With the trade deadline getting closer by the day, NHL teams are hoping to make one final move to improve their roster for the short term and long term. For teams like Washington, this could be the last time to make sure all their weaknesses are strengthened before getting into the postseason. Some fans will understandably wonder why the team would want to upset a roster that has had such a historical level of success already. Add the fact that Washington has lacked an acquisition that has improved the team dramatically at the trade deadline and you can understand such skepticism.
On the first ever episode of Caps Talk with John Walton, TV color commentator Craig Laughlin reflected on how his time as a player was during the 1983-84 season. Until Ovechkin and Co. arrived, Washington’s teams from the mid 80s were some of the best in franchise history, but Laughlin admitted that he heard then-general manager Dave Poile regret horribly that, even when the team was performing so well in the regular season, he never made a trade at the deadline to make the roster that much better.
It is certainly a catch-22 situation with teams of such caliber. Do you want to upset something that made the team as good as it is now and potentially throw the lines or pairings out of whack or do you add an extra piece that upgrades the talent throughout the roster? With that in mind, let’s take a look at what every Stanley Cup champion did within the last week of their respective season’s trade deadline. Highlighted below are not only the Champions themselves, but also the most recent moves they made before that season’s trade deadline.
2006 Carolina Hurricanes
March 9: Traded Krys Kolanos, Niklas Nordgren and a 2007 second round pick to Pittsburgh for Mark Recchi
It was certainly a strange road for Carolina in their road to the Stanley Cup. Before the trade deadline, the Hurricanes were an outstanding 43-14-5 and GM Jim Rutherford traded with Chicago twice that led to Radim Vrbata going to the Windy City and a young Anton Babchuk coming to Raleigh. Along with that, Doug Weight joined the team at the end of January from St. Louis in exchange for Jesse Boulerice, Mike Zigomanis, Magnus Kahnberg and three draft picks.
What put the finishing touches to Carolina’s playoff roster was the trade for Mark Recchi on deadline day. It was a move that had to be done after Erik Cole suffered a broken vertebrae in his neck from a hit by Brooks Orpik five days earlier. The then 27-year-old 30-goal scorer would not return until Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Final, but until then, Recchi was part of a top line with Eric Staal and Matt Cullen while Weight joined Ray Whitney and Andrew Ladd on the third line.
There is no denying that the most unlikely champion in the last 10 years has been the 2006 Hurricanes. You can pick many reasons for that previous statement; whether it is the lack of playoff appearances in the team history or their place in the standings that season.
You can also add the fact that Carolina, despite advanced stats data being very raw from war-on-ice.com, were below 50 percent all year for any type of shots going in their favor. Their shot generation was solid at 29.0 shots on goal per hour, but their defense was their biggest weakness at 30.2 per hour.
What made them so successful was their total domination in special teams. Despite scoring on only 17.9 percent of their power plays and preventing conceding goals on 81.8 percent of their penalty kills, Carolina’s shot generation and shot suppression were actually above league average. Along with that, the Hurricanes scored the third most shorthanded goals at 17 and had a fourth best penalty differential at plus-87.
While that penalty differential was a minus-7 in the playoffs and rookie Cam Ward was the biggest story of the entire playoffs, Carolina went on to score 31 of their 73 playoff goals while a man-up. At 42.4 percent, that ratio of power-play goals to total goals was well above the league-average during the regular season at 33.5 percent. The reason for such an uptick in production in that department in the postseason were the additions of Recchi and Weight. Overall, both players racked up a combined 10 goals and 32 goals in 25 games with 16 of those points coming from the power play.
2007 Anaheim Ducks
Feb. 27: Traded Mike Wall to Colorado for Brad May
The next Stanley Cup champions went on to have a much more convincing season from start to finish than last year’s brethren. Coming into the Feb. 27 deadline, Anaheim was sitting at 37-17-10 and on pace for 108 points in the standings. Along the way, Anaheim traded for George Parros and Ric Jackman but the two never materialized as contributing parts to the team come playoff time as both would only play a combined 12 of the possible 21 postseason games. While two fourth line forwards came to Anaheim, another left for Tampa Bay as defensemen Shane O’Brien was traded there in exchange for a 2007 first round pick and minor leaguer Gerald Coleman.
Three days later though was when GM Brian Burke made the most profound midseason move by getting the man most famous for this goal in Buffalo more than a decade ago. While the Ducks were a very strong team that season, full of great possession numbers and a roster full of future hall of famers and up-and-coming stars, it was a team whose roster wasn’t fully complete all the time. Despite having 18 forwards wear jerseys throughout the postseason run, May was the most consistent fourth line forward by playing 18 games and a relative puck possession of plus-3.13 percent. Only the scoring line of Corey Perry, Ryan Getzlaf and Dustin Penner performed better in puck possession. Even if you would consider May as just a bit player for his role on the team, he was a stabilizing presence for an unstable roster.
2008 Detroit Red Wings
Feb. 26: Traded a 2008 second round pick and a 2009 fourth round pick to Los Angeles for Brad Stuart
With the exception of trading for minor leaguer Francis Lemieux, Detroit did not alter their team all that much until trading for the then 27-year-old defensemen. After all, why would they? Led by head coach Mike Babcock and having Pavel Datsyuk, Henrik Zetterberg and Johan Franzen at their healthiest and most productive, the Red Wings led the entire NHL with 115 standings points and were the first darlings of the analytics era with a shot attempt percentage of 59.6 percent. No other NHL team has come close to hitting such heights and even a 45-year-old Chris Chelios, lack of playing time and all, still looked like his old self on the ice. Also, despite splitting playing time with an aging Dominik Hasek, Chris Osgood’s quality start percentage of 65 percent was only topped by Tim Thomas and Jean-Sebastien Giguere.
If anything, Stuart came in as more of an addition without a ton of subtraction. Sure, he came to the playoffs carrying an individual on-ice shot attempt percentage of 47 percent, but that number changed to 54 percent in the nine regular season games with the Red Wings. Along with that, he led the team at even-strength time on ice amongst the team blueliners and gave more rest to then 34-year-old Brian Rafalski and 37-year-old Nicklas Lidstrom to dominate the opposition once they finally hit the ice. While Stuart wouldn’t be considered the final piece to the puzzle, he did solve a problem that could have arisen if things really went wrong for the best team in the league.
2009 Pittsburgh Penguins
March 4: Traded a 2009 third round pick to the New York Islanders for Bill Guerin, Claimed Craig Adams off of waivers
Despite going through one of the most important coaching changes in recent NHL history, some in the advanced stats community have deemed this Penguins team to be the worst Stanley Cup champions in recent years. However, it should always be taken into account the absolute masterstroke GM Ray Shero did by replacing Michel Therrien with Dan Bylsma and then making all the necessary trades to make the team better for that season.
Under Therrien, the Penguins were not only an abysmal 27-25-5, but they were a ship that lacked confidence on both sides of the rink. During that stretch, they were generating only 46.9 score-adjusted shot attempts per hour while also giving up 55 shot attempts per 60 minutes at even strength. With a team consisting of Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin hitting the peak of their powers, that is flat out inexcusable, and surely enough, a fireable offense.
Under Bylsma, everything changed. The Penguins flipped the script with their possession numbers by racking up 57.1 shot attempts per hour while only giving up 49.4 in the process. Add a 102.7 PDO to that concoction, and you have yourself a 18-3-4 record under the then 38-year-old rookie head coach to finish up the 2008-09 season.
Along with changing coaches, there were plenty of changes to the roster that made Pittsburgh the Stanley Cup champions they became. Before the All-Star break, the Penguins swapped aging third pairing defenseman Darryl Sydor for Philippe Boucher, while also moving backup goaltender Danny Sabourin for Matthew Garon. The two would combine for 10 playoff games, but the trades that occured eight days before the deadline came to an end.
First, the Penguins sent Ryan Whitney to Anaheim in exchange for Chris Kunitz and Eric Tangradi. Next came the additions of Bill Guerin and Craig Adams on deadline day. With those three moves, Pittsburgh received two bonafide top-six players and a fourth line forward that improved the team’s penalty kill during the regular season.
In the playoffs, Adams turned out to be one of Pittsburgh’s weakest players. With 47.3 percent of the on-ice shot attempts in his favor, only Pascal Dupuis and Petr Sykora were worse in that category. Along with that, Adams was on the ice for the most shot attempts given up while on the penalty kill amongst forwards with two minutes of playing time with 114.5 per 60 minutes. On the other hand, Kunitz and Guerin were major contributors in the playoffs by mainly partnering with Sidney Crosby on the top line and finishing fifth and third in the team in postseason scoring respectively. Along with that, Kunitz led all Penguins forwards with over two minutes of time on ice per game with the most on-ice shot attempts for on the power play at 112.6 per 60 minutes.
2010 Chicago Blackhawks
March 3: Traded future considerations to Anaheim for Nick Boynton
Of all the Stanley Cup champions that upgraded the least at the trade deadline, it was the 2010 Chicago Blackhawks. Like the 2008 Red Wings, Chicago was led by a generational head coach, had a core that was hitting the peak of their powers and had the best puck-possession numbers by a comfortable margin.
If anything, general manager Stan Bowman was trying to see if he could make any upgrades to beat their long-hated rivals Detroit, who defeated them in that year’s Winter Classic and in the final game of the regular season. In doing so, Bowman traded for nothing to get Nick Boynton, who was sent down to the minors. If anything, Boynton was seen as a reclamation project in hopes of being an upgrade to any of the depth defensemen, like Brent Sopel. That turned out not to be the case as Boynton went on to only play three postseason games with less than nine minutes of ice time each. Next year would be the defensemen’s final season in the NHL as he was traded to Philadelphia mid-season.
While another trade was made by Bowman that did not make short-term gains, it certainly was one that affected both teams in the long term. That would be the acquisition of Kim Johnson and Nick Leddy in exchange for Cam Barker. Barker would only play 96 more NHL games before moving to the KHL while Leddy won two Stanley Cups for the Blackhawks before becoming one of the most important defensemen for the New York Islanders.
2011 Boston Bruins
Feb. 28: Traded Jeff Penner and Mikko Lehtonen to Minnesota for Anton Khudobin
For the sake of keeping this post consistent, this trade was the one the Bruins made at the deadline and while Khudobin went on to play backup goaltender in future seasons, his impact was not felt in 2011.
Instead, Boston made their moves two weeks beforehand. Boston was in desperate need of adding talent at forward after realizing that Marc Savard would not only miss the rest of the season to a concussion, but he would never play an NHL game ever again. Along with that, Blake Wheeler was struggling to find any forwards to be a perfect compliment to him in the Bruins’ lineup.
With that in mind, Chris Kelly came in from Ottawa in exchange for a second round pick. Next, Tomas Kaberle was brought in from Toronto in exchange for Joe Colborne and a first and second round pick. Finally, Wheeler was traded to then-Atlanta along with Mark Stuart in exchange for Rich Peverley.
Even though they were poor in puck possession, Kelly and Peverley formed a high-scoring third line with Michael Ryder as each racked up 13, 12 and 17 points respectively in 25 postseason games. For Kaberle, he was able to gel nicely with Adam McQuaid as the team’s bottom defense pair and was able to generate 11 assists and possitive puck possession throughout the playoffs.
2012 Los Angeles Kings
Feb. 27: Traded Jack Johnson and a 2013 first round pick to Columbus for Jeff Carter
You would think that general manager Dean Lombardi did enough to get his team over the hump and put an end to 44 Cup-less years in Los Angeles when he traded for Mike Richards before the season began. Unfortunately, that never was the case as the team started 13-12-4 and, despite having a solid 52.6% puck possession, Terry Murray was let go as head coach. Eventually, Daryl Sutter was brought in and had Los Angeles at 27-22-12 coming into the trade deadline. Despite improving to the elite puck-possession squad that they were that season, the Kings still were not getting the bounces they needed to become an elite scoring team.
Fortunately, Jeff Carter’s situation in Columbus became unattainable and Lombardi was able to trade one of their most dependable defensemen in Jack Johnson and a first round pick for him. As a result, Los Angeles went 13-5-3 to clinch one of the final playoff spots in the Western Conference. With that, Carter partnered with former Flyers teammate Mike Richards and Dustin Penner to form Los Angeles’ second line. Carter tallied nine points in 16 regular season games and scored 13 points in 20 playoff games. The now 31-year old is still with the Kings organization and is hoping to collect his third Stanley Cup ring this season.
2013 Chicago Blackhawks
April 3: Traded 2013 fourth round pick to San Jose for Michal Handzus
In a lockout-shortened season, the amount of evidence needed to see what a team’s weaknesses are were quite slim. However, that didn’t stop Chicago from adding a fourth line forward in Michal Handzus. Despite being 35-years old and being a consistently bad puck-possession forward at even strength, Handzus was known for logging a ton of minutes on the penalty kill.
He didn’t really do that for the Blackhawks as Jonathan Toews, Marian Hossa, Marcus Kruger and Michael Frolik received more playing time shorthanded in the postseason. However, he did finish seventh on the team in postseason scoring with three goals and 11 points, including one shorthanded goal.
2014 Los Angeles Kings
March 5: Traded Matt Frattin, 2015 second round pick and 2014 third round pick to Columbus for Marian Gaborik; Traded Hudson Fasching and Nic Deslauriers to Buffalo for Brayden McNabb, Jonathan Parker, 2014 second round pick and 2015 second round pick
While 2011-12 was a nail-biting regular season, followed by a smooth sailing playoff run, 2013-14 was the complete opposite for the Los Angeles Kings. While 2013-14 had the Kings consistently be one of the best puck-possession teams in the NHL, they did so with consistency at head coach this time around. If anything, minor tweaks were needed to make sure the Kings can overcome the defending champion Blackhawks.
During the regular season, Los Angeles traded away Ben Scrivens and Dan Carcillo for draft picks after seeing that what they had in house were better and cheaper replacements. However, their offense began to dry up like it did in 2011-12. To resolve that, they gambled on a former superstar in Marian Gaborik as injuries were removing the prime years of his career. Gaborik returned the favor in the biggest way possible.
Not only did he stay healthy, but the then 32-year old scored a team-leading 14 goals in the postseason. Gaborik wouldn’t have done it without the help of Anze Kopitar as both complimented each other well on the team’s top forward line. After winning the Stanley Cup, Gaborik re-signed with the Kings on a seven-year contract and, although really showing signs of aging, is still a mainstay for the team.
2015 Chicago Blackhawks
March 2: Traded Ben Smith and a 2017 conditional seventh round pick to San Jose for Andrew Desjardins
In comparison to their other recent championships, Chicago’s 2015 was not an easy one. While the team did ease into the playoffs, bad shooting performances were preventing the Blackhawks to fulfill their full potential. As a result, draft picks were traded away in order to pick up Kimmo Timonen and Antoine Vermette.
While Timonen’s resume has been amongst the better ones of his era, his recovery from a blood clot proved to be too much as he looked rusty throughout his entire time in Chicago. For Vermette, he was predictably not as effective as big-name trade targets analysts would like to see, but he was on the same line as then-rookie Teuvo Teravainen.
The last move Chicago made for their playoff push was trading fourth line forward Ben Smith for another one in Andrew Desjardins. While it doesn’t seem like a massive upgrade, Desjardins did apply better chemistry than Ben Smith on Chicago’s fourth line. By the time the playoffs came around, Joel Quenneville usually used that line as the best shutdown line while the top nine were there to generate offense and score goals.
While Vermette was not the most effective impact on a Stanley Cup contender, his presence alone pushed Andrew Shaw from receiving top-six minutes in the playoffs in 2014 to being a fourth line forward this season. It led to Patrick Kane being with more natural offensive players like Brad Richards and Kris Versteeg and it led to a much more talented roster all around.
So as you saw from all these trades, only a few of them became the high-impact moves that guided teams to a Stanley Cup title. This might be more of starting a narrative more than anything else as we don’t know how the rest of the NHL performed after acquiring players at the deadline as buyers or sellers. Still, only one team can win it every year and for these champions, they mostly used the core of their roster that was already there to win the Stanley Cup.
With that being said, every team mentioned made at least one move a week before their respective trade deadlines. So the urgency of needing to make a move is there, but is it because everyone else is doing it? If one team has won a Stanley Cup without making any moves before the deadline, they would certainly be the first in a long while.
Ben covers the Washington Capitals at the hockey writers. He has been blogging about the NHL since March 2013. Follow him @DCSportsDork