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The Sideline Observer

Sports and Culture Commentary

Winners & Losers at the NHL Trade Deadline

The NHL trade deadline passed Feb. 25 at 3 p.m. Across the NHL, contenders loaded up with pending free agents while bottom feeders stockpiled draft picks and prospects. Here’s who won and lost on deadline day.

Winners

Washington Capitals

Admittedly, I’m a little biased. But the Caps made two smart moves leading up to the deadline, acquiring forward Carl Hagelin and defenseman Nick Jensen. Both players have looked excellent in their short time as Caps. The Caps gave up relatively little to get them. They also did the right thing keeping Andre Burakovsky, who is still a promising player despite struggles.

Ottawa Senators

The Senators have been a complete disaster since coming within one overtime goal of the 2017 Stanley Cup Finals. They’re on track to get a top five pick in this year’s draft, but they won’t be able to use it after trading it to Colorado as part of the deal to bring in Matt Duchene. This deadline is the start of a difficult rebuild.

In trading away soon-to-be UFAs Duchene, Ryan Dzingel, and Mark Stone, they got between two and four first round picks in the next three years, in addition to four second round picks. They also acquired 19-year-old defenseman Erik Brannstrom from the Vegas Golden Knights, who is as elite as any prospect outside the NHL. He’ll be in the league next year and Vegas GM George McPhee will soon regret again sending away a young Swede (Caps fans, this is the guy who lost Filip Forsberg to Nashville).

Vegas Golden Knights

Despite sacrificing Brannstrom, Vegas picked up Stone from Ottawa, who is one of the NHL’s best two-way forwards. He had 62 points in 59 games for the last place Senators, and his numbers will improve playing with better linemates. Vegas also immediately re-signed the 26-year-old to an eight year, $76 million contract, giving them a top offensive threat for years to come.

Other Winners

The Nashville Predators, San Jose Sharks, and Winnipeg Jets added to already loaded rosters. The New York Islanders and Tampa Bay Lightning smartly didn’t waste any assets on rentals.

Losers

Columbus Blue Jackets

You have to give credit to Blue Jackets GM Jarmo Kekalainen: he’s gutsy. With star players Artemi Panarin and Sergei Bobrovsky both unlikely to re-sign in Columbus at the end of this season, it looked like the Blue Jackets might sell them at the deadline and enter a mini rebuild. But Kekalainen instead added more free agents, giving up all but their third and seventh round picks in the process.

Picking up Duchene, Dzingel, Adam McQuaid, and Keith Kinkaid undoubtedly makes the Blue Jackets more likely to win a Cup this year. So why are they among the losers? Because they’re still not going to win the Cup this year, and when they don’t, they’ll be left with nothing when all of those players leave.

Pittsburgh Penguins

The Penguins needed help on the blue line, especially with defensemen Kris Letang and Brian Dumoulin sustaining injuries in their Stadium Series game. It’s pretty clear, though, that GM Jim Rutherford got desperate as the deadline neared. In a market light on defensemen, Rutherford was only able to come up with Chris Wideman and Erik Gudbranson.

I’ll keep it simple: they’re both really bad, and they will only hurt the Penguins (if they play). Rutherford seems to have acquired Gudbranson in large part because of his history with Tom Wilson, who seems to factor into Pittsburgh’s front office decisions more than the actual Penguins team (Jamie Oleksiak, whom Rutherford publicly called on to fight Wilson, was traded suspiciously soon after Wilson knocked him out in a fight). The Penguins might miss the playoffs for the first time in the Crosby-Malkin era.

Other Losers

The Calgary Flames are in a great position to win, but they needed a goalie. The Boston Bruins missed out on Stone, Kevin Hayes, and some other big names and can’t keep up with Tampa. The Dallas Stars looked like a winner until Mats Zuccarello broke his arm in his first game as a Star (after scoring and adding an assist in the first period).

-Tiger Bjornlund

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