Expert NHL Handicapping: Impact of the Trade Deadline
It wasn't the most active or exciting NHL trade deadline that we have ever seen, but in the end we saw a few deals definitely worth talking about. And, particularly in the Western Conference, many of the top contenders changed their look. As is always the case after a trade deadline passes, our job as bettors is to determine which trades really matter and how significant they really are.
The important thing in these cases is to remember the golden rule of trade deadlines - trades almost never have the impact that the public will expect them to. The public loves trades, and they imagine that every team is one player away from glory. Teams that make huge deals get too much credit, and those that don't get too much disdain. So, with that in mind, let's evaluate the biggest deals that went down in the final days before the deadline on Monday this year:
Vegas Golden Knights: The biggest prize available was Ottawa forward Mark Stone, and Vegas swooped in late to grab him after several other teams were flirting with the Senators. Western Conference leaders Calgary reportedly had a deal all but done on Sunday night before it fell apart, so this is a particularly meaningful move for Vegas. They paid a high price, giving up a defensive prospect who has a chance to be very special. But Stone isn't just a rental - they immediately signed him to a rich eight-year deal. He's a guy that is almost never available - 26-year-old franchise cornerstones usually stay with their franchise. Ottawa is such a mess that they blew this situation like they have blown every other one, though. Stone is a great player and a difference-maker. But this is obviously a long-term move, and it is more likely that his value will be realized over the next couple of years more than it will be now. This is a team that has made a lot of changes since their playoff run of last year, and changes take time to sort themselves out. Before the trade, the Knights seemed destined to finish third in the West. They likely still are, though they are losing as Arizona is winning, and they now only have a four-point cushion. This is a great trade, but likely one that changes the fate in the West dramatically in the short term.
San Jose Sharks: I love the move the Sharks made. They added Gustav Nyquist from Detroit to shore up their secondary scoring nicely, and they paid a very reasonable price to do so. The Sharks have an uphill battle to catch Calgary in the Pacific - they are five points back and Calgary has a game in hand. But this move sets up their offensive depth very nicely for the playoffs. I would have liked to have seen them upgrade their goaltending, but the same can be said of several contenders.
Winnipeg Jets: You certainly can't fault the Central leaders for being inactive. They made a total of five trades on deadline day, with Kevin Hayes from the Rangers being the premier acquisition. Hayes is a big, gritty guy who was born to play in the playoffs. But the message making this many moves delivers to the team isn't one I like. The squad isn't playing great right now, and this much tinkering suggests that the issues are real and significant. I am not convinced they got significantly better, and the psychological cost could be too high.
Dallas Stars: This is just cruel. The Stars got one of the bigger prizes of the deadline in Mats Zuccarello from the Rangers. He's a nice player, and the Stars paid handsomely for him to bolster their wild card campaign. And in his debut he looked great, notching two points and fitting in seamlessly. Until he broke his arm late in the game, that is. Now he'll miss at least a month, and the Dallas move won't help them in the short term.
Calgary Flames: Like the Islanders and Lightning, the Flames are a division leader who essentially stood pat. Calgary added only a depth defenseman at a very low cost from the Kings. They were in on some bigger moves but ultimately weren't willing to pay the prices required. I live in Calgary, so I can tell you that the inaction wasn't popular among fans. But it should have been. Whatever the team is doing is working, there aren't obvious holes, and there is no good reason to disrupt things unless you could get a true star like Stone. I like the decision not to make big changes for a lot of teams - St. Louis is another - as much or more than I like a lot of the moves.
Nashville Predators: Nashville is in the mix in the Central but just doesn't seem to be the team they were last year. To get tougher and ready for the postseason, they added veteran Wayne Simmonds from Philadelphia. He's a nice player, but this is a young man's league now, and he's not young. I would have liked the addition a whole lot more four years ago. I haven't been optimistic about Nashville, and this doesn't change that.
Columbus Blue Jackets: This is certainly the oddest situation. Columbus had two of the biggest prizes available in goalie Sergei Bobrovsky and forward Artemi Panarin. Not only are both superstars, but both are pending free agents who almost certainly aren't re-signing. Not only did Columbus trade neither, but they also went all in adding players. In separate deals, they added both Matt Duchene and Ryan Dzingel from Ottawa - the two big pieces Ottawa had to offer besides Stone. It's a very bold move. But what makes it odd is that if the playoffs started today, Columbus would not be in them. They are in a battle with Montreal. Pittsburgh and Carolina for the final spots, and one of those teams won't make it. And the team that grabs the last wild card spot has an opening round date with Tampa Bay - which won't go well. This is a very odd gamble for this franchise.
Read more articles by Trevor Whenham
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