While my main focus is the Florida Panthers and their run to greatness, I wanted to share my thoughts and comments on what turned out to be a very interesting trade deadline.
In my opinion, here are the winners, losers, and moves that just made absolutely no sense.
- Florida Panthers: Obviously I had to mention them first because they are the hometown team. Billy Z, aka Billy the God/ Big D Z/ The Godfather of Hockey; showed he had the biggest balls of them all and swung for the fences this trade deadline. He did not just bring in a big-bodied defensive minded player in Ben Chiarot, but also grabbed the Big C from Philly, Claude Giroux. While some say the Cats may have overpaid for both players, he was able to convince both MTL and PHL to retain half their salaries. Don’t forget he snuck in Robert Hagg from Buffalo as a last-minute deal as well. It may not be a sexy deal, but Hagg does provide another big body on the backend to help ensure some toughness come playoffs. These moves and Bob’s astounding bounce-back season point to the Cats being one of the favorites for the Cup.
- Pittsburgh Penguins: The red-hot Pens scooped up Richard Rakell showing that Ron Hextall is giving the core players one last kick at the can. Rakell will likely be slotted with Malkin so as Crosby, Guentzel, and Rust can be reunited. I thought for certain they would have made a push for goaltending after Jarry’s post-season collapse last year; however, either the deal was not there to be made or the asking price was too high. Either way, I am not shocked to see the Penguins give it one last go and try to give Crosby a 4th ring.
- Colorado Avalanche: Yes, the Avs were finalist on the Giroux trade; however, it was great to see a GM respect a player’s wishes and trade him to the Panthers. The Avalanche didn’t lick their wounds and worry about whether or not they would get G. Instead, they picked up a solid depth guy in Artturi Lehkonen. One of the biggest criticisms of the Av’s in the past is their lack of depth. By previously picking up Kadri (who is having an unbelievable year) and now Lehkonen, it takes some of the pressure off of the big guns like Landy, Mac, and Rantanen. On top of that, I l really like the way they secured the blue ling in picking up Manson from Anaheim. I believe that was one of the best lowkey/under the radar trades made. He is definitely a guy I would have liked to see in a Panthers uniform, maybe even over Chiarot. Now, I find it hard to argue that the Avalanche have one of the best defensive groups in the NHL.
- NY Rangers: Remember when the Rangers issued the apology letter to the fans about how they were about to go through a rebuild? Chris Drury is trying to erase that from fans memories this year. They brought in two very distinct role players this deadline with Andrew Copp and Tyler Motte. These guys both have tons of versatility and skill; however, the Rags have players like Fox and The Breadman for that. The size, edge, and physicality are what I believe they were brought in for. Whoever has been reading my writing knows that physicality, grit, and a sandpaper finish are what wins you championships. These guys do not just score goals, but they will also bring an edge that is necessary to win series. Mix that in with Shesterkin’s incredible year and they are going to be very dangerous in the playoffs.
- Tampa Bay Lightning: While the Lightning have arguably a few of the best players in the NHL when looking at Hedman, Vasilevsky, and Kucherov; I personally thought the loss of their Cup winning 3rd line inclusive of Goodrow, Coleman, and Gourde would be the undoing of the Bolts. But right when you think they are out of it, BriseBois comes back with his bullshit and brings in Brandon Hagel from Chicago, who many believe to be a younger version of Yanni Gourde on a more team friendly deal. On top of that he snags Paul from the Senators and then Riley Nash. This pretty much just replaced the line that was lost and added what every playoff team needs, toughness. Mix in the heavyweight Maroon and the pest that is Perry, this will be a tough team to knock out of the playoffs. BriseBois is smart and knows the Cup window is now so he will continue to go all in while he has Kuch, Heddy, and Vasi in their prime.
- Minnesota Wild: While goaltending has been an issue for the Wild, I was shocked to see them land Fleury as the Wild were never in the Flower’s rumor mill. I thought he would land back in Pittsburgh or potentially in Edmonton, teams that are much more in the win now mode. Although, with about $12 million in dead cap space in 2022-23 stemming from the Suter and Parise buyouts, now is their shot to make a deep playoff run before they fight cap issues for the next few years. In my opinion, the West is a weaker conference and the Wild are a decent enough team to make a splash and maybe even go to the Western Conference Finals; however, I just can’t envision them getting around the juggernaut that is Colorado. Never say never when you have the reigning Vezina winning goalie and absolute beauty, Marc-Andre Fleury, in between the pipes. I think this was a bit aggressive and the Wild needed to fill other gaps first; however, Billy G seems to know what is up so let him swing for the fences.
- Boston Bruins: Yes, Chucky Mac is a stud on defense; however, the Bruins no longer seem to have that solid defensive core that they were known for with Big Z, Miller, etc… Lindholm is a great defenseman and well worth the price paid; however, making a splash for a team that is realistically going to be lucky to make the second round in the playoffs seems a bit much. In my opinion, they needed someone who they could put on the 2nd line with Hall. The loss of Krejci is showing as Hall does not seem like the type of player who can drive a line on his own. Unless this is a sign that the B’s expect Krejci to come back? Secondary scoring is what kills the B’s and they do not have a consistent go-to line outside of the perfection line. While I like the Lindholm move, I would have thought the B’s should have been more aggressive at the deadline should they want to give the aging Bergy and Marchy one last shot at the Cup.
- Toronto Maple Leafs: Defense has been an issue for the Leafs as long as I can remember so the addition of Giordano from the Kraken will definitely help. However, anyone who has watched the Leafs the last few weeks sees the bigger issue, goaltending. Jack Campbell has had spurts where he looks like a Vezina caliber goaltender and then he goes on streaks where he is struggling to stop a beachball. I am not saying they should have gone after Fleury, but there were other very talented 1A/1B goalies, like Varlamov for NYI, who were on the market that would have been a good backup plan. By not adding a safety net for the net, it can quite possibly lead to another first round boot for the Leafs. Gio and the return of Muzzin should help, the Leafs are going to need their goalie to make some big saves come playoff time. Hopefully for Leafs fans, Campbell can turn it back on soon!
- Vegas Golden Knights: Let me just start this off by saying WTF happened in Vegas? Vegas has been cut throat and worked the trades masterfully in years past. Now it is like they spent too much time on the craps table, blacked out, and completely dropped the ball. How do you not know the player you are trying to deal had a 10 team no-trade list inclusive of the team you were working the deal with? Was someone asleep at the wheel? On top of this, Vegas has over $15 million in cap space sitting on LTIR between Stone and Martinez with only $405,833 in remaining space to work with. This trade failing to go through pretty much guarantees that Stone and Martinez will not be back for the regular season. On top of that, the Knights are still without a solid #2 goalie as Lehner is still out on injury. Leading up to the trade deadline, Vegas had lost 10 of 14, 9 of which happened since Eichel’s Vegas debut.
- Carolina Hurricanes: I am not sure why the Canes went after Max Domi besides the fact that he was on sale. Much like you tell your girlfriend or wife, “just because it is on sale doesn’t mean you need it or are saving money”. While Domi has done well in the past, this year he is sitting at 1 goal in 31 games. Maybe a change of scenery and playing under Rod the Bod will reignite Domi, but it just did not make a lot of sense or seem to address any particular area of weakness for the Canes.
- Arizona Coyotes: Jakob Chychrun and Phil the Thrill Kessel are still Arizona Coyotes despite all of the buzz about these guys leading up to the deadline. Phil might have been a tough move because of the money; however, Chychrun was a hot commodity. Was the asking price too high? For a team entering a massive rebuild, you would have thought they should have tried to move their two most valuable assets for at least prospects and draft picks, something they are lacking; however, the Yotes are now sitting on two guys who will probably not be there once their contracts are over. I am just shocked that they were so cautious come deadline time.
- Edmonton Oilers: What has been killing Edmonton all year? Goaltending has been #1. You can also argue that they lack some depth in scoring as well as defensive support. Ok fine, you can pretty much say the only reason the Oilers sniff the playoffs is because of McJesus and Draisaitl. Either way, they are going to be riding a 40-year-old Mike Smith and a very unreliable Mikko Koskinen in to the playoffs. Again, I would not say they needed to go all in and get Flower as there were some very capable goalies on the market who could have filled the void for them. They did add a bit on defense with Brassard and Kulak; however, I would not say this is enough to make them a contender by any means. As mentioned above, the West is definitely in a down year so the Oilers may get lucky and sneak a first round series win out if they matchup against the Kings; however, I do not see them making any type of memorable run and they are just wasting away another year of McDavid’s prime.
What do you think of my assessment above? Are there any other teams you would include as winners, puzzles, or losers? We love to hear from you our loyal readers.
On another note, who else is excited to see Giroux and Chiarot make their Panthers debut tonight?
As always fans, in Zito we trust!