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 Crosby–Evgeni Malkin–Kris 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 firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.