NHL Playoff Push: Most impactful trade deadline moves

NHL Playoff Push: Most impactful trade deadline moves

It’s hard to believe, but in 18 days we’ll be setting off on the long, arduous journey through the Stanley Cup Playoffs, with eight first-round matchups that we’re sure will be difficult to pick and a deep collection of teams that have a very legitimate chance to go all the way.

Good luck confidently picking a champion in 2024.

With the calendar flip to April, we’re officially in the home stretch now and, just less than a month past the trade deadline, enough time has passed to check in on who the most impactful additions have been so far, and what influence they’ve had on the playoff races.

Today’s playoff push looks at six teams whose trade deadlines have, so far at least, worked out the best.

If the playoffs started today…

M1 NY Rangers vs. WC2 Washington
M2 Carolina vs. M3 Philadelphia

A1 Boston vs. WC1 Tampa Bay
A2 Florida vs. A3 Toronto

Boston Bruins: So much of the action at the trade deadline is about shoring up depth and that’s what the Bruins focused on when they acquired Andrew Peeke from Columbus for Jakub Zboril and a third-round pick. Peeke only got into Columbus’ lineup 23 times this season, but has made his presence felt in Boston with 20 hits, 16 shot blocks and a spot on the second penalty-killing unit. Finding a home on Boston’s third defence pair, when Peeke has been on the ice at even strength the Bruins have outscored the competition 6-3. Peeke’s expected-goals-for percentage at 5-on-5 is 62.44 since the trade deadline, 10th among all NHL defencemen with at least 100 minutes played in that time.

Carolina Hurricanes: For years, Carolina’s most glaring need in the playoffs has been for a game-breaking goal scorer and offensive dynamo. Even though they averaged over three goals a game in last year’s run to the East final, Carolina only scored six goals in four games once they got there (and they played it all without Andrei Svechnikov). Sebastian Aho, Seth Jarvis and Svechnikov can provide what Carolina needs, but at this year’s deadline they made two moves to assure they addressed this area.

First, they bucked a general distaste of paying up for rental players by winning the Jake Guentzel sweepstakes, sending Michael Bunting and a healthy package of picks and prospects back to Pittsburgh. With a top line role, Guentzel has absolutely delivered so far and his 16 points in 11 games is more than any other traded player since March 8. Interestingly, 14 of those points have been assists and the two-time 40-goal scorer is converting at much less than his expected goal rate so far. He does lead them in primary assists, however.

Their other move of consequence was to buy low on Evgeny Kuznetsov, who at this point is an upside scorer filling the third-line centre spot and trying to earn another NHL contract. The jury is still out on how this one will turn out, though Kuznetsov has shown flashes, including a four-game point streak in mid-March. All told, at 10-2-1 since the last day of trading, Carolina has been one of the top teams since making these pick ups.

Tampa Bay Lightning: Don’t look now, but since the March 8 trade deadline the Lightning are the NHL’s best team with an 8-1-1 record and .850 points percentage. Much of that has to do with the old reliables — Nikita Kucherov has 21 points, Brayden Point 10 goals, Victor Hedman has been a top-six producer in the league at his position and, crucially, Andrei Vasilevskiy is returning to form with a .926 save percentage and 2.13 GAA. But trade deadline pickup Anthony Duclair — acquired for 22-year-old prospect Jack Thompson and a third-round pick — scored a point in his first seven games in a Lightning uniform and has five goals and nine points in 10 games so far. Duclair has found a spot on the top line in Tampa and is tied for the team lead in 5-on-5 goals over this span.

If the playoffs started today…

C1 Dallas vs. WC2 Los Angeles
C2 Colorado vs. C3 Winnipeg

P1 Vancouver vs. WC1 Nashville
P2 Edmonton vs. P3 Vegas

Colorado Avalanche: Their trade deadline was a busy one, moving around several pieces designed to, mainly, address their need for an upgrade at second-line centre. Ryan Johansen wasn’t delivering what the Avs needed, but replacement Casey Mittelstadt has so far been the fit they’ve been seeking ever since Nazem Kadri left following the Stanley Cup win in 2022. Mittselstadt has points in seven of 11 games played with Colorado and when he’s been on the ice at 5-on-5 the Avs have outscored the competition by a 2:1 margin and they’ve outshot their opponents 122-68. Meanwhile, Sean Walker, brought in as the replacement for outgoing Bowen Byram (sent to Buffalo for Mittelstadt) has been slotted on the third pair and maintained his more free-flowing style. In 11 games, Walker has three even-strength goals, which trails only Mattias Ekholm and Adam Fox at the position since March 8. The Avs are 8-2-1 after making these moves.

Winnipeg Jets: GM Kevin Cheveldayoff got ahead of the action when he acquired Sean Monahan, whose 11 goals in 27 games has nearly equalled his 13-goal output in 49 games with the Canadiens. It wasn’t all that long ago we were wondering if injuries were bringing his career to a close, but now Monahan has been a key acquisition for the Jets, providing a positive influence even as the team has been struggling of late. Meanwhile, Tyler Toffoli, who missed a recent game due to illness, has four goals in 11 games (scored across two games). Together, Monahan and Toffoli have been some of Winnipeg’s best forwards when looking at shots for and goals-for percentage at 5-on-5. These two additions strengthened Winnipeg’s second line and, by moving other pieces around them on the depth chart, also made the third and fourth lines better units.

Vegas Golden Knights: At 8-2-1 since the March 8 trade deadline, Vegas’ all-in approach appears to be working again as the Golden Knights have moved out of the wild card and into third in the Pacific — and they don’t have one of their two big pick ups yet. The one they do have in the lineup, Noah Hanifin, is likely to slot in on the second pair when everyone is healthy, but when Alex Pietrangelo was out Hanifin took on big, first-pair, all situations minutes. With Hanifin on the ice at 5-on-5, Vegas has outshot the competition 124-83, outscored them 11-8 and no traded player has averaged more than Hanifin’s 22:48 of ice time per game. So, Vegas is trending up after their aggressive deadline and, oh ya, Tomas Hertl is tracking towards his debut, too.

Comments are closed.