NHL trade deadline week belonged to the Columbus Blue Jackets and general manager Jarmo Kekalainen. Trade deadline day belonged to the Vegas Golden Knights and general manager George McPhee.
McPhee became the big winner when he traded for Mark Stone, 26, and immediately signed him to an eight-year deal worth $72 million.
Stone has scored 20 or more goals for five consecutive seasons and his all-around game fits perfectly in coach Gerard Gallant’s puck pressure forechecking style. The Golden Knights had to give up prized prospect Erik Brannstrom, plus bottom six forward Oscar Lindberg and a second-round pick.
Stone immediately becomes the Golden Knights’ go-to forward. He’s 6-4 and is a quality defensive player with a keen ability to knock pucks away from opponents. He was +15 on an Ottawa Senators team that was one of the league’s worst defensive teams.
Other winners and losers:
► Winner: Kekalainen. After landing Matt Duchene and Ryan Dzingel earlier, Kekalainen didn’t stop improving his team. He added goalie Keith Kinkaid, who probably moves ahead of Joonas Korpisalo. He also added prickly defenseman Adam McQuaid. Kekalainen said he doesn’t see this strategy as dangerous because he believes the team has depth. But the all-in strategy is always risky. The Blue Jackets have surrendered several prospects and draft picks and have many unrestricted free agents this summer. But it is refreshing to see a team try to win at all costs.
►Loser: GM Lou Lamoriello, New York Islanders. It’s counter-intuitive to criticize Lamoriello He has a long history of making quality managerial decisions. But the Islanders have played so impressively that it is surprising that he didn’t buy them some help for the playoffs. He probably didn’t want to undermine the team’s chemistry.
DEADLINE DAY: Tracking the moves as the day unfolded
LEAD-UP: Which players moved before Feb. 25
►Winner: GM Pierre Dorion, Senators. They didn’t want to lose Stone, Duchene and Dzingel, but they helped their rebuilding by acquiring Brannstrom, Lindberg, Anthony Duclair, Vitaly Abramov, Jonathan Davidsson, a Columbus first-round pick in 2019, a Columbus second (2020) and a Columbus second (2021) and a Dallas Stars second (2020). Brannstrom, a dynamic puck-carrying defenseman, might be ready to play next season.
►Loser: GM Brad Treliving, Calgary Flames. Because the Flames have played consistently well, didn’t you think Treliving would find a way to strengthen the team for the postseason beyond adding depth defensemen Oscar Fantenberg?
►Winner: GM David Poile, Nashville Predators. The Predators needed to improve their second line and their power play and accomplished both by landing Wayne Simmonds. He gives the Predators a formidable net-front presence and he is skilled enough to play on the second line. He also is physical enough to help protect his teammates. Mikael Granlund, though streaky, will add to the Predators’ secondary scoring.
►Loser: GM Jim Rutherford, Pittsburgh Penguins. Given his history of trades and the Capitals and Blue Jackets both improving, you would have thought the Penguins would make a bigger splash. All they did was add defenseman Erik Gudbranson, who has 448 career games but also a league-worst -27 plus-minus rating. Rutherford did part with Tanner Pearson, who didn’t pan out after an earlier trade, in the Gudbranson deal.
►Winner: GM Kevin Cheveldayoff, Winnipeg Jets. For the second year in a row, he acquired a premium center at the deadline. Last year, he landed Paul Stastny, who made an impact. This season, he secured Kevin Hayes from the New York Rangers.
►Loser: Carolina Hurricanes fans. Appreciate that the Hurricanes resisted the temptation to move tough forward Micheal Ferland. He’s going to be a free agent this summer. But why didn’t GM Don Waddell add some secondary scoring to help down the stretch? Carolina fans need this team to make the playoffs.
►Winner: Gustav Nyquist, San Jose Sharks. He goes from the Detroit Red Wings, one of the league’s worst teams, to the team that is third in points. He has the potential for a long playoff run.
►Loser: Trade deadline TV coverage. Through no fault of their own, NHL Network and Sportsnet had to offer viewers plenty of filler because there wasn’t much action. The NHL trend of making deals before deadline day has caused some hardship for TV coverage because there are fewer deals. Too bad because this has always been a fun day. Nobody has a trade deadline quite like the NHL.