The 2021 NHL trade deadline has been perhaps one of the strangest that we've witnessed in quite a few years. In a season where the league was forced to implement a flat salary cap, general managers from contending teams had to get creative in order to make sure that their team is set up for the crucial following weeks leading up to the playoffs. Here are my winners and losers for the 2021 NHL trade deadline.
Note: I will only be going over the more high profile trades in today's article, for a full list of every trade made before the deadline, click here
New York Islanders acquire forwards Kyle Palmieri, Travis Zajac from New Jersey
Hall of Fame general manager Lou Lamoriello kicked off the NHL trade deadline season by phoning his favorite trade partners, the New Jersey Devils. With New Jersey continuing to flounder in their (now) six year rebuild, Palmieri was considered to be the top target of a few different teams in the weeks leading up to the deadline.
On April 7th, the Devils shipped Kyle Palmieri and Travis Zajac to the New York Islanders in exchange for two prospects (A.J. Greer, Mason Jobst) along with the Islanders 2021 first-round pick, and their 2022 fourth-round pick.
The Islanders needed to get their hands on another forward after the season ending injury suffered to their captain Anders Lee. Two draft picks and two prospects seems like a low cost to acquire two solid veterans, mixed with the fact that New Jersey was somehow talked into retaining half the remaining salary, I think it's safe the say that the Islanders are the winners of this trade.
Winners: New York Islanders
Colorado Avalanche land goalie Devan Dubnyk from the San Jose Sharks
Colorado finally has their backup goaltender. Avalanche general manager (and Avalanche legend) Joe Sakic wasn't going to make the same mistake this year that he did last year, as he sent a 2021 fifth-round pick and defenseman Greg Pateryn to Colorado in exchange for goalie Devan Dubnyk.
The Colorado Avalanche are heavy favorites to win the 2021 Stanley Cup, and their window for contention is about as wide open as it could be in pro sports.
During the 2020 Stanley Cup final, Colorado's starting goaltender Philipp Grubauer suffered an injury that sidelined him for the remainder of the year. Colorado's lack of backup goaltending proved to be their Achilles' heel, as they were eliminated in seven games in the Western Conference Final to the hands of the underdog Dallas Stars.
The trade for Dubnyk couldn't have come at a better time for Colorado, as it was announced that Grubauer will miss the next two weeks due to COVID. Dubnyk will be hopping right into the driver's seat, giving his teammates, his bosses, and the fans a good sample size of what they might be able to expect from him if Grubauer goes down with another injury.
Winners: Colorado Avalanche
Toronto Maple Leafs acquire Nick Foligno in exchange for two draft picks
The Columbus Blue Jackets have struggled mightily this season. They lost the Patrik Laine trade to Winnipeg, head coach John Tortorella's tactics aren't siting well with fans, and the team is in the basement, sitting ten points out of a playoff spot. Columbus was expected to be sellers at the deadline this year.
The general consensus among the hockey community is that Foligno was not worth the first-round pick that Toronto surrendered in order to get him.
Maybe so, maybe Foligno wasn't worth a first-round pick. We can cut Toronto some slack, however. Their backs were against the wall, they had a rough month of February, posting a record of 7-6-1, which isn't great for a team that is supposedly the best in the Eastern Conference.
Foligno is still a solid player that should help the Leafs finally win their first playoff series since 2004, but I still can't justify giving up a 2021 first-round pick, and a 2022 fourth-round pick for him.
Winners: Columbus Blue Jackets
Boston Bruins steal Taylor Hall from the Buffalo Sabres
The Buffalo Sabres might be the biggest laughing stock in all of North American sports at this point in time. Forget the fact that they hold the longest active playoff drought in the NHL, forget the fact that they have a few of the games brightest stars on their roster but still find a way to underperform - it's their front office issues that draw the most attention to this organization. I could write a whole entire three-part article about the blunders and mishaps of the Buffalo Sabres organization, but this is about the deadline. Learn more about the Sabres misery here.
The latest saga in the Buffalo Sabres circus act is the Taylor Hall trade. When the Sabres first signed Hall to a one-year, $8 million contract over the offseason, many fans (myself included) expected the Sabres to end their playoff drought. Jack Eichel finally had his co-star in Taylor Hall, and we all thought that the top line in Buffalo would be a regularly scheduled highlight reel. It didn't exactly pan out that way. After only a few short weeks into the season, we all saw this one coming.
The Buffalo Sabres traded one of the games top players for... A 2021 second-round pick and Anders Bjork... Yikes. That's the best way to sum that up.
Winners: Boston Bruins
Washington Capitals make a head scratching trade with the Detroit Red Wings...
The Detroit Red Wings traded forward Anthony Mantha to the Washington Capitals for (get ready for this one) Jakub Vrana, Richard Panik, a 2021 first-round pick, and a 2022 second-round pick... Excuse me but WHAT?! Since when did Anthony Mantha warrant that kind of haul?! This trade absolutely flabbergasted me. Granted, I didn't read too much into it so I'm not sure if this was Washington's attempt at moving some money around, but still, c'mon.
I don't want to put Mantha down, I actually think he is a great role player who can blossom with a contending team such as the Capitals, I mean, he did play for a basement dwelling Detroit team for the last few years, and he would have been a good pick up for a team barring the right price.
To me, it's the return that boggles my mind. But this is just another one of those great moves that we've grown used to seeing over the last few years by Detroit GM (and Red Wings legend) Steve Yzerman. Stevie Y was largely responsible for the Tampa Bay Lightning's rebuild that eventually brought them a Stanley Cup in 2020, and he is well on his way to doing the same in Detroit.
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