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PHT Power Rankings: Best trades of the summer

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It is the summer and with no games being played at the moment it is awfully difficult to rank the NHL’s 31 teams on a weekly basis. So the PHT Power Rankings will spend the next month taking a look back at some of the best (and worst) developments in the NHL, both past and present. Best trades. Worst trades. Best all-time teams. Any other random things we feel like ranking. This week we look step into the present and look at the best trades that have been made (so far) this summer.

The two big trades we all expected to happen at this point this summer were Erik Karlsson and Max Pacioretty. To this point neither one has happened and it seems increasingly likely neither one will happen before the start of the season. Even though we are still waiting on the two blockbuster trades, there were still some big names changing teams this summer, some of which will make a huge impact for their new teams.

Today we take a look at the 10 trades from this summer (so far) that might help their new teams the most.

1. Carolina gets Dougie Hamilton. Of all the players to get traded this offseason (so far) none of them have the potential to make a greater impact than Hamilton. He may not be Erik Karlsson, but he is still an outstanding player.

At age 25 he is in the middle of what should be his peak years in the NHL, he is already a legitimate top-pairing defenseman, and he is still signed for another three seasons at what is probably a steal of a salary cap hit ($5.75 million per season). He is coming off of a 2017-18 season in Calgary where he led all defenseman in goals with 17 and was one of the best possession players in the league, finishing with a 57 percent shot attempt share. Given the makeup of the Hurricanes roster it was a little surprising to see them add to the defense (probably already their strength) but when you have an opportunity to add impact talent you can’t really pass that up. Elias Lindholm and Noah Hanifin are good players, but neither one is likely to ever make the impact that Hamilton does and will continue to make. With Carolina still holding on to Justin Faulk its defense has the potential to be outstanding over the next few years with him, Hamilton, Jaccob Slavin, Brett Pesce, Trevor van Riemsdyk, Haydn Fleury, and free agent addition Calvin de Haan.

An underrated part of this deal for Carolina: It also got Micheal Ferland and prospect Adam Fox as part of the package. Ferland was just as productive as Lindholm this past season and for a cheaper price. He will be in line for a new contract after this season, but it’s a strong trade all around for Carolina.

[Related: Hurricanes acquire Hamilton from Flames]

2. St. Louis gets Ryan O'ReillyThis trade raised some eyebrows simply due to the number of assets the Blues gave up, shipping Tage Thompson, Patrik Berglund, Vladimir Sobotka, and a couple of draft picks to the Sabres. It was definitely a lot to give up for one player. But what if that one player offers more value than the sum of the parts you gave up? Thompson is an intriguing young player, and the draft picks are a couple of lottery tickets that may or may not amount to anything. Beyond that, Sobotka and Berglund probably had contracts the Blues were looking to jettison. There is a lot of value in a 60-point center that plays the defensive game O’Reilly plays without taking penalties.

3. Buffalo gets Jeff Skinner. After years of rumors and speculation the Carolina Hurricanes finally went through with the Jeff Skinner trade and the return was … underwhelming. Skinner’s no-trade clause and ability to choose where he went no doubt handcuffed the Hurricanes in this situation, but in terms of talent-for-talent it is not a great exchange for them.

Cliff Pu is an intriguing prospect and they added three future draft picks to their cupboard (giving them 18 over the next two years). Still, this is a big win for Buffalo, even if Skinner doesn’t re-sign before being eligible for unrestricted free agency after this season. He is one of the better goal-scorers in the league, and while there always seems to be some kind of concern about his health (he has had some concussion issues in the past) he has only missed 19 games over the past five seasons (and only eight over the past four). During that same stretch he is 16th in the league in goals scored, giving Buffalo some much-needed goal-scoring punch on the wing.

Even if the Sabres end up being lousy again and they can’t get Skinner to re-sign they can easily flip him at the deadline and get back some of the draft pick capital they gave up in the original trade.

4. Colorado gets Philipp Grubauer. Having Grubauer this high on the list is all about potential, because if he ends up being the player he showed that he can be in his limited time with the Washington Capitals he could be a massive addition both in the short-and long-term.

Goalies can be difficult to project, especially when they have such a limited NHL track record, but among goalies that have appeared in at least 50 games over the past three seasons only two (Antti Raanta at .926 and John Gibson at .924) have a higher save percentage than .923 mark Grubauer produced.

He has, at the very least, earned the opportunity to be a full-time starter to see what he can do and it was never going to happen in Washington with Braden Holtby already in place. The Avalanche only had to give up a second-round and take on the final year of Brooks Orpik‘s contract (which they promptly bought out) to get him. Combined with Grubauer’s new contract and the buyout hit from Orpik’s deal that’s a $14 million investment over the next three years and a second-round pick. If Grubauer becomes the player the Avalanche think he can, be that is a tremendous trade.

5. Arizona gets Alex GalchenyukGalchenyuk gets a chance for a fresh start on a new team that might actually trust him a little bit more and give him an opportunity to excel at center. Along with Derek Stepan and (maybe, hopefully) Dylan Strome, the Coyotes will have a pretty intriguing look down the middle that should give them a chance to compete.

To land Galchenyuk they had to give up Max Domi, whose 18 goals over the past two seasons were less than Galchenyuk scored just this past season.

Given his previous production, skill level, and his underlying numbers from a year ago there is very good reason to believe Galchenyuk can once again be a 30-goal scorer in the NHL, perhaps even as soon as this season. He is only a few months older than Domi and their cap hits are similar. Put it all together and this has the potential to be a strong one-for-one trade for the Coyotes.

[Related: Six teams that improved the most this summer]

6. Florida gets Mike HoffmanHoffman is a producitve player and still signed for two more years at a fair price. He is a steady 20-goal, 55-to 60-point player and under normal circumstances would either still be in Ottawa or have been traded for a significantly better return. These were not normal circumstances as the Senators have devolved into the most dysfunctional organization in the league, with Hoffman and his fiancee being at the center of some of it. As a result, he ended up getting traded twice this offseason harassment allegations against his fiancee.  Senators general manager Pierre Dorion addressed the trade and said their locker room was “broken.” It was clearly a bad situation beyond repair.

7. Buffalo gets Conor Sheary. Buffalo ended up getting Sheary and defenseman Matt Hunwick in what was strictly a salary dump trade for the Pittsburgh Penguins. All it cost Buffalo was a conditional fourth-round pick in 2019 and some future salary commitments to Sheary and Hunwick. Sheary is the intriguing one here because even after three years in the NHL we are still not really sure what he is. A lot of his success in Pittsburgh was almost certainly the result of playing alongside Sidney Crosby, and when he is not putting the puck in the net there is not much else that he does to provide value. You can live with a player like that if they score 30 or 40 goals. Sheary is not that type of player, though. Still, given the cost Buffalo had to give up (very little) and the fact it had the salary cap space to take on the two contracts it is an okay gamble for a team that needs an influx of talented players.

8. Ottawa gets Mikkel Boedker. This was the main part of Ottawa’s return for Hoffman when it dealt him to the San Jose Sharks. Along with Boedker, the Senators also picked up a prospect and a sixth-round draft pick. Given the off-ice situation it’s not a surprise that the Senators did not get full value for Hoffman in return, but it looks even worse when the Sharks were able to turn around and deal Hoffman later that same day to the Florida Panthers — a team in Ottawa’s division — for what was probably better return than the Senators received.

9. New York Islanders get Matt Martin. Martin was a popular player in his first stop with the Islanders as a part of their physical fourth line, but his return in a trade from the Toronto Maple Leafs does not make much sense. Just another fourth-liner with a multi-year contract being added to a team that already has a lot of fourth-liners on multi-year contracts. The optics of it are especially bad when it came just days after the Maple Leafs signed John Tavares away from the Islanders in free agency and the trade simply helping the Maple Leafs create some additional salary cap space.

10. Chicago dumps Marian Hossa‘s contract. Honestly I’m not really sure who the real winner here is but it was a pretty big trade just for the salary cap ramifications and the names involved.

Arizona was once again the dumping ground for a contract another NHL team didn’t want, this time taking on the remainder of Marian Hossa’s deal. Arizona picked up Vinnie Hinostroza to add some depth to its forward group, while Chicago ended up getting back Marcus Kruger and no longer has to worry about Hossa’s $5.25 million salary cap hit over the next three seasons. I still wonder if maybe Arizona could have done better in this deal in exchange for taking on Hossa’s contract (it is not like Chicago had many other options or teams that would be willing or able to take on that deal) but the Hinostroza for Kruger swap is probably a plus for them.

More PHT Power Rankings: The NHL’s worst alternate jerseys

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.

The Buzzer: Pageau, Panarin stay hot; Blues sign Brouwer

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Three Stars

1. Artemi Panarin, New York Rangers. The Rangers may not be where they want in the standings right now, but Panarin has been everything they could have possibly expected him to be and more. He extended his point streak to 12 games on Wednesday night with a two-goal effort in the Ranges’ 4-1 win over the Washington Capitals. Panarin has recorded at least one point in 16 of his 19 games this season and has at least two points in seven games during his current streak, including three in a row. Read all about the Rangers’ big win right here.

2. Jean-Gabriel Pageau, Ottawa Senators. Don’t look now but the Senators are just a single point behind the Toronto Maple Leafs in the standings and have played in one less game. The biggest reason for the Senators’ recent surge has been a goal-scoring binge from Pageau that has seen him score 10 goals in the month of November, tops in the league. His goal on Wednesday to open the scoring in the Senators’ 2-1 overtime win against Montreal was his 13th of the season and 10th of the month. He is on track for a career year offensively. The timing could not be better for him personally as he is in the final year of his contract and will be an unrestricted free agent this summer. It will also increase his trade value for the Senators if they look to continue their rebuild by dealing him before the trade deadline.

3. Craig Anderson, Ottawa Senators. Goaltending (mostly from Anders Nilsson) is the other big reason for the Senators’ recent improvement, and on Wednesday it was Anderson doing his best to steal two points by stopping 35 of the 36 shots he faced against the Canadiens. It was probably Anderson’s best performance of the season.

Blues add some forward depth

The defending Stanley Cup champion St. Louis Blues made a roster move on Wednesday by signing veteran forward Troy Brouwer to a one-year contract. He spent the 2018-19 season playing for the Florida Panthers, scoring 12 goals and adding nine assists in 75 games. That move comes on the same day the team announced that forward Sammy Blais will be sidelined for 10 weeks after he was injured in the Blues’ win against the Tampa Bay Lightning on Tuesday night. The Blues are already playing without Vladimir Tarasenko and Alexander Steen, and recently traded Robby Fabbri to the Detroit Red Wings.

Highlight of the Night

Brady Tkachuk was the overtime hero for the Senators, finishing a great breakaway and taking advantage of a miscommunication by the Canadiens.

Factoids

  • Henrik Lundqvist earned his 454th career win, moving him into a tie with Curtis Joseph for fourth place on the NHL’s all-time list. [NHL PR]
  • Panarin’s 12-game point streak is the Rangers’ longest since Scott Gomez during the 2007-08 season. [Rangers Stats & Info]
  • Pageau just needs more three more goals in November to tie the Senators’ franchise record for most goals in a month. Ottawa has five more games this month.  [NHL PR]
  • John Carlson added another assist to his total for the season, giving him 36 points on the season. Entering play on Wednesday he and Bobby Orr were the only defensemen in NHL history that needed only 23 games to hit the 35-point mark. [NHL PR]
  • Nick Suzuki scored the only goal for Montreal, giving him six on the season. That is second among the NHL’s rookies this season. [NHL PR]

Scores

Ottawa Senators 2, Montreal Canadiens 1 (OT)
New York Rangers 4, Washington Capitals 1

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.

Panarin, Lundqvist help Rangers take down Capitals

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If the Rangers are going to contend for a postseason position, their top players have to perform.

On Wednesday Night Hockey, Artemi Panarin and Henrik Lundqvist led the Rangers to a surprising 4-1 victory against the NHL-leading Washington Capitals.

Panarin extended his individual point streak to 12 games and is living up to the high-priced contract he signed this past summer. The Russian winger has 11 goals and 14 assists through 19 games in his first season on Broadway.

Lundqvist picked up his first win since a vintage performance against the Carolina Hurricanes in early November when he made 47 saves.

Rangers power play has the right ingredients

Any time you add a deadly scorer via free agency, your power play unit should improve. The Rangers have multiple weapons and a player to fill each critical role. For years they were missing a puck-moving defenseman, a net front presence and a big shot from the outside, but Jeff Gorton and his staff have assembled a roster that should excel when skating up a man.

Panarin notched two power-play goals on Wednesday from the left circle but is not the only threat when the Rangers are on the man-advantage. Chris Kreider is a quick power forward that can create havoc in front of the goaltender and Adam Fox has been able to quarterback the play from the point. Mika Zibanejad has been sidelined a few weeks with an upper-body injury, but also boasts a big right-handed shot when in the lineup.

Offseason changes looming in Washington?

The Capitals have been one of the most dangerous teams in the Eastern Conference for quite some time, but this might be their final hoorah with the band together.

Forward Nicklas Backstrom — who missed his first game of the season with an upper-body injury – and goaltender Braden Holtby are unrestricted free agents this upcoming summer and have been key pieces in recent years.

Backstrom has long been Alex Ovechkin’s underappreciated sidekick and Holtby is constantly having to prove himself with Ilya Samsonov waiting for his chance to become a starting goalie.

Washington is off to a tremendous start and a November slip up against the Rangers is not going to damage their postseason plans. But, this could be the final season the Capitals get another crack at the Stanley Cup with their core from the past decade intact.

Climbing up the record books

Lundqvist earned his 454th NHL victory and tied Curtis Joseph for 5th place on the NHL all-time wins list. He also surpassed Grant Fuhr to take sole possession of 10th place on the NHL’s all-time appearance list.

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

After year away, soldier surprises son during Rangers-Capitals

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It is often forgotten that sporting events serve as a form of entertainment. But on Wednesday Night Hockey, the Madison Square Garden crowd was reminded that life exists outside of the hockey bubble.

During the Rangers-Capitals game, a Staff Sergeant returned in surprising fashion. He had been deployed overseas for the past year and his son thought he was participating in a contest in which he won a Blueshirts jersey.

Instead of the sweater, Luke got to see his father and the emotional embrace delighted the crowd.

Underachieving Maple Leafs needed this change

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It was probably overdue.

It probably should have happened over the summer in the wake of another postseason disappointment, and before the 2019-20 season was allowed to turn into the bitter disappointment it has been.

But when the Toronto Maple Leafs fired head coach Mike Babcock on Wednesday, replacing him with Sheldon Keefe, they finally made the biggest change they needed to allow the organization to take the next step in its development the city — and NHL as a whole — has been waiting for it to take.

[Related: Maple Leafs fire Babcock, name Keefe head coach]

This isn’t to say that Babcock is a bad coach (he is probably not), or that he will not find a new team in the coming months or years and find success (he might).

But it was becoming increasingly clear that he was the wrong coach for this particular team and roster, and that it was never going to get where it should be without some kind of a drastic change.

When Babcock joined the Maple Leafs for the start of the 2015-16 season it was at a time when they were at one of their lowest points in franchise history. There had been just one playoff appearance in 10 years, the NHL roster was completely devoid of talent, and they didn’t yet know who their long-term impact players would be. Babcock’s hiring was one of the cornerstones of the rebuild, and by signing him to a massive 8-year, $50 million contract it was a clear sign the Maple Leafs were willing to flex their financial muscle and spare no expense in the areas where the league could not limit their spending.

It was also at a time when Babcock’s reputation as a coach still placed him not only among the league’s elite, but probably at the very top of the mountain.

It seemed to be the right move at the right time.

But a lot has changed in the years since.

For one, Babcock’s reputation isn’t as pristine as it once was. It has been 10 years since he has finished higher than third place in his division (2010-11 season). It has been eight years since he has advanced beyond Round 1 of the Stanley Cup Playoffs (2012-13). In that time there have been 28 different coaches that have won a playoff series in the league, including two (Mike Yeo and Barry Trotz) that have won playoff series’ with multiple teams.

If you wanted, you could try and find reasons for that lack of success. His team’s in Detroit at the end were getting older and losing their core players to an inevitable decline and retirement. His first years in Toronto were taking over the aforementioned mess left behind by the previous regime, and if anything those early Maple Leafs teams may have even overachieved.

All of that is true. It is also true to say that almost any other coach with that recent resume of third-place finishes and first round exits probably wouldn’t have had the leash that Babcock had. They would have been fired two years ago.

As the talent level dramatically increased in Toronto, the expectations should have changed as well. This is no longer a young team going through a rebuild where just making the playoffs is an accomplishment. This is a team of established NHL Players — All-Star level players — that should be capable of more than what they have accomplished. Not only has that not happened, but all indications were that the team was going in the wrong direction.

Last year’s Maple Leafs team won fewer games and collected fewer points than the previous year’s team despite gaining John Tavares and Jake Muzzin and getting a breakout year from Mitch Marner.

This year’s Maple Leafs team has one of the worst records in the league at the one quarter mark and has seen the once dynamic offense turn ordinary, relying on harmless point shots from defensemen.

And that doesn’t even get into the biggest issue, which was the apparent disconnect between his style and the style of the front office and roster. The Maple Leafs are built for offense, and speed, and skill, and defending by attacking and playing with the puck. Everything that came out of Babcock was always about grinding down, and defending, and you can’t score your way to a championship.

There is not any one way to win in the NHL. Some teams win with speed and skill, others win with defense. The most important thing is to play to your strength and do what you do well. The Maple Leafs are not doing that. Talk about the makeup of their defense or the way they defend all you want, but it still comes down to whether they are playing to their strengths. You can’t take a team built around John Tavares, Marner, Auston Matthews, and William Nylander and ask it to win 2-1 every night. You are wasting them by doing that and you will fail. You have to turn them loose and let them do what they do best. Babcock never seemed able or willing to trust them to do that.

Whether or not this sparks the Maple Leafs to turn their season around and go on a championship run like Pittsburgh in 2009 and 2016, or Los Angeles in 2012, or St. Louis in 2019 remains to be seen. But Keefe has coached many of the players in Toronto before, he has coached them to play a certain way, and he has won with them.

Now he gets a chance to do it on the biggest stage.

Maybe it works. Maybe it doesn’t. But the worst thing that happens is they fall short and underachieve, something they were already doing anyway. At least now they get to go down taking their best swings.

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.