Remember the good old days when the Kings and Ducks prepared for playoff runs by adding players in the days and hours leading up to the NHL trade deadline? That era officially ended Monday, when both teams made small moves to sell off assets and pave the way for broader changes this summer.
“He gives us depth,” Flames general manager Brad Treliving said. “He fits the need at the price we were looking for.”
Kings general manager Rob Blake, adjusting on the fly after misjudging his team’s ability to compete in a youth- and speed-driven NHL, will get a chance to see what his youngsters can do the rest of the way so he can accelerate a much-needed transformation. But he also expects veteran players to show more fire after producing many flat efforts lately.
“Whoever is playing the best is going to play down the stretch,” Blake said. “We need our veterans just as competitive. … I want to see the level of compete much higher than it has been.”
The Ducks, who made a big move Sunday by sending defenseman Brandon Montour to Buffalo for defense prospect Brendan Guhle and a first-round draft pick, dealt impending free agent defenseman Michael Del Zotto to St. Louis on Monday for a sixth-round pick this year.
“We are turning the team over and this is part of that. We are also getting a bit younger,” Ducks general manager Bob Murray said.
“We have a good team and we want to win this spring,” Blue Jackets general manager Jarmo Kekalainen told reporters after adding former New York Rangers defenseman Adam McQuaid and New Jersey goaltender Keith Kinkaid to his weekend acquisitions of forwards Matt Duchene and Ryan Dzingel from Ottawa. “We want to prove to our fan base that we are serious about winning and we are in it to win it.”
Nashville is going for it, too. The Predators, who are battling Winnipeg for the Central Division lead, acquired one of the biggest names available, power forward Wayne Simmonds, from Philadelphia for Ryan Hartman and a conditional draft pick. The Predators, eager to boost a power play that surprisingly ranks last in the NHL, also grabbed Minnesota right wing Mikael Granlund (who has another year on his contract) for Kevin Fiala, a talented but inconsistent winger. The Flyers were reluctant to part with Simmonds but didn’t want to lose him to free agency without compensation. They had several offers to consider.
“This was a crazy market this year. It sure seems like there were more quality forwards available this year than previous years,” Flyers general manager Chuck Fletcher said. “Nashville is getting a heck of a player.”
Winnipeg did well in picking up center Kevin Hayes (14 goals, 42 points) from the Rangers for left wing Brendan Lemieux and a first-round draft pick this year. Hayes should center the Jets’ second line and improve their penalty killing. His contract expires after the season but the move made sense for the Jets, who have high expectations after reaching the Western Conference finals last spring.
Vegas capitalized on Ottawa’s massive housecleaning by acquiring right wing Mark Stone and right wing Tobias Lindberg for defense prospect Erik Brannstrom, center Oscar Lindberg and a second-round draft pick in 2020. The 6-foot-4, 219-pound Stone, who told Canada’s TSN network soon after the trade he had agreed to a new contract with Vegas, had 28 goals and 62 points for the league-worst Senators.
While the trade deadline is a hopeful occasion for many teams, it also has a downside. Former King Tanner Pearson, traded to Pittsburgh in November, was moved again, this time to Vancouver for defenseman Erik Gudbranson. Pearson had a strong start with the Penguins but faded badly and was getting little ice time. And the Dallas Stars learned forward Mats Zuccarello, whom they acquired from the Rangers on Saturday, will need surgery to repair a broken arm he suffered after he scored a goal and an assist in his debut with them Sunday. He will need four weeks’ recovery.
Alas, no refunds or returns. It’s just part of the business, like being sellers on deadline day and spectators when the playoffs begin. The Kings and the Ducks are learning now just how unpleasant that part of the business is.