March is very soon upon us, and us armchair-GMs have now done our jobs: stressing over the moves the GMs of all our favourite teams have or have not made, causing us endless pain and terrifying the living daylights out of us. ‘Are we going to pay for the privilege of seeing Cody Ceci wear our crest?!’ is an example of a dreadful thought one could have had in the past few weeks. Previously, I’ve written about how expensive rentals rarely turn out to be worth the assets given up for them, and this year we had a bunch of acquisitions like that.
But did the outcomes end up being as dreadful as all our worst fears? Which teams outdid the expectations? That is what I’m about to tell you, going through each team’s deadline actions and grading their rent-a-vet services. In the interest of variety and clarity, I will include moves made even a considerable amount of time before the deadline, provided that the trades themselves fit in the profile of a ‘deal made to improve the lineup for the postseason’. What this actually means is that I get to praise Dubas, pretty much. Furthermore, deals between non-playoff teams will be excluded, as well as those which don’t have the function of a rental deal (example: Talbot for Stolarz, seeing as neither team is likely to make it in, and neither team is adding to existing depth there).
Also, when discussing the values of draft picks traded, my comments might seem odd. I suggest reading this piece by Michael Schuckers, if you are interested in objective analysis of what draft picks are really worth – and if you want to know why, for example, certain type of picks might not be as valuable as one would think.
With that being said, let’s complain!
Silfverberg extension: This is a weird one. Having a quality rental in their hands, Anaheim decided to lock up their two-way warrior for what is supposed to be a 5x5 deal. I’m not a fan of the timing of the deal; Anaheim is clearly trending down, and there have been talks of major pieces being on the move. Thus, this move seems odd, although the price is pretty much as fair as it gets. He’ll get to be a part of their rebuild, but at least he gets to do that a rich man.
Montour trade: Well, this was unexpected. The Ducks sacrificed from their blue line (yet again), but this time they went for futures as opposed to stocking up at forward or ditching cap dumps. Montour’s season has been a catastrophe from a statistical standpoint, but some of that is very likely due to Carlyle. A first and Guhle are good assets for the rebuild, but one has to wonder whether Montour should have remained a part of the process.
Del Zotto trade: This, then, will be a common type of trade in this listing: getting any value for a really bad UFA. All of those trades will be classified as good ones.
Gibbons trade: No one cares.
Grade: B+. They didn’t make a bad deal with the assets they had, although the Silfverberg deal is a little weird considering their youth movement. Still, decent job by Murray.
Weal trade: Although rather inconsequential, Weal’s statistics suggest that this deal doesn’t really help the Yotes. Just not that much to discuss here.
Grade: C-. The minus comes from giving up the better player in the one trade they made, but it’s not like they were in a position to do much in either way. This was a good time to stand pat.
Coyle trade: Way to address a need for a reasonable price. Players with a mixture of size and skill are often at a premium at the TDL, and Coyle brings exactly that. Giving up Donato might be painful down the line, but he has not had that same flashy start to his rookie year as he had in 17-18. A massive plus for Sweeney comes from the extra year Coyle has on his deal. I see little downside to this one, unless Donato goes full Seguin mode in Minnesota.
Johansson trade: With Pastrnak’s injury, stocking up even further at RW makes at least some sense. They managed to add yet another RW without sacrificing a prime asset, so this seems about as sensible as a rental can be.
Grade: B+. Bringing in middle six forwards might not always be the sexiest move, but this time they’ll come to address a need (and in Coyle’s case, continue to do so next year). Giving up nothing of high value to do so is smart. Kudos to Sweeney and co.
Montour trade: Botterill spending a hefty amount was certainly unlikely going into the deadline, but a move like could work out. They desperately need help at D, which is no surprise to anybody, but instead of being patient, they opted for an immediate fix. Now, Montour hasn’t exactly excelled according to the analytical minds of hockey, but Anaheim hasn’t been a place to excel in either. A rather expensive gamble by Botterill, and Sabres fans had better hope Montour can fill a top 4 spot down the line.
Beaulieu trade: Crap for a pick. Works.
Grade: C. Montour carries a hefty amount of risk and was acquired for two great assets, so it is hard for me to give them a high grade here. This is likely to be an interesting trade in hindsight, but as of now, it is kind of even, with both sides taking a chance of their own.
Fantenberg trade: Defensive depth with some NHL experience for cheap. About as rental-ish as you can get.
Grade: C. Insulating some of their younger defensemen might be wise, but I wonder whether they have more to offer than their newfound rental anyway.
Pu trade: LOL who would trade Skinner for
Jurco trade: He’s still kicking about?
Grade: C. Them doing nothing isn’t as much about adding than it is about not selling Ferland and Williams. I get their rationale – the playoff drought could finally be snapped, and it would undoubtedly be good for the long-term health of the franchise. I’m not going to mark them down as a result of that (a rebuilder would be), and since they did nothing noteworthy at the DL, C is appropriate. The Niederreiter trade was their acquisition, and should you want to include him, Carolina would get an A. But I won’t.
Grade: C+. Chicago only had three UFAs to sell, and they were all garbage. Given their surprising playoff push and having nothing to sell, standing pat seems appropriate. I’m giving them a plus for not adding anything either, since their roster isn’t playoff worthy and a youth movement is in order in Chicago.
Brassard trade: Adding C depth is generally a good idea, and Brassard should still be able to provide that despite his absolutely hideous 18-19 campaign. The cost is basically negligible, especially with the swap of late picks. However, it remains to be seen if Brassard can finally find some new life in Denver; based on his results this year, this move is not one that would improve their chances in the slightest.
Grade: C-. Rentals who are already coming off bad seasons are always the most confusing to me. A slightly negative move for the Avs in my books, but the emphasis should really be on the word ‘slightly’ here.
Hey, at least we’ll get the Finnish bias out of the way relatively early.
Duchene deal: Just astounding. When you are in a situation Columbus is in – fighting for your playoff lives with two of your stars approaching UFA status – what should you do? Tough question to answer, isn’t it? I will give Kekäläinen a little slack in admitting that his situation is really f***ing tough, OK.
Having said that, giving up two of your best prospects, as well as 1-2 firsts in a situation which could blow up in your face at any moment between now and July 1st… that is about as unnecessary a risk as it gets. If Panarin and Bobrovsky are going to walk, the Jackets would be worse off in every way, with or without Duchene. Re-signing him costs you another first rounder (which to my knowledge is not protected), and your team would still not be at the level it was prior to this trade. And to top all of this off, they have not locked up their playoff spot at all yet.
The rationale used to defend this move is the old ‘they’re going all in, weeee.’ In doing so, Kekäläinen took an enormous risk of mortgaging a lot of the team’s future. If they don’t manage to lock up their trio of UFAs (or in an extremely unlikely scenario that was not improved too much by the trade, win the Stanley Cup), this is going to look ridiculously bad.
Dzingel deal: To add dzing-sult to injury, they even doubled down on this impossible UFA Cup run of theirs. What they paid for Dzingel seems a little bloated, but with the numbers he has had this year, it is tough to argue against that. Getting a top 6 scorer with no defensive skill whatsoever… what could go wrong?
Kinkaid trade: As of yesterday, Kinkaid ranked around the 50th spot among goaltenders in various, relevant statistics from this year. Why do you give up assets for that? It’s granted that this season has been an unmitigated disaster in New Jersey, but holy shit.
McQuaid trade: Having realised he still hasn’t offloaded everything, Kekäläinen spent two more picks on a bottom-pairing defenseman. It’s weird that I probably hate this move the least out of their rentals, but McQuaid isn’t exactly a world beater. For help on the PK and in the slot, this is passable.
Grade: E. These Columbus deals are a prime example of why going all-in is an overly risky strategy. The future implications of these deals are bad enough as they are, and the Panarin/Bobrovsky debacle will only magnify their impacts, should things go to shit in the postseason. Hockey is too random a sport for this to work out consistently, and I would not be shocked to see Columbus experience it first hand. Moneypuck and Sportsclubstats gave the Blue Jackets odds of winning the Cup no higher than five percent. That, to me, is telling.
Winning the Cup is really hard, and Columbus decided to go all in with a roster that isn’t any kind of a safe bet to make the playoffs. This would have been more acceptable (albeit still not good) from a top contender, but not from a team trying to get out of the bubble. Kekäläinen shot his shot with a dysfunctional shotgun without safety glasses on. If this doesn’t work out, whether that is in the form of a Cup or several huge extensions being dealt, it might very well mean the end of his tenure.
Zuccarello trade: Oof.I don’t mind the trade, but come on. That luck is something else.
… I guess you could say he ended up costing an arm and no leg?
Lovejoy trade: With Johns reportedly being out long-term, a depth move also made sense on the back end. Lovejoy isn’t the sexiest name (although in this group of castoffs, he might very well have been), but he brings solid defensive play to the Stars. The price was not overly high, either. Also, Nill’s quest of Never Letting Julius Honka See Ice Again lives on.
Grade: B-. I really can’t fault Nill for doing what he did, as his acquisitions addressed needs and made sense. Keeping Zuccarello might prove to be expensive, though, seeing as the conditions of the trade involve first rounders flying all over the bloody place.
Jensen trade: It is entirely possible that the Wings had the best D-man UFA available. That being said, the pick return doesn’t really make sense, seeing as the upgrade they got isn’t overly consequential. They also get to see whether there is anything to be salvaged in Bowey, who has been – pardon my French – f***ing hideous at the NHL level thus far. A little disappointing, but it is not nothing either.
Nyquist trade: Getting rid of the guys who once were the future in Michigan makes you realise how fast time goes by. Now, Nyquist’s return was perfectly in line with some of the other top winger rentals in Zuccarello and Johansson, but given that Nyquist is arguably better than all of them, this seems a tad low too.
Grade: C-. The returns were a bit lacklustre again, but at least they did what they haven’t been doing in the past: sold. Missing out on trading Howard hardly affects the grade due to the difficulty of trading goalies as rentals. They didn’t manage to sell Vanek, which is odd.
Now, to repeat this process a couple more times, and maybe the Wings finally get rid of their cap issues.
Grade: C-. Chiasson should have been sold, but other than that, standing pat was something to be expected. Nothing to sell and no assets to buy with.
Disclaimer: While I will have the Bjugstad deal in Pittsburgh’s section, I will not include it here due to the structure of that whole rental roulette they played. But in the interest of clarity, I think Tallon handled that extremely well, acquiring lots of volume in terms of futures, which is almost always a great option.
Brassard trade: I touched on this in the Avs’ section already. A marginal pick upgrade for a UFA who you were not going to keep and who has not performed well at all. Makes all the sense.
Kiselevich trade: A seventh rounder for a seemingly decent depth D sparks absolutely no emotions in the minds of any hockey fan not related to Kiselevich.
Pu and Jurco trades: Out of curiosity, why not trade them one for one as opposed to this future considerations crap? And LOL SKINN
Wideman trade: His career as a Panther is now Dea-d.
Grade: C+. A minor plus for the Brassard debacle, and other than that, nothing of note happened. Keeping Hoffman is probably the way to go, although he might end up as trade bait in the summer.
Muzzin trade: The rebuild began this year with the Pearson deal (not included), and sending Jake Muzzin to Toronto was a clear indicator of a change. In my opinion, the Kings got a fair return for a long-standing blue liner; Grundström and Durzi were ranked rather highly in the Leafs’ prospect ranking in the summer (3rd and 5th, respectively), and a first rounder this year gives them more ammo. Cap space doesn’t hurt, either. A good move for them – maybe not parade-worthy, but solid nonetheless.
Thompson deal: Analysts alluded to Thompson having been a negative contributor on the ice, so getting any additional value for him is nice. That being said… there isn’t much of consequence coming back from Montreal to LA either.
Hagelin trade: Blake continued his… hagg-e-ling, sending this "lifelong King" to Washington as a rental. Maybe the return could have been a tad bit higher, given Hagelin’s talent, but a third with a conditional late round pick is not cataclysmic.
Fantenberg: I’m a Fan. A pick for some more or less useless depth.
Grade: B. They didn’t miss out on selling any UFAs, got at least decent value for everyone they sold, and finally took a large step towards re-tooling the Cup-winning core. A job rather well done.
Coyle trade: In all fairness, Coyle’s lacklustre season did not help Fenton in getting a good return for a long-standing member of the Wild. That being said, going a bit younger might not be the worst idea with an aging roster. Donato should help them with replacing some of the guys who have been rumoured to leave in the near future, and this also opens up cap space for a guy who I will be touching shortly. A little shaky deal, but not the end of the world by any means.
Granlund trade: …looks like I’m not doing that just yet. As good as Fiala’s statistics look like, what the hell is this? Granlund is a very well rounded top line player, and they decided to trade him for a guy who might not come close to his level? Confusing. Fiala was not considered to be a two-way player, whereas Granlund excels at both ends of the ice. The stars need to align for this to turn out well for the Wild. Not to mention, the value seems awful. How on Earth did you not get anything else…
Hendricks trade: A complete plug for anything is a win for the Wild.
Notes: Eric Staal’s decision to use his NMC to veto trades is well documented, and the Wild’s grade will not be affected by it. The extension they gave him, however, is f***ing golden.
Grade: D-. Going from one of the more impressive RW depths in the league to having the equipment manager rush down the right side is quite sad. These trades don’t improve the Wild in any way, and the long-term implications are unlikely to be overly positive either. Jesus Christ, Fenton.
Thompson deal: A pointless trade. Didn’t give up much to get basically nothing.
Weal trade: A little upgrade over Chaput, but I would be lying if I thought it would amount to much in the grand scheme of things.
Grade: C+. Telle médiocrité.
Boyle trade: If you need a center with size and experience, it makes all the sense in the world to trade for Brian Boyle. The thing is, I don’t think the Preds needed any of that. They are a playoff-tested bunch as it is and have an impressive amount of depth down the middle. Boyle does not represent a substantial upgrade over anyone, which is not reflected in the pricetag whatsoever. Trades like this illustrate the ridiculousness of the rental market: you can get a fourth liner for a second, but you might also get top 6 quality for the same price. This is clearly not a good deal.
McLeod trade: I do not care one bit if some genius says you need toughness. Call up any Admiral you can think of, and you’re better off than even considering icing – let alone giving up an asset for – Cody McLeod. A slam dunk F, this.
Granlund trade: And with one fell swoop, we come from bitching about overvaluing size to praising Poile as per usual. Granlund improves their second line today, and what’s more, he has a year left on his deal too. Losing Fiala is very far from nothing, but they have a legitimate shot at keeping Granlund long-term, and the upgrade is significant enough to warrant going old. An insanely good pickup.
Simmonds trade: The rental that should have brought back a first went for much cheaper. Hartman is a redundant piece, and they managed to keep all of their quality futures too. Don’t buy big, buy smart.
Grade: B. Going for Boyle and McLeod brings their grade down a notch of two, but the other two additions are significant and boost the Preds’ chances for relatively little cost. Simmonds might end up being a pure rental, but since that is reflected in the asset cost, it is NBD.
Lovejoy trade: There is not much to say about a deal like this, which you might have figured out already. It’s a good move strictly based on the fact that the Devils are in the tank again and managed to move a UFA for futures. Carrick could be a wild card, but if I was a Jersey fan, I would not hold my breath.
Kinkaid trade: An even more impressive deal, for Kinkaid is a goalie with a shit season behind him.
Johansson trade: Well, they got what they wanted. This is a far better scenario than overpaying for him in July.
Grade: B. Much like the Kings, they got rid of everything they had to offer. Little reason for complaints here.
Grade: B. For whatever reason, I like their decision of standing pat. The roster as a whole, led by Greiss and Lehner, are likely overachieving, which makes this season a tough one for loading up. They have positions of need, but using rentals to address those now is unwise (especially with the quality of available defensemen being crap). There is work for them in the summer, but for now, I consider it wise to run with what they have and look at their needs at the draft. Props for Lamoriello and his patient approach.
Zuccarello trade: Missing out on a first rounder might suck in the eyes of the average fan, but as proven by stats people, the picks they got don’t pale in a comparison of pure value. The conditions are a nice bonus too, and even if those are not fulfilled, you’ve got to ask if Zucc is willing to return in July (this, for the record, is not based on any reports I am aware of). In short, much to like about this one.
McLeod trade: Gorton deserves an A for getting any value out of him. He also deserves a F for ending up with him in the organisation in the first place.
Hayes trade: There’s the first. Lemieux isn’t much of a great prospect, but it is something. Now, if the reports of Hayes being interested in coming back hold water, this is even better for the Rangers. Even without that, cashing in on a great season is the right choice.
McQuaid trade: Two picks for bottom pairing fodder? Sign me the f*** up.
Grade: B+. The rebuild is on, and they did well to get even more quantity to go with what they traded for last year. Zuccarello might become a nice bonus, should Dallas enamour him.
Boy, I’ll be spending a lot of my time writing this section. To save some time for all of us, the common premise for all of their big deals is this: they had to be moved. Having three of your few players worth a damn walk for nothing was never an option, period. Re-signing them would have been a possibility, but in Ottawa’s current state, you cannot f*** around with that risk floating over your head. With that out of the way, I will now mainly discuss the returns each player got.
Duchene trade: Love it, love it, love it. We can even disregard the conditional first they could get if Duchene stays in Ohio and come to that conclusion; Abramov is a legitimately great prospect, and Davidsson qualifies as a B prospect too. Columbus’ this year’s first is unlikely to be very low either, so that brings the return up too. And given the volatility of the Blue Jackets, the Sens might even break even on the ‘trade for Duchene and watch your future going south in a hurry’ count. Tons of upside for Ottawa with this one, especially with the rumours of Duchene coming back.
Dzingel trade: After making a good trade with Columbus, it only makes sense to test those waters again. Shipping a one-dimensional top 6 winger at the deadline rarely ends up being too great a move, but Ottawa definitely got a good package of assets. Two seconds, albeit future ones, are not one bit worse than getting a late first as a return, and Duclair might have some upside too (and a pretty huge opportunity in front of him, should he stick around in Ontario for next year). Overall, Dorion cashed in on what is likely an unsustainably good run by Dzingel, and he cashed in very nicely.
Stone trade: Brännström is the first round pick they did not get, and boy, is he a good one. Ottawa gets what is almost surely a top 4 defenseman, based on how he has fared after being picked two years ago. Out of the teams who were reportedly in the running, nobody could have offered a better future piece (aside from Glass, but that wasn’t going to happen regardless), so in that sense, Ottawa did well to get top quality to go with the quantity from the Duchene and Dzingel deals.
Gibbons trade: This happened, reportedly.
Grade: B+. None of the three trades were stunning as standalone deals, but overall, Dorion got value out of all three and didn’t miss out on anything. I’m reserving the A for teams who just killed it, but to say that Dorion didn’t succeed in his mission would be a filthy lie.
Simmonds trade: Based on the rental deals of previous years, I can’t help but think of this as a let-down. Both Hartman and the pick are likely to be rather inconsequential, and with wingers having traditionally fetched first rounders or pairs of mid-to-high picks, this just isn’t quite it. My theory: GMs might have learned their lesson about expensive rentals being a bad idea. Well, most of them.
Grade: D. Hey, at least they didn’t hold on to their top UFA despite being maddeningly far away from making the playoffs.
Grade: F. I’m not going to waste my time discussing what is painfully obvious. Gudbranson is among the very worst SKATERS of the league, and he has term left. There is no excuse for a sports franchise with a net worth in the hundreds of millions to do a move this bad.
Oh, and Bjugstad was acquired earlier. But he isn’t saving the Pens from my wrath.
Nyquist trade: There were many cheap-ish, logical moves this time around, and Nyquist is among the very best of them. A proven driver of offense, Nyquist gets to join an insanely strong and experienced Sharks team. The embarrassment of riches they have up front just keeps on expanding, and for a very nicely controlled price as well. Closing in on fifty points this year, San Jose solidifies their position as the clear cut favourite in the West.
Karlsson trade: Hopefully that headline caught some of you off guard.
Grade: B+. They don’t have many picks left to go around, but spending them this wisely can be justified with ease.
Del Zotto trade: …who is he an upgrade over, again?
Grade: C. The narrative surrounding the Blues changed in such a hurry that it is hard to think of them as a contender. Even though their play has been ridiculously good as of late (as proven by underlying metrics and them skyrocketing up the standings), it was probably for the best to stick to minor moves. No problem with the Blues.
Grade: A. You have the best team in the league by a country mile. You have already spent quite a bit of futures in building this monster. And with a cap crunch looming ahead, you do what has gotten you this far: manage your assets spectacularly wisely and don’t sacrifice your future at the deadline. What can you even add to that powerhouse that would be worth it? Do you take the risk of disrupting the chemistry and/or the locker room? No. Instead, Brisebois valued the longevity of their window and chose to stand pat. This is the polar opposite of Kekäläinen and his all-in mindset: clever and responsible. More teams should follow suit.
Muzzin trade: An avid Toronto hater tips his cap to Dubas for this one. This ticks off all the boxes: addressing a serious, serious roster need, getting more than just a rental with an additional year left on the contract, and, you know, being a pretty f***ing good player. That is obviously reflected in the package that went to LA; two B prospects and a first rounder is a hefty price to pay, but it was not done in vain in the slightest. As are restricted for downright awesomeness, but this one is not far off at all.
Petan trade: You send away a plug with seemingly nothing more to give than fourth line play, and take a younger guy who has shown flashes of brilliance when playing with talent. If you're going to have one of the two sitting in the pressbox most of the time, take the younger one who might be able to surprise you. No risk, decent upside.
Grade: B+. Very solid showing from Dubas on the trade front.
Gudbranson trade: I don’t know which one is it, Benning being genius or Rutherford having declined to sub-Chiarelli level. In either case, this is a beautiful move from the Canucks, getting a serviceable winger for someone who should not be close to any NHL roster ever.
Grade: A+. Who would have thought it would be Benning who cleared the deadline without making a single non-awesome move?
Stone trade: This is huge. Giving up Brännström hurts, but Stone was a clear cut Selke-level forward on a horrific Sens team. Moving to a great Vegas team could elevate him even higher up the top forward lists. With the extension in place, you really cannot fault them for giving up one of the best prospects in all of hockey away. I’d generally advise against that – and McPhee probably has learnt his lesson – but when the player coming back is this good, you can safely go for it.
Grade: A+. Vegas is for real, and while going for glory now, they are also taking care of the future at the same time. Full marks for McPhee.
Hayes trade: In vacuum, this is not bad value. After Duchene was traded first, a first round pick was always going to be in the cards, but Lemieux didn’t instil confidence during his stay with the Jets this season (if you care to look past his ridiculous shooting percentage, that is). Being a rental, the Jets will have to work hard to get him extended, or else this will look much worse.
Hendricks trade: WTF. Do they still need a babysitter?
Kiselevich trade: out of all the garbage they added for late round picks, Kiselevich seems to be the most promising due to having had good shot suppression numbers with the Panthers, but there likely isn’t much upside. Not too bad for a seventh rounder, though.
Beaulieu trade: Complete crap for a pick.
Lindholm trade: Take what I already mentioned in the Toronto segment and reverse the roles. The Jets ended up wasting Petan in the worst way, and the only saving grace is that Petan will now have a shot at carving a career out for himself. For the Jets, on the other hand, this move sucks.
Grade: D. The Jets’ defense continues to be an issue, and it was not addressed properly. Hayes is a nice addition for the 2C slot, but will he help them for longer than two months? Cheveldayoff needs to find some long-term solutions as opposed to making little, uncertain fixes at every deadline.
Hagelin deal: A likeable move for all parties involved. Washington goes on to chase the repeat with a playoff-tested speedster added to the mix. Hagelin has provided high-quality play at both ends of the ice, and two mid-to-late picks is a rather inconsequential price to pay for that.
Jensen deal: As I alluded to in the Detroit section, part of the value Washington got out of this comes in shedding Bowey. To say that he struggled with the Caps would be a gross understatement, and now Reirden gets to replace him with a defensively strong and reliable Jensen. The price paid was extremely good for Washington, and they even locked the guy up for four more years immediately afterwards. I find it hard not to predict this one to look great even down the line.
Grade: A. Cheap, clever additions can lead to beautiful things. Just ask *checks notes* Michal Kempny. Won’t even have to go far to find him.
And there you have it. Overall, it feels like teams have become smarter over the course of a year. Assets with term left fetched better futures back, but other than that, only two teams (Columbus and Winnipeg) sacrificed an asset like a first round pick to a pure rental. It will be interesting to see how things develop from here on out.