NHL Trade Deadline: Winners and losers

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We are trying something a little different with this week’s version of the PHT Power Rankings.

Instead of ranking each team on its current play or spot in the standings, we are looking at their performance in the days and weeks leading up to the NHL trade deadline.

Consider this your winners and losers post because, well, rushing to judgements on trades is one of the most entertaining aspect of trades.

Again, I can not stress enough these power rankings are not a reflection of play on the ice or where they stand based on their performance this season. This is strictly ranking teams based on their roster moves leading up to the NHL trade deadline. 

To the rankings!

The winners

 1. Tampa Bay Lightning — The transformation into the New York Rangers is nearly complete after swinging another massive trade with the blue shirts. They added to an already loaded team by getting Ryan McDonagh and J.T. Miller without having to give up Mikhail Sergachev or Brayden Point. Vladislav Namestnikov is a good player, but what is the gap between him and Miller? Miller has also not spent most of the season riding shotgun next to Nikita Kucherov and Steven Stamkos.

2. Winnipeg Jets — Hoo boy. An already loaded offense that is among the best in the league picks up Paul Stastny. They went years without doing anything of significance in terms of roster transactions them came out of nowhere on trade deadline day to say “yeah, we think this is our year.” Good move.

3. New Jersey Devils — This was a vintage Ray Shero trade deadline performance, swapping some draft picks and a mid-tier prospect for a couple of rentals. But they are good rentals! By adding Michael Grabner they add another speedy winger to a team that already has Taylor Hall and Miles Wood, and Patrick Maroon is scoring at a 25-goal pace again.

4. Columbus Blue Jackets — Thomas Vanek does one thing well at this point in his career: He can produce on the power play. The Blue Jackets have an awful power play. Ian Cole and Mark Letestu (also a pretty good power play option) are also nice additions for relatively little cost.

5. San Jose Sharks — I don’t think I would want Evander Kane on my team (too many headaches and problems and questions off the ice and he’s only okay but not great on it is a bad combination) but he was one of the top rentals available and they did not have to give up a lot to get him. So I guess that makes them a winner.

You paid a lot, but it might be worth it

6. Pittsburgh Penguins — Ian Cole will leave a bit of a hole on defense (especially when that hole is being filled by Matt Hunwick), and Filip Gustavsson is a really good goalie prospect, and they trade first-round picks like they are burning a hole in their pocket, but with Derick Brassard now in the mix after the three-team trade they might have an even better quartet of centers than they did the past two seasons.

7. Nashville Predators — They paid a steep price to get Ryan Hartman, but he is a pretty good player, he is still young, he is still under team control for a while, and even though he will be due for a raise after this season as a restricted free agent the Predators absolutely have the salary cap space to afford him. A really good depth player for a Stanley Cup contender, which the Predators will be for the foreseeable future.

8. Vegas Golden Knights — Their inclusion in the Brassard trade with the Penguins and Ottawa Senators was a little weird, but I admire their apparent strong push to land Erik Karlsson. The big question is should a first-year team that still needs to build an organization from the ground up trade so many draft picks for Tomas Tatar? It is a legitimate question, but Tatar adds another scoring option to a team that already has a deep, well-rounded group of forwards and the best record in the league (based on points percentage). I will allow it.

9. Boston Bruins — Given the price of rentals they paid a pretty steep one for Rick Nash, but he’s still a really good two-way player that can help in all three phases of the game. I am not sure what Brian Gionta and Tommy Wingels will do for them, but Nash is a good pickup for a team that has a legitimate shot to win it all.

The Sellers that did well

10. Chicago Blackhawks — Hartman could have been someone that was around for a while, but if his value is a first-round draft pick and a decent prospect you would be crazy not to cash that in when you have the chance. They did a nice job replenishing the draft pick cupboard by picking up four picks over the next two years.

11. New York Rangers — They turned Rick Nash, Ryan McDonagh, J.T. Miller, and Nick Holden into six draft picks (including two first-round picks and a second-round pick that could become another first) and eight other players. That is a lot of assets coming into the organization. The key questions though are whether or not any of those eight players are high upside players that can be a part of a rebuild, and what they do with those draft picks. That’s a lot of first-round picks, but they could all be really late first-rounders which don’t really carry a ton of value.

12. Detroit Red Wings — Not getting anything for Mike Green is a little tough but that may have been out of their control. His health was a concern, he had a big say in where he could go, and there just may not have been a huge market. They did add a ton of draft picks for Tatar and Petr Mrazek. They now have eight picks in the first four rounds of the 2018 draft and another six in the first round rounds of the 2019 draft. They have to rebuild sooner or later and they now have a ton of draft pick currency.

You didn’t hurt yourself

13. Philadelphia Flyers — They added Petr Mrazek, mostly out of desperation, and did nothing else of note other than claiming Johnny Oduya on waivers. That’s okay. The Flyers are a really good team that is playing extremely well over the past three months and has a lot of young talent. No need to mess with it right now. Their window is just opening.

14. Toronto Maple Leafs — Tomas Plekanec is a nice depth addition to a team that could use a responsible, veteran forward in its bottom-six.

15. Washington Capitals — They didn’t make the big trade they have been accustomed to making in recent seasons and instead went for a couple of depth moves on defense. Not the worst case scenario. They may not be as good as their record and you don’t want to do something crazy in a season where you are probably more than one player away. You don’t want to trade Filip Forsberg for Martin Erat. Again.

16. Los Angeles Kings — Dion Phaneuf is a fraction of what he used to be but he will probably give them a little more value than Marian Gaborik would have, and Tobias Rieder adds a little bit of speed and upside to a lineup that was lacking in both of those things.

17. Montreal Canadiens — Their standing here is mostly do to the fact that they did not trade Max Pacioretty at a point where his value is so low. They really didn’t do much of significance. Maybe Mike Reilly can be okay? Basically I am just giving Marc Bergevin credit for not doing something that would hurt the team.

18. Florida Panthers — Frank Vatrano is a pretty decent buy-low gamble. Maybe a fresh start and a change of scenery where he can play a bigger role helps him realize some of that potential.

19. Arizona Coyotes — They sold Rieder at what might be a lowpoint, which isn’t ideal, but they did end up with a pretty good goaltending option in Darcy Kuemper.

The incompletes

20. Calgary Flames — Does Nick Shore for a seventh-round draft pick do much for you? No? Good. It shouldn’t. They did add Chris Stewart on waivers so I guess that is something.

21. Carolina Hurricanes — Every year we are told this could be the year Jeff Skinner gets traded, then he never gets traded. That is actually a good thing for the Hurricanes because Jeff Skinner is really good. Their only move was a minor league deal to send Josh Jooris to Pittsburgh for Greg McKegg.

22. Colorado Avalanche — They traded Chris Bigras for Ryan Graves. I have nothing else to add.

23. Dallas Stars — They did nothing. Nothing to see here.

24. Minnesota Wild — They lost Stewart on waivers and traded Reilly for a draft pick. Nashville and Winnipeg loaded up in their division in an arms race. At the moment, they would have to get through those two teams in the first two rounds of the playoffs. Oof.

What is happening here?

25. Ottawa Senators — They deserve their own category because I really do not know where to put them. They did pretty well for Brassard by getting a first-round pick and a really good goalie prospect, and they were able to flip Cole for another pick and prospect as an extension of that trade tree, but there are still a ton of questions here. The Karlsson situation remains unresolved and it is hard to imagine his value increasing at the draft when the team trading for him is guaranteed even less time with him. The rest of the team remains in place. Maybe you have not noticed but the rest of the team kind of stinks at the moment.

The losers

26. New York Islanders — You have John Tavares, Mathew Barzal, Josh Bailey, Jordan Eberle and Anders Lee all having great seasons. You have an offense that can score goals at a level few teams can match. You had all season to do something to fix the shortcomings on defense and in net. You traded Jason Chimera for a younger version of Jason Chimera, and also traded a draft pick for a defenseman that was available on waivers a couple of months ago. Something tells me those Snow Must Go chants will not be going away anytime soon at the Barclays Center.

27. Edmonton Oilers — Maroon is a 20-25 goal forward, carries a relatively decent salary cap hit for the rest of this season, and all Edmonton has to show for him is a mid-level prospect and a third-round draft pick two drafts from now. Their trade deadline consisted of them trading Maroon, Letestu, and Brandon Davidson for Pontus Aberg, J.D. Dudek and two draft picks in 2019.

Actually, this might be the most damning statement of all when it comes to the 2017-18 Edmonton Oilers.

28. St. Louis Blues — One point out of a playoff spot and they trade one of their top scorers for futures. That six-game losing streak where the offense has disappeared is not sitting well with the front office it would seem.

29. Buffalo Sabres — Evander Kane was supposed to be one of the top rentals available and their return does not even guarantee them a first-round draft pick. They also got a 24-year-old “prospect” and a mid-round draft pick. Not sure if that says more about the Sabres front office or Evander Kane.

30. Vancouver Canucks — Jim Benning said he would have preferred a draft pick in the trade for Thomas Vanek but there just wasn’t an opportunity to get that. There were 18 draft picks that exchanged hands across the league on Monday alone. A team in the bottom-five in the standings re-signed Erik Gudbranson, traded Vanek for a marginal prospect and a player that is actually older than Vanek, and did nothing else.

31. Anaheim Ducks — They traded for a 38-year-old forward (Chimera) that has two goals and 11 total points in 58 games this season and signed a 35-year-old forward (Chris Kelly) that has seven goals and seven assists in 93 NHL games since the start of the 2015-16 season and managed zero goals and only two assists in 15 games in the AHL this season, presumably because he had a couple of good games in the Olympics against non-NHL talent.

MORE: PHT’s 2018 Trade Deadline Tracker.

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Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

Why the Wild are better off being terrible next season

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When you ponder what separates the good, the bad, and the ugly in the NHL, don’t forget the importance of self-awareness.

For all of Minnesota Wild GM Paul Fenton’s lizard tongued blunders through his first year at the helm, the Wild’s biggest problem is that owner Craig Leipold is in denial about his team.

It’s been about a year since Leipold shared this message, yet all signs point to the Wild refusing to embrace a true rebuild. In ignoring their reality, the Wild only dig the hole deeper by making more mistakes, and dragging their feet on finding better answers.

Instead of getting the best of both worlds of competing and “rebuilding on the fly,” the Wild are stuck in purgatory: too bad to credibly contend, too competitive to get the picks that help teams win championships. Leipold’s paid for a contender while the Wild have slipped to the level of outright pretenders.

In catering to Leipold, both Chuck Fletcher and current GM Paul Fenton created quite a mess. The Wild’s Cap Friendly page might as well include a horror movie scream mp3 every time you load it up.

Allow this take, then: the Wild would be better off bottoming out in 2019-20, rather than battling for mediocrity.

[The Central Division might not give the Wild much of a choice.]

Changing perceptions?

Most directly, an epic Wild collapse would help them get higher draft lottery odds.

The indirect benefits are considerable, if not guaranteed. Most importantly, Leipold may finally realize that the current plan isn’t working. Failing to even be “in the mix” may also inspire the Wild to trade away certain players, and for those players to make the process easier by waiving various clauses.

  • To start, there are players who are more or less in their primes, but may slip out by the time the Wild can truly compete. Jared Spurgeon is the biggest example with his expiring contract, but it continues to make sense to shop Jason Zucker, and Jonas Brodin heads the list of other considerations.
  • If the Wild end up cellar dwelling, it might be easier to convince Mikko Koivu and Devan Dubnyk to accept trades, and perhaps even to part ways with Eric Staal. (Trading Staal would be awkward since he gave the Wild a sweetheart deal, but sometimes things have to get awkward before they get better.)
  • Via Cap Friendly, the Wild’s commitments for 2020-21 go down to $59.46M, and really open up in 2021-22 (just $37.36M to seven players). So, if the Wild are too stubborn or cowardly to trade some of the above players, Fenton could get something close to a clean slate if they merely let them walk or retire. This thought makes a Spurgeon decision especially important.

On Parise and Suter …

Speaking of money regrets, the Wild should try to get Parise and Suter off the books, even if it’s tough to imagine them actually pulling that off.

  • Honestly, if Parise went on LTIR, I’d view it as far more credible than plenty of other cases. He’s had significant back issues, and those don’t tend to go away, particularly for 34-year-olds with a lot of mileage.
  • Suter seems impossible to trade, but we’ve seen other seemingly impossible trades actually happen.
  • Maybe there’d be a hockey deus ex machina, like expansion draft creativity, or a compliance buyout?

Not the best odds, yet Fenton would be negligent if he didn’t explore many avenues to ease concerns.

Hope can come quickly

A long rebuild would be a tough sell, but maybe Fenton could sell a Rangers revamp to Leipold: going all-in for a short period of time to bring in picks, prospects, and generally gain flexibility.

[More on the Rangers’ rebuild]

While I doubt that many teams can recreate the Rangers’ mix of wisdom and luck, the bottom line is that the Wild have gone a long time since they focused on getting blue chip prospects. Look at the Wild’s draft history and you’ll see how rare high first-rounders have been lately, and how often they’ve lacked higher picks altogether.

To sweeten the deal, the 2020 NHL Draft crop is getting quite a bit of hype, too.

Imagine the Wild landing a lottery pick, some picks and prospects through trades, and Kirill Kaprizov’s long-awaited NHL leap. If they hoarded cap space, they could strike for their own answer to Jacob Trouba and/or Artemi Panarin. Suddenly, the Wild go from drowning slowly in quicksand to seeing some light at the end of the tunnel.

***

Things can change quickly in sports. The Wild could make their “poor, sad, dejected, beaten down” fans far happier with some bold changes, but they must sway their most important fan: their owner. If a truly lousy season is the only way for Leipold to clue in, then it might just be worth it for the Wild.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

What kind of GM will Ron Francis be for Seattle?

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Seattle’s NHL expansion franchise confirmed a key hire on Wednesday, naming Ron Francis as its first general manager.

The Hall of Fame center spent just under four years as Carolina Hurricanes GM, and with that, his work inspires mixed reactions. Let’s consider the good, bad, and mixed to try to get a feel for what Francis offers Seattle as its new boss.

Net losses

The Hurricanes never made the playoffs during Francis’ time as GM, and faulty goaltending was the biggest reason why. At the time, gambling on Eddie Lack and Scott Darling as replacements made some sense – though the term Darling received heightened the risks – but both gambles were epic busts.

With Alex Nedeljkovic (37th pick in 2014) still developing, it’s possible that Francis drafted a future answer in net, yet his immediate answers came up empty. Matching the luck that the Vegas Golden Knights have had with Marc-Andre Fleury seems somewhat unlikely, but Francis needs to do better with that crucial position in his second GM stint.

Building a strong young roster on a budget

It says a lot about Francis’ work in Carolina that The Athletic’s (sub. required) Dom Luszczyszyn graded the Hurricanes as the NHL’s most efficient salary structure, and apparently by a healthy margin.

Some of those great contracts were offered up by current GM Don Waddell (or Marc Bergevin’s offer sheet for Sebastian Aho), yet Francis and his crew authored some stunners. Teuvo Teravainen, Jaccob Slavin, and Brett Pesce boast some of the best bargain contracts in the NHL.

[RELATED: NHL Seattle tabs Ron Francis as first GM]

With a clean slate in Seattle, maybe Francis and his crew can create similar competitive advantages?

Drafting wise, the Hurricanes had some big wins under Francis, most notably stealing Aho in the second round in 2015. Still, if you’re a Hurricanes fan, maybe spare yourself the thought of Carolina getting Charlie McAvoy or Alex DeBrincat instead of Jake Bean at No. 13 in 2016, and some other gems instead of Haydn Fleury at No. 7 in 2014. Maybe Fleury and Bean are late bloomers, but it’s tough to imagine them looking like the right moves. If NHL teams truly have learned from the last expansion draft, Seattle will be more draft-dependent than Vegas has been so far, so Francis may be asked to hit homers instead of singles with key picks.

(NHL GMs make enough blunders that Seattle may still get some Jonathan Marchessault-type opportunities, though, so we’ll see.)

Investing in analytics

Whether it’s Francis or Waddell, it’s difficult to distinguish which smart Hurricanes moves stem from them, and which ones boil down to brilliant analytics work from the likes of Eric Tulsky. The thing is, if Francis listens to advice in Seattle, does it really matter?

A lot must still come together, but it’s promising that Seattle already hired a promising mind in Alexandra Mandrycky. Mandrycky was hired before Francis, so there’s a solid sign they may end up on the same page.

If your reaction is “One analytics hire, big deal,” then … well, you should be right. This list of publicly available analytics hires from Shayna Goldman argues that Seattle is off to a good start, and could leave some turtle-like teams in the dust if they keep going:

To take advantage of the expansion draft, you might need to be creative. Leaning on analytics could be key to eking out extra value.

***

Ultimately, we only know so much about Francis.

While George McPhee took decades of experience into Vegas, Francis was only Hurricanes GM for a touch under four years. Such a thought softens the “no playoffs” criticism, and while some of his work was hit-or-miss, it’s crucial to realize that Francis left the Hurricanes in a generally better place than when he took over.

Will his approach work for an expansion franchise in Seattle? To some extent, it will boil down to “taking what the defense gives him,” as Francis might be able to find savvy deals like Vegas did with Marchessault and Reilly Smith, and what Francis managed himself in exploiting Chicago’s cap issues to land a star in Teravainen. It’s also worth realizing that Seattle offers different variables than Carolina did, including possibly giving Francis a bigger budget to work with.

Overall, this seems like a reasonable hire, but much like Seattle’s roster or even its team name, Francis can be filed under “to be determined.”

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

Ron Francis hired as NHL Seattle’s first GM

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NHL Seattle president and CEO Tod Leiweke said last month during the NHL Draft in Vancouver that the group wanted to hire a general manager sooner rather than later.

Well, 226 days after the NHL awarded them a franchise that will begin play in the 2021-22 NHL season, Seattle has a GM and his name is Ron Francis.

“Announcing Ron Francis as our team’s first general manager is a dream come true,” said Leiweke in a statement. “He is truly hockey royalty and is the perfect fit for the team we are building. He has a proven track record in hockey management, a dedication to the community and an eagerness to innovate which fits our vision. In our search, we looked for someone who is smart, experienced, well-prepared and progressive. I am confident that he will maintain our commitment to excellence and ultimately guide us to a Stanley Cup.”

NHL Seattle, still working on a name and team colors, wants to follow the same blueprint that the Vegas Golden Knights did when they assembled their staff before entering the league for the 2017-18 season. This is one big step among many before they finally hit the ice as a franchise.

Francis, who will oversee player personnel, coaching staff, amateur and pro scouting, player development, analytics, sports science and AHL minor league operations, was last in NHL with the Carolina Hurricanes. He joined the organization in 2011 as director of hockey operations and three years later took on the role of GM. In March of 2018, Francis was reassigned to president of hockey operations after Tom Dundon bought the team. One month later the Hockey Hall of Famer was fired. Since January he had been working at a Raleigh commercial real estate firm.

According to the Seattle Times, which first broke the story on Tuesday night, Francis’ deal is likely in the five-year range and “midrange” in terms of salary compared to other NHL GMs.

Under Francis, the Hurricanes failed to make the the Stanley Cup Playoffs in four years. He oversaw the trade that sent longtime captain Eric Staal to the New York Rangers, as well as the deal that brought Teuvo Teravainen to Raleigh. His scouting staff helped draft the likes of Warren Foegele, Sebastian Aho, highly-touted forward Martin Necas, and Noah Hanifin, who would later be a piece to bring in Dougie Hamilton via trade. 

[MORE: What kind of GM will Ron Francis be for Seattle?]

The summer of 2017 was an interesting one for Francis. After years of tight purse strings, he finally was able to spend some money. His biggest signing that did not work out was the four years and $16.6 million given to Scott Darling to solve their problem in goal. But the one that worked and could still pay off if he decides to keep playing is bringing back Justin Williams, who has helped changed the culture around the team during this past season of success.

In a completely different environment with much different expectations, Francis has lots to prove in his second chance as an NHL GM.

It will be difficult to copy the success that the Golden Knights had in their inaugural season, and judging by how Francis ran his ship in Carolina, he’ll be about patience and not sacrificing the future for today — and he’ll probably be able to spend some money on a more consistent basis.

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

Ovechkin to play role of NHL ambassador in China

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Alex Ovechkin will be taking a week away from his summer break to play a different kind of role in the NHL next month.

Ovi is heading to China as the NHL’s international ambassador on the week of Aug. 4. He will travel to Bejing, China’s capital, a trip that will include the Russian superstar holding youth hockey clinics, a media tour and business development meetings.

“It is a huge honor for me to be an ambassador for the entire Washington Capitals organization and the National Hockey League for this special trip to China,” Ovechkin said in a release from the Caps. “I think it is very important to spend time to help make people all over the world see how great a game hockey is. I can’t wait to spend time with all the hockey fans there and I hope to meet young kids who will be future NHL players. I can’t wait for this trip!”

The NHL continues to try and grow the game at the international level in places traditionally not hotbeds for hockey.

China has been seeing a lot of the NHL over the past three seasons. Although no preseason games are scheduled for the 2019-20 season, the NHL has played a total of four since 2017, with the Los Angeles Kings and Vancouver Canucks contesting two games in 2017-18 and the Boston Bruins and Calgary Flames playing the other two prior to last season.

The Stanley Cup found its way to the country for the first time last September, as well.

“We are very excited that Alex Ovechkin will be joining us in China this summer,” said David Proper, NHL Executive Vice President of Media and International Strategy. “Alex represents the best in sports, as he epitomizes that combination of great talent, great personality and great sportsmanship. He is the perfect person to represent the NHL’s efforts to grow hockey in China.”

China, with a population of over 1.3 billion, expects to expand its participation in winter sports, including hockey, to 300 million people by 2022.


Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck