The biggest deal to go down during Monday’s NHL Trade Deadline was probably the Mark Stone trade that sent the two-way forward to the Vegas Golden Knights for defenseman Erik Brannstrom, forward Oscar Lindberg and a 2020 second-round draft selection.
But, before that trade finally happened, a whole lot more took place than most fans watching the deadline day coverage probably realize. While we may never have the whole story and could be missing pieces here and there, the overall storyline of how this deal, the other teams involved and how it almost didn’t happen is coming together.
Stone Decided Not to Re-Sign in Ottawa
Down to the wire the Senators were trying to re-sign Stone to a new contract. Ultimately, he chose not to stick around. Wanting to test free agency, ready to see what else was out there, seeing the team’s best players traded just days prior, and believing he deserved a better chance to win, a number of factors drew Stone away from the Senators organization.
Once the Senators were advised of that decision, he was made available on the trade market.
The Demand for Stone Was Incredible
There were a number of teams — rumored to be as many as eight — talking with the Ottawa Senators about the price of acquiring Stone. Among them were the Winnipeg Jets, Calgary Flames, Nashville Predators, New York Islanders, Florida Panthers, Columbus Blue Jackets and Vegas Golden Knights (the eventual winner).
On Sunday evening, the Calgary Flames withdrew from the sweepstakes because the ask was simply too high and the competition too great. Any deal that was going to happen between the Flames and Senators had to include either Jusso Välimäki or Rasmus Andersson going the other way but the Flames had no indication that Stone was going to re-sign in Calgary and they had no desire to move Välimäki. By Monday morning, the Flames were publicly out of the race.
GM of the Florida Panthers, Dale Tallon, admitted he had submitted what he believed was a strong offer but that Stone was not going to offer to extend at this time if Florida had acquired him. In the end, that was the deal breaker and while Florida remained willing to deal if Ottawa came back to them, the Senators never did.
George Richards of The Athletic wrote an article:
The blockbuster deal some in the front office and ownership had whispered about last week never materialized. ‘We made a good offer,” Tallon lamented, “just not good enough I guess.’
source – ‘Dale Tallon takes a big swing at the deadline, will try again this summer’ – George Richards – The Athletic – 02/25/2019
For most of Monday morning, one of the teams really interested remained the Winnipeg Jets, but for the Jets (including everyone else) the ask for Stone was extremely high. So high, the Jets grew tired of waiting and went with their backup plan — Kevin Hayes.
Bob McKenzie had a Tuesday morning radio hit on Vancouver’s TSN 1040 and said, …”things took a turn for the worse for Ottawa and a turn for the better for Vegas when Winnipeg just decided, ‘You know what? It’s going to be too rich for our blood. We’d rather do Kevin Hayes and a whole bunch of depth deals.”
At this point, the landscape for a Stone trade started to shift.
Columbus had no more room to add Stone, simply because they’d gone all in on Matt Duchene, Ryan Dzingel, Adam McQuaid and at that point, Ottawa was down to three teams: the Predators, the Islanders, and the Golden Knights.
The Final Negotiations Between Vegas and Ottawa
Thinking that defensive prospect Brannstrom was a flashy enough player to help sell tickets in Ottawa, the Senators eventually chose the offer presented by Vegas. Still, the Stone to Vegas deal wasn’t a slam dunk.
Pierre LeBrun writes:
According to sources familiar with how it all went down on Monday, the Golden Knights and Senators agreed to the trade parameters around 2:15 p.m. ET, or about 45 minutes prior to the deadline. Except the Knights weren’t going to sign off on the trade unless they had an agreement in principle on an extension with Stone… Around 2:20 p.m. ET, Vegas made an offer which was rejected by Newport but the agency made a counter-offer while both sides remained on the phone hashing it all out in real time.
source – ‘LeBrun: Behind the scenes of the Mark Stone trade and why the Preds had the best deadline day’ – The Athletic – Pierre LeBruin – 02/26/2019
While the Golden Knights were on the phone trying to work out an extension for the forward, Sens GM Pierre Dorion was growing extremely nervous and hounding the Golden Knights making sure the deal was close to being finalized as the clock ticked down on deadline day. If things didn’t get done, as LeBrun describes it, Dorion needed to move onto “Plan B.”
The other option for Ottawa was rumored to be either Nashville or the New York Islanders. The Islanders had offered a first-round pick and Anthony Beauvillier and the Sens would have gone that direction had things not worked out with Vegas. The problem was if Vegas took any longer, the Sens risked that deal not being available.
In the end, Vegas got a deal finalized with Stone under the wire and they agreed to make the trade. The Senators had no time to renegotiate the return with a now-signed Stone ready to make the move.
Stone is the Player Vegas Always Wanted
Far back to when rumors swirled that Vegas had interest in Erik Karlsson (before he was traded to San Jose), the Golden Knights were keeping tabs on what was going on in Ottawa. LeBrun reports assistant GM Kelly McCrimmon and Stone had a connection from junior hockey (notice in the video below, it is McCrimmon who greets Stone at the airport) and McCrimmon had always wanted Stone. Vegas actually tried to acquire Stone last summer.
Picking up your friend at the airport: 😕🙄
Picking up Mark Stone from the airport on trade deadline day: 😄🤩🎉🥳 pic.twitter.com/stfIaqLA5K
— Vegas Golden Knights (@GoldenKnights) February 26, 2019
Had the team not acquired him now, it was a very good bet the Golden Knights and Stone would have hooked up during free agency. It was part of the reason the offer in trade was lower than most expected. In the end, Vegas didn’t want to run the risk of a team like the Islanders or Predators having Stone in their system, him liking the environment and then having the ability to get the extra year on a contract extension.
Vegas bit the bullet and pulled the trigger now.
From the details being released about how everything went down with Stone going to Vegas, it’s no wonder the trade took so long to happen. It’s also not surprising Ottawa ended up taking less than they might have liked and the Golden Knights got what most see as an incredible deal for a versatile and well-rounded hockey player.