NHL trade deadline winners, losers: Best, worst moves around league

The NHL trade deadline came and went, with many names moving and plenty of others staying put. 

Pending unrestricted free agents like goaltender Robin Lehner (Vegas Golden Knights), winger Wayne Simmonds (Buffalo Sabres) and center Jean-Gabriel Pageau (New York Islanders) all have new homes. Veteran Sharks center Joe Thornton wasn’t traded, Chris Kreider re-signed with the New York Rangers and Calgary Flames star Johnny Gaudreau just had to pee. 

Some teams, executives and fan bases stood out for reasons good and bad because of the deals made before noon PT on Monday. Here are your winners and losers from this year’s NHL trade deadline. 

Winner: Doug Wilson

The Sharks general manager hasn’t needed to sell in a half-decade, but he made the most of San Jose’s down year in the last week. Brenden Dillon fetching a second-round pick and a conditional third was a tad underwhelming, but acquiring a 2020 first-round pick for Barclay Goodrow and a third is an inspired bit of business. Getting anything for veteran forward Patrick Marleau — who the Sharks signed after the start of the season and very well could re-sign this summer — was strong work, too, let alone for a third-round pick in 2021. 

Wilson woke up last Tuesday with just one pick among the first 62 in June’s draft at his disposal, and he ended the deadline with three. The Tampa Bay Lightning pick won’t be too far in front of the Sharks’ own second-round pick, considering their respective place in the NHL standings. Wilson now has significant ammunition to move up in the draft or package together in a trade to get the Sharks back into contention.

The GM said last week he thinks San Jose has the foundation in place to return to the playoffs in 2021, and he now has the pieces to supplement that core this summer. 

Loser: Julien BriseBois

Wilson has been in his Lightning counterpart’s skates shoes suit before, overseeing a salary cap-strapped team and trying to supplement an ultra-talented — and ultra-expensive — core with cheap depth. The Sharks, after all, have traded first-round picks for rentals before. Goodrow is a solid depth forward, he’s valuable to Tampa Bay on a $925,000 cap hit through 2021 and most teams would take a first-round pick in the 20-plus range becoming a capable contributor of any kind.

The Lightning paid a premium, though, even when you factor in that the Sharks sent back a third-round pick and that the organization firmly is in win-now mode. Tampa Bay has a stellar track record of developing mid-round talent, but trading two first-round picks — including one in exchange for versatile forward Blake Coleman —  could really sting down the line as the Lightning’s more expensive forwards age out of their primes.

The price will be worth it if they win the Stanley Cup in either of the next two years, but Wilson can speak to the difficult position BriseBois would be in if the Lightning doesn’t.

Winner: Vegas Golden Knights

Peter DeBoer probably didn’t expect he’d have similar goaltending headaches in Sin City as he did the last two seasons in San Jose, but the Golden Knights coach has a much better outlook in the crease after Vegas acquired goaltender Robin Lehner from Chicago. Lehner hasn’t quite reached the heights he did in his Vezina-finalist and Masterton-winning season with the New York Islanders in 2019-20, but he has still been one of the NHL’s better goalies this season. 

Marc-Andre Fleury hasn’t been, with the Quebecois goaltender posting his worst save percentage (.906) this season since joining the Golden Knights. Lehner, at the very least, offers DeBoer a chance to platoon Fleury down the stretch and keep the veteran rested for another postseason run. The Swedish netminder should be Vegas’ starter based on his performance this season, however, and this is a smart hedge against Fleury’s decline.

A wise bet in Las Vegas? It probably helps the Golden Knights’ practice facility is in Summerlin, Nev. rather than on the Vegas strip.

Loser: New York Islanders

The Islanders immediately signed Pageau to a six-year contract extension, reportedly worth $30 million. Pageau is a good player in the middle of a career year, but he also is playing a minute-and-a-half more and has scored on an extremely unsustainable 17.8 percent of his shots this season. A first- and second-round pick (plus a conditional third) already is a hefty enough price to pay aside from the extension. 

It was a questionable deadline for legendary Islanders general manager Lou Lamoriello, who paid a premium to acquire a player he drafted and developed with the New Jersey Devils (a 2021 second-round pick for 37-year-old defenseman Andy Greene) and reportedly almost took on more money and team to bring in another player he drafted and developed with the Devils in the rumored Zach Parise-Andrew Ladd swap.

Barry Trotz is a miracle-worker behind the Isles’ bench, but the Metropolitan Division is a meat-grinder and Pageau and Greene alone aren’t enough to get them out of it. The duo might not be enough to help the Islanders avoid playing the Lightning or Boston Bruins as the second wild-card, either. 

Winner: Sharks fans

Rooting for one of Dillon and Marleau in the inevitable Capitals-Penguins bloodbath will be a far easier dilemma than having to choose between Marleau and a traded Thornton. One 40-year-old stayed put in San Jose, taking that potential Sophie’s Choice off the board. 

Loser: Toronto Maple Leafs fans

There must be a German word for the schadenfreude NHL fans felt seeing the Leafs lose to a Zamboni driver and the ensuing freak-out. Hockey types of all stripes have dunked on the Leafs for the last 48 hours, Toronto’s tepid trade deadline didn’t bring them any closer to bridging the gap with Boston and Tampa Bay.

At least denizens of the Six have the Raptors. 

[RELATED: What trade Sharks did, didn’t make mean going forward]

Winner: Carolina Hurricanes

It just keeps getting better in Raleigh. The Hurricanes arguably made the biggest splashes of the NHL trade deadline, revamping their blue line and re-loading up front by acquiring defensemen Sami Vatanen and Brady Skjei plus center Vincent Trochek. The former two can eat up minutes and move the puck, and Trocheck gives Carolina the luxury of playing Jordan Staal on the third line. 

The ‘Canes are an elite puck-possession team with legitimate questions in net, but Monday’s deals give them the depth to make some real noise this spring. Don’t count on them finishing among the wild-card teams, and don’t be shocked if they make it to the Eastern Conference final, either. 

NHL trade deadline winners, losers: Best, worst moves around league originally appeared on NBC Sports Bay Area

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