The trade deadline for the NHL has passed, finalizing rosters for all teams looking to make an impact during the final stretch of the regular season. With teams seeking to maintain their place or take their squad to the next level, this deadline was expected to be pretty significant. It did not disappoint, with most teams making notable moves with mixed results.
The Eastern Conference playoffs are going to be an absolute dogfight, which has certainly not changed after the trade deadline. As of writing, the top five teams in the league by points percentage are all in the East, and the trio of winners noted here also share that relationship. The top of this packed field are the Boston Bruins. Many were split over whether the Bruins would go all in or stick to what’s worked in their current roster. We have now got our answer — the former was correct.
The Bruins are the fastest team in NHL history to accrue100 points in a season. They’re the best defensive team and second-best offensive team in the league with the consistency to back it up. Much of the push for additions came with the questionable severity of Taylor Hall’s injury, as management were forced to find a backup option for their vital left winger. So despite making this historic run, they dug down and added Dmitry Orlov, Tyler Bertuzzi and Garnet Hathaway.
Since the Bruins acquired Orlov from the Washington Capitals, he’s absolutely exploded with his productivity. The physical veteran puck mover has already matched his goal total from this year in Washington with just five games at Boston while also adding six assists for good measure. He’s been the most productive Bruin on the ice since he’s joined, adding yet another asset to this outstanding defensive unit.
Arriving with him was Hathaway, a well-respected right winger who added some much needed depth. He’s yet to get himself on the scoreboard, but has notched a pair of assists in a not-too-shabby start to his time in the black and gold. Boston’s answer to the Hall injury was Bertuzzi, from the Red Wings, who had one point in his first game on the ice. Boston gave up significant draft capital, but there is not much in their way the rest of the season.
The New York Rangers have been top ten in the league all season but have looked to become an even larger part of the competition. After having inarguably the best deadline of any team, it seems like they finally took that step. They were able to acquire two superstars, Patrick Kane and Vladimir Tarasenko, that will massively improve their top-six. New York was linked to Kane leading up to the deadline, but the odds of a deal plummeted when Tarasenko joined weeks before the deadline.
Despite this, both sides still wanted to get the deal done, with New York looking to add additional talent and the Blackhawks well out of the competition this season. It was clear Kane wanted the move too, and the deal was finalized soon after. Kane has come up empty in his first two games, but Tarasenko has adjusted perfectly in his twelve games with the team so far. The beauty of it is that they didn’t have to part with any of the key young talents they have relied on this season.
It’s difficult to challenge a team like the Boston Bruins, who were an absolute juggernaut all season long. Even so, the Rangers now have the potential to make a run at the Stanley Cup, as the front office made the necessary moves while giving up minimal assets. They haven’t been too great recently, winning only two of their last eight games, but the opportunity to contend is here and is expected to come in time.
There are not many teams at the level of the New Jersey Devils. Seeing their competitors make moves as they look to stand out from the crowded group, they were more than happy to follow suit. Timo Meier was the prize of the deadline. He’s the goal-scoring winger the roster lacked and will certainly benefit a below-average power play unit.
Meier already had a goal in his first appearance, but there is of course still some risk despite them not giving up any of their more crucial assets. There is no contract extension in place, with his future holding a $10 million qualifying offer as he remains set for restricted free agency in the summer. If Meier commits to the team long term, which GM Tom Fitzgerald is confident of convincing him of, then this deal is one of the top this deadline had to offer.
With all the top teams in the East improving, it’s unsurprising that many teams were also left in the dust. Headlining that group are the Pittsburgh Penguins. What’s most difficult about their position is that Pittsburgh tried to make improvements, but failed to make much progress. They were already the oldest team before the deadline. Then, GM Ron Hextall decided to add a trio of veterans that are all well over the age of 30.
It puts their future in a precarious position, while winning remains a pretty difficult task currently as well. Mikael Granlund is a strong addition but not the player he once was. He also has a $5 million cap hit with control for two more seasons. Granlund only hurts their flexibility in the future, while simultaneously not being a satisfying answer to the problems they face right now. It’s nice to see Nick Bonino back, but like Granlund, he’s not even close to the same guy that helped capture a pair of Stanley Cups with the Penguins. Dmitry Kulikov is 32 with much of the same impact-wise.
They’re stuck with an aging core, and the only youth comes at the defensive end with guys like Marcus Pettersson and Pierre-Olivier Joseph. They still are a competent squad, but there is a lot that needs to fall into place for things to go their way. At least their management was active unlike the Philadelphia Flyers, who failed to play the part that they should have as obvious sellers.
The Flyers were unable to find a buyer for pending unrestricted free agent James Van Riemsdyk, which is surprising, considering he’s one of the most consistent scorers in the league in recent memory. The money involved was a potential obstacle, but they needed to offload him for some value before the deadline ended. The Detroit Red Wings were genuinely interested, and a move was reported by multiple insiders, but somehow still fell through.
The moves they did make were lackluster at best. Philadelphia traded forward Zack MacEwen to the Los Angeles Kings for forward Brandon Lemieux and a 2024 fifth-round pick. In addition, the Flyers also moved forward Patrick Brown to the Ottawa Senators for a 2023 sixth-round pick. It’s surprising to see them doing basically nothing on deadline day, especially when doing nothing was the one thing that would hurt them in the long run.