February 26, 2019 | 4:00pm ET
By Anthony Di Marco, The Fourth Period
TRADE DEADLINE RECAP: BIGGEST WINNERS AND LOSERS 2019
Blue Jackets GM Jarmo Kekalainen
MONTREAL, QC -- As the 3 PM EST NHL Trade Deadline came and went Monday, teams took their final kick at the can in bettering their rosters for the balance of the regular-season and playoffs.
Contending clubs did everything they could to bolster their rosters, while teams at the other end of the spectrum tried to offload highly sought-after players and accumulate future assets.
Only time will tell if the moves that were made will pay dividends in the long-run, but on the surface, some teams did much better than others.
Here are the biggest winners and losers from this year’s NHL Trade Deadline:
1. Columbus Blue Jackets
With all of the drama surrounding pending UFAs Artemi Panarin and Sergei Bobrovsky and their long-term status with the team, it was unclear whether or not the Jackets would be buyers or sellers. It became evidently clear that General Manager Jarmo Kekalainen was all-in on this year, as he landed forwards Matt Duchene and Ryan Dzingel days leading up to the Deadline.
Kekalainen was not done there, as he traded for goaltender Keith Kinkaid and defenseman Adam McQuaid to sure up the team’s depth on Deadline Day. The GM no doubt mortgaged part of the club’s future with the moves, as the team only possesses a third and seventh round pick heading into this year’s NHL Draft, but has made it abundantly clear that he believes his club is a Stanley Cup contender and has given his coaching staff all the tools to swing with the big boys.
Duchene and Dzingel joined Panarin, Cam Atkinson, Pierre-Luc Dubois and Oliver Bjorkstrand to form a formidable top-six forward group for Columbus.
2. Vegas Golden Knights
Vegas GM George McPhee did not make a lot of noise in the days leading up to the Deadline, but when push came to shove, he made it count. After lying dormant for the weeks, McPhee landed the biggest name on the market in Mark Stone.
McPhee gave up arguably the league’s best defensive prospect in blueliner Erik Brannstrom to acquire Stone. But in doing so, the Knights added a premier superstar that the team has been lacking since its inauguration in 2017. Stone will join an already impressive forward group in Vegas and instantly becomes the team’s best forward.
Vegas’ abundance of draft picks made this deal possible, and McPhee made sure to agree to terms on a long-term contract extension (eight years, $9.5 million AAV) with the 26-year-old prior to the transaction. Although it was a heavy price to pay, locking up Stone for the next nine playoff runs makes this deal well worth its while.
3. San Jose Sharks
The Sharks have been Stanley Cup favorites ever since they acquired superstar defenseman Erik Karlsson from the Ottawa Senators last September. There were no glaring needs that had to be addressed on their roster leading up to the deadline, but General Manager Doug Wilson did so anyway.
Wilson landed right wing Gustav Nyquist from the Detroit Red Wings, giving up nothing off of his roster in the process. Nyquist figures to slot in next to Joe Thornton’s right wing, which could be argued was the only true uncertainty on the Sharks’ roster. Wilson has assembled arguably the best roster in San Jose since he took over, and has given this group of players its best shot at winning the Cup.
1. New York Islanders
After losing John Tavares via free agency last summer, the Islanders have shocked the hockey world. On the back of new Head Coach Barry Trotz, the Islanders have propelled themselves to the top of the Metropolitan Division; currently with 79 points. General Manager Lou Lamoriello was reportedly in the market to bolster is team at the deadline in an effort to give the club a legitimate shot at contending in the post-season.
But after striking out on everyone, high-prices notwithstanding, the Islanders ended up standing pat. New York was rumored to be in on every big name, including Stone and Duchene, but ultimately nothing materialized. In a year where the Metropolitan Division is as wide open as it is, this was a great opportunity for the Islanders to make key additions and go for it; much like Columbus did.
The Islanders have a young core group of forwards, headlined by Mathew Barzal, so this will surely not be the last opportunity for the club. But in a year as wide open as this year and adding nothing to their roster, the Islanders have come away pretty poor from the deadline.
2. Calgary Flames
Flames GM Brad Treliving made all of one move at the deadline: adding depth defenseman Oscar Fantenberg from the Los Angeles Kings. Besides that depth transaction, the Flames were quiet. It could be argued that the only real need for the Flames was between the pipes and that there was no better solution on the market than what they already have.
But either way you shake it, Treliving had an underwhelming deadline. After a brilliant summer in which he acquired Noah Hanifin and Elias Lindholm in a brilliant trade, Treliving did nothing to bolster his roster leading into the playoffs. The Winnipeg Jets, Nashville Predators, Sharks and Golden Knights all made significant additions to their respective rosters, while Calgary failed to do so.
The Flames watched the Deadline come and go with all of their counterparts make their teams better, without doing anything to answer the bell.
3. Toronto Maple Leafs
John Tavares, Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner. Those names should make any team they’re on a Stanley Cup favorite. Throw in a supporting cast of Patrick Marleau, Nazem Kadri, Morgan Reilly and Frederik Andersen and you get an even bigger belief of a contending club.
But in a division that features the Tampa Bay Lightning and Boston Bruins, that might not be good enough to get the job done.
It was no secret the Leafs wanted to bolster their team defense and add some grit up front. Sure, General Manager Kyle Dubas landed defenseman Jake Muzzin a month ago, but Head Coach Mike Babcock has yet to consistently use him in a predominant role.
The Leafs were continuously tied to defenseman Brett Pesce and forward Wayne Simmonds as potential adds, but ultimately nothing came to fruition. The Lightning did not add anything to its roster, though there was nothing really to add to a near perfect team, while the Bruins bolstered their top-nine with Charlie Coyle and Marcus Johansen. Besides a minor trade that saw them acquire Nic Petan, Toronto did not do much to bolster its roster, and it may prove costly come the playoffs.