With a little less than a third of the season left, the league remains competitive and the playoff race has begun. The trade deadline presented the perfect opportunity for contenders to add to their rosters and for many rebuilding teams to sell to them. While we didn’t see the number of big-name trades that we expected, significant deals were still made before the deadline.
Taylor Hall to Boston Bruins:
Hall was one of the big-name free agents from the last offseason, and many contenders vied for his talents—including the Bruins. Having only seen the playoffs twice in his 11-year career, Hall chose to go to the Sabres in hopes that he could chase a cup. The Sabres weren’t a widely successful team at that point but had just missed out on the playoffs the year prior and showed clear potential. But after an 18-game winless streak, a severe lack of goals and the team getting struck with injuries, it looked like he would be on the move once again.
Hall, the MVP in 2018, has not looked like himself in the last couple of years. Yet he is still a dangerous scoring option, and the stability Boston brings may help him return to form. The Bruins, for their part, didn’t even have to give up much for the winger. It only took a second-round pick and a forward swap of Curtis Lazar and Anders Bjork. Hall has also already voiced his desire to get an extension, with his contract expiring after this season.
Will the move get Boston over the hump? Possibly. The return of guys like Halak, Rask and McAvoy from injury will help as well as defensive trade deadline addition Mike Reilly. Hall’s no-move clause and insistence on going to Boston severely handicapped Buffalo which is why the deal feels so lopsided. Buffalo did what they could, but Boston looks to have won this one.
Nick Foligno to Toronto Maple Leafs:
With the impact of COVID-19 on the financial side of the NHL, the cap stayed flat this season. This left many contending teams up against the ceiling, and moves became harder to make. In this three-team trade between the Toronto Maple Leafs, Columbus Blue Jackets and San Jose Sharks, the Sharks took on a piece of the cap in return for a fourth-round pick. The Blue Jackets received a first-round and fourth-round pick, while the Maple Leafs got Foligno and Stefan Noesen.
For San Jose, this was a clever piece of business. They had money burning a hole in their pockets, so they turned that into a decent pick in next year’s draft. Columbus got a lot for an aging veteran in the last year of their deal, especially since he was only ninth in points on the rebuilding franchise. Toronto wanted to push for a Stanley Cup run and was trying to find a way to separate themselves from the pack. This move could potentially do that, with the veteran right-winger adding much-needed grit to the lineup. However, giving up a first-round pick for a veteran with one year remaining on their contract could come back to bite them.
Anthony Mantha to Washington Capitals:
In the trade that might have the biggest impact from the deadline, the Washington Capitals get Anthony Mantha from the Detroit Red Wings. Mantha has been reliable his whole career and can add an instant boost to the Capitals’ contention hopes. Yet with that said, Detroit seemed to have robbed the Capitals in the process. The crown jewel of their return is Jakub Vrana, a 25-year-old left-winger who has more goals and assists than Mantha has this season.
So Detroit, in getting the younger player who also has played better over the last few years, arguably could have completed a fair deal with that alone. But they also acquired Richard Panik, a first-round pick and a second-round pick. The Capitals got the better player, but in doing so, gave up a huge package that the Red Wings have needed for quite some time.
Kyle Palmieri and Travis Zajac to New York Islanders:
The New York Islanders, as with most teams on this list, is right in the middle of the competition this year. They had some cap space available following the injury of captain Anders Lee and his subsequent placement on long-term injury reserve. That opportunity for a deal increased when the Devils also agreed to retain a significant portion of any outgoing players salaries.
The Devils, who are currently one of the worst teams in the NHL, received prospects Mason Jobst and A.J. Greer, as well as a first and fourth-round pick. In return for helping the Devils with their rebuild, the Islanders grabbed veterans Kyle Palmieri and Travis Zajac. Palmieri, a five-time 20-goal scorer, still packs a scoring punch. Zajac should be a great depth piece whose experience will be invaluable come playoffs. The best part is that while they did give up a lot, they gave up less for two players than what the Capitals gave up for one.