Trade deadline day! The day when futures are squandered, rebuilds torpedoed, and onerous contracts willingly taken on, all in pursuit of that one final piece that may not pay off for months, or years, and probably will never pay off at all.
But perhaps there's no reason to be so negative; look at Marian Gaborik's happy face from last year. So let's break down every single trade made today:
- Tampa Bay Lightning get Braydon Coburn, Boston's 2015 second-round pick, Boston's 2016 second-round pick
- Philadelphia Flyers get Radko Gudas, Tampa Bay's 2015 first-round pick, Tampa Bay's 2015 third-round pick
- Boston Bruins get Brett Connolly
These are two separate trades, but Tampa clearly wouldn't have made one without the other. For the Lightning, the draft picks sent and received more or less even out. In Coburn they land a veteran blueliner who's still in his prime, a top-four guy who'll never explode offensively, but in Tampa won't be asked to. He's a good possession guy, under contract through 2016, and the Lightning are clearly good enough that they can use the deadline to shore up depth for a playoff run this season and next.
The Flyers, who are likely to miss the playoffs and not a serious contender if they sneak in, land a couple of picks, and a hard-hitting, offensively capable defenseman in Gudas. He's out for the season after surgery, but is under contract at an affordable rate next season. He's more than just a throw-in.
Connolly was the sixth-overall draft pick in 2010. He has yet to realize his potential, but he's still just 22 years old. The Bruins believe he can slot in capably now, and be a big part of the team going forward.
- Montreal Canadiens get Jeff Petry
- Edmonton Oilers get Montreal's 2015 second-round pick, Montreal's 2015 fifth-round pick (conditional)
Montreal, currently first in the East, is seeking to shore up the space in front of goalie Carey Price, who's been playing at an all-world clip this season. Petry is a strong, stay-at-home defenseman who will be an unrestricted free agent at season's end; he's a rental, and the Canadiens are clearly going for it. How much they gave up will be determined by how far they advance: that fifth-rounder will become a fourth if they win a playoff series, and a third if they make it as far as the conference finals.
- Montreal Canadiens get Brian Flynn
- Buffalo Sabres get Montreal's 2016 fifth-round pick
Flynn is a defensive-minded, penalty killing center, much more of a depth move for the Habs than the Petry deal was. But every bit counts. Meanwhile, the Sabres get a lotto-ticket pick, and get worse in their quest to tank for one of the two franchise-changing prospects available in this draft. It's a win-win trade.
- St. Louis Blues get Zbynek Michalek, Arizona's 2015 third-round pick (conditional)
- Arizona Coyotes get Maxim Letunov
Michalek was one of the top trade targets, and he's no joke. The 32-year-old has long boasted good possession stats even against high-quality competition, and would easily become a top-four guy for St. Louis. The only question is his health; he's been out two weeks as he recovers from a concussion. He says he's feeling better, but that he hasn't started skating yet. He's also a pending UFA, and Arizona would send a third-rounder if Michalek does not return this year.
The Coyotes are reportedly high on Letunov, a second-round pick in 2014 who's leading the USHL in scoring this season. The forward is a promising scorer, but leaves a lot to be desired defensively. But he's got time: the 19-year-old is probably a year or two away from being NHL ready. Which suits the Coyotes just fine; just like for the Sabres, it's tanking time.
- San Jose Sharks get Ben Smith, Chicago's 2017 seventh-round pick (conditional)
- Chicago Blackhawks get Andrew Desjardins
A swap of fourth-line forwards. Smith's the more talented player, but for Chicago this is all about managing its desperate cap situation. To that end, the Sharks are retaining some of Desjardins's salary.
- Detroit Red Wings get Marek Zidlicky
- New Jersey Devils get Detroit's 2016 third-round pick (conditional)
Everyone knew Detroit wanted a right-handed defenseman.
Everyone (especially the Leafs) was hoping it'd be Dion Phaneuf. [Update: My bad. Phaneuf's a lefty.] But Zidlicky, well past his prime at age 38, fits the bill at a much cheaper price. Between Zidlicky and Erik Cole, acquired from Dallas yesterday, the Red Wings have shored up their depth and secondary scoring without surrendering anyone on the current roster or any first-round picks. (The Devils' new third-round pick will become a second-rounder if Detroit reaches the Cup Finals.)
- New York Islanders get Tyler Kennedy
- San Jose Sharks get New York's 2016 third-round pick (conditional)
Kennedy, a 28-year-old winger, adds some playoff experience to a young Islanders team, and not much else: between injury and healthy scratches, he's appeared in just 25 games for the Sharks. The Isles are hoping he needs a change of scenery.
- Pittsburgh Penguins get Ian Cole
- St. Louis Blues get Robert Bortuzzo, Pittsburgh's 2016 seventh-round pick
A swap of defensemen. Pittsburgh needed this more than St. Louis did, but there are no world-beaters here.
- Colorado Avalanche get Freddie Hamilton
- San Jose Sharks get Karl Stollery
AHL guys. Hamilton's the younger. Sorry for mentioning it at all.
- New York Islanders get Michal Neuvirth
- Buffalo Sabres get Chad Johnson, New York's 2015 third-round pick
Once again, the Sabres' desire to be bad helps everyone get what they want. The Islanders have been riding Jaroslav Halak hard, and now in Neuvirth have a legit backup goalie, maybe even a potential starter if Halak continues to falter like he has in recent weeks. The Islanders look damn good, and now a deep playoff run won't hinge on the health or effectiveness a single netminder. (Fun fact! Halak and Neuvirth were traded for each other at last year's deadline.)
Meanwhile, the Sabres get actively worse in their quest for Connor McDavid or Jack Eichel, and get a third-rounder to boot.
- Vancouver Canucks get Cory Conacher
- New York Islanders get Dustin Jeffrey
Another minor-league trade.
- Minnesota Wild get Jordan Leopold
- Columbus Blue Jackets get Justin Falk, Minnesota's 2015 fifth-round pick
A swap of defensemen, but Leopold should have the bigger impact. He'll competently eat minutes and provide playoff experience for a good-but-young Wild defense. He's a UFA at season's end. But at least daddy's home!
Leopold didn't cost the Wild much. Falk, who's been up and down all season, reportedly asked to be traded.
- Arizona Coyotes get David Leggio
- New York Islanders get Mark Louis
Minor-league trade! One day, perhaps one of these will matter.
- St. Louis Blues get Olli Jokinen
- Toronto Maple Leafs get Joakim Lindstrom, St. Louis's 2016 sixth-round pick (conditional)
Jokinen, who came to Toronto two weeks ago in the Cody Franson deal, never really wanted to be there. Now he's back in the West, and again playoff-bound. He'll be a veteran center on a team with more than enough forwards, but even if he sees a bunch of healthy scratches, he's a competent contingency plan for a team that's counting on a deep run.
Lindstrom is a 31-year-old Swede who has failed to catch on in the NHL. The pick will go as high as the fourth round if the Blues make the Cup Finals and Jokinen plays.
- Montreal Canadiens get Torrey Mitchell
- Buffalo Sabres get Jack Nevins and Montreal's 2015 seventh-round pick
Mitchell served as the Sabres' No. 2 center; he'll have no business sniffing that in Montreal. The 30-year-old is strong and versatile, and projects as a grinder or a depth guy for the Habs. Nevins is a 22-year-old tough-guy forward who might've hit his ceiling in the AHL.
- Pittsburgh Penguins get Ben Lovejoy
- Anaheim Ducks get Simon Despres
Lovejoy returns to the blue line in Pittsburgh, which shipped him to Anaheim two years ago. His stock has dropped significantly with the Ducks, going from a top-pairing guy to an occasional healthy scratch. It's hard to see the Penguins' game here: he was a depth guy in his first go-round, and shouldn't be counted on for much more than that. But Despres was the Pens' first-rounder in 2009, and is still just 23 years old.
- Minnesota Wild get Chris Stewart
- Buffalo Sabres get Minnesota's 2017 second-round pick
The one everyone's been waiting for. Stewart, a pending UFA, is a talented, streaky forward, a big and tough guy who brings a new dimension to a fairly deep group of Wild forwards. He clearly wasn't happy in Buffalo, and has shown he can rain points when he's motivated. But I do wonder where he'll slot in on Minnesota's lines; his centerman has always played a huge role in his production. It's a gamble for the Wild—the Sabres were clearly desperate to move Stewart—but they're currently sitting eighth in the West, and Stewart was one of the last scorers available.
Congratulations to the Sabres on a tankjob for the ages.
- Vancouver Canucks get Sven Bärtschi
- Calgary Flames get Vancouver's 2015 second-round pick.
Bärtschi was the 13th overall pick in 2011, and came up with a ton of hype, but hit a wall in 2013, either because he's a painfully one-dimensional player, or because he was misused and buried by Brian Burke. (It can be both.) A fresh start in Vancouver can only be a good thing for him. The Swiss winger is still just 22 years old.
- Boston Bruins get Maxim Talbot
- Colorado Avalanche get Jordan Caron
A classic swap of a depth veteran for a formerly prized prospect who might still have some upside. Boston took Caron 25th overall in 2009, but he's struggled to stay up with the big club. The winger will try his luck in Colorado, which unloads Talbot's slightly excessive contract ($1.75M AAV, signed through 2016).
- Anaheim Ducks get James Wisniewski, Detroit's 2015 third-round pick
- Blue Jackets get Rene Bourque, William Karlsson, Anaheim's 2015 second-round pick
After collecting a group of young defenseman, Wisniewski feels like an appropriate get for the division-leading Ducks. The 31-year-old physical blueliner can QB the power play, moving the puck and taking heavy shots in equal measure. He won't be cheap, though; Wisniewski carries a cap hit of $5.5M, and is signed through 2017.
Though Bourque once had consecutive 50-point seasons, Karlsson is the piece here for Columbus. The 22-year-old rookie center is a speedy, two-way player who may still need a year or two to break through.
- Anaheim Ducks get Korbinian Holzer
- Toronto Maple Leafs get Eric Brewer, Anaheim's 2015 fifth-rounder
Holzer is a physical, bottom-pairing defenseman. He won't get many minutes, but he'll get his chances to rough up playoff opponents. Eric Brewer is a salary dump.
- Anaheim Ducks get Michael Sgarbossa
- Colorado Avalanche get Mat Clark
A swap of underwhelming prospects. Clark, who's gotten out of the AHL for just seven games with the Ducks this season, became expendable with Anaheim's other deals filling out its blue line. Sgarbossa is an undersized forward who got a sniff with the Avs two years ago and hasn't been back since.