NHL trade deadline: Winners, losers, and everything in between
Some teams thrived, some floundered, and others remained a confusing mess as the NHL trade deadline came and went.
The actual day of the 2023 NHL Trade Deadline was painfully slow, but this year, it was for a good reason. Ahead of Friday, NHL GMs absolutely feasted — especially those out East — gorging on big names and setting the stage for an epic postseason.
It’s to such an extreme that it’s wiser to note not just the winners and losers, but how much the winners won.
For a full list of 2023 deadline moves, check out the trade tracker.
These teams explain why the phrase “arms race” got thrown around, or why people raised their eyebrows about aggressive rebuilds.
Remember when already-godlike villain Thanos became almost invincible once he completed the infinity gauntlet full of MacGuffins? The Bruins feel like the hockey answer to Thanos adding another gauntlet, or maybe becoming like Mortal Kombat’s Goro by suddenly sprouting out four of them. By adding Dmitry Orlov and Tyler Bertuzzi, the Bruins became the NHL’s answer to a cheat code — it looks like the Cup is Boston's to lose at this point.
New Jersey Devils
In my opinion, Timo Meier was by far the best player available at the trade deadline, particularly since he isn’t just a rental. It would have been even better if this move came with an extension, but the Devils upgraded what was already a potent attack with a versatile, physical, talented scorer.
Who pulled the strings to land such an incredible haul for Tanner Jeannot, and embrace the rebuild fully? Ultimately, it doesn’t really matter. The Predators needed to pull off the Band-Aid, and by going for it, they made out like bandits.
What’s worse than “arranging the deck chairs on the Titanic?” Maybe it’s making sure that the next ship sinks, too.
Ron Hextall’s moves make you wonder if his software needs to be updated. Trading for Mikael Granlund … in 2023? In many cases when a team makes a bad move, you can at least understand the plan they failed to execute upon. Granlund really doesn’t solve any of the Penguins problems, and he makes some of them worse, as the Penguins lined up salary cap space just to waste it. Brutal.
Self-awareness is an underrated trait in team-building, and the Canucks are in denial about who they are. Burning much of the polarizing return from the Bo Horvat trade on Filip Hronek only cements the feeling that they’re clueless.
When the playoffs start, they might wish they aced the test instead of getting a B+. These teams still graded out nicely, though.
New York Rangers
Nostalgic types would rank the Rangers among the biggest winners of all. In 2023, Vladimir Tarasenko and Patrick Kane sport warts you can’t totally hide. That said, it makes sense for the Rangers to go for it, and despite the advances of age and injuries, those players still possess plenty of skill. It’s not tough to imagine it all coming together for a big run.
Toronto Maple Leafs
Considering the slew of moves the Maple Leafs made, you’re not necessarily going to agree with every step. Nonetheless, Ryan O’Reilly releases some pressure on top players such as Auston Matthews, while underrated Jake McCabe makes an already solid defense corps that much deeper — as do Luke Schenn and Erik Gustafsson.
Mattias Ekholm isn’t the sexiest addition possible, but he’s a massive upgrade for an Oilers team that struggles at 5-on-5. Add in solid support with the Nick Bjugstad deal and the Oilers rank among the most successful West teams at the trade deadline.
Eventually, the Sens should probably try to balance their defense out, as Jakob Chychrun leaves them looking a bit overloaded on left-handed blueliners. That can be addressed down the line though, as getting a very good (and young) player is fruitful for the present and the future.
Detroit Red Wings
In the big picture, attach a “to be continued” here. The grade will change if the Red Wings turn those picks into quality roster players, or at least nail the selections. Either way, it was crucial to get something for Tyler Bertuzzi and hopefully a change of scenery benefits Jakub Vrana. Really, though, the most important move this week wasn’t even a trade: Detroit finally extended captain Dylan Larkin.
St. Louis Blues
The Blues aren’t retooling in the most tantalizing way possible, but there are scenarios where they get little-to-nothing for Ryan O’Reilly and/or Vladimir Tarasenko. This could echo times when they walked away from the likes of David Backes and Kevin Shattenkirk.
Like the Blues, you can quibble with specific returns here and there, but overall some nice “retool on the fly” business.
Context matters. Some teams got better or kept their rebuilds moving, yet they might regret bunting instead of swinging for the fences.
Nino Niederreiter is a nice addition for a nifty price. In a wide-open West (and with Winnipeg sometimes better off trying to improve with trades rather than free agency), could Kevin Cheveldayoff have accomplished more, though? For better or worse, you could say similar things about plenty of West contenders.
Sneakily, the Stars have a real shot to make some noise, and they decided to keep flying under the radar with small tweaks in Evgenii Dadonov and Max Domi. Oh well.
Lars Eller can help, depending on how much gas he has left in the tank. A Jack Johnson reunion pushes nostalgia to the extreme, though.
The Hurricanes did Hurricanes things, so they’ll be a bit better after the smoke clears. Maybe Carolina finally breaks free, but you’d like to see more urgency for a team that keeps knocking on the door.
(They’re extremely good anyway, though.)
They faced some tough breaks with Patrick Kane laser-focused on the Rangers and Jonathan Toews not being tradeable. Getting something for Max Domi is better than nothing, too. Still, Chicago wanted to make better progress in its aggressive rebuild.
Columbus Blue Jackets
Columbus showed creativity when a better haul for Vladislav Gavrikov fell through to get a first-rounder as part of the Joonas Korpisalo trade. That said, it’s unclear if Columbus is headed in a great direction, which isn’t ideal since they’re sneaky-expensive for being such a bad team.
Teams ranging closer to disappointments than disasters.
Tampa Bay Lightning
Sure, the Lightning are smart, and they’ll probably get the most out of Tanner Jeannot. None of that changes my opinion that they paid way way way too much for a marginal player, though.
Los Angeles Kings
The Kings really need help in net, and while Joonas Korpisalo isn’t as much of an upgrade as some playoff performances might make some think, he’s been good this season (and the Kings’ group has been atrocious). Honestly, that makes overpaying for Vladislav Gavrikov easier to stomach, but this Kings team should feel regret for not going after someone bigger like Chychrun.
Getting a Chychrun trade done is a relief, but that’s a disappointing return. Most of all, the deadline really throws the amateur hour elements of this franchise in starker relief. Would landing Connor Bedard stop this franchise from being a farce, and when?
San Jose Sharks
They’re a bit like if the Canucks were in a market where there’s a greater risk of irrelevance than outrage.
This team is on an upward swing, but they would’ve been better off saving their cap space instead of settling on Jordan Greenway (or going for a bolder upgrade).
Is anyone else concerned about the direction of this franchise? If there was any chance to trade problem contracts such as Josh Anderson or especially Joel Edmundson, and they didn’t do it, then that’s very disconcerting.
New York Islanders
Your mileage will vary if you love the Bo Horvat trade. The price was fine, but selling off more high picks doesn’t feel ideal for an aging team not guaranteed to make the playoffs.
Vegas Golden Knights
This franchise’s love of big-name gambles sometimes feels about as nuanced as a GM mode of a video game. They might be alarmed to realize that Jonathan Quick isn’t an “83” any longer.
Talk about quantity over quality. Yes, this team faces serious salary cap headaches, but they aren’t inspiring confidence that they’ll wade out of the mushy middle anytime soon.
Is this thing on?
Sometimes, it makes sense to do nothing. Other times, you’re worried if the machine got unplugged.
Technically they traded John Klingberg, but a lot of “meh” and mostly nothing with the Ducks.
This team is in a puzzling place, and apparently management agrees.
Much like their offseason trade partners in Calgary, the Panthers might just be stuck, and a lack of clarity doesn’t feel great.
Unfortunately they can’t trade for an actual coherent plan at the deadline.
Do mythical sea creatures sleep? Sure seems like it.