Monday, April 12, 2021

Weekend Rankings: Deadline day arrives, the Leafs and Lightning pay up, the Bruins don’t have to

As we often say around these parts, the Weekend Rankings are meant to be a long-term view, which means we try not to overreact to an outlier game here or there. That’s easier said than done sometimes – good lord, Minnesota Wild, you guys OK? – but we generally stick to it. We want to know who’s going to win the Cup, not who’s playing the best right now, so once the season gets going things won’t change all that much from one day to the next.

Except for today.

Having done this column at various homes for many years now, I know that there are really only two times all season where the rankings can be out of date by the time I’m done writing them. The first is that fun opening week, where we don’t really know anything and we think the Flyers are good. The second is deadline day, where a big enough deal can significantly shift our thinking about who’s likely to win it all.

We don’t want to get too crazy; this is the NHL, where even the biggest star can only do so much on a 20-man roster. But we do want to get at least a little crazy, because that’s half the fun. Is Nick Foligno, David Savard or even Taylor Hall really going to swing the odds in a huge way? Probably not, but in the parity era, even a small shift and be enough to move some teams around.

Unfortunately for anyone hoping for deadline day fireworks, those big names are already spoken for. Let’s get caught up on a busy few days. The big deal came last night, with the Bruins acquiring Taylor Hall without the Sabres getting all that much in return. The Blue Jackets did better, sending David Savard to the Lightning and Nick Foligno to the Leafs while netting two first-round picks in the process. The Kings shocked a few of us by sending Jeff Carter to the Penguins. The Panther dealt for Brandon Montour and signed Nikita Gusev. Devan Dubnyk went to Colorado, while the Habs added Jon Merrill. A handful of smaller moves happened too, but overall it had been a slightly slower-than-usual leadup to deadline day until the action started in earnest over the weekend.

That slower-than-usual theme might continue today. The pandemic, flat cap, shrinking playoff bubble and most of the big names already being off the board should make for the weirdest deadline day ever, and we’re not completely sure we’ll see much of anything happening. Then again, none of us thought Jeff Carter was in play, so maybe we’ll see some surprises. However it all plays out, you can follow along with Sean Gentille and I on the deadline day live blog, as we give instant reactions to all the moves and rumors, or maybe just argue about TV commercials when nothing else is happening.

In the meantime, let’s get straight to the rankings, if only because a few of them may be obsolete by the time you finish reading them.

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