Looking back at the winners from NHL trade deadline

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Now that the 2020-21 NHL regular season is wrapping up and we are exactly one month removed from the trade deadline, we wanted to take a look back and revisit some of the big winners from that day and the players that have made the biggest impact.

We always like to immediately grade those deals but you never really know how they are going to work out until you actually see the players on their new teams.

So let’s check in and see who ended up finding the right fits.

Boston gets two steals

There were a lot of reasons to like what the Bruins did at the deadline with the additions of Taylor Hall, Curtis Lazar, and Mike Reilly, solving two of their biggest holes (depth scoring on depth on defense) without giving up anything of any major significance.

The biggest trade was obviously the one that sent Anders Bjork and a second-round pick to the Buffalo Sabres for Hall and Lazar.

It has been the most impactful trade any team made.

At the time of the trade Hall was struggling through the worst offensive season of his career, while his value plummeted to an all-time low. He was actually a bit of a polarizing player at the time. On one hand there was a belief that he simply may no longer be an impact player and that Boston may not be getting what it hoped. But there was also the thought that Hall was a talented player stuck in a bad situation, on a bad team, and getting crushed by an unsustainably low shooting percentage.

It turned out to be the latter.

[Related: Taylor Hall, Bruins enter playoffs peaking at right time]

Since joining the Bruins Hall has been a star re-born and helped solidify their second line.

Individually, he scored eight goals and six assists (14 total points) in 16 games and found an immediate chemistry alongside David Krejci and Craig Smith. When that line was on the ice during 5-on-5 play the Bruins controlled more than 65% of the total shot attempts, scoring chances, high-danger scoring chances, and expected goals, while also owning a 13-1 goals advantage. With Hall on the ice, regardless of linemates, the Bruins outscored teams by a 15-1 margin.

Along with his offensive impact he also earned praise from the Bruins coaching staff for his defensive play. With him now in the mix the Bruins go into the playoffs with two elite scoring lines and a significantly deeper lineup than they had before the trade.

[2021 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs First Round schedule]

Meanwhile, Reilly has been just as big of a steal on defense and helped solidify their blue line. He has posted dominant possession and defensive metrics in his 15 games, while also adding seven assists.

Given that all three players only cost the Bruins Bjork, a second-round pick, and a seventh-round pick, nobody did better at the trade deadline.

Jeff Carter still has it

The Penguins are another East Division team that hit a home run at the deadline with the addition of Jeff Carter from the Kings.

From the moment he arrived in Pittsburgh he has not only been a perfect fit, he seems to have jumped in a time machine and rediscovered his 2012 form. He scored nine goals in the 14 regular season games (including a four-goal game) and has helped form what should be an outstanding third line for the Penguins alongside Jared McCann. This Penguins team has proven to be deeper and far more balanced than almost any other team in the Sidney CrosbyEvgeni MalkinKris Letang era, and with Carter now centering the third line they go into the playoffs with one of the best forward lineups in the league.

Change of scenery has been great for Sam Bennett

Perhaps the most surprising success story has been Sam Bennett with the Panthers.

In 52 games a year he scored eight goals with four assists for Calgary.

During his first 38 games this season he had four goals and eight assists for the Flames.

In his 10 games with the Panthers after being acquired for a prospect and a second-round pick? He has six goals and nine assists (15 points), already topping his offensive totals from the past two years with the Flames.

It is another home run for a Panthers team that has made all of the right moves after the past few months. Bennett joins Carter Verhaeghe, Patric Hornqvist, and Alexander Wennberg as significant additions since the beginning of the offseason that have completely transformed their lineup into a Stanley Cup contender.

[NHL Power Rankings: Hurricanes on top; Beware of Lightning]

The Mantha-Vrana trade

This was always the most fascinating trade at the deadline because it came out of nowhere and seemed like a win for everybody involved.

The Capitals got an outstanding power forward signed long-term, the Red Wings got an exciting player that needed a fresh start and some long-term assets to help their rebuild, Vrana gets a situation to get an increased role, and Mantha gets to play for a contender.

Vrana immediately brought excitement to a Red Wings lineup that badly needed it (he and Carter were both trade deadline acquisitions that scored four goals in a single game after their trades), while Mantha has been a great fit in Washington’s lineup.

Mantha had eight points in 13 games for the Capitals, while Vrana averaged a point per game over his first 11 games in Detroit.

Edmonton’s under-the-radar upgrade

I hated Edmonton’s approach at the trade deadline, mainly due to Ken Holland’s comment about not being able to go all in every year and having to pick and choose your spots. Every year that you have Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl is a year that you have to go all in. Otherwise, what are we even doing here?

But even though the Oilers did not make a big splash, they did still find a solid upgrade on defense in Dmitry Kulikov. He has not provided much in the way of offense, but he has been sensational defensively and a total lockdown player on the blue line. It is only eight games, but his defensive metrics are better than any player on the Oilers when it comes to the team limiting shot attempts, chances, and goals with him on the ice.

Great addition for the small price of a fourth-round pick.

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.

Golden Knights take 2-0 lead in Stanley Cup Final with 7-2 win over Panthers

Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports
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LAS VEGAS – Jonathan Marchessault scored twice and started an early blitz that chased the NHL’s hottest postseason goalie, and the Vegas Golden Knights seized control of the Stanley Cup Final with a 7-2 victory over the Florida Panthers in Game 2 on Monday night.

Adin Hill continued his stellar play in net with 29 saves for the Golden Knights, who grabbed a 2-0 lead in the best-of-seven series.

“We finished some plays,” Vegas coach Bruce Cassidy said. “It’s a good performance for us. Our guys were ready to play.”

Marchessault also had an assist to finish with three points. His 12 postseason goals set a Golden Knights record, with all coming after the first round.

Brett Howden scored twice for the Knights, who also got goals from Alec Martinez, Nicolas Roy and Michael Amadio. Six players had at least two points for Vegas, all 18 Knights skaters were on the ice for even-strength goals and their nine goal scorers through the first two games are a Stanley Cup Final record. The Knights’ seven goals tied a franchise mark for a playoff game.

It was too much for Panthers goalie Sergei Bobrovsky, who was removed 7:10 into the second period down 4-0. It was the fifth time in 12 games the Knights have chased the opposing goalie.

“We can be a little better in front of our goaltender,” Panthers coach Paul Maurice said. “I got him out to keep him rested.”

Matthew Tkachuk and Anton Lundell scored for Florida.

Teams that take a 2-0 series lead in the Stanley Cup Final are 31-3 in the expansion era. The Panthers will try to buck history beginning with Game 3 on Thursday in Sunrise, Florida.

Hill once again brought his feistiness as well as his A-game. He stopped Carter Verhaeghe on a breakaway in the first, and later that period hit Tkachuk, who was in his net, with his blocker and then slashed him with his stick.

“He’s been unreal for us,” Vegas forward William Carrier said. “He’s been unbelievable.”

The Knights were dominant early, taking a 2-0 lead in the first period on goals from Marchessault and Martinez. It was Vegas’ third game in a row with a power-play goal, its first such stretch since Christmas week.

The Panthers lost their biggest, toughest defenseman early in the game when Radko Gudas was injured on a hit by Vegas forward Ivan Barbashev. Gudas left 6:39 in and did not return.

That was one of several big hits by Barbashev, the Golden Knights’ biggest trade-deadline acquisition, a Stanley Cup champion with St. Louis in 2019. Barbashev broke the sternum of Colorado defenseman Samuel Girard during the playoffs last year, also on a clean hit.

Vegas had its own scare late in the second period when Jack Eichel was nailed in the right shoulder by Tkachuk. Eichel returned in the third and set up Marchessault’s second goal for his second assist of the game.

“We did a good job managing momentum tonight,” Eichel said. “And we got some timely goals.”

Ducks hire former Leafs, Islanders assistant Greg Cronin as head coach

Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports

ANAHEIM, Calif. — The Anaheim Ducks have hired veteran NHL assistant and AHL head coach Greg Cronin to be their new head coach.

Ducks general manager Pat Verbeek announced the decision to hire the 60-year-old Cronin, who will be a first-time NHL head coach.

Cronin has 12 years of experience as an NHL assistant with the Toronto Maple Leafs and in two stints with the New York Islanders. The Massachusetts native has been the head coach of the AHL’s Colorado Eagles since 2018, and he spent six years as a collegiate head coach at Northeastern.

Verbeek called Cronin “the ideal fit” to take over a young, rebuilding team.

“I felt we needed a teacher of the finer points of the game, and someone who has worked extensively over time with talented young players, helping them develop into successful NHL players,” Verbeek said. “Greg has done all that and more.”

Cronin replaces Dallas Eakins, whose contract wasn’t renewed in April after the Ducks finished their fourth consecutive losing season of his tenure. Anaheim finished in last place in the overall NHL standings at 23-47-12.

The Ducks never finished higher than sixth in the Pacific Division during Eakins’ four years in charge. They’ve missed the playoffs in a franchise-record five straight seasons, and Anaheim was the NHL’s worst defensive team of the 21st century by several measures during the just-completed season.

Cronin takes over a struggling team that is still loaded with young talent, including the No. 2 overall pick in the upcoming draft and a wealth of farm prospects seemingly ready to break into the NHL. Anaheim has a solid long-term base with playmaking center Trevor Zegras, two-time All-Star Troy Terry and promising forward Mason McTavish.

Cronin has never led an NHL bench, but he interviewed for the Boston Bruins’ vacancy a year ago.

He becomes only the Ducks’ fourth permanent head coach since Henry and Susan Samueli bought the franchise from Disney in 2005, joining Randy Carlyle, Bruce Boudreau and Eakins.

Canadiens sign Cole Caufield to 8-year, $62.8 million extension

David Kirouac-USA TODAY Sports

MONTREAL — The Montreal Canadiens signed Cole Caufield to an eight-year, $62.8 million contract extension.

The deal, which will pay the 22-year-old winger an average annual salary of $7.85 million, runs through the 2030-31 season.

Caufield scored 26 goals and added 10 assists in 46 games in 2022-23 before he underwent season-ending surgery on his right shoulder in February.

Despite missing nearly half the season, Caufield led the Canadiens in goals for the second consecutive season, tied with Nick Suzuki.

Montreal selected Caufield in the first round (15th overall) of the 2019 draft.

Since making his NHL debut in 2020-21, the forward has 84 points (53 goals, 31 assists) in 123 NHL games.

Vegas Golden Knights come back to beat Florida Panthers in Game 1 of Stanley Cup Final

Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports

LAS VEGAS – Back in the Stanley Cup Final for the first time in five years and trailing the Florida Panthers less than 10 minutes into Game 1, the Vegas Golden Knights sent a very clear message.

“We were ready,” Jonathan Marchessault said.

Ready and dominant. Vegas rallied from an early deficit, got the go-ahead goal from Zach Whitecloud with just over 13 minutes left and arguably the best save of the playoffs from Adin Hill and beat Florida 5-2 Saturday night to take the lead in the best-of-seven series.

“We kept out composure, and it was good,” said Marchessault, one of six original Knights players left from the start of the franchise in 2017 who scored the tying goal in the first period. “We just wanted to play the right way and be disciplined, and tonight we were able to be the better team.”

Whitecloud put Vegas ahead, a crucial penalty kill followed and captain Mark Stone scored an insurance goal that was reviewed for a high stick and confirmed. Reilly Smith sealed it with an empty-netter to make the score look more lopsided than the game.

The combination of that offense and Hill’s 33 saves put Vegas up after a feisty opener between Sun Belt teams who wasted little time getting acquainted with big hits during play and plenty of post-whistle pushing and shoving.

“It’s exactly what we expected,” said Vegas defenseman Shea Theodore, who scored his first goal of the playoffs and ended a 27-game drought dating to March 7. “That’s how they wanted to play. We were just trying not to play into it.”

That stuff is just beginning. Game 2 is Monday in Las Vegas.

Before the Panthers even get a chance to respond, they ratcheted up the physical play late after falling behind by two. A handful of penalties resulting from a fracas with 4:24 remaining left the Florida bench well short.

The outcome was determined long before that.

After falling behind on a short-handed goal by Eric Staal that sucked the life out of the crowd of 18,432, the Golden Knights rallied for their ninth comeback win this playoffs. Marchessault – known since arriving in Las Vegas for scoring big goals – answered before the end of the first period.

Early in the second, Hill made a desperation stick save to rob Nick Cousins of what would have been a sure goal. The save was reminiscent of the one Washington’s Braden Holtby made against Vegas – in the same crease – five years ago.

“That’s an unreal save – it’s a game-changer,” coach Bruce Cassidy said. “You need those saves at key moments.”

Giving up a tying goal to Anthony Duclair with 10.2 seconds left in the second did not slow the Golden Knights’ momentum much. Whitecloud’s goal, with two-time Vezina Trophy-winning goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky screened and unable to see, fired up fans once again.

Bobrovsky, in the final for the first time, downplayed any reason for concern after stopping 29 of 34 shots and losing for just the second time in 12 games this postseason.

“I played a good game,” Bobrovsky said. “I played a solid game. They created some good chances other than goals. They had lots of good scoring chances, and that was fun.”

Part of the fun came when play was stopped.

Less than 10 minutes in, Hill was none too happy about Nick Cousins crashing into his crease and gave the agitating Panthers winger a jab that incited a handful of scrums. During the second period, Matthew Tkachuk let Vegas’ Nic Hague know he wasn’t thrilled about a hit in the corner on Cousins and a collision with Brandon Montour after the whistle.

“If guys are going to come in my crease and try to push me around, I’m going to stand my own ground,” Hill said. “I’m not going to do anything too crazy or get too wild, but, yeah, I’ve got to stand up for myself.”

Florida coach Paul Maurice, back in the final for the first time since 2001, displayed a similarly calm demeanor as he did all the way back in the first round, when his team fell behind 1-0 then 3-1 to NHL-best Boston before winning in seven.

“It’s going to be tight,” Maurice said. “Everybody breathe.”

The Golden Knights are in the final for the second time in six years of existence, five years after making it in their inaugural season. Vegas won the opener in 2018 and lost the series to Washington in five games.

The Panthers are back playing for the Cup for the first time since 1996. Florida got swept by Colorado in that final 27 years ago, 18 months before Tkachuk, the team’s leading scorer this playoffs, was born.

It’s the 66th different matchup of teams in the Cup final in NHL history and the 46th since the expansion era began in 1967-68. This is the first time since Washington-Vegas and just the third time since the turn of the century in which the final features two teams who have never won the league’s championship.