It’s been a hectic week in the NHL. Since last Friday, when I predicted we would see a more tame trade deadline, there were 28 trades, with several notable players changing alliances. Let’s take a look at some winners and a big loser from those trades.
Winner, Winner, Chicken Dinner: Boston Bruins
The Bruins made two trades at the deadline, and they knocked both out of the park. First, they acquired D Mike Reilly from Ottawa for a 2022 3rd rounder. The Bruins defense has not been good this year, and it has only gotten worse since some of their key defenders got hurt. Reilly is an immediate upgrade for them who has played well on a very bad Senators team. This trade was more than enough to earn Boston a passing grade for the deadline, but they weren’t done just yet.
Continuing their trend of getting good players off of awful teams, the Bruins acquired F Taylor Hall and F Curtis Lazar from the Sabres for F Anders Bjork and a 2021 2nd rounder. In Hall, the Bruins got a top-tier playmaker and former Hart Trophy winner who has had a tough time scoring the past few seasons despite maintaining a consistent level of play. On a Bruins team where he is no longer the opposition’s focus, he should excel. The Bruins didn’t even have to give up all that much to get him.
Biggest Loser: Buffalo Sabres
Is it even the 2021 NHL season if the Sabres aren’t on the losing end of something? Taylor Hall was the most prized asset at the deadline, but all the Sabres managed to get in return was a late 2nd-round pick and a 4th liner. Were the Sabres backed into a corner with Hall’s expiring contract and no-movement clause? Sure. But when players like Nick Foligno, David Savard, and Kyle Palmieri are valuable enough to get their teams 1st-rounders in return, Taylor Hall should be as well. But it’s not just the return that is puzzling. Reports about the trade started to circulate in the wee hours of deadline day, and the trade was officially announced at eight o’clock in the morning, seven hours before the deadline. Based on this information, the Sabres made up their minds over 12 hours before they had to. Why not hold out for at least a little longer? Teams get desperate as the deadline approaches, and it’s not as though the return for Hall was too good for Buffalo to pass up. The Sabres signed Hall this offseason knowing that he’d likely be flipped for draft capital at the deadline, so it was hard for them to come out as losers in this scenario. And yet, they came dangerously close to doing so.
Round of Applause: Detroit Red Wings and San Jose Sharks
I’m not a fan of applauding teams who keep payroll low and throw in the towel on a season before it has even started (Detroit has been almost comically bad since 2016-17). Still, I’ll applaud GMs Steve Yzerman and Doug Wilson for doing what they can to try to help build up their teams’ futures. In momentarily trading for players and retaining salary, Detroit and San Jose helped facilitate trades that could not have happened otherwise because of the salary cap. Detroit picked up Tampa Bay’s 2021 4th-rounder for eating about $1 million of David Savard’s contract and San Jose got Toronto’s 2021 4th-rounder for just shy of $1.5 million of Nick Foligno’s contract and Buffalo’s 2022 5th-rounder (via Vegas) for $500K of Mattias Janmark’s cap hit. These contracts all expire this offseason, so both teams picked up additional opportunities to take a stab at succeeding in the shot in the dark portion of the draft in exchange for virtually nothing. Good on them.
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