Deals earn pluses, minuses
The 2017 NHL trade deadline might have been a relatively quiet one, but there were a few notable cases in which teams or players emerged as clear winners and losers. As a former member of several NHL front offices, here’s my rundown of those who clearly m
The trade deadline can be a dangerous time of year, and I believe teams make the best trades when they don’t feel they have to make them. The Caps are currently the best team in the NHL and were probably content to go into the playoffs with their roster as is. Instead, they went out and spent a low first-round pick in a draft year widely regarded as subpar, plus a decent (but not top) prospect and a little extra to get the best rental player at the position of greatest scarcity in defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk. Well played. Jim Benning
The Vancouver Canucks’ general manager clearly learned some lessons from last year’s botched fiasco with Dan Hamhuis (when he asked for the player to waive his no-trade clause, failed to trade him and then lost him in free agency) and turned two bottom-six forwards in their 30s (Alex Burrows and Jannik Hansen) into two solid prospects during a deadline in which most teams were only willing to part with draft picks. There was a sense that this was do-or-die time for the Vancouver management team, and Benning reached into his scouting background and delivered.
Detroit Red Wings
I have the Wings listed as winners not so much for their fairly substantial seller’s haul (one second, three thirds, one sixth-round pick and a project in Dylan McIlrath) but for the fact that this proud franchise has finally come to terms with the task of rebuilding that has realistically been due for a couple of seasons. It has been a tough year in Motown both on and off the ice, but if there is an organization that can rebound relatively quickly, it’s the Red Wings.
When it comes to free agency, playoff success gets a player paid. Shattenkirk was already likely going to be the most sought-after defenseman on the unrestricted free agent lists of a number of teams in July. If he adds a deep playoff run to his résumé this spring, it will only serve to bolster his already strong negotiating leverage in the summer.
The 35-year-old, fourth-line winger got to dictate where he landed through his no-trade clause and was also able to parlay that leverage into a two-year deal at $2,500,000 per season with the Ottawa Senators, which is significantly more than I believe he would have been able to command on the open market this summer.
Losers New York Islanders
New York stood pat at the trade deadline while everyone around it in the race for the final Eastern Conference playoff spot added at least a piece or two to their NHL rosters. While I don’t know what, if any, conversations the Islanders have had with center John Tavares regarding the direction of the organization and its commitment to winning, their silence during the 48 hours before the deadline might speak volumes to their franchise player who is eligible for free agency in 2018 and whose contract extension talks are just four months away.
St. Louis Blues
The Blues have to be disappointed that their season-long Shattenkirk sweepstakes netted them basically the same return that the Coyotes received for Martin Hanzal (a late first-round pick and a B-level prospect). What stings even more is that they didn’t bring anything back to help them hold on to the eighth playoff spot in the West. The trickle of talent out of St. Louis that started after last spring’s loss in the conference finals has turned into a torrent.
Poor Fleury. The salary cap, expansion and fate have all conspired to keep the classy veteran in roster purgatory. The Penguins netminder has had the Pittsburgh net only six times in 2017 and has predictably struggled to find consistency, which doesn’t do much to improve his trade value as he searches for a new home. Having said that, opportunities in an NHL crease can change in an instant during the playoffs, and being the backup on a defending Stanley Cup champion is not the worst place to be in the hockey world.
It’s hard to believe, but Dallas finished second overall in the NHL last season and was a Game 7 win away from a berth in the Western Conference finals. Had the Stars lost to the Penguins on the night before this year’s deadline, they would have been in position to draft third overall. The good news: Dallas General Manager Jim Nill is one of the best in the business. The bad news: The Stars have a core group that is on the older side by modern NHL standards, and with a megacontract set to kick in for star forward Jamie Benn next year, Dallas needs to win now and there is a lot of work to be done.
John Tavares didn’t get any new help with the New York Islanders.
Kevin Shattenkirk gives the Capitals another proven defenseman.