By Cole Parkinson
This year’s NHL trade deadline is unlike any other before it, and hopefully any after this season.
Usually, the weeks leading up to the deadline and the day itself is filled with trades across the league — but this year due to COVID-19 and the loss of revenue it brought, many teams were quiet.
The Canadian division is pretty much all but set with Toronto, Winnipeg, Edmonton and Montreal.
Calgary has had a terrible year and I predicted them to finish near the top of the division before the season began — but I can’t imagine them getting in with how they’re playing. Their offence, defence and goaltending is nowhere near where people thought it’d be and they’re in for an interesting offseason, if you ask me.
The Canucks have also underwhelmed and now with the majority of the team dealing with COVID-19, their season is over. Coming back after weeks off, and with players getting over the virus, I honestly can’t see any way they play their way into the top four.
Ottawa was predicted to finish dead last and that’s where they’ll likely end. That being said, they don’t look like the doormat they did in the early portion of the season and Sens fans have to be happy with what that group has played like in the latter half of the season.
Since the beginning of April, there have been a few moves made by Canadian teams, so let’s review those with the deadline now past.
Making one trade, the Flames shipped off goaltender David Rittich to Toronto for a 2022 third-round draft pick.
The other saw Sam Bennett traded to Florida for forward Emil Heineman and a 2022 second-round pick.
As stated earlier, the Flames have been disappointing from top to bottom and I expect some bigger names to get traded in the offseason. Whether that’s Sean Monahan, Johnny Gaudreau or even Mark Giordano. It’s tough to make those deals mid-season in a regular-season — but this one presents even more challenges because not a lot of teams are looking to add tons of salary.
Talk about a slow deadline.
The Oilers only made one deal with New Jersey, as they brought in defenceman Dmitry Kulikov for a conditional 2021 fourth-round pick. Kulikov is a stable defender who can slot into the second pairing for the Oilers.
The good news for the Oilers though is they have two of the best players in the league up front in Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl. Darnell Nurse has played like a Norris candidate all season and Tyson Barrie has bounced back from his down season last year. Mike Smith has also turned back the clock in the net, so while Edmonton fans likely wanted to add something, they do have a good roster who will no doubt compete in this year’s playoffs.
The Canadiens made their biggest move at the end of March bringing in veteran centre Eric Staal from Buffalo for a 2021 third-round and 2021 fifth-round picks. Staal was a great pick-up for the Habs and will be a guy who can move up and down the lineup when needed. This isn’t the Eric Staal from 10 years ago, but he’s still more than capable of chipping in offensively.
They also shored up their defence by picking up Jon Merrill from Detroit for forward Hayden Verbeek and a 2021 fifth-round pick. Merrill has five assists in 36 games and while he likely won’t provide much offence for the Habs, it does give them another defenceman capable of playing in the top six. He can give them some penalty killing minutes and be relied upon at the end of the game to hold a lead and given the low cost, it’s hard to be critical of the move.
They also added another defenceman in Erik Gustafsson from Philadelphia for a 2022 seventh-round pick.
The Sens predictably sold off some of their expiring contracts for draft picks.
In their first move, they sent defenceman Mike Reilly to Boston for a 2022 third-round pick. Reilly’s contract expires at the end of the season, so adding a draft pick for next year’s draft was a good move for the Sens.
A short time later, they also sent Braydon Coburn to the New York Islanders for a 2022 seventh-round pick.
The final Sen shipped out was defenceman Erik Gudbranson who heads to Nashville for a seventh-rounder.
While it wasn’t a trade, the Sens also picked up former Canadien defenceman Victor Mete from waivers. Mete has struggled in Montreal — but a fresh start with the young Sens may be exactly what the 22-year-old defender needs.
Toronto Maple Leafs
The Leafs pushed their chips into the middle, as they made a fairly big trade to upgrade their offensive core.
Already sitting atop the North Division, the Leafs bolstered their lineup with the acquisition of Nick Foligno from Columbus for a 2021 first-round pick and a 2022 fourth-round pick. Due to cap constraints, San Jose was also involved in the deal to eat some of Foligno’s cap hit and they sent Stefan Noesen in the deal — which resulted in the Leafs sending the Sharks back a 2021 fourth-rounder.
Was it a higher cost than most would like for Foligno? Yes. But the Leafs have been getting pushed around in the playoffs for the past five years and the addition of Foligno is massive. He was an absolute nightmare to play against for the Leafs last year in the bubble and he’ll bring that for Toronto this year.
A few hours later, they also picked up Rittich from the Flames. Now, this seems to say Freddie Andersen isn’t anywhere close to being ready to retake the net. Jack Campbell has been outstanding — but he too has had injury problems this year, so it makes a lot of sense to bring in a guy who you know can perform in the NHL.
They also picked up Riley Nash from Columbus for a 2022 seventh-rounder. Nash projects as a bottom-six forward who can kill penalties and be relied upon in his own zone — but will provide little offence.
The Leafs traded for defender Ben Hutton from Anaheim for a 2022 fifth-round pick. Hutton will primarily be the seventh defenceman and the Leafs need plenty of depth if they plan to make a run.
The final Leafs move saw a swap of depth players, as Alex Barabanov was shipped to San Jose for forward Antti Suomela.
The Canucks have been in a weird position over the last several weeks, as they haven’t played due to COVID-19 protocols.
Vancouver made a deal that saw forward Adam Gaudette traded to Chicago for forward Matthew Highmore. Both players were born in the same year and it feels like a change of scenery trade for both sides.
The Canucks sent defender Jordie Benn to Winnipeg for a sixth-round pick.
They also added Madison Bowey and a 2021 fifth-round pick from Chicago for a 2021 fourth. With the loss of Benn, Bowey may slide into that spot to give the Canucks some minutes.
Rumours swirled up to the deadline that the Jets would pick up a defenceman. Like mentioned before, Benn was moved over to Winnipeg from Vancouver for a sixth-rounder.
He’s more of a third pair defender and he does add some physical play — but I don’t think he’s someone you want in the top four.
The Jets have seen their defence depth challenged this season and it was almost expected they’d do something to add and I’m sure they wanted to add a bonafide top-four defenceman. Despite no other additions, they do already have the best goalie in the division — which will mask a lot of their defensive shortcomings, but who knows if that will be enough to get out of the north.
Jets’ fans probably aren’t overly happy with how this deadline has ended — but they’re one of the best teams in the division and even without an addition, they could do some damage.