Long-time NHL general-manager-turned-television-analyst Brian Burke said he has always admired “the all-in approach” toward winning the Stanley Cup.
“I love it when a team thinks they are close and goes out and tries to get the one piece they think they need,” Burke said. “When I was in Anaheim, we went out and got Chris Pronger the summer before. We thought that one piece would be enough and it was.”
That’s why Burke appreciates the Pittsburgh Penguins and Tampa Bay Lightning for stepping up and adding notable scorers Jason Zucker and Blake Coleman in the name of trying to win it all this spring.
“The only problem with the deadline is the math doesn’t work,” Burke said. “Mistakes will be made. There will be 14 or 15 deals, and I checked with the league again this year and they are still only going to award one Stanley Cup.”
That means there will be teams that regret giving up a piece of their future for rental players. That’s why some teams have chosen long-term deals instead of rentals. But Burke said there will be plenty of rentals before Monday’s 3 p.m. ET deadline. “You are going to see a bunch of activity,” he said.
Here’s my ranking, based on value, cost and potential impact, of deals made thus far:
1. Pittsburgh Penguins acquire Jason Zucker from Minnesota: If you want to understand why general manager Jim Rutherford has won Stanley Cups with two different organizations, look at his trading record. He historically acts boldly in the name of making his team championship ready. When the Hurricanes won in 2006, Rutherford acquired Mark Recchi and Doug Weight before the deadline. In Pittsburgh, Rutherford has made numerous trades, acquiring Phil Kessel, Nick Bonino and Justin Schultz among others. Not every trade works. But he hits on enough key deals to keep the Penguins competitive. The Zucker deal is exactly what the Penguins needed, especially with Jake Guentzel out with injury. Zucker is a 20-plus goal scorer with three seasons remaining on a deal. Given that Evgeni Malkin and Sidney Crosby are 33 and 32 respectively, it makes perfect sense to make sure the Penguins have enough scoring wingers. The Penguins gave up their 2020 first-round pick, plus quality prospect Calen Addison. But the Penguins rid themselves of Alex Galchenyuk’s contract. This deal makes the Penguins a stronger Stanley Cup contender.
2. Tampa Bay Lightning deal for Blake Coleman from New Jersey: It’s also easy to make a case that this deal has been the best thus far. Coleman is a quick, spunky scoring winger who can also kill penalties. He also has a salary cap-friendly salary of $1.8 million that carries through next season. Plenty to like about this deal, including the fact that the Lightning are responding to the Penguins’ deal. You can flip a coin about which deal will have more impact. The edge the Penguins have is that they have Zucker longer. The Lightning gave up a “name” prospect in Nolan Foote, son of retired NHLer Adam Foote, plus a first-round pick in 2020.
3. Washington Capitals acquired defenseman Brenden Dillon from San Jose: General manager Brian MacLellan doesn't get enough credit for the effective way he moves his pieces around the board. Despite recent struggles, the Capitals are a prime contender who made themselves much more difficult to play against. Dillon adds more bite and snarl to the Caps' back end. He alters the look of the Washington defense. The Capitals gave up a second round-pick in 2020 and a third rounder in 2021. The Sharks retained 50% of his salary. It can be perilous to surrender a second-round pick, and multiple picks, in a deal, but you have greater license to do that when you are 20 months removed from winning the Stanley Cup. Fans understand, maybe expect, a full charge to win another.
4. Toronto Maple Leafs bring in goalie Jack Campbell and Kyle Clifford from LA: In terms of value compared to cost, this trade has the potential to be the No. 1 deal. They gave up Trevor Moore, plus a third-round pick in 2020 and a conditional third rounder in 2021. The Kings paid half of Clifford's salary In his initial appearances with the Leafs, Campbell is 3-0-1 with a .919 save percentage and 2.40 goals-against average. He looks like an ideal backup goalie for Frederik Andersen and he has two seasons remaining on a deal paying $1.6 million. Clifford offers some grit. If GM Kyle Dubas can land a proven defenseman, the Leafs could be a big winner in the trade deadline sweepstakes.
5. St. Louis Blues acquire defenseman Marco Scandella from Montreal: With Jay Bouwmeester's career in jeopardy because of last week's scary cardiac event, GM Doug Armstrong acted decisively, giving up a second-round pick and a conditional fourth rounder to land Scandella. Montreal retained half of Scandella's salary. While Scandella wasn't the most popular defenseman in the trade market, he has the credentials to fill the hole left by Bouwmeester's absence. He is a veteran defenseman (569 games) who can play the safe defensive game and kill penalties. He contributes some to the offense. The Blues have particularly missed Bouwmeester on the penalty kill. Based on the fact that the Canadiens gave up a fourth rounder to get Scandella, the Blues overpaid. But as the defending Stanley Cup champion, the Blues are playing with house money.
6. Vegas Golden Knights land defenseman Alec Martinez in deal with Los Angeles: The Golden Knights like to limit shots and give goalie Marc-Andre Fleury a fighting chance to win the game for them. Martinez fits well in that system. He is a veteran defenseman with a history of raising his game in the playoffs. He helped the Kings win two Stanley Cup championship. He possesses quality offensive instincts and he knows how to clamp down on opponents in big games. Martinez's price tag wasn't cheap: The Golden Knights gave up two second-round draft picks to have his services this season and next season.
7. New York Islanders add defenseman Andy Greene from New Jersey: Some Islanders’ fans hated to part with a second-round pick to land a defense-only blueliner. But Greene is actually a perfect fit for a coach Barry Trotz team. He can give the low-scoring Islanders the 18-20 minutes of dependable defensive play they need to replace the loss of Adam Pelech. It also seems highly unlikely that GM Lou Lamoriello is finished dealing.
8. Vancouver Canucks receive Tyler Toffoli from Los Angeles: Give the Canucks credit for sending a message to the team and fans that they believe what’s happening this season is real. The Pacific Division has so much parity why not take a shot at catching fire in the postseason. Word on the street was that Toffoli would go for a second-round pick and Jim Benning paid a bit more. They gave up a second, NHLer Tim Schaller, prospect Tyler Madden a conditional fourth rounder if Toffoli signs with Vancouver this summer. The consensus seems to be that Vancouver paid too much. Sure. But that happens every year at this time.
9. Winnipeg Jets land Dylan DeMelo from Ottawa Senators: The Jets gave up a third round pick to get DeMelo and you get what you pay for. While DeMelo may never "wow" the Winnipeg fan base, he is an effective, dependable 18-20 minute defenseman who keeps turnovers to a minimum. But here's hoping the Jets aren't done making deals.