Thursday, April 18, 2024
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2024 NHL trade deadline’s biggest winners, losers: Golden Knights, Panthers gear up for Stanley Cup runs

The 2024 NHL trade deadline has come and gone, and it’s time to analyze the moves teams did and didn’t make. Some teams made a splash — or multiple splashes — while others failed to address some glaring needs with the playoffs looming.

The Vegas Golden Knights were among the most active teams in the league, and they made a trio of big moves over the last week. Vegas revamped its roster, and assuming it stays healthy enough to reach the postseason, will have the deepest roster of any club in the West. In the East, the Florida Panthers and Carolina Hurricanes also improved upon already impressive rosters.

Some teams, however, missed an opportunity over the last few days. The Los Angeles Kings and Boston Bruins might’ve fallen behind their main competition, and the Tampa Bay Lightning might have whiffed on a couple swings at upgrading their defense.

After a week of wheeling and dealing, here are the biggest winners and losers from the 2024 NHL trade deadline.

Winner | Vegas Golden Knights

If a big-name player was available ahead of the trade deadline, there’s a good chance the Golden Knights tried to acquire them. Actually, even if a player wasn’t widely believed to be available, Vegas tried to acquire them. That’s exactly what Golden Knights general manager Kelly McCrimmon did in order to land Tomas Hertl from the San Jose Sharks right under the wire at the deadline.

The Golden Knights missed out on Jake Guentzel, so they got creative and turned to an off-the-board option. That was also after the Golden Knights already added winger Anthony Mantha and defenseman Noah Hanifin earlier in the week. Vegas was determined to go big game hunting, and it succeeded in that mission. The Golden Knights added three legitimate impact players to their roster, and they now have the deepest roster in the NHL.

Now, they just have to make sure they get healthy and reach the playoffs.

Loser | Tampa Bay Lightning

Tampa Bay came into the week with a clear need on the blue line. Mikhail Sergachev is on LTIR, and the team has struggled with giving up scoring chances all season. The Bolts just missed out on the top available defensemen at this deadline.

In the weeks leading up to March 8, Tampa had been linked to Philadelphia’s Sean Walker and Calgary’s Noah Hanifin. The former wound up with the Colorado Avalanche, and the latter is now a member of the Golden Knights. That meant the Lightning had to settle for former Arizona Coyotes defenseman Matt Dumba, who has really struggled in 2023-24. Tampa didn’t give up much to acquire Dumba, but I’m not sure he does much to fix the Lightning’s glaring defensive issues.

If the Lightning are going to go on another deep playoff roster with this current core, it looks like Andrei Vasiliveskiy will have to pick up most of the slack when it comes to keeping the puck out of the net.

Winner | Colorado Avalanche

Avalanche general manager Joe Sakic knows his team’s Stanley Cup window is still wide open, and he operated aggressively this week. Although the Avs’ didn’t do anything on the actual trade deadline day, they were extremely busy throughout the week.

In one of the more fun moves of the week, Colorado flipped young defenseman Bowen Byram for Casey Mittelstadt of the Buffalo Sabres. Mittelstadt could be a legitimate long-term solution for the Avs on the second line, which has been an issue for a while. It probably hurt to lose a player as skilled as Byram, but Colorado made up for it by shipping out Ryan Johansen’s contract and adding Sean Walker in a deal with the Philadelphia Flyers. That reinforced the blue line with a veteran who is having a tremendous 2023-24 season.

Outside of those two significant moves, the Avalanche also improved their forward depth with the acquisitions of Yakov Trenin and Brandon Duhaime. Those two will provide some tenacity down the lineup, and the Avalanche somehow look even more imposing than they did before this week started.

Loser | New York Rangers

A couple of Stanley Cup contenders in the East, the Florida Panthers and Carolina Hurricanes, made significant moves ahead of the trade deadline. A few more of them, including the Rangers, failed to make any kind of splash.

Although the Rangers are leading the Metro Division, they did have room for upgrades on their roster. In fact, there was rampant speculation that they were looking for a center and a winger ahead of the deadline. In a way, they accomplished that, but they did so with Seattle’s Alexander Wennberg and Columbus’ Jack Roslovic. While those two will add depth in New York, they don’t move the needle as much as other options.

What probably stings the most for the blueshirts is the fact that they were reportedly in discussions with the Pittsburgh Penguins about getting Jake Guentzel when the Carolina Hurricanes swooped in and made a deal happen. The Canes are the Rangers’ biggest competition in the division, and they clearly got better this week.

Winner | Carolina Hurricanes

We shift from the team that missed out on Guentzel to the team that wound up acquiring him in a hefty deal that saw Michael Bunting going the other way. The Hurricanes don’t often pay up for rentals on the trade market, but they made a worthwhile exception for Guentzel.

It seems like Carolina, as good as the team has been for the last few years, is constantly looking for a little bit more scoring. Well, the team got it by acquiring Guentzel. The former Penguin has hit the 20-goal mark in each of the last seven seasons, and he has scored at least 30 goals three different times. Guentzel is the type of player the Canes have needed.

Carolina general manager Don Waddell also swung an interesting trade for veteran center Evgeny Kuznetsov, who has battled health issues and taken a step back in recent years. A third-round pick was a little rich for my blood in that deal, but it’s still a relatively low-risk, high-reward move for the Hurricanes. They have made themselves one of the top-two teams in the East.

Loser | Los Angeles Kings

The Kings are in the same boat as the Rangers, but maybe even to a more extreme degree. The teams around them at the top of the conference, including the Edmonton Oilers, Colorado Avalanche, Edmonton Oilers and Dallas Stars, all made upgrades. Meanwhile, Los Angeles stood pat.

The Kings had obvious needs on the wing and in goal, and they failed to address either of them in even the most minor of ways. Maybe the scoring issue corrects itself when the team’s scoring percentage regresses to the mean, but there’s no guarantee that happens. Are the Kings comfortable heading into the playoffs with Cam Talbot and David Rittich as its goaltending tandem? They better be because that’s what they’ve got now.

The path to the Stanley Cup in the West is a gauntlet, and now the Kings seem to be a notch or two behind their biggest competition.

Winner | Florida Panthers

Florida was already the NHL’s best team entering the trade deadline, and it probably would have been fine doing nothing at all. However, general manager Bill Zito refused to sit on his hands and made a couple of low-cost moves that will improve his roster.

A couple of days before the deadline, the Panthers acquired winger Vladimir Tarasenko from the Ottawa Senators for a third-round and a fourth-round pick. That’s nothing for a team in win-now mode, and Tarasenko could thrive in Sunrise. Even if Tarasenko isn’t the perennial 30-goal scorer he used to be, he is fully capable of putting up numbers alongside Aleksander Barkov.

On deadline day itself, the Panthers got Buffalo Sabres captain Kyle Okposo for practically nothing. Okposo isn’t going to move the needle a ton, but he will give the team an excellent fourth-line presence. On top of all this, Florida also conducted an excellent piece of business by signing Gustav Forsling to an eight-year contract worth just $5.75 million per season.

Loser | Boston Bruins

There might be some hand-wringing in Boston after this trade deadline — and for good reason. The Bruins made some interesting decisions without making their roster noticeably better while, as noted above, the Panthers and Hurricanes made upgrades.

On Friday, the Bruins began their day by acquiring veteran fourth-liner Pat Maroon from the Minnesota Wild. His effectiveness might be up for debate, but Maroon has won the Stanley Cup three times. If Boston had done something else, that might have been a decent move, but the team’s only other acquisition was defenseman Andrew Peeke from the Columbus Blue Jackets. The Peeke addition was especially puzzling because it cost the Bruins a third-round pick, and he has had a miserable 2023-24 season.

The Bruins are still one of the top teams in the East, and they’re third in the NHL in point percentage, but it feels like they missed a real opportunity to shore up this roster ahead of the postseason.

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