Monday, February 24 marked the NHL trade deadline. There were two distinctly different ways the trade deadline could have gone down. The first would have involved very little activity. Given the parity in the league and coaching changes from more than a quarter of the teams, it would’ve been understandable if general managers elected to keep their rosters intact.
Fortunately, many teams aggressively pushed for the playoffs and didn’t hesitate to make deals. The result of this aggression was a new record of 32 trades. We’ll be taking a closer look at teams that disappointed at the deadline and teams that should feel much better about their chances.
NHL Trade Deadline Reactions
In this category, the Florida Panthers stand out. The Panthers are two points behind the Toronto Maple Leafs for a top-three finish in the Atlantic Division and four points behind the Columbus Blue Jackets for the second wild card. The Panthers made a few minor adjustments to the fringe of their team in swaps with Tampa Bay, Toronto, and Dallas.
The main deal for the team from south Florida was to send Vincent Trochek to one of their direct competitors, the Carolina Hurricanes, for a package of players including Eric Haula and Lucas Wallmark. The Panthers have not been to the playoffs since the 2015-2016 season.
Not making an aggressive move to increase their chances puts them in position to squander the goodwill they gained in the offseason by bringing in Joel Quenneville and Sergei Bobrovsky. Panthers loyalists may argue the moves allow some financial flexibility, but their team isn’t usually a destination spot for prime free agents.
The disappointment in the Chicago Blackhawks is two-fold, and one of the causes is similar to the Panthers situation. The Blackhawks are just eight points out of the second wild-card spot in the Western Conference. Their core is aging, but certainly still would seem to give them a shot at competing in the Western Conference because the talent gap between division leaders and wild card teams is not as wide as it is in the Eastern Conference.
To keep fans interested, and to be fair to their core players, I would have liked to have seen the Blackhawks add to their roster at the trade deadline. That being said, I understand the Blackhawks instead electing to take a step back and attempt to retool for future seasons. The sharpest complaint about the Blackhawks is that they traded Robin Lehner as opposed to Corey Crawford.
Crawford is 35 years old and very likely winding down the amount of time he can be counted on as a regular starting goalie. Lehner is 28 and his past season-plus has been the best goaltending of his career. One player the Blackhawks received in return from the Vegas Golden Knights was 26-year-old goalie Malcolm Subban.
Subban should see increased playing time with the Blackhawks. He played 22, 21 and 20 games in each of his three seasons with the Golden Knights. His stats have markedly declined in each of those seasons. It wouldn’t seem to be wise to assume that Subban is the goalie of the future in the Windy City.
The Good Stuff
Excluding a deep need or appreciation of nostalgia, it’s hard to criticize the job done by San Jose Sharks general manager Doug Wilson. The Sharks are in the middle of a monstrously disappointing season considering they made the Western Conference Finals following the 2018-2019 season. Subtracting from this roster should allow them to pile up losses and increase their odds for a premium draft pick.
Trades sending Patrick Marleau and Brenden Dillon to Pittsburgh and Washington respectively garnered the Sharks a second-round pick this year, as well as a pair of third-round, picks next year. It would be surprising to see those picks fall in the top half of those rounds, but adding to their quantity of picks gives the Sharks options for how to approach the draft or future trades. The trades also represented good faith efforts by Wilson to provide both Marleau and Dillon very strong opportunities for a chance to hoist the Stanley Cup.
The highlight of the trade deadline for the Sharks was sending Barclay Goodrow and a third-round pick, previously belonging to Philadelphia, to the Tampa Bay Lightning. The return was Anthony Greco, a 26-year-old forward, who likely will be organizational filler, but more importantly a first-round draft pick.
The 27-year-old Goodrow has played in more games as his career progressed than he did in his first four years in the league but has not been a particularly productive player. His 25 points this season are a career-high.
Even a late first-round pick feels like the Lightning massively overpaid. The only downside for the Sharks was their failure to find a place where Joe Thornton would have a chance to get a ring, but there was likely a very limited market for the veteran.
The Carolina Hurricanes made a pair of trades to replenish their defense as well. They acquired Sami Vatanen from the New Jersey Devils for a fourth-round pick and a pair of players that hadn’t seen much ice time for them. If Vatanen can return to the form he showed earlier in his career with the Anaheim Ducks he can be a useful player.
They also sent a first-round pick to the New York Rangers for Brady Skjei. While Skjei’s stats don’t jump off the page at you he has been durable and should be comfortable with the role the Hurricanes will be asking him to play in their defense corp. The Hurricanes surged to the Eastern Conference Finals last season and are trying to ride that wave back into the playoffs this year, these trades should help make that important goal possible.
Reacting to the NHL Trade Deadline
Tight playoff races and battles for premium draft picks mean that even the best moves may not work exactly as these teams hoped, but these are four teams I’ll be watching closely as the season comes to a close to see how they respond.