The TDL is approaching, and all the trade discussion seems to revolve around mortgaging a team's future for rentals. Myself, I don't agree one bit with this approach; it is evident that buying at TDL is a prime example of the practice of buying high, and often times you won't get much bang for your buck.
Below is a list of all the 'expensive' trade deadline rentals from 2015 to this date (this cutoff is based on my own knowledge of these trades; I don't want to review deals which I don't understand sufficiently). For the purposes of this post, I consider all trades in which either a first round pick or a notably good prospect switched owners to be expensive. There is room for subjectivity, but where isn't there? The main criteria for evaluation are: asset cost, player's performance for the new club, team success during a playoff run, and long-term impact of the player. I would like to clarify that this does not include deals such as the McDonagh, Yandle, or Brassard deals, because those players had term left. That would skew the evaluation too much in their favour, seeing as they would already have long-term impact on the others.
Based on my parameters, I was able to identify 15 'expensive' rental acquisitions from the past four TDLs.
Tatar for 1st+2nd+3rd
Isn't it wonderful to start with a trade which already contradicts the parameters you just put into place? This makes the list for the sole reason of Tatar being traded right after the playoff run, which technically makes him a rental..? And boy, was the trade a downright joke for the Knights. Tatar barely played for the team that eventually made the finals. Scoring just eight points in 28 combined games for Vegas, he was already pawned off to Montreal after a couple of months. Giving up three high-to-mid picks for a guy who did not contribute and who had no long-term impact on your roster is horrific, and even the trip to the SCF does not outweigh the bad.
Verdict: fail. Nothing to discuss here, aside from the comparisons of Pacioretty and Tatar with their new teams.
E. Kane for O´Regan+cond.2nd+4th
As opposed to most players who make this list, the asset cost here was relatively low. We obviously know that the condition of the trade was met and the second turned into a first, but for a rental Kane, that return still seemed solid for the Sharks. And damn - 13 goals in 26 games makes him one of the more successful ones on the list. However, his playoffs weren't superb (but not bad either, by any means), and neither were the Sharks', so that brings the overall score down by a bit. The Sharks, however, made up for it by re-signing him. Even if the price of acquisition went up, Kane is putting up points at a great rate now, and will continue to do so for likely a couple of other playoff runs.
Verdict: pass. Good price, decent production, and great long-term deal make this an easy win for the Sharks.
Stastny for 1st+Foley
Stastny was not supposed to be rental - at least nobody thought the Blues would ship him - and yet it was Winnipeg who dangled him to make an already stacked forward lineup even more stacked. The asset cost is obviously high; a first and a good prospect should get you quality. And that is what Stastny brought to Winnipeg. 28 points in 36 games, including 10 against Nashville in one playoff round, makes him one of the best rentals in recent memory. Winnipeg saw some success as a team, making it all the way to the WCF, but ultimately fell short. A massive minus comes from him bolting to UFA.
Verdict: pass, but only barely. It is generally understood by most Jets fans that Stastny gave us the series win against Nashville, which eases the pain of the high asset cost and the non-existent long-standing impact. As an avid hater of rentals, I still have to acknowledge how incredibly well Stastny worked out for us on the ice, but I'm not ignoring the bad either. This is incredibly close, and any kind of change for the better or the worse would likely tip the scales.
Hartman+5th for Ejdsell+1st+4th
One of the worst deals in terms of how much was paid and for what. A young bottom sixer, Hartman's track record didn't suggest that this kind of price should have been paid for him. What's more, his production rate didn't change in Nashville either, and his playoff run was cut short by the Jets. Nashville gets bonus points for keeping him (granted that he was a RFA), but given the high cost and minimal on-ice impact he has had for his entire career, you'd have a hard time spinning this one into a win.
Verdict: fail. If you want a bottom sixer that bad, use your draft picks on big guys and have an endless supply of Hartmans.
Nash for Spooner+Beleskey+Lindgren+1st+7th
A little tougher one to evaluate due to the cap dump that took place as part of the deal. At the time, Nash's production had already fallen off, but he still offered middle six quality to Boston. The problem is, when you're giving up a high cost in terms of futures AND THEN give up Spooner who had put up points at a higher rate than Nash, the trade looks a lot less ideal. Boston didn't make it far either, and Nash's contributions were about in line with his regular season numbers. To top it all off, his retirement effectively left the Bruins empty-handed in the end.
Verdict: fail. Pretty much the exact opposite of the Kane deal: too high a price to pay for too little, and nothing to show for it now.
(borderline: Grabner for 2nd+Rykov)
Decided to include this one too - because of the stuff I have heard about Rykov as a prospect - but it should be acknowledged that this is a borderline case for an expensive rental. As a reward for the young team for a great season, the Devils added speed to what was already a lightning quick team. For two decent future assets, they received exactly zero playoff points, got bounced in the first round, and then the rental left in the summer. Worth it?
Verdict: fail. Whoever is likely to go against Tampa this April should take notes.
Hansen for Goldobin+cond. 4th
Hansen was brought in as a good bottom sixer. In exchange, the Sharks decided to give up one of their better prospects instead of a high pick. After a decent March with the Sharks, everything went south: one point in six playoff games (and a first round exit for the team, which is a big minus), and after that, he has been a no-show and is currently out of the league. It should probably be noted that Hansen did have term left, but since he fell out of favour rather quickly during his second year as a Shark, this probably qualifies.
Verdict: fail. From the very moment of this trade happening, Goldobin has pretty much outproduced Hansen anyway.
Shattenkirk+Copley for 1st+Sanford+Malone+cond. 2nd
Exhibit A of 'trading for the sake of making a trade.' Shattenkirk was the top rental of 2017, and Washington took a stab at it and added a top defenseman to what was already a powerhouse team. According to some, this also prevented their main rivals from getting Shattenkirk themselves...? Anyway, while Shattenkirk put up points at a good rate for his time in Washington, a lot of people were not content with the acquisition, and it was even said that he straight up did not fit the system of the team. The Caps ended up losing in round 2 of the playoffs. The asset cost was below average for a top rental (no high-end prospects to go with the first rounder, which is a plus), but since Shattenkirk bolted immediately after the playoff run, it is hard to be content with the deal.
Verdict: fail. At least they redeemed themselves the next year, though.
Hanzal+White for 1st+2nd+Downing+cond. 4th
God, is this a bad one. Two high picks should probably net you more than two bottom six rentals. Minnesota's great season lasted up to the point of this trade, after which everything went downhill. Going 11-17 down the stretch (including the playoffs), Minnesota got one playoff point out of Hanzal and White in the one playoff round they featured in. Both rentals bolted, which was arguably the best outcome for Minnesota.
Verdict: fail. Although Hanzal scored 13 points in 20 RS games with Minnesota, it doesn't outweigh everything else being absolutely f***ing awful.
Staal for 2x2nd+Saarela:
Adding Eric Staal to boost your offense seems like a good plan. It is for that reason why his 6 points in 20 RS games and 0 points in 5 playoff games are as much bizarre as it is awful. Now, the Rangers were helped out by Staal's restrictive list of teams he was willing to go to, but they did not have a team with which they should have been buyers in the first place. To add insult to injury, Staal has gone on to be one of the better centers over the last two and a half years with the Wild, whereas the Rangers were left empty-handed.
Verdict: fail. A lesson for teams: if your team is not good, buying rentals to fix it is a bad f***ing idea.
Ladd+scraps for 1st+Dano+cond. 3rd:
Faced with a tough decision, the Jets had to let go of some of their UFAs as part of the process of transitioning to the new core. That is where Andrew Ladd was traded, and despite having his point totals going downhill at the time, he still fetched the Jets a fairly high price of a first and Dano, a former first. Chicago, on the other hand, received 2 points in seven playoff games from Ladd, before he walked as an UFA. As you have probably realised by now, this deal was not a success by any of the criteria.
Verdict: fail. Funnily enough, this was not their worst buy that year...
Weise+Fleischmann for Danault+2nd
Pretty close to the Hanzal deal mentioned earlier. Two crappy bottom six forwards coming in, two good futures going out. Fleischmann and Weise literally combined for seven points during their time in Chicago, and neither of them stuck with the roster for the entire seven-game playoff run. We should probably mention that Danault was not the player he is today at the time, but adding to him to get two players who were not better anyway is just horrendous. Needless to say, neither player stayed in Chicago after the playoff loss.
Verdict: fail. It is one thing to add depth for picks, but the level of crappiness elevates to a whole another level when you're trading young depth for old, usually shit depth.
Vermette for 1st+Dahlbeck
A rental which most of us refer to when speaking about the successful ones. Vermette was an important piece of the Cup-winning Blackhawks, despite not putting up too many points in the process. The cost was a little high and he continued his trek around the league with the Coyotes afterwards, so there wasn't much more Chicago got out of their investment.
Verdict: pass. I find buying rentals irresponsible and risky, but in the end, a result like this is exactly what you'd hope to see.
Sekera for cond. 1st+McKeown
It is hard to conceptualise how bad this one was. First off, the price was very high, even for a top 4 defenseman of Sekera's caliber. It gets ever higher after Sekera walks for free just months after the trade. What makes the deal unbearable is that the Kings... sigh... missed the playoffs.
Verdict: absolutely f***ing catastrophic fail on every level imaginable.
Franson+Santorelli for 1st+Leipsic+Jokinen:
Literally the Hanzal deal all over again. If you're giving up a decent chunk of your future to bolster your depth at the deadline, go for quality depth. Neither Franson nor Santorelli had much success, and the playoff push lasted for one round. Both rentals walked away from Nashville.
Verdict: fail. You probably wouldn't be happy if your first round drafted prospect turned into a Santorelli. Why would you be happy with trading the pick for two months of one?
TOTAL: 3 passes (Kane, Vermette, Stastny), 12 fails
These fifteen trades can reasonably be classified as both expensive and rental deals. As you can see, not a lot of them were particularly successful for the very purpose for which they were acquired, and in most cases, the cost of acquisition was very high even in vacuum. Although the sample size is rather small, top 6 F/top 4 D caliber rentals obviously provided better value than inferior ones - and yet even the top 6 ones let their teams down at a crazily high rate (2 passes out of 7).
The teams got any long-term value out of their acquisitions in six of the fifteen cases. Of these, I'd classify the Kane deal as a significant long-term deal, and the rest were very meh (Hartman as a bottom sixer, Copley from the Shattenkirk deal as the backup in Washington, Boston managed to dump some cap, Hansen played some games with the Sharks, and Tatar was a trade piece for Vegas).
What have we learned?
Usually, February is a dangerous time to go window shopping. The costs are high, and more often than not, the return you're getting will be a lackluster. It is very rare to find a rental who is a good contributor in vacuum, and it is even harder to find one who can be had for cheap.