Every year, they call it a “Trade Frenzy”. Well it is only a frenzy if there are big splashes made by teams who are loading up on annual trade deadline day. You have your buyers; teams that are either in the playoffs or close to it that make a statement to their players and coaches, giving them the best chance by bolstering the roster with late-season additions. These are usually veteran players that have expiring contracts and will be free agents at the end of that season that are otherwise known as “rentals”, or others that have contract time left which make “hockey deals”. On the other end you have your sellers; teams out of the playoff race, that are trading their veteran players away to get prospects and draft picks. They are looking towards next year and the future beyond. In 2018, we saw 15 trades in the span of a week, then on Trade Deadline Day on Monday, February 26th there were 8 trades all day only to see 10 more happen right at the deadline, which all got announced just after the 3:00PM. The trades involved 37 players and 18 draft picks. With all these deals including the ones made before the big day, let’s look at the 3 biggest winners and losers (in alphabetical order) of the 2018 NHL Trade Deadline.
COLUMBUS – The Blue Jackets were able to add both forward Thomas Vanek and defenceman Ian Cole as rentals without giving up much in terms of draft picks or prospect capital. They got the biggest "bang for their buck" as they say. In Columbus' case there is no guarantee they will even make the playoffs, so making small gambles like they did won't hurt them either way.
TAMPA BAY – The Lightning probably made the biggest splash of the year, getting defenceman Ryan McDonagh through next season as well as young forward J.T. Miller to give them some more size up front. The package they sent back to the New York Rangers was very steep however, giving up LW Vladislav Namestnikov as well as 1st round pick in this years draft, and conditional 2nd round pick in 2019. (Which will turn into another 1st rounder if Tampa wins the Stanley Cup this year or next year), plus prospects Libor Hijek and Brett Howden. The Bolts are clearly “all-in” for the next 2 playoff runs.
WINNIPEG – Added a veteran center like Paul Stastny who has been a top-2 line center his entire career to play on their 3rd line with the likes of Patrick Laine. The price wasn’t cheap giving up a 2018 1st Round Pick, but considering the Jets are at the top of the standings it is sure to be in the lower half of the 1st 30 selected in this year’s draft. Aside from this pick everything else they gave up was very low-risk.
MONTREAL – Although they did trade C Tomas Plekanec to the Toronto Maple Leafs and got a decent return featured by a 2018 2nd Round Pick, they failed to deal captain Max Pacioretty who has a year left on his contract to try and change the face as well as the culture of this highly disgruntled team. Most of the work that needs to be done on the Canadiens will probably need to be made at the end of the season anyway, but they had a chance to get a jump-start on things and did not do it.
OTTAWA – No, they are not losers because they did not trade defenceman Erik Karlsson, as that is something that is too complicated to make in-season and needs to be made during the off-season. All the little deals that General Manager Pierre Dorion has made put aside, the decent return he got for Derick Brassard was fine but the Dion Phaneuf trade was a complete flop. How do you call that shedding salary when you pick up $1.75M of his cap hit for each of the final 4 years of the deal and take back Marian Gaborik and his $4.875M yearly cap hit with 3 years left in it? The Los Angeles Kings were actually the ones that paid less in salary overall and this deal for the Senators made absolutely no sense at all.
VANCOUVER – The Canucks are at a stage where they are in dire need to stockpile extra draft picks and only got a decent prospect in return for the only veteran they had to rent out in Thomas Vanek. General Manager Jim Benning said that the picks “were not available” to them, so does that mean they have someone that is not good at negotiating deals? You have to question this franchise and who is making trades, when all other teams got draft picks for their rent-a-players and Vancouver could not even get one.
For all the contenders that were “buyers” adding for a playoff run, remember that all teams in the NHL are playing for a trophy that only 1 can win. So while some teams might be happy with going further than expected, the only one that hands down wins their trades is whoever hoists the Stanley Cup in June. As for the “sellers” who are out of the playoff race, these are deals that might benefit them in the future but like many prospects and draft picks, they might not. Some would say that a lot of these deals are silly and ones that a lot of the teams did not even need to make, but in all sports these days contenders – players and coaches included, not just the fans and media – expect management to go out and bring in late-season help, especially when other teams around them are doing it. These teams that are selling are dealing players as a no-brain solution to get whatever you can for the ones that are going to walk at the end of the season with no chance or interest of re-signing them anyway. After the season is over and a champion has been crowned we can go back and fully evaluate all these deals, but until that happens these are the winners and losers of the 2018 trade deadline, for now.