Monday, February 26, 2018

Weekend wrap: Deadline day edition

They made us wait for it. But with the clock ticking down to today’s 3 p.m. ET trade deadline, NHL GMs finally got serious over the weekend, making a handful of meaningful deals. There’s plenty left on the market for today, but let’s get caught up on what the last few days has meant.

The Senators and Penguins kicked things off on Friday, with a little help from the Golden Knights. The Derick Brassard deal was complicated in its execution, but relatively simple in principle. The contending Penguins get even better down the middle, with Brassard instantly becoming just about the best third-line centre in the league.

The rebuilding Senators get some nice future assets, while also saving money. It makes sense for both teams, especially the Penguins. (As for the Golden Knights, we’re still trying to figure out what they get out of the deal beyond spending millions of dollars on a mid-round pick and an enforcer. Maybe it was about keeping Brassard out of the West, but it’s rare that you see one Cup contender volunteer to facilitate another’s improvement, let along write a check to do it.)

After a minor deal saw the Oilers send Brandon Davidson to the Islanders for a third, word of the next big trade dropped on Saturday night, although we had to wait until Sunday morning for it to become official. Boston gives up a ransom to get Rick Nash out of New York in a deal that signals that Don Sweeney and the Bruins are going for it all this year. But the price was high here; there’s a case to be made that going from Ryan Spooner to Nash isn’t all that much of an upgrade, let alone one worth spending a first-round pick on. (As far as first impressions go, Spooner had two points last night.)

From there, the Canadian teams took back the spotlight, with the Leafs and Canadiens hooking up on a rare deal. That one sent Tomas Plekanec to the Leafs for a second-round pick and two quasi-prospects. That’s not a bad haul for Montreal, especially since they can always re-sign Plekanec in the off-season. Meanwhile, the Leafs get some depth, and still have cap room to make another deal or two today. That move was followed by another Oilers deal, this one sending Mark Letestu to Columbus via Nashville. Edmonton gets Pontus Aberg, fulfilling Peter Chiarelli’s preference to get players who can help now over draft picks.

All in all, not a bad weekend. But there are still plenty of names left on the market, including the big one. Erik Karlsson is still a Senator as of this morning, but his odds of making it to the end of the day that way seem to be getting slimmer.

The Lightning still look like the favourites here, although the Predators, Sharks, and any number of late-emerging contender are lurking. There’s also Max Pacioretty, Evander Kane, Mike Green and Thomas Vanek, as well as slightly longer shots like Mike Hoffman and Ryan McDonagh. We spent the last few years telling NHL GMs “save it for deadline day”. These year they did, so get ready for what could be a long day.

We’ll be back this afternoon with a full rundown of all the winners and losers from the 2018 deadline. But as we settle in and wait for today’s action to kick off, let’s double-down on this week’s power rankings. We’ll use the regular versions to get caught up on the actual games played this weekend, then mix in some bonus lists to get set for today’s intrigue.

Road to the Cup

The five teams that look like they’re headed towards Stanley Cup favorite status.

5. Boston Bruins (37-15-8, +44 true goals differential*) – Two weekend losses, including Saturday’s controversial finish in Toronto, weren’t even close to the most interesting thing to happen to the Bruins, who also traded for Nash, signed Brian Gionta and got the scare of watching Patrice Bergeron leave the ACC in a walking boot. (He was back in the lineup last night.)

4. Vegas Golden Knights (41-16-4, +49) – The Vegas Flu outbreak continues with no cure in sight, as the Knights wrapped up their latest homestand with five wins in seven.

>> Read the full post at Sportsnet

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