By Ty Anderson, 985TheSportsHub.com
Are the Bruins better today than they were on Sunday?
The entire point of the trade deadline is to be able to answer that with a resounding yes the day after the deadline, and if the teams did their job, again in June as Stanley Cup champions. The Bruins’ quest for such an answer took them to Anaheim, where they added forward Ondrej Kase on Friday before picking up Nick Ritchie on Monday. There’s a lot to like about both players, and their projected fits in Boston could be the missing link to avoid another Game 7 throat-punch.
In Kase, the Bruins are getting a right-shot, right-wing who loves to shoot the puck. Injuries are an obvious (and major) concern, but the upside is worth the gamble. Especially when you take that chance while also ditching 75 percent of the David Backes contract. Ritchie, on the other hand, is a budding power forward whose ‘little things’ are potentially worth more to the Bruins than the ‘little things’ that a confident Danton Heinen does. That’s the first time we’ve used ‘confident’ and ‘Danton Heinen’ consecutively since his 4-7-11 in 17 run early in the season. That was also the last time, it turned out.
But the league-best Bruins, who currently hold a five-point lead over the Lightning for the most points in the Atlantic (and hockey overall), weren’t the only team looking to bolster their chances of a Cup.
So how do the Black and Gold’s moves stack up within the conference?
Tampa Bay Lightning
Beginning in the Atlantic, the Lightning had a heavier deadline weekend, adding veteran free agent defenseman Zach Bogosian and acquiring forward Barclay Goodrow on a last-minute deadline deal with San Jose.
The 6-foot-3 Bogosian arrives to Tampa Bay after his contract termination with the Sabres for a failure to report to the minors (I’ve found your out to come back home, Jack Eichel), and gives the Bolts some extra snarl on the backend, with 22 hits and 21 blocked shots in 19 games this season. He’s not an overly impressive defenseman in today’s game, all things considered, but he gives the Lightning a definite third-pairing boost in the size department. The Lightning paid a pretty penny to acquire Goodrow from the Sharks, too, parting with their own 2020 first-round pick. Considered a bottom-sixer, this is Goodrow’s first season cracking the eight-goal and 24-point mark, but he was also averaging over five minutes more per night.
Not that it was necessarily needed given the already existing pieces of their roster, but the move for Goodrow felt like a definite answer to the Black and Gold’s Ritchie pickup, and should give some extra bite to these Atlantic rivals’ head-to-heads.
(The Lightning also added Blake Coleman from the Devils a week before the deadline. Coleman, currently playing on Tampa’s second line, has skated in two games with the Bolts, but is still looking to get on the board with his first point.)
“We’ve gone on a pretty good run, and fortunately they’ve only made up a little bit of ground, but I think everybody expected Tampa to be a really strong team and be right where they are and us to be battling down the stretch hopefully for first place in the division,” said Sweeney. “They’re a good hockey club, you’ve got to understand that at some point in time, they had some games in hand that they were going to make up and that they were able to win those and make up ground on everybody, including us. But, we’ve got them coming up in the next couple of weeks a couple times. They’re a good hockey club.”
IN: Blake Coleman, Barclay Goodrow, and Zach Bogosian.
OUT: Picks and prospects.
Toronto Maple Leafs
Despite some cries on both sides, the Leafs didn’t buy or sell on Monday’s deadline. They kept pending free agent defenseman Tyson Barrie (35 points in 63 games) and signed Jake Muzzin to a four-year, $22.5 million extension that’ll keep Muzzin with the Maple Leafs into his Age-35 season at $5.625 million per season. The Leafs did make a few minor moves, however, the most noteworthy of which being the trade that sent goaltender Michael Hutchinson (4-9-1 with an .886 save percentage in 15 appearances with Toronto this season) to Colorado for minor-league defenseman Calle Rosen.
What do you make of this? Honestly, not much. The Leafs are what they are. They are a ridiculously exciting team, but that’s not always a good thing. Their offensive wonder is almost completely canceled out by the fact that they still can’t defend worth a lick. And there’s still too much pressure on their goaltender (and their bloated foursome up front eating up half their cap) and they’re prone to shrinkage when it matters most. They also just lost to a zamboni driver, so things are seeming A-OK in Leafland, and I believe that they’re handling it all super well. (Read as: Nope.)
OUT: Michael Hutchinson.
Just two points out of third place in the Atlantic, the Panthers made some interesting moves on Monday, trading noted Felger mancrush Vinny Trocheck to the Hurricanes in exchange for forwards Erik Haula and Lucas Wallmark. A staple of Florida hockey, Trocheck had already bested last year’s total in as many games with 36 points through 55 contests. Now, some will say that Trocheck wore out his welcome in Florida and that the explosiveness hasn’t been the same since his serious ankle injuries, but this trade seemingly did little to elevate the Panthers’ hopes for a playoff spot. Haula’s a fine player (he never quite found his 2017-18 Golden Knights footing with the ‘Canes), and Wallmark will be a worthwhile depth piece, but the Panthers already have a ton of those, and this deadline came and went without the Cats adding to their defense corps. Meh.
IN: Erik Haula, Lucas Wallmark.
OUT: Vincent Trocheck.
A longshot to make the postseason (Hockey-Reference currently has them at under five percent), the Sabres semi-bought on deadline day with their decision to add veteran winger Wayne Simmonds from the Devils for a conditional fifth-round draft pick. That pick becomes a fourth should Buffalo make the playoffs and have Simmonds in action for at least 10 games. A high-character talent, Simmonds’ offensive game is pretty much cooked (he’s paced for his worst offensive season since his rookie year in 2008-09), but he does add some jam to a Buffalo team that could certainly use a little.
The Sabres also made more of a seller’s move, however, with their decision to move forwards Conor Sheary and Evan Rodrigues to the Penguins for forward Dominik Kahun. The 5-foot-11 Kahun, has 23 goals and 64 points (with 60 of those points coming at even-strength play) in 132 games with the Penguins since the start of the 2018-19 season.
IN: Dominik Kahun, Wayne Simmonds.
OUT: Conor Sheary, Evan Rodrigues.
It’s finally happening: Kovechkinchuk is coming to town.
Traded to Washington in exchange for a third-round pick, the Capitals will now ice a roster featuring both Alex Ovechkin and Ilya Kovalchuk. It’s the kind of one-two that would leave 2007 pooping its pants in net. In 2020, it’s not as fearsome, but it does give the Capitals some serious firepower given the fact that Kovalchuk will slot in as a dynamic secondary scorer. There were reports that Kovalchuk turned down a trade to the Bruins to go to Washington, but Kovalchuk seemingly shot that down during his intro with the Caps, saying, “I think you have the wrong teams.”
They also added some more size on the backend with their acquisition of defenseman Brenden Dillon last week. Dillon was a rumored trade target of the Bruins (that was until Jeremy Lauzon stepped up and grabbed hold of Boston’s No. 6 defenseman slot on the depth chart), and Dillon has some history with new B’s winger Nick Ritchie. Something to potentially watch in May should these teams meet in the third round in a battle of Boston third line versus Washington third pairing.
The Capitals also made a lower-tier depth move for forward Daniel Sprong (one goal and an assist in eight NHL games this season) in exchange for defenseman Christian Djoos, The Swedish-born Djoos has spent the majority of his season with the club’s AHL affiliate, but has playoff experience, as he played in 22 games during Washington’s run to the 2018 Stanley Cup.
IN: Ilya Kovalchuk, Daniel Sprong, and Brenden Dillon.
OUT: Christian Djoos and picks.
A week after adding Jason Zucker from the Wild, the Penguins used their deadline day to add even more depth on the wings.
First came Pittsburgh’s move for the 40-year-old Marleau. Back in San Jose after a trade-and-buyout that moved Marleau from Toronto to Carolina to free agency, Marleau posted 10 goals and 20 points in 58 games for the Sharks prior to his move to the Penguins for a conditional third-round pick that becomes a second should the Pens win the Stanley Cup. This will probably be Marleau’s last crack at winning a Stanley Cup that’s eluded his 1,700-plus game, 561-goal NHL career.
But the Penguins’ dealings didn’t stop there, as they then flipped forward Dominik Kahun to Buffalo for forwards Evan Rodrigues and Winchester, Mass. native (and pending free agent) Conor Sheary. For Sheary, it’s a return to where his career began with a bang with back-to-back Stanley Cups in 2016 and 2017, and where he experienced the most success of his career, with a career-best 23 goals and 53 points in 2016-17. Rodrigues, meanwhile, posted a career-high 29 points last year, but has struggled with just five goals and four helpers in 38 games for the Sabres this season.
IN: Patrick Marleau, Evan Rodrigues, Conor Sheary.
OUT: Dominik Kahun and a draft pick.
There wasn’t a whole lot of intrigue when it came to Philly’s deadline.
Sitting in third in the Metro, the Flyers focused on adding some forward depth with the pickup of Derek Grant from the Ducks and Nate Thompson from Montreal. Grant comes to the Flyers with a career-best 14 goals, 81 shots on goal, and 13:52 time on ice per night in 49 games this season. Thompson, meanwhile, brings buckets of experience to Philadelphia (760 games), and has won the 40th-most faceoffs in the league this year (404). The Flyers already have two of the league’s top 23 in faceoff wins in Claude Giroux and Sean Couturier, and the Flyers as a team rank first in all of hockey, with a 54.2 faceoff percentage.
IN: Derek Grant, Nate Thompson.
OUT: Picks and prospects.
New York Islanders
Currently sitting in the top wild card spot in the East, the Islanders went into this deadline as buyers.
Their biggest move, of course, came with the trade (and immediate extension) for then-Senators center Jean-Gabriel Pageau. (There were even rumors that the Islanders were interested in making a play for Zach Parise.)
But in Pageau, the Islanders are picking up one of the best two-way pivots in hockey, and in the midst of a career-year offensively, with 24 goals and 40 points in 60 games. And Pageau does give the Isles a formidable three-headed monster down the middle with Pageau, Mat Barzal, and Brock Nelson.
Before adding Pageau, the Islanders added veteran defenseman Andy Greene from the Devils.
IN: Jean-Gabriel Pageau, Andy Greene.
OUT: Picks and a prospect.
Columbus Blue Jackets
Nothing sexy here. The Bruins would currently play the worker Jackets in round one if it ended today.
IN: Devin Shore.
OUT: Sonny Milano.
The most active team of the deadline, the Hurricanes addressed their biggest issue with trades for New York defenseman Brady Skjei and Devils blue liner Sami Vatanen. Dealing with a battered blue line thanks to injuries to Dougie Hamilton and Brett Pesce, Skjei and Vatanen give the ‘Canes a definite boost when upright. (Vatanen is on the mend, but seems likely to come back at some point this season.) Carolina also swapped out Haula (and Wallmark) for Trocheck. They didn’t pickup a goaltender, which seemed to be an area of concern given their injuries, but they’ll probably just call David Ayres anyway.
IN: Vincent Trocheck, Brady Skjei, and Sami Vatanen.
OUT: Erik Haula, Lucas Wallmark, picks and prospects.