driver who works for their minor league team. Then they didn’t do anything of note at the trade deadline besides some minor league deals and retaining 50 percent of Robin Lehner‘s salary for a fifth-round pick. What Toronto needed was some kind of jolt, but there are seemingly no repercussions for one of the most embarrassing losses in franchise history
They extended Jake Muzzin for four years, but that was going to happen regardless. Tyson Barrie is now free to walk away for nothing at the end of the season, and they’re no stronger as the playoff race gets tighter and tighter.
Will they make the playoffs? Maybe. Are they going to get past Boston or Tampa Bay in round one? Maybe, but it would take a miracle with the way this team plays. Missing the playoffs or a fourth straight first round exit will require a massive shakeup in the offseason, because this group has not proved that they can get it done once.
Apparently Buffalo thinks that they’re still playoff contenders? That’s only explanation I can think of for refusing to sell and trading for Wayne Simmonds at the deadline. Though according to any basic common sense or prediction model, the Sabres need both a perfect run down the stretch and an unparalleled amount of luck to sneak into that third spot in the Atlantic.
Simmonds isn’t even the kind of player that can carry a team to a playoff spot. They paid next to nothing to get him, but that’s not the point and he’s a perfectly fine complimentary piece, but that’s not what the Sabres need right now. They still need a second-line center of the future, and this team is clearly not ready for any sort of playoff competition, even if they do luck their way in.
Sabres fans are sick of this team right now, and understandably so. They’ve given so much to this franchise and they deserve so much better. Simmonds is not taking them to the playoffs, and now they have five pending unrestricted free agents that can all just walk for nothing. Barring a miracle, Jason Botterill is likely one of the next general managers on the unemployment line.
While Patrick Marleau and Ilya Kovalchuk will be chasing their chance at a Stanley Cup, Joe Thornton will be sitting on the sidelines once the playoffs roll around as the Sharks couldn’t work out a trade in time before the deadline.
Thornton signed a one-year contract at the beginning of the season in order to chase one last chance at a Stanley Cup with the San Jose Sharks. But this Sharks season has sunk like a rock right from the start, and have been well out of the playoff race for months. If Thornton wanted to win a Stanley Cup, it wouldn’t be on San Jose anymore. The decision was rumored to be entirely up to him, and it seems that he decided to go to a contender.
The Sharks were able to work a trade to send Marleau to Pittsburgh, a trade to Dallas fell through for Thornton, and he was left on the bottoming out Sharks with no hope of a Stanley Cup maybe ever again. If this is the end of Thornton’s career, it’s a shame that it had to fizzle out with a whimper.
The entire Central Division
So much for the Central Division arms race at the deadline. Between all three of the Stanley Cup contenders in Central, there was only two moves made the entire month that can be considered upgrades.
After months of rumors that the Blues were serious about a repeat and were in on the likes of Taylor Hall and Chris Kreider, they ended up standing pat, only adding Marco Scandella to the defense. The Avalanche had tons of cap space and plenty of assets, yet only acquired Vladislav Namestnikov on deadline day, potentially squandering such a rare opportunity. The Dallas Stars just did nothing at all, despite being rumored to be after Joe Thornton.
In the playoff hunt, the Nashville Predators and Winnipeg Jets barely tweaked around the edges, and committed to neither buying or selling at such an important time. Nashville had valuable upcoming free agents, but if they’re serious about the playoffs, then some kind of move to find some consistency would’ve been appreciated. Winnipeg made depth moves for Dylan DeMelo and Cody Eakin, but their defense is still the worst in the league.
But the biggest loser of perhaps the entire trade deadline was the Chicago Blackhawks. They traded Robin Lehner to the Vegas Golden Knights for such a minuscule haul, that you wonder what the point even was? Especially since Lehner offered to take a discount on a three-year contract.
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