Regrading 10 recent NHL trade deadline blockbusters


Our old friend Trey Wingo recently called it “a tradition like no other” in sports: “grading a trade that includes draft picks before seeing what the picks actually turn into.”

The instant gratification of the “trade grade” is very much the lifeblood of trade deadline coverage, especially in the NHL. There are obviously some things that can be evaluated in the moment: what the return should be, based on similar deals, how a player fits on a roster or whether acquiring a player is worth the assumed risks. But like Wingo said, it’s ultimately difficult to assess a trade without at least seeing who those future picks become, either through drafting or through reallocation of those draft picks in a subsequent trade.

Today’s A trade could be a C-plus in three years. Today’s C-plus trade could be an A depending on where a draft pick is made and which player is drafted.

To that end, we’ve taken 10 blockbuster deadline deals from the past five seasons and regraded them based on the benefit of hindsight. We’ve also included the original grade issued by ESPN on the deal — assigned by yours truly, Emily Kaplan or those who came before us.

Starting with the oldest deal, let’s get out those red markers and change some grades:

The trade (2017): St. Louis Blues trade D Kevin Shattenkirk and G Pheonix Copley to the Washington Capitals for LW Zach Sanford, F Brad Malone, a 2017 first-round draft pick (transferred to Flyers) and a conditional third-round pick

Original Capitals grade: A
Original Blues grade: C

Capitals regrade: B
Blues regrade: A-

Shattenkirk was a rental for the Capitals, contributing 14 points in 19 games for Washington after the trade. His playoff run with them was … not as good: six points in 13 games, skating to a minus-4 and getting outplayed at 5-on-5 with partner Brooks Orpik as Washington was eliminated in seven games by Pittsburgh in the second round. He left as a free agent to play for his hometown New York Rangers, a stint that makes his time in Washington look Hall of Fame-worthy by comparison, and later landed with the Tampa Bay Lightning after a buyout, winning the Stanley Cup in 2020.

Sanford was the key player going back to St. Louis. He has 68 points in 167 games but also had four points in eight games in their Stanley Cup run in 2018-19. Malone never played a game for St. Louis. You know who did? Brayden Schenn, whom the Blues acquired from the Flyers for that Capitals first-rounder in 2017 (which was used on Morgan Frost), the Blues’ first-rounder in 2018 (Joel Farabee) and center Jori Lehtera, who was out of the league by 2019.

The trade (2018): Tampa Bay Lightning trade C Vladislav Namestnikov, F Brett Howden, D Libor Hajek, 2018 first-round pick and a conditional second-round pick for D Ryan McDonagh and C J.T. Miller

Original Lightning grade: A-
Original Rangers grade: A

Lightning regrade: A
Rangers regrade: A-

This was seen as a trade that helped both teams when it went down, and there’s still every chance that it shakes out that way if the Rangers’ prospects fulfill their promise.

Hajek, 23, has seen action on the Rangers’ blue line for the past two seasons, although his 40.82% expected goals percentage this season is a bit discouraging. They used that 2018 first-rounder on defenseman Nils Lundkvist, who has impressed in Sweden and looks to have value greater than what you expect from the 28th overall pick.

Namestnikov was what the Rangers needed him to be for 99 games (35 points), before they traded him for a fourth-round pick and prospect Nick Ebert in 2019. Howden has gone on to play 165 games for the Rangers in a depth forward role. The bummer for the Rangers was that the Lightning won the Stanley Cup in 2020; the condition on the second-round pick was that they had to win it in 2018 or 2019.

McDonagh, who signed a seven-year extension with Tampa Bay, played 22 games in the Lightning’s march to the Stanley Cup last summer. Even more important to that team was forward Blake Coleman, whom the Lightning acquired from the Devils for F Nolan Foote and Vancouver’s first-round pick in 2020 … which the Lightning famously received in a trade that sent Miller to the Canucks in 2019.

A lot to like here for both teams, but the immediate results for the Lightning flip the grades.

The trade (2018): Buffalo Sabres trade LW Evander Kane to the San Jose Sharks for a 2019 first-round draft pick (conditional), a 2020 fourth-round draft pick (conditional) and F Danny O’Regan

Original Sabres grade: C-
Original Sharks grade: B+

Sabres regrade: B
Sharks regrade: A-

No disrespect to O’Regan and that fourth-rounder, but that first-rounder the Sabres got for Kane was the key here — and an absolute roller coaster.

Buffalo received the 2019 first-rounder if Kane re-signed with San Jose (he did) and if the Sharks made the 2019 Stanley Cup playoffs (they did). But before that second condition was met, the Sabres traded a conditional first to Anaheim for defenseman Brandon Montour. The condition: That the Ducks would receive either the Sharks’ first-rounder in 2019 or the St. Louis Blues‘ first-rounder in 2019, which Buffalo acquired in the Ryan O’Reilly trade. If the Blues’ pick was between Nos. 20-31 (it was), then Anaheim had the option to take either the Blues’ or the Sharks’ first-rounder from Buffalo. As luck would have it, the Sharks and the Blues actually met in the Western Conference finals with the fate of the Ducks’ conditional first-rounder on the line. The Blues won the West, and Anaheim used the Sharks’ pick to draft winger Brayden Tracey at No. 29 overall.


So essentially, the Sabres got three seasons of Montour for Kane, who was a pending unrestricted free agent. The Sharks, meanwhile, have gotten 150 points in 194 games from Kane, including 33 in 38 games this season. He has also led the league in penalty minutes twice. Kane is in the third year of a seven-year, $49 million contract with a modified no-trade clause. How long they’ll have him under contract is a bit of a mystery, as Kane’s legal team might seek to void the remainder of that deal because of the player’s ongoing bankruptcy proceedings.

The trade (2018): New York Rangers trade LW Rick Nash to the Boston Bruins for a 2018 first-round pick, a 2019 seventh-round pick, F Matt Beleskey, D Ryan Lindgren and C Ryan Spooner

Original Rangers grade: B+
Original Bruins grade: B

Rangers regrade: A+
Bruins regrade: C

In a way, this is pure hindsight: Nash played only 11 regular-season games for the Bruins (3 goals, 3 assists) and another 12 in the postseason (3 goals, 2 assists) as a rental. He missed the final 12 games of the regular season because of a concussion. Any chance to bring him back was scuttled when he decided to sit out because of ongoing concussion-related issues and eventually retired. But in another way, this was Nash’s NHL story in a nutshell: He had an outstanding career marred by multiple concussions. The Bruins knew the risk when they traded for him.

The Rangers, meanwhile, turned a pending UFA in a rebuild into two of the cornerstones of their defense. Lindgren has been Adam Fox‘s primary defensive partner during the latter’s breakout 2021 season. New York used Boston’s first-rounder to trade up in the 2018 draft and selected a defenseman out of the U.S. developmental program named K’Andre Miller.

Oh, and Spooner, who played 36 games for the Rangers? Yeah, they traded him to Edmonton in 2018 for Ryan Strome, who has 128 points in 171 games as the primary center on Artemi Panarin‘s line.

Lindgren, Miller and Strome for Nash. Not a bad bit of business there, Rangers GM Jeff Gorton.

The trade (2019): Ottawa Senators trade RW Mark Stone to the Vegas Golden Knights for D Erik Brannstrom, F Oscar Lindberg, Dallas’ 2020 second-round pick

Original Vegas grade: A
Original Ottawa grade: A-

Vegas regrade: A+
Ottawa regrade: C+

The Ottawa regrade has dropped to a C-plus because Lindberg is in the KHL, the Dallas second-rounder ended up 61st overall (Egor Sokolov) and Brannstrom has yet to fulfill the promise of his blue-chip pedigree in 47 NHL games. He’s only 21, and the Senators are taking it slowly with him. But he’s absolutely what this deal hinges on for the Senators, because his inclusion likely prevented Ottawa from pulling a first-rounder out of the Knights. (Vegas used its own 2019 pick to select center Peyton Krebs).

The only caveat here for Senators GM Pierre Dorion is that Stone was an unrestricted free agent who was not coming back, which obviously impacted the strength of his position as a dealer.

As for the Golden Knights — who signed Stone to an eight-year extension worth $76 million, and named him the team’s first captain in 2021 — they acquired the best two-way winger in hockey. Stone has 115 points in 119 games for Vegas, including 41 points in 36 games this season. Had this been a typical length season, it would have likely been his eighth straight campaign with 20 or more goals. An absolute star whom they might have gotten for a steal.

The trade (2019): New York Rangers trade C Kevin Hayes to the Winnipeg Jets for a 2019 first-round pick, a 2022 fourth-round pick (conditional) and F Brendan Lemieux

Original Jets grade: A-
Original Rangers grade: B-

Jets regrade: B+
Rangers regrade: A-

Hayes was a pending UFA the Rangers decided to trade as part of their rebuild. Hayes had 13 points in 20 games for the Jets after the trade, and then three points in six playoff games — despite playing only 11:59 per game. The Jets knew they weren’t going to be able to re-sign him the ensuing offseason, so they traded his negotiating rights to the Flyers for a fifth-round pick in 2019, a full month before free agency opened. Hayes signed a seven-year deal with the Flyers that summer; the Jets drafted Harrison Blaisdell, a center at North Dakota.

The wrinkle here is that the Jets actually reacquired their own first-round pick in the trade that sent defenseman Jacob Trouba to the Rangers. (Please recall Trouba was an RFA who was seeking to join a New York team for family reasons.) The Jets used that pick from the Rangers that was originally their own to select defenseman Ville Heinola at No. 20 overall in 2019, and he’s very much a part of their future plans. Lemieux played 109 games for the Rangers before they traded him to the L.A. Kings for a fourth-rounder on March 22 of this year.

The trade (2019): Ottawa Senators trade C Matt Duchene and D Julius Bergman to the Columbus Blue Jackets for F Vitaly Abramov, F Jonathan Davidsson, a 2019 first-round pick (top-3 protected) and a conditional 2020 first-round pick (if Duchene re-signed with Columbus)

Original Blue Jackets grade: A-
Original Senators grade: B

Blue Jackets regrade: A-
Senators regrade: B-

This was famously the Blue Jackets’ “shoot your shot” season, in which they went all-in while still having Artemi Panarin and Sergei Bobrovsky before their free-agent departures. So they made the Duchene trade — adding another pending free agent — in the hopes that they could make some noise in this limited window.

Duchene spent 23 regular-season games in Columbus, scoring 12 points. He would end up second in postseason scoring, with 10 points in 10 games. He left after the season for the Nashville Predators, which was for the best: GM Jarmo Kekalainen would already be out of a job if he had given up two first-rounders in a trade for Matt Duchene. As it stands, it was a solid rental that helped Columbus shock Tampa Bay in the first round before losing to Boston in the second round, advancing farther in the playoffs than they ever had before.

The Senators drafted defenseman Lassi Thomson at No. 19 overall with the Jackets’ first-rounder, and he has some upside. Abramov, 22, has yet to break through at the NHL level. Ditto Davidsson, 24, who appeared in six Senators games last season. At best, the Ottawa grade is “pending.”

The trade (2020): Florida Panthers trade C Vincent Trocheck to the Carolina Hurricanes for F Erik Haula, F Lucas Wallmark, D Chase Priskie, F Eetu Luostarinen

Original Panthers grade: B-
Original Hurricanes grade: B+

Panthers regrade: C-
Hurricanes regrade: A-

It’s still surprising that Trocheck was made available at the trade deadline, given his production and his cap-friendly contract ($4.75 million cap hit through 2022). True, he never got back to that 31-goal benchmark he set in 2017-18, but his underlying numbers and production were solid. Which is why the Hurricanes — one of the best numbers-driven front offices in the league — were happy to add him.

This trade looked a lot different last season, when an injured Trocheck mustered only two points in seven regular-season games and then two assists in eight playoff games. But he had 31 points in 29 games this season … before another injury interrupted his season. Still, it’s clear the Hurricanes got themselves a No. 2 center for players who are not of that caliber (Wallmark, now with Chicago; Haula, who didn’t do much for Florida before heading to Nashville) and two prospects who might not have NHL-level abilities.

The trade (2020): Ottawa Senators trade C Jean-Gabriel Pageau to the New York Islanders for a first-round draft pick in 2020 (conditional), second-round draft pick in 2020 and third-round draft pick in 2022 (conditional)

Original Islanders grade: B
Original Senators grade: A+

Islanders regrade: B+
Senators regrade: B+

The Islanders inked Pageau to a six-year, $30 million extension with trade protection after acquiring him from Ottawa. He has 25 points in 45 regular-season games with them (0.56 points per game) and had 11 points in 22 games during their four playoff rounds in the bubble last summer. He has been slightly above replacement level this season (1.4 goals above average) with an expected goals percentage of 50.56%.

The Islanders’ success wasn’t good news for Ottawa in this deal, as the first-rounder ended up being 28th overall. That’s where the Senators selected spark plug forward Ridly Greig of the Brandon Wheat Kings, who projects to be a good third-line center at the NHL level. They used the second-rounder to move up to No. 44 and take defenseman Tyler Kleven, who is 6-foot-4 but doesn’t have a ton of puck-moving skill. The third-rounder never moved because it was contingent on the Islanders winning the Stanley Cup last postseason, which didn’t quite happen despite them coming closer than many of us imagined they would.

The trade (2020): Anaheim Ducks trade LW Ondrej Kase to Boston Bruins for D Axel Andersson, C David Backes and a 2020 first-round pick

Original Bruins grade: A-
Original Ducks grade: C-

Bruins regrade: F
Ducks regrade: B+

The second Bruins trade on this list in which they sought a solution for second-line winger, and it has made the Rick Nash trade look like the Predators side of “Martin Erat for Filip Forsberg” by comparison. There were injury concerns for Kase, including a concussion history, when the Bruins traded for the undeniably talented winger. The worst-case scenario came to pass: Kase has played eight regular-season games in two seasons in Boston, mustering up a single assist. He appeared in 11 playoff games with four assists. He hasn’t played since January, and there’s currently no timetable for his return.

One of the reasons the Bruins traded for him was that Kase had term on his contract: Signed through 2021 at a $2.6 million cap hit. Alas, they’ve gotten little from him in that term.

The Ducks used the first-rounder to select RW Jacob Perreault at No. 27, a player whose shot was ranked among the best in the draft class. Andersson, 21, is honing his craft in Sweden. That Backes has played more games (18) and has more points (7) than Kase since this trade went down is some kind of cosmic troll on the Bruins.

Jersey Foul of the Week

From Rob Bradford of WEEI:

The Boston Red Sox famously made a hard pitch to Shohei Ohtani before the modern-day Babe Ruth opted to join the Los Angeles Angels. This presumptive Boston Bruins Jersey Foul incorporated Ohtani’s No. 11 with the Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters. Look, it’s bad enough when fans are stuck with jerseys for hockey players they hope their team acquires — hello, Buffalo Sabres Connor McDavid jerseys — but to get one for a player the local baseball team missed out on? That’s Foul territory.

Three stats of particular interest

1. 16-1-2. That’s the New York Islanders‘ record on home ice through Wednesday’s games. There are a couple of teams absolutely rolling at home this season — Carolina (13-2-3), Pittsburgh (16-3-1) and Colorado (17-4-2) among them — but the Isles’ record is bonkers. They had a .598 points percentage at home from 2017 to 2020. This season, it’s at .895!

2. 3.10. As a fan of symmetry, I feel compelled to share this stat from Los Angeles Kings forward Brendan Lemieux. Through 32 games, Lemieux was drawing 3.10 penalties per 60 minutes of ice time. He’s also taking 3.10 penalties per 60 minutes. At least he’s consistent.

3. 48. That’s the number of career short-handed points for Brad Marchand of the Boston Bruins. He scored a shorty against the Flyers this week, and that broke a tie with Ed Westfall and some guy named Bobby Orr for most short-handed points by any Bruins player in franchise history. We throw around the “underrated” label a lot in the NHL. It’s weird that for all the labels Marchand has been saddled with in his career, that one doesn’t get applied enough. Because he’s very underrated.

Winners and losers of the week

Winner: Jack Campbell

In the latest NHL Awards Watch, I joked about how many starts the Toronto Maple Leafs goalie will need before he could enter the Vezina Trophy conversation. That was when he was 9-0-0. Now he’s 10-0-0. The answer is probably “more starts than are available.” Please recall the late Ray Emery going 17-1-0 for the 2012-13 Chicago Blackhawks but finishing only seventh in the Vezina voting. Ah, but what if Campbell goes 18-0-0? Then what?

Loser: Philipp Grubauer

Of course the moment people start making a Vezina case for the Colorado Avalanche goalie is the moment when he gives up seven goals against the Minnesota Wild. Yikes.

Winners: Friends of Lou

Lou Lamoriello keeps on throwing life preservers to players from his New Jersey Devils days. Last season it was career Devils defenseman Andy Greene. In the offseason, it was Cory Schneider. On Wednesday, it was career Devils center Travis Zajac. It’s nice to have friends in high places (running playoff teams in need of veteran assistance).

Loser: ‘Old Man’ Subban

Born on May 13, 1989, P.K. Subban is now the oldest player on the Devils after Travis Zajac and Kyle Palmieri were traded to the Islanders. But don’t worry, there will undoubtedly be someone older than Subban on the Seattle Kraken next season.

Winner: Brian Lawton

Lawton is a former NHL general manager, and like the rest of us, he likes a good “who says no?” trade proposal. Bless his heart for this one. Everyone thought it was utterly ridiculous. It briefly brought the world together in a way few things can.

Loser: This trade deadline

I’ve written about all the factors that are making this deadline incredibly weird, but here’s another: a lack of players rumored to be on the move. Look back at the 2018 trade deadline: Ryan McDonagh, J.T. Miller, Tomas Tatar, Evander Kane, Paul Stastny, Rick Nash, Tomas Plekanec, Derick Brassard all moved. And many more! I never knew how much I needed Thomas Vanek trade speculation until it was gone.

Winners: Those chasing the West’s fourth seed

The Arizona Coyotes occupy the last playoff spot in the West, and they’ve done it without Darcy Kuemper and Antti Raanta, no less. Jordan Binnington says the St. Louis Blues “are coming” after cracking the door open for the San Jose Sharks and even the Los Angeles Kings to believe they have a shot at the playoffs. With so many other postseason spots seemingly sewn up, this is fun.

Losers: Calgary Flames

Darryl Sutter did not leave the farm to go 5-9-0 and watch Brad Treliving start the rebuild.

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