There were a lot of deals dome at the NHL trade deadline and the days leading into this year. The problem, though, is that they weren't really the big deals that people love and were hoping for. A lot of the names that seemed to inevitably be heading elsewhere ended up staying with their teams. On the actual deadline day the problem seemed to be Calgary. The Flames got a very strong price for defenseman Kris Russell from Dallas in the morning, and that seemed to embolden sellers and scare off buyers to the point that the market wasn't there anymore. When the dust settled, though, there were four playoff teams - solid contenders all - that were the most improved at the deadline. The rich kept getting richer.
Here's a look at those teams and what it means for the playoffs ahead.
Chicago Blackhawks: They have already won three of the last six Stanley Cups, including last year's, and they are tied for the second-best record in the league, so they were in good position coming into the deadline. It's hardly fair, then, that they were the team that improved the most at the deadline - and it's not even close. Former Winnipeg Jets captain Andrew Ladd was the prize of the trade deadline, and Chicago secured him early. He's solid on both ends of the ice and an excellent leader. Then they stole Dale Weise and Tomas Fleischmann. Neither is a superstar, but they are both offensive upgrades from what the team had before. Finally, they added Christian Ehrhoff as an experienced depth defenseman. That's a strong haul for any team, and for one with the salary cap issues that the team had with so much prolonged success it's truly impressive. The price for the trades was not low but not crippling, either, and they didn't have to take on any long-term commitments. The favorites to win the West before the deadline have only improved their chances now.
Anaheim Ducks: The Ducks are red hot and charging hard, looking to overtake the Kings and win the West. What was impressive about the Ducks is not just the additions they made - solid, but not maybe not quite as strong as Chicago's overall. It was the very low cost of the deals - they added two players and it cost them just a sixth-round pick and a conditional third-rounder. The Panthers needed to move a player after being active at the deadline, so the Ducks were able to grab Brandon Pirri for almost nothing - just that sixth. He had 20 goals last year, and he moves the puck really well. His year hasn't been as good this year, but if he can find chemistry here he has the potential to be a very valuable player at low risk. He's an RFA after the season, so if they like him they can likely keep him around cheap, too. Then they added Jamie McGinn from the Sabres - a team just looking to get some value in return for a player that they weren't going to re-sign. McGinn is one dimensional, but it is a handy dimension for a team to have heading into the playoffs - he just stands in front of the opposing net looking to wreak havoc and make things happen. I already liked the Ducks to pass the Kings. Now I really like them - though the Kings made a nice deal as well, which we'll look at next.
L.A. Kings: The Kings added just one player, but it was a heck of a deal. They grabbed Kris Versteeg and gave up little for him - a prospect they had given up on and a fifth-rounder. Versteeg is a solid offensive talent who is among the best forecheckers in the league. The Kings absolutely love to forecheck. It's a match made in heaven. I would be more enthusiastic if they had been a bit more aggressive in making moves, but if you are going to do just one you could certainly do worse. This has a chance to be the most impactful single move of the deadline in the short term.
Florida Panthers: The Panthers got off to a hot start and, remarkably, haven't faded. They need to get serious about competing in the playoffs, and their moves showed that they indeed are. Jiri Hudler had pouted in Calgary all season because, despite a career year last year, the Flames had no interest in re-signing him at the big price he was looking for after this year. He was better leading to the deadline but often pathetic in the earlier months. If he can get over himself and rediscover his spark then he could put up some big numbers as a playmaker. Teddy Purcell joined the team, too. He's not a superstar by any means, but he fills a role nicely, and on a head-to-head basis is a short term upgrade from Pirri. Good deals. The biggest reason for criticism is that they gave up more in the deals than the other teams did, but they got what they needed, and they had the assets to deal without compromising their future.
Read more articles by Trevor Whenham
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