This year’s NHL trade deadline was literally like no other
The NHL trade deadline has officially come to an end, and it’s time to start preparing for the playoffs. While we’re at it, here are some thoughts on the trading season in a special edition of 10 Insights and Observations.
NHL Trade Deadline Like No Other… Literally
The deadline for this year’s exchange felt like everyone at school was driving it: finishing work long before the deadline. In the 14 days before the deadline, 43 trades were made. 10 years before, there were 18 trades on average in those 14 days.
One thing that I really wondered about, which I really can’t prove anyway, is that the deadline for the deal was Friday. For the last 10 years, the deadline has traditionally been Monday, and if not Monday, then Wednesday. It was Friday’s first deadline, and it looks like NHL general managers, like the rest of us, don’t like to work hard at the end of the week.
In the coming years, attention should be paid to whether this trend of early deals will continue. From the point of view of the buying team, this approach makes sense because they include a player in their roster in a few weeks, which means that they have extra time to adjust to the new conditions. On the part of the seller, the question will be whether the greatest value can be squeezed out of it in this way. If you set a price and get it, so be it. But if you wait and the betting war comes down to wires, will that cause panic and will your net income help?
This is high stakes poker. Not every year the buyer’s market is as full of options as this season.
Project of choice for your concerns
The star of the deadline this season could be the double retention of the salary cap. It is crazy to think that the ability to withhold wages was only implemented in the 2013 Central Bank. While a number of teams have maintained restrictions to facilitate trading, using a third party broker has really become popular this season.
From 2013 to the start of this season, there were only eight double hold trades. This year there were four (Ryan O’Reilly trade, Dmitry Orlov trade, Nick Bonino trade and Patrick Kane trade).
Much of this is probably due to the fact that the salary cap is barely going up. CapFriendly currently lists 21 teams that have space under the ceiling of less than $1 million. Every dollar counts, and teams had to get creative to make deals easier. As a mediator, the teams received a third-round pick (Kane), a fourth-round pick (O’Reilly), and two fifth-round picks (Orlov and Bonino). It’s not a huge price, but now that we’ve seen a number of these deals, we have an idea for moving the market forward. If you need a third party broker to make the trade work, it will probably cost you 3 to 5.
Wild walk the thin line
During the trading deadline, teams are usually buyers or sellers. Things get more interesting when teams try to balance.
The Minnesota Wild felt like one of those teams. With the Jets free-falling, the Wild have a solid playoff spot, but they’ve used their cap space twice to act as a third-party broker instead of trying to add as much value as possible to boot their team. They traded Jordan Greenway, who has had problems this season but is strong defensively and plays to their identity. Partly they wanted to clear his cap for future seasons, which is understandable.
At the same time, Oskar Sundqvist, Markus Johansson, John Klingberg and Gustav Nyquist were added to the group. They hold all of their first and second round draft picks and also get a second out of Vegas in a trade with Greenway. Wild will no doubt see this as doing a little bit of everything, clearing the deck, moving forward, adding on for now, and getting a few free lottery tickets along the way as a third party broker.
They also didn’t trade in anticipation of UFA Matt Dumba. At the end of the deadline, general manager Bill Guerin said, “We’re serious about winning.” They should be. The way he balanced the deadline and his place under the ceiling may be something we look back on positively.
Avalanche takes a different approach this year
There are two things we know about any team defending their Stanley Cup championship: they are seriously proud of it and confident in their abilities. When you win it once, you want the good times to continue. Tampa Bay, Pittsburgh, Chicago and Los Angeles have won several Cups in the last decade and are changing.
Which brings us to the Colorado Avalanche, who were silent at the deadline. They made one trade, buying Lars Eller for a second round pick. To be fair, he has a strong playoff pedigree and gets them deep enough in the center that it deserves attention. Earlier this season, they also added Matt Nieto, a sensible role player. If Gabriel Landeskog can come back and find his form, it will be a big achievement for any team.
But a year after they made it to the deadline by adding Arturi Lehkonen, Josh Manson and Andrew Cogliano, they made far fewer moves. This is not to mention the loss of Nazem Kadri and Andre Burakovsky in last year’s race. The West is wide open and the Avalanche is definitely the winner. However, they approached the deadline differently this year, and now we are waiting to see how their Cup defense goes.
No mighty roar for panthers
There was one team that didn’t make any trades in the last month: the Florida Panthers. Maybe they just got stuck. Their only unfinished UFAs are Erik and Mark Staal, Radko Gudash, goaltender Alex Lyon and an injured Patrick Hornqvist. You won’t get much for any of them, with the exception of maybe Gudas, who is the type of player that any playoff team would love to have on their roster to one degree or another.
The Panthers also don’t have a draft pick. They don’t have a first-round pick in any of the next three drafts. They have neither a third this season nor a second next. They will have to beat several teams in the standings to reach the playoffs. This is a high, high task.
They haven’t received any outside help, though they recently brought back Anthony Duclair for the first time this season. They just seem stuck, and all the while, Montreal has been watching from the sidelines, holding the Panthers in the first round of this year.
Gavrikov changes one to look further.
The criticism of Vladislav Gavrikov went so far that the trade had to be publicly criticized wherever he went. However, it will be one of the most interesting deals for the rest of the season and the playoffs because Joonas Korpisalo went with him.
The Kings rank 30th in 5-on-5 shooting percentage. They have conceded goals all season, and their offense ranks 11th in the league in goals per game. The addition of a quality defender and goalkeeper having a good season should hypothetically help increase the save rate. Even though goalkeeping is pretty much a guessing game, it really can’t get much worse.
It’s only one game, but Gavrikov showed what he can do with Shaun Walker. This shift is a clinic in clearance control and stick work.
You never get fancy, flashy shots from Gavrikov, but there is some real subtlety and value he can bring to the ice. At this rate, the Kings are looking forward to a first-round game against Seattle. This is a match they should feel pretty good about. Let’s see how we look back on this deal in the offseason.
Western Conference Prefers Subtlety Over Blockbusters
The Eastern Conference rightfully got most of the headlines because it made all the big moves, but there was every hidden value in the West. We have just noted the additions of Gavrikov and Korpisalo from LA. Vegas acquired Ivan Barbashev and Teddy Bluger, who offer value and versatility in their offensive lineup. The Oilers look much cleaner with Matthias Ekholm, and then added a member in Nick Bjugstad to boot.
The Jets added Nino Niederreiter and Vladislav Namestnikov. Dallas added Max Domi, who played a big role in Carolina’s last playoff run. We’ve already marked the balancing act between Wilde and Colorado with one expansion, and we’re hoping Landeskog is coming soon. The Flames didn’t add much, but they made a little shake-up.
No team that was really on the brink of it could make it to the playoffs. The Blues had a sale. Nashville sold. I’m not quite sure what to call what Vancouver did, but did they… make deals? It’s not the Wild West when Chicago and Los Angeles were at the height of their superpowers, but a number of teams have definitely gotten better, even if they didn’t make the headlines.
The West hasn’t been that wide open in years, so it’s almost funny that it hasn’t made big splashes. Instead, it was a busy East where all the teams were buying…