Evaluating the 2021 Trade Deadline Moves

The NHL Trade Deadline has officially passed, and there was still a lot of action despite COVID-19, the financial climate, and the landscape of the trade market. It was an eventful day that featured more activity than some thought, given the situation. There were several big-name trades and an array of depth moves. It will be very interesting to see how many of these moves make a significant impact on the remainder of the season for teams.

Now that the focus has shifted for teams to make a big playoff push, let’s see which clubs won each deal that occurred at the trade deadline this season. All trades were evaluated besides minor moves like the swap of Christian Wolanin and Michael Amadio between the Kings and Senators. Likewise, only the two major teams in the three-team trades were evaluated. The winner of each trade is based purely on the value of the trade.

March 26: Canadiens Acquire Staal From Sabres

The Montreal Canadiens acquired center Eric Staal from the Buffalo Sabres in exchange for third-round and fifth-round picks in the 2021 NHL Draft. While Staal had struggled with the Sabres since being traded from the Minnesota Wild, it was a decent depth acquisition because of his Stanley Cup-winning pedigree, presence in the locker room, and playoff experience.

Staal, 36, had 10 points in 32 games at the time of the deal. He had a shot share of 51.87 percent and an expected goal share of 49.85 percent with the Sabres at 5-on-5 this season. Considering he was on the worst team in the league, those aren’t the worst numbers. However, he has struggled so far in the small sample size with the Canadiens.

This wasn’t necessarily a bad deal by Montreal general manager Marc Bergevin, as Staal brings a lot of intangibles and has the potential to be an impact player in the playoffs for the team. With that said, his regression this season is a concern and would need improvement in order for this deal to be worth it. The Sabres bringing in two draft picks for the 2021 NHL Entry Draft was a respectable return for a struggling veteran. This was a pretty fair trade for both teams, even though it was a little bit of an overpay.

Winner: Eric Staal

March 27: Kings Acquire Lemieux From Rangers

The Los Angeles Kings acquired Brendan Lemieux from the New York Rangers for a fourth-round pick in the 2021 NHL Draft. The 25-year-old became expendable with the depth and youth the Rangers hold, especially with the addition of Vitali Kravtsov. The Kings get a physical fourth-liner who isn’t afraid to throw his body around or fight, which is an asset.

Brendan Lemieux New York Rangers
Brendan Lemieux, former New York Ranger (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

His 7 points in 31 games before the deal didn’t exactly guarantee his stay past the deadline either. There is no doubt that he will be a good addition to the Kings with his physical presence. He isn’t going to be anything more than a bottom-six forward who will provide physicality and depth scoring. Both his shot share and expected goal share were near the bottom on the Rangers too.

This one is a tough one in terms of who won the trade. The forward has the potential to be a solid depth player, which can’t go unnoticed, but his trade value isn’t exactly very high right now, which is why a fourth-round pick in 2021 is a fine return. His lack of production of any sort aside from his physicality tilts this in the Rangers’ favor as his future value isn’t certain.

Winner: Rangers

April 2: Blackhawks Acquire Hinostroza From Panthers

The Chicago Blackhawks acquired forward Vinnie Hinostroza from the Florida Panthers in exchange for forward Brad Morrison. This was purely a move for the Panthers to move Hinostroza’s contract to give them more flexibility with the trade deadline approaching. He went pointless in seven games and never fit in with his new team, which led to the departure via trade.

Hinostroza, 27, was reunited with the Blackhawks, as that is where his career began. He had a strong 2018-19 campaign when he registered 16 goals, 23 assists, and 39 points with the Arizona Coyotes. He has the potential to be a solid third-line winger, and this provided the team with more depth. It was an impressive job by Chicago GM Stan Bowman to acquire the veteran for practically nothing and then move Mattias Janmark for several picks.

This was a real good move for the Blackhawks. It wouldn’t be fair to criticize the Panthers’ return, given the forward’s value was at an all-time low, and there was the desire to move him anyways as he wasn’t a good fit. Regardless of the situation, this is a clear-cut win for the Blackhawks and could potentially be a steal if they can restore his middle-six potential.

Winner: Blackhawks

April 7: Islanders Acquire Palmieri, Zajac From Devils

The New York Islanders had their eyes set on one of the big fish at the trade deadline. They opted to get Kyle Palmieri over Taylor Hall and also a depth player in Travis Zajac from the New Jersey Devils. The return was a hefty price with a first-round pick in 2021, a fourth-round pick in 2022, and a pair of AHLers in AJ Greer and Mason Jobst. The former has had time in the NHL, but he hasn’t established himself as a full-time NHLer. It was an interesting trade due to the fact that the Islanders are more than likely not a serious Stanley Cup contender.

New Jersey Devils Kyle Palmieri
Kyle Palmieri, former New Jersey Devil (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)

Palmieri is a top-six forward, but he has been very poor this season. The question that remains is if he can benefit from being moved and reclaim his impact. While he has certainly has struggled this season, it doesn’t take away from the fact that he could be a real good addition for the Islanders if he can get his game back. He had 17 points in 34 games — 0.5 points per game — at the time of the trade. His struggles have been all over the field; he has been below-average at 5-on-5 and abysmal on the power play, too, despite being a power-play specialist. Zajac, 35, is nothing more than a depth piece for the Islanders. He had 18 points in 33 games at the time of the trade, but his underlying numbers have been average at best.

This trade was pretty close in value, given how both players have struggled this season. It was huge for the Devils to get a first-round pick as part of the return. There’s an argument they should have got a little more, while there’s an argument they got more than they should. This one tilts in the Devils’ favor.

Winner: Devils

April 8: Blackhawks Acquire Connolly, Borgstrom, Stillman & A Seventh-Round Pick From Panthers

The Blackhawks acquired Brett Connolly, a pair of prospects — Henrik Borgstrom and Riley Stillman — and a late-round pick in 2021 for Lucas Carlsson and Lucas Wallmark. Similar to Hinostroza, Connolly just didn’t work out for the Panthers, which led to his inevitable departure that the Panthers orchestrated as a salary cap dump, which is likely why they surrendered a package that included Borgstrom.

Connolly is a middle-six forward who has seen his production fall since his career year in the 2018-19 season with the Washington Capital, and that has led him to the taxi squad. Borgstrom is the centerpiece of the return and could become a strong complementary player.

Scott Wheeler of The Athletic is not convinced Stillman will be anything more than a third-pairing defenseman, which was why he had ranked him the Panthers’ 15th best prospect (‘Wheeler’s 2021 NHL prospect pool rankings’, the Athletic, 02/02/21). Stillman was an added piece — just like the pick — and won’t be anything noteworthy if he becomes an NHLer. It is a reunion for Wallmark and the Panthers. He hasn’t been a good fit for the Blackhawks and has 3 points in 16 games.

Brett Connolly Florida Panthers
Brett Connolly, former Florida Panther (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

This trade certainly is closer than it might appear. It was a trade that included both Connolly and Wallmark, who could benefit from a different team. This trade will heavily depend on what Borgstrom is in the future, but as of now, this trade leans in the Blackhawks’ favor.

Winner: Blackhawks

April 9: Maple Leafs Acquire Nash From Blue Jackets

The Toronto Maple Leafs acquired Riley Nash for a conditional seventh-round pick that turns into a sixth-round pick if Nash plays in a quarter of their playoff games. He is currently on injured reserve and isn’t expected back until the playoffs. This is the third straight season that Nash has struggled offensively after notching 15 goals and 41 points in the 2017-18 campaign.

With this said, he is one of the best defensive forwards in the NHL, which makes this deal truly a steal. His 3.4 defensive goals above replacement (GAR) — a comprehensive metric that takes all defensive contributions into account — is tied for 3rd-best this season among all forwards (via Evolving-Hockey). It is too bad his truly dominant regular season in the defensive facet of the game — the second straight season posting top-five defensive numbers — was cut short.

This was a good depth acquisition, and it only took a late-round draft pick in 2022. Depth is very important in the playoffs, which is evident from last season’s depth acquisitions in Barclay Goodrow and Blake Coleman for the Tampa Bay Lightning. This is a clear winner for the Leafs despite the Columbus Blue Jackets just wanting a pick, which is understandable because they might not make the playoffs.

Winner: Maple Leafs

April 9: Avalanche Acquire Nemeth From Red Wings

The Colorado Avalanche acquired Patrik Nemeth from the Detroit Red Wings for a fourth-round pick in 2022. This was a solid deal by Joe Sakic, who continues to cement himself as one of the best GMs in the league.

Nemeth is another depth piece to an already stacked team. His 6.4 even-strength defensive GAR ranked 5th among all defensemen last season, and he hasn’t been as defensively sound this season but still has been respectable in this regard.

This was a phenomenal addition for the Avalanche and provides them more depth on the back end for the postseason. They clearly win the trade in this one.

Winner: Avalanche

April 10: Avalanche Acquire Dubnyk From Sharks

The Avalanche acquired Devan Dubnyk from the San Jose Sharks in exchange for Greg Pateryn and a fifth-round pick in the 2021 NHL Entry Draft. There were several goaltenders the Avalanche could have acquired at the trade deadline, and they chose the worst one available. His declining play forced the Wild to move the former Vezina finalist and three-time all-star, and they even retained salary to do so.

Minnesota Wild's Devan Dubnyk
Devan Dubnyk, former Minnesota Wild goalie (AP Photo/Stacy Bengs)

Dubnyk, 34, has allowed 8.47 more goals than expected based on the quality of the shots he has faced this season (via Evolving-Hockey). This is one of the worst marks in the league, so the fact that the Sharks were able to get any return for one of the worst goaltenders in the NHL is very respectable.

Winner: Sharks

April 10: Panthers Acquire Montour From Sabres

The Panthers acquired Brandon Montour from the Sabres for a third-round pick in the 2021 NHL Draft. Montour’s play has declined over the past three seasons ever since he was traded to the Sabres. He has definitely not been a good fit with them, which has led to his departure.

His shot share of 46.17 percent and expected goal share of 44.67 percent is well below-average. It isn’t just his underlying numbers, either; his point production has diminished too. After two straight seasons of producing at a nearly 35-point pace, he averaged roughly 0.30 points per game with the Sabres. Furthermore, his value has continued to fall at a considerable rate, as he has -1.3 wins above replacement (WAR) — a comprehensive metric that takes all contributions into a single number — over the past three seasons, meaning he has been a replacement-level player.

This is another reclamation project for the Panthers, who will need to help restore Montour’s career.

Winner: Sabres

April 10: Lightning Acquire Savard From Blue Jackets

The Tampa Bay Lightning acquired David Savard from the Blue Jackets for a first-round pick in 2021 and a third-round pick in the 2022 NHL Draft. It was a hefty price for a shutdown defender who is abysmal offensively and among the league’s worst. A very questionable deal by the Lightning regardless of the fact they are a contender and don’t really need the pick. In fact, they could have gotten comparable defensive value from Jon Merill that would have been a significantly lower asking price.

David Savard, Columbus Blue Jackets
David Savard 2020-21 RAPM chart (Evolving-Hockey)

While he provides defensive value, it isn’t nearly enough to outweigh his negative impact offensively. This was by far the worst deal of the trade deadline, as there were an array of defensemen on the market that would have provided more value for the Lightning at a lower cost. According to Evolving-Hockey, Savard has provided -0.4 wins above replacement, meaning he theoretically has provided negative value this season, making this a questionable trade, even with a first-round pick removed from the equation.

It is important to note that he is struggling this season, and perhaps a change of scenery could benefit him. The Lightning better hope he can reclaim his game ahead of the playoffs. With this said, it was a fleece by the Blue Jackets.

Winner: Blue Jackets

April 11: Devils Acquire Siegenthaler From Capitals

The Devils acquired Jonas Siegenthaler from the Capitals for a conditional third-round pick as he fell victim to the Capitals’ defensive depth. The former second-round pick has 13 points in 97 career games. He had strong defensive results in 2019-20, which should cause optimism moving forward for the Devils.

Winner: Too early to tell

April 11: Canadiens Acquire Merrill From Red Wings

The Canadiens acquired Jonathon Merrill from the Red Wings for a fifth-round pick in 2021 and Hayden Verbeek. Merrill’s 4.4 even-strength defensive GAR is the fifth-best among all NHL defensemen this season. His defensive value is evident, and it was a strong addition to their defensive corps.

The Canadiens made a huge mistake putting Mete on waivers and lost him to the Ottawa Senators as a result. Putting that aside, it was a good acquisition, and most importantly, it was cheap.

Winner: Canadiens

April 11: Maple Leafs Acquire Foligno from Blue Jackets, Stefan Noesen From Sharks

The Maple Leafs acquired Nick Foligno from the Blue Jackets for a first-round pick in 2021 and a fourth-round pick in the 2022 NHL Draft. They also acquired Stefan Noesen from the Sharks for a fourth-round pick in the 2021 NHL Draft. It was definitely shocking to see they were able to garner a first-round pick for the veteran center.

The 33-year-old has 16 points in 42 games. He had a shot share of 46.17 percent and an expected goal share of 45.16 percent. The biggest change of his game is his defensive numbers, which have plummeted after a strong defensive season just a year ago. The biggest question is whether he can reclaim his reputation as a defensive stalwart.

Nick Foligno Columbus Blue Jackets
Nick Foligno, former Columbus Blue Jacket (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

There is no doubt that he is a good fit with the Leafs, but it was an overpay. The Blue Jackets should not have gotten a first-round pick for a player that is struggling and possibly even starting to see some regression.

Winner: Blue Jackets

April 11: Maple Leafs Acquire Rittich From Flames

The Maple Leafs acquired David Rittich from the Calgary Flames for a third-round pick in the 2022 NHL Draft. The 28-year-old goaltender has allowed 20.36 more goals than expected so far in his career based on the quality of the shots he has faced, which is not very good.

It is just another depth acquisition by the Leafs as Andersen is on long-term injured reserve. It was a pretty fair trade for both teams, but the edge goes to the Leafs, given Rittich has shown flashes of being a legitimate NHL starter.

Winner: Maple Leafs

April 11: Bruins Acquire Reilly From Senators

The Boston Bruins acquired Mike Reilly from the Ottawa Senators for a third-round pick in the 2022 NHL Draft. The 27-year-old has a career-high 19 points this season and has been a reliable defenseman on the back end. He had a shot share of 52.19 percent and an expected goal share of 51.33 percent, which are respectable.

While the Senators got fair value for Reilly, this one goes to the Bruins because Reilly is a strong two-way defenseman who has excelled with the Senators this season despite being on one of the worst teams in the league. He will fit very nicely with the Bruins.

Winner: Bruins

April 11: Islanders Acquire Coburn From Senators

The Islanders acquired Braydon Coburn from the Senators for a seventh-round pick in the 2022 NHL Draft. This was purely a depth move for the Islanders.

Coburn wasn’t worth much value, but the Islanders getting him basically for free was a nice touch. Playoff teams can never have enough depth, which makes this an important signing to strengthen their defensive depth.

Winner: New York Islanders

April 12: Penguins Acquire Carter From Kings

The Pittsburgh Penguins acquired Jeff Carter from the Kings for two conditional picks. One is a third-round pick in the 2022 NHL Draft, which becomes a second if the Penguins reach the Stanley Cup Final and Carter plays at least 50 percent of the games. The other one is a fourth-round pick in the 2023 NHL Draft, which becomes a third if Carter plays a minimum of 50 games next season.

Of course, Carter brings a lot of intangibles like Eric Staal. He has 19 points in 40 games this season, which is respectable. His underlying numbers have really fallen over the past three seasons, though, which is concerning.

This trade was really interesting, as Carter still has one year remaining on his contract. It doesn’t really make sense to give up two picks for a veteran that has declined over the past three seasons. This one goes to the Kings, who were able to get a legitimate return for an aging veteran.

Winner: Kings

April 12: Bruins Acquire Hall, Lazar From Sabres

The Bruins acquired Taylor Hall and Curtis Lazar from the Sabres for Anders Bjork and a second-round pick in the 2021 NHL Draft. The Bruins were able to get one of the big fish, and it is an immediate lift on their roster.

Hall was a big get, and rightfully so, despite many saying he is overrated. While he is struggling in terms of goal scoring, which has been the result of horrible finishing, his elite game is defined by his upper-echelon playmaking and transition game. This is a good fit for both teams and could be the difference-maker in a deep run for the Bruins.

He leads the league in high-danger passes per hour. Likewise, he is top five in zone entries and scoring chance assists per hour (via Corey Sznajder). Furthermore, he is 13th in shot assists per hour among all forwards.

Taylor Hall Buffalo Sabres
Taylor Hall, former Buffalo Sabres (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

The Sabres can’t necessarily be blamed for the bad return because teams just weren’t willing to pay the premium for Hall compared to other players like Savard and Foligno. It was an underwhelming return, to say the least, and this might be one of the biggest steals of the trade deadline.

Winner: Bruins

April 12: Blackhawks Acquire Gaudette From Canucks

The Blackhawks acquired Adam Gaudette from the Vancouver Canucks for Matthew Highmore. Neither forward has been producing this season for their team, and both of them have poor underlying numbers.

The obvious winner here is the Blackhawks because of the higher offensive upside. Gaudette had 12 goals, 21 assists, and 33 points last season and displayed glimpses of his upside.

Winner: Blackhawks

April 12: Avalanche Acquire Soderberg From Blackhawks

The Avalanche acquired Carl Soderberg from the Blackhawks for Josh Dickinson and rights to Ryder Rolston. It is unlikely either player coming to the Blackhawks will do anything. It is a reunion for the Avalanche and Soderberg, who has 15 points in 34 games.

The Blackhawks would have been better off trying to get a mid-round pick. This was a strong depth acquisition for the Avalanche that could help strengthen their bottom-six and is a big win for them.

Winner: Avalanche

April 12: Golden Knights Acquire Janmark From Blackhawks

The Vegas Golden Knights acquired Mattias Janmark from the Blackhawks for a second-round pick in 2021 and a third-round pick in the 2022 NHL Draft. The Golden Knights are hoping that he can help complete their third-line. It is additional depth, which is a plus.

I highlighted Janmark in my midseason worst free-agent signings. He has been getting points but has been a negative impact at 5-on-5, with all of his value coming on the power play.

The Blackhawks’ ability to get two draft picks — one in the second and one in the third — is pretty impressive for a player that has been underwhelming this season.

Winner: Blackhawks

April 12: Ducks Acquire Fleury From Hurricanes

The Anaheim Ducks acquired Haydn Fleury from the Carolina Hurricanes for Jani Hakanpaa and a sixth-round pick in the 2022 NHL Draft. This trade was very interesting as both defensemen fell out of favor for their team, and the draft pick was just an added bonus for the Ducks. This one goes to the Ducks because Fleury has a higher upside, which he has shown flashes of from time to time.

Winner: Ducks

April 12: Capitals Acquire Mantha From Red Wings

The Capitals acquired Anthony Mantha from the Red Wings for Jakub Vrana, Richard Panik, a first-round pick in 2021 and a second-round pick in the 2022 NHL Draft.

Mantha is a strong two-way, top-six forward that excels on both ends of the ice. He has 21 points in 42 games while averaging over 18 minutes a game. Vrana has 11 goals, 14 assists, and 25 points while averaging nearly 14 minutes a game. Vrana scored 24 goals in 2018-19 and followed that up with 25 goals in 2019-20. He is nearly two years younger than Mantha and has more offensive upside too.

Jakub Vrana Washington Capitals
Jakub Vrana, former Washington Capital (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

This trade was a steal for the Red Wings. It appears the Capitals added an additional pick, possibly because they viewed the trade as also unloading Panik. The difference between Mantha and Vrana certainly isn’t worth a first-round pick, which makes this the biggest steal of the day.

Winner: Red Wings

April 12: Canucks Acquire Bowey From Blackhawks

The Canucks acquired Madison Bowey and a fifth-round pick for a fourth-round pick in the 2021 NHL Draft. It was a minor trade, and the edge is small for the Canucks because Bowey has shown potential to be a legitimate NHL defenseman.

Winner: Canucks

April 12: Panthers Acquire Bennett From Flames

The Panthers acquired Sam Bennett and a sixth-round pick in the 2022 NHL Draft from the Flames for a second-round pick in the 2022 NHL Draft and prospect Emil Heineman. Bennett has fallen out of favor with the Flames and has just 24 points in the past two seasons. This appears like a reclamation project more than anything. While he could work out just fine with the Panthers, it was definitely an overpay, which gives the edge to the Flames.

Winner: Flames

April 12: Canadiens Acquire Gustafsson From Flyers

The Canadiens acquired Erik Gustafsson from the Philadelphia Flyers for a seventh-round pick in the 2022 NHL Draft. This was a really good depth move for the Canadiens, especially for such a low cost. He became expendable because he hasn’t been a good fit for the Flyers.

Erik Gustafsson Philadelphia Flyers
Erik Gustafsson, former Philadelphia Flyer (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Two seasons ago, Gustafsson registered 17 goals and 60 points. He hasn’t been able to replicate it since then and has 1 goal and 10 points so far this season. This could become a steal if he can reclaim his potential.

Winner: Canadiens

April 12: Predators Acquire Gudbranson From Senators

The Nashville Predators acquired Erik Gudbranson from the Senators for a seventh-round pick in the 2023 NHL Draft. Gudbranson has not been good and has been a defensive liability this season, and his underlying numbers are near the worst in the league. However, a seventh-round pick is insignificant for a depth piece.

Winner: Predators

April 12: Capitals Acquire Raffl From Flyers

The Capitals acquired Michael Raffl from the Flyers for a fifth-round pick in the 2021 NHL Draft. This was another depth move that sent a fourth-liner to the Capitals. He has 8 points in 34 games, and his underlying numbers have been well below average. This is a pretty fair trade, but the edge goes to the Capitals because a late-round pick is insignificant, and the move provides them more depth.

Winner: Capitals

April 12: Maple Leafs Acquire Hutton From Ducks

The Maple Leafs acquired Ben Hutton for a fifth-round pick in the 2022 NHL Draft. This was purely a depth move for the Leafs. Hutton is having one of his worst seasons in his career and has been one of the worst defensemen this season. With that said, he was solid last season and has the tools to be a decent depth defenseman.

Winner: Maple Leafs

April 12: Jets Acquire Benn From Canucks

The Winnipeg Jets acquired Jordie Benn from the Canucks for a sixth-round pick in 2021. They chose to acquire a third-pairing depth defenseman instead of a legitimate top-four defenseman, which is questionable. However, Benn provides them with some much-needed defensive depth.

The Jets acquired a third-pairing defenseman for basically nothing, which is a win for them.

Winner: Jets

(All Data via Evolving-Hockey, Natural Stat Trick & Hockey-Reference)

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