Whew! Ok the 2017/18 NHL Trade Deadline is in the books, and we’re all riding the high. Sure, this day sucks for the players, but for us fans, its like a second Christmas for our team, with the presents under the tree being shiny new toys to extend our teams’ season into the promise land. But not all shiny new toys are created equal. So without further lead in, here are the four trades I think were the most likely to help the teams who made them. (Its ok, you’re all still pretty)
Dion Phaneuf to the Kings
Sometimes the trade deadline is all about fitness. No not in the Kate Upton/Chris Hemsworth sense. In the Charles Darwin sense. Like fitting your environment. A player who is a dodo bird in one environment can become a great white shark in another.
Enter Dion Phaneuf, who, for all of his nastiness and fanfare, at times seemed out of place in the speed based Eastern Conference. In 53 games before the trade, he had only 16 totals points, which by any measure is underachieving for a top 4 offensive defenseman. However, a quick travel to the West coast seems to have fixed that.
After being traded to an LA squad who’s entire identity is about being bigger and meaner than everyone else, Phaneuf may be just the last piece of the puzzle, and already has 3 goals in 5 games (sounds a little better doesn’t it). LA even only had to give up the one player on their roster who didn’t fit their own scheme in Marion Gaborik. Gaborik, though at times productive in Hollywood, is more an Eastern Coast speedster, and was always an odd match with the Kings.
Though currently outside of the playoff picture looking in, LA is really close, being only two points out at time of publication. I think Phaneuf puts them over the edge by season’s end. He’s joining a team filled with big bodies including Anze Kopitar, Drew Doughty, Jeff Carter, and Dustin Brown to complete a lineup averaging 216 lbs. a person, and all hungry to get back to the playoffs. And you get the feeling they’re willing to beat up anyone in their way to getting there. Woof.
Rick Nash to Boston
Speaking of big bodies, how does 6’4” 212 lbs. sound? That’s what the Bruins got from the Rangers in longtime power forward Rick Nash.
This feels to me like a classic high ceiling low floor trade for a team realizing they’re in a much better position than they thought they’d be. If you listened to the noise around Boston at the beginning of the season, the Bruins top brass would’ve been happy competing for the last wildcard spot. Instead, thanks to inspired play from Patrice Bergeron’s top line, and some overachieving youngsters, Boston finds itself challenging for the top seed in the East.
The one thing they haven’t had, however, is a strong second line. Center David Krejci and whoever has been tried alongside him are not keeping pace. GM Don Sweeney thinks that a big winger is all that Krejci is missing (see Millan Lucic or Jaromir Iginla). Hence Rick Nash.
The risk is that you never know which Nash you’ll be getting. He’s a notoriously streaky playoff performer. And although his defensively responsible approach makes him worth more than just his scoring, there have been long stretches where he couldn’t buy a playoff goal.
That said, at his best, Nash is an absolute load with a true scoring touch and lots of playoff experience. If Boston gets his upside rather than his downside, Sweeney and Co. will be happy having given up two solid NHL’ers in Ryan Spooner and Matt Beleskey and a first-round pick.
Derick Brassard to the Pens
How can a team who’s top to centers are named Crosby and Malkin be weak down the middle? It seems like an oxymoron, but that was the case for much of this season.
Pittsburgh, though top heavy, has made due with a couple of 4th liners on their 3rd line for the majority of the season, and it has shown in the distribution of scoring (Crosby and Malkin have 83% of the points scored from the center position all season).
Well no longer. In a trade that GM Jim Rutherford called “the most complex trade I’ve made” the Pens shipped out a prince’s ransom (though maybe not a king’s). The trade included an A-rated goalie prospect, 1st and 3rd round picks, and two bruising role players (Ian Cole and Ryan Reaves) in exchange for maybe the best two-way center available from Ottawa and some cap help to facilitate it from Las Vegas to boot.
Though the price of the trade is high, both NHL players were on the cusp of being scratched and would become unrestricted free agents at the end of the season. Now the back to back defending champs are gearing up for the three-peat by getting a defensive and offensive playoff stud who should make their “3rd line” (ya right) a force when Brassard pairs with resident nice guy, try hard, and hockey lover Phil Kessel.
Put it this way. You’re an opposing coach trying to decide who to match your best defensive line against. Who’s line do you choose to try and shut down. Sidney Crosby? Evgeni Malkin? Or Phil Kessel and his new set up man in Brassard? Think fast, because while you were making up your mind, I think they just scored a few more goals. Who did? Take your pick.
Ryan McDonagh to Tampa
Every year there’s a trade that we look back on and think, THAT was the trade that changed the playoffs. This year, McDonagh to Tampa is going to be that trade.
Holy hockey pucks Batman, how did the rest of the league let this happen? If there was one area on the Lightning’s uber talented, score at will roster, it was the lack of a plethora of top-4 two-way defensemen. The team has two of the best pure playmakers in the NHL (Stamkos and Kucherov), they have a hot young goalie who shines in big games (Vasilevsky), they’ve got a behemoth monster eater number 1 D-man (Hedman) and they have depth, grit, and been there done that type leadership up and down their roster (see Callahan, Kunitz, Palat, Girardi, Killorn, Johnson… I could go on for a while). That second major D-man was the only weakness.
So Tampa Bay said, “Boys, plug that hole! I want this ship unsinkable!” Ok so maybe that was the Captain of the Titanic, we here at The Turf weren’t able to confirm the quote’s source. The point is that GM Steve Yzerman saw the opportunity and went all in.
Let’s look at the tangibles first. McDonagh was the Ranger’s top blue-liner. Top-4 role: Check. McDonagh was on both their powerplay and their penalty kill. 2-way ability: Check. McDonagh was the Rangers’ captain. Leadership: Check. McDonagh was a key cog in the Rangers’ recent run to the Cup final. Playoff know-how: Check.
Ok now let’s look at the intangibles of the trade. McDonagh is signed beyond this year at a manageable 4.7m cap hit. That’s a steal for what he brings. He also is not the only Lightning player from that Rangers’ cup run. Dan Girardi was on that team. Oh and look! Dan Girardi was McDonagh’s defense partner for that run, and if memory serves, they were awesome together. Could a reunion on a line together be Yzerman’s plan? And more importantly, could this be the day we look back on and say, “that’s when Tampa Bay won the Cup?” Why the hockey pucks not.