The 2021 NHL trade deadline has come and gone, how do the Pittsburgh Penguins stack up compared to the others in the division?
With the contenders in the East division making moves to shore up holes in the lineup or bolster areas of strength, the Penguins only made one move this deadline.
In a surprising move, the Penguins addressed a third line center hole and traded for Los Angeles’ Jeff Carter late Sunday night. The idea of adding a versatile veteran forward with Stanley Cup experience to an already potent Pens’ offense should get Pens’ fans excited.
The Penguins can use Carter as a center or a winger, his lineup versatility allowing the Pens to work their lines a number of different ways. For just the cost of a couple of mid-round draft picks, with 50% retained salary, the move may have flown under the radar, but the Pens’ shrewd move unlocks a lot of further offensive potential.
Of course, the Penguins weren’t the only team in the division making shrewd moves. So, how did the rest of the East approach the trade deadline this season?
Boston Bruins – Improved
Acquired: Taylor Hall, Curtis Lazar, Mike Reilly; Traded: Anders Bjork, 2021 second, 2022 third
The Bruins acquired one of the NHL’s most polarizing forwards, former NHL MVP Taylor Hall, from the Sabres for a very thrifty price. That’s a major win, even if he’s in the midst of an uncharacteristically poor season, and the Bruins finally have someone to play with David Krejci on the second line.
Curtis Lazar is a defensive bottom-six winger who should fare better outside Buffalo, and Mike Reilly is a solid puck-moving defenseman who should provide a boost to a Bruins’ defensive corps that has been through the wringer this season.
With a top-six scoring boost and a capable NHL-level defenseman, the Bruins covered a couple of major needs heading into the playoffs.
Washington Capitals – Improved
Acquired: Anthony Mantha, Michael Raffl, 2021 third; Traded: Jakub Vrana, Richard Panik, Jonas Siegenthaler, 2021 first, 2022 second
The Capitals made the biggest splash move of the deadline period, completing a blockbuster with the Detroit Red Wings to acquire Anthony Mantha. While Mantha will likely be a perennial 30-goal scorer for the Caps, the cost of Vrana, Richard Panik, a first and a second round draft pick is kind of eye-popping.
Mantha is probably a better fit for the physical Capitals’ lineup, but if they wanted more scoring, all they had to do was give more minutes to Vrana. An expensive, minimal upgrade but an upgrade nonetheless.
Michael Raffl provides a replacement for Panik on the fourth line, while the loss of little-used Jonas Siegenthaler is minimal.
Mantha and Raffl will provide more size and strength to the Capitals’ lineup, and with top-six time, Mantha will score… probably a lot. The Caps did get better.
New York Islanders – Improved
Acquired: Braydon Coburn, Kyle Palmieri, Travis Zajac; Traded: A.J. Greer, Mason Jobst, 2021 first, 2022 fourth
With Islanders’ captain Anders Lee out for the remainder of the season, the Isles swung a bigger trade to acquire Kyle Palmeri and Travis Zajac. While the Isles may not recover fully from the loss of Lee, Palmieri and Zajac should provide a boost to the middle-six.
Braydon Coburn will not see the ice with for the Islanders, but he should serve as an experienced depth piece if needed as the grind of this season rolls on.
The Islanders added more depth to an already strong forwards unit; Zajac and Palmieri are textbook Isles’ forwards under head coach Barry Trotz, too.
New York Rangers – No change
The Rangers did not make a move at the deadline, so what we’ve seen is what we’re going to get from them heading forward.
With a 5-3-2 record over the last 10 games, the Rangers may appear to be quite average, but their play over the past month has been inspired. Artemi Panarin’s return to the lineup has coincided with a boom in scoring, leading the Rangers to a few high-scoring wins.
However, the chase to catch the Bruins for the final playoff spot in the division will be tough.
Don’t fix what isn’t broken, right? The Rangers are already a strong team.
Philadelphia Flyers – No change
Acquisitions: 2022 seventh; Signed: Scott Laughton; Traded: Erik Gustafsson
The Flyers were not much more active than the Rangers, only making one move to ship defenseman Erik Gustafsson to the Montreal Canadiens for a seventh round draft pick.
Scott Laughton, a popular trade deadline target, was resigned by the Flyers to a five-year, $15 million contract, but that was the extent of their “acquisitions.” It’s clear the Flyers’ recent slide impacted their trade deadline plans.
It appears the Flyers have admitted that their mid-season slump has effectively cut their wings.
New Jersey Devils – Worsened
Acquired: Jonas Siegenthaler, 2022 fourth, A.J. Greer, Mason Jobst, 2021 first, 2022 fourth ; Traded: Dmitry Kulikov, Kyle Palmeri, Travis Zajac
Aside from moving a third round pick for Siegenthaler from the Capitals, the Devils continued their rebuild. Long-time forwards Palmieri and Zajac were moved for a solid haul — a first and fourth round draft pick and two prospects.
Recently signed defenseman Dmitry Kulikov was moved for a 2022 fourth round draft pick, providing solid value for the Devils.
While the Devils didn’t improve this deadline, the moves bode well for the future.
Buffalo Sabres – Worsened
Acquired: Anders Bjork, 2021 second, 2021 third; Traded: Brandon Montour, Taylor Hall, Curtis Lazar
The Sabres moved a couple of their biggest trade pieces and could only land a second and third round draft pick and an older prospect in Anders Bjork who hasn’t been able to put it all together in the NHL yet.
Moving Hall to the Bruins and Montour to the Florida Panthers were the moves expected from the Sabres, and while the returns (Hall especially) weren’t exactly overwhelming, they did get two decent picks for players not in their future plans.
It probably does hurt that Hall was unable to garner a first round pick though.
What do you think of the moves made by the other East division teams this season? Let me know in the comments below!