This week we have a special edition of Conference Contemplations. With teams all over the NHL making trades, let us look at some of the most notable moves made in the last week before the trade deadline. Who were the buyers and sellers before the trade deadline? Which Central team acquired five more players? Could big signings for Toronto prove to be the difference makers as the Maple Leafs seek the Stanley Cup? Find out the answers to these questions and more below!
North: Nick Foligno Lands in Toronto
This Sunday, the Columbus Blue Jackets gave up their team captain of over five years to the Toronto Maple Leafs in a three-team trade between the Maple Leafs, Blue Jackets and the San Jose Sharks. Such a highly regarded player in #71 Nick Foligno gave the Blue Jackets a little something in return as well. They were given a 2021 first-round and 2022 fourth-round pick. The Maple Leafs also gave up a forward during the process. San Jose’s #11 Stefan Noesen is on his way to Toronto, the site of the 2022 NHL Draft. As a reimbursement for the Sharks, the Maple Leafs floated over a fourth-round pick for the 2021 Draft.
Toronto will not have access to Foligno for seven days due to the international travel protocols. Trades between teams from Canada and the United States are now more feasible in recent weeks. This is due to the quarantine period being lowered from 14 days down to seven.
The thought process for Toronto, while they trade away draft picks is that they are building a team for now. This is their year. They have the players and now they are filling out the depth in their roster. Foligno has yet to win a Stanley Cup across his 15 years in the NHL, and Toronto may be where he finally does.
Maple Leafs Also Add Riley Nash and David Rittich
The Maple Leafs also added currently injured #29 Riley Nash from Columbus. The forward is currently sidelined with a sprained knee, sustained on April 4. With about five weeks until his recovery, he will be healed up just in time for the playoffs. Head coach of the Maple Leafs, Sheldon Keefe, said Nash “knows exactly who he is and what he needs to do to help this team win.”
Columbus is seated seventh in the division and is almost certainly out of playoff contention. The fourth place Nashville Predators, who have the final spot, are nine points up on the boys in blue. It comes as no surprise that Toronto would be an ideal landing zone for Nash and Foligno.
The third pickup ahead of the trade deadline for the Maple Leafs is goaltender #33 David Rittich from the Calgary Flames for a third-round 2022 draft pick. Rittich is a great asset to help cover up some gaps on the depth chart. With #31 Frederik Anderson sidelined by a lower body injury, Rittich provides that extra security in case anything happens to superstar #36 Jack Campbell.
These signings look to be the finishing touches on a dangerous Toronto roster. Could this be the year that the Maple Leafs win the big one?
Central: Montour Moves to the Panthers
The Florida Panthers opened their checkbook and made five big signings ahead of the trade deadline. Former Buffalo Sabre, #62 Brandon Montour, was added a couple days ago in a trade for a third-round pick. The importance of Montour is that he is a suitable replacement for the injured #5 Aaron Ekblad. Ekblad’s leg injury from March 28 ended his season prematurely. The injury was an unfortunate event in Florida’s season. But it could have been much worse if it happened after the trade deadline. Thankfully, Montour seems to be the perfect replacement for the right handed defenseman.
Montour is one of the top defenders in the NHL. When the Panthers came calling, it is not surprising that Montour and Buffalo answered the phone. Buffalo has almost zero possibility of making the playoffs. General manager Bill Zito of the Panthers, when talking about Montour, said, “His two-way acumen and ability to play important minutes make him an exciting addition to the Panthers.” After dropping their most recent three games, Montour could be the anchor in the back end they need to fuel a deep playoff run.
Panthers Pick Up a Pair of Lucas’
Also making a move down south are the two Lucas’ from the Chicago Blackhawks. #32 Lucas Carlsson and #71 Lucas Wallmark are departing the Windy City in an exchange for three Panthers players. #20 Brett Connolly, #61 Riley Stillman and Henrik Borgstrom are headed in the opposite direction.
Carlsson is another defender who could help fill in the gaps left by Ekblad. On the other end of the ice, Wallmark looks to help out #16 Aleksander Barkov and #11 Jonathan Huberdeau, the top points getters for the Panthers.
Gusev and Bennett Traded to Florida
The two final additions for Florida are #9 Sam Bennett from the Flames and #97 Nikita Gusev from the New Jersey Devils. While Gusev has not had the strongest season while in New Jersey, the 28 year old has history on his side. In addition to being a star in the KHL, Gusev amassed 44 points over 66 games last season with the Devils. This season, his production has significantly declined, earning only five points through 20 games.
Zito has his eyes set on Bennett for his potential in the playoffs. “He is a young player who possesses solid experience in the postseason and will be an exciting addition to our lineup.” With only one season in the playoffs under the Panthers’ belt across the last eight seasons, Bennett and the other new acquisitions could be key players to help settle the squad in uncharted waters. After losing the qualifying round last year, the Panthers will be back for some revenge in the postseason this year.
East: Devils Drop Palmieri and Zajac to Isles
The New York Islanders picked up a pair of players from just a state away. #21 Kyle Palmieri and #14 Travis Zajac were exchanged for #36 A.J. Greer, #66 Mason Jobst and a valuable 2021 first-round and 2022 fourth-round pick. Zajac cited his desire for a chance to win as a motivator for this move. The Devils are in the penultimate spot in the East, only ahead of the Sabres. Whereas the Isles are at the top of the table, tied with the Washington Capitals at the top of the table.
The Islanders have an opening on the ice after #27 Anders Lee injured his ACL and required surgery. With such a big name missing from the lineup, it was no surprise the Isles were going to make moves before the trade deadline. After looking around, the two Jersey boys seem to be viable options as replacements. Zajac has been a dominant force in New Jersey. Ranking third in points and goals in New Jersey, 550 and 202 respectively, he hopes to utilize his talent to lead the Islanders to their first Stanley Cup in almost 40 years.
The Islanders have the potential to make a deep run in the playoffs. At one point this season, they were 10-0-1 and riding an undefeated streak of eight games. Palmieri had 17 points across his 34 games this season, and since his trade has gotten his first point in the blue and orange. With so many strong teams in the East, any team that makes the playoffs from the division will have a lot of experience facing tough teams as they make their way through to the finals.
Islanders Trade For Coburn
The Ottawa Senators also unloaded a defender to New York in #55 Braydon Coburn in the Isles’ final move before the trade deadline. In exchange, they would receive a seventh-round pick in 2022. As a member of the 2020 Stanley Cup Champions, Tampa Bay Lightning, he is a good addition for a team who wants to win it all. Coburn has 137 playoff games under his skates, so he is well versed with the postseason atmosphere. As the playoffs go on, he could be a great leader in the locker room for the Islanders.
While Coburn will unlikely have a featured role in every game this year, he still brings a lot to the table. In the words of Islanders’ general manager, Lou Lamoriello, Coburn is “an experienced defenseman who has size and strength.” With these three additions, the Islanders look to solidify what fans thought at one point during the season, the Isles were the best team in the NHL.
West: Colorado Acquires Dubnyk
The division leaders in the West made a few more adjustments to their roster ahead of the NHL trade deadline. Starting with arguably their best move, the Colorado Avalanche picked up #40 Devan Dubnyk from the San Jose Sharks for #2 Greg Pateryn and a fifth-round pick in the 2021 draft. What is it about this trade that makes it their top transaction?
If we think back to last year, #31 Philipp Grubauer picked up a knock in the second round of the playoffs. This forced #39 Pavel Francouz into the lineup. While not the end of the world, it ultimately led to the Avs falling out in that same round. Dubnyk can provide some additional security for Colorado in the case of a freak injury taking out Grubauer again.
Dubnyk comes over from San Jose on a bit of a cold streak, losing four games in a row and giving up 14 goals in the process. A fresh start could be exactly what he needs to clear his head when coming back out onto the ice. Additionally, it is a different animal when you are still fighting to make the playoffs in the instance of the Sharks, every mistake seems to be magnified. Whereas the Avalanche are on top and have all but secured their spot in the postseason. He will likely have a few games before playoffs start to get his head on his shoulders. He does not have to win the starting spot, just be a solid backup.
Colorado Trade Back Former Players
Another grab for Colorado was #24 Patrik Nemeth from the Detroit Red Wings. Colorado sent over a fourth-round pick in the 2022 draft as reimbursement. After a couple years away, Nemeth is wearing an Avalanche sweater once again.
The defenseman is another solid pick up to help fill in for the injured defenseman #6 Erik Johnson. Across the 2017-18 season, Nemeth put his body on the line and blocked 185 shots, which led the roster. He is a strong player, and that extra physicality should come in handy during the gritty games of the playoffs.
Speaking of returning stars, #34 Carl Söderberg will also be making his return to the Avs lineup after two years away. This deal was made on the final day before the trade deadline. Söderberg previously played four years in Colorado and helped the team in a pair of playoff runs. The Avalanche are taking him away from the Windy City and jetting Josh Dickinson and Ryder Rolston back across the Midwest Plains to join with the Chicago Blackhawks.
Söderberg is just five points away from tallying 300. The centerman has registered 15 points this season by way of seven goals and eight assists. As a veteran player, he can certainly add to the atmosphere surrounding the team, especially in such a crucial time of the season.
For last week’s look around the NHL, click here!
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