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2016 NHL Year in Review: The year’s best trades were often the ones most forgotten

Many teams filled needs this year, and these are the ones that worked.

Nashville Predators v New Jersey Devils Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

With just under a week to go in 2016, the NHL has seen a flurry of trades over the last calendar year. Some were minor trades to bolster rosters, others big blockbusters that sent ripples throughout their respective organizations.

The best, most useful NHL trades this year weren’t always the flashy, news-grabbing stories you’d see in years past. In fact, a good handful on this list are trades that, at the time, seemed inconsequential.

Whether they were addition-by-subtraction moves or trades that filled needs on both sides, here are some of the NHL’s best trades from 2016.

Los Angeles Kings acquire: F Vincent Lecavalier, D Luke Schenn

Philadelphia Flyers acquire: F Jordan Weal, 3rd-round pick (2016)

Toronto Maple Leafs v Los Angeles Kings Photo by Harry How/Getty Images

Ron Hextall is one of the more masterful GMs in the NHL. Considering the man got a third-round pick straight up for noted pest Zac Rinaldo, it’s no wonder Philadelphia loves the man.

Which is why this trade makes our list. Vincent Lecavalier rode the bench for all but seven games in the 2015-16 season before being traded to the Kings in a package with defenseman Luke Schenn. The 36-year-old’s $4.5 million cap hit was more than Philadelphia could bear, and in return the Flyers got a draft pick and Jordan Weal, who’s been a standout on their AHL team this year with 27 points in 29 games.

The Kings got the shorter end of the stick, for sure, but Lecavalier put up eight points in his first 13 games with Los Angeles in one hell of a fresh start. He retired at the end of the season, getting the Flyers off the hook for his contract while Luke Schenn moved on to Arizona by the start of the 2016-17 season.

Nashville Predators acquire: F Ryan Johansen

Columbus Blue Jackets acquire: D Seth Jones

Columbus Blue Jackets v New York Islanders Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

In a true need-for-need deal, the Blue Jackets and Predators swapped a pair of under-23s in a trade that’s been a boon for both sides thus far.

Since being traded to the Predators, Ryan Johansen has 57 points in 75 games for Nashville while playing mostly top-line minutes. Nashville is already stacked on defense, and Johansen’s addition to the Predators top-six has so far outweighed the loss of a young blueliner.

The Blue Jackets, on the other hand, are dealing with life after Johansen quite well. Seth Jones is making himself right at home with Calder-hopeful Zach Werenski on Columbus’ top defensive pairing. Though his 13 points in 26 games isn’t breaking any records, Jones is on pace to best his career-high 27 points set in 2014-15. But where Jones is really shining is in his play with Werenski, where at even strength they hold a 51.4 SAT-for percentage according to DataRink.

Anaheim Ducks acquire: F David Perron, D Adam Clendening

Pittsburgh Penguins acquire: F Carl Hagelin

Pittsburgh Penguins v Toronto Maple Leafs

The Penguins’ “HBK Line” would have not existed had Pittsburgh not pulled the trigger on this deal with the Ducks. Hagelin was a 27-point man for the Penguins in the regular season in 37 games, a pace that would have put him over his career high 38 points should the forward have played a full season in Pittsburgh.

The depth Pittsburgh acquired from Anaheim in this trade bolstered their chances at a run for the Stanley Cup, and his 16 points in the playoffs were worth the departing players. Both David Perron and Adam Clendening were moved from Anaheim — with Clendening playing no games in a Ducks uniform — in the offseason, but both have found homes in St. Louis and New York, respectively. Perron in particular is doing well for the Blues, with 19 points in 35 games.

Though the Ducks ultimately lost the trade by losing both their acquired assets for nothing in free agency, Hagelin was not a fit in Anaheim’s organization and his move helped spark one of the NHL’s best lines in years.

Carolina Hurricanes acquire: F Teuvo Teravainen, F Bryan Bickell

Chicago Blackhawks acquire: 2nd-round pick (2016), 3rd-round pick (2017)

Montreal Canadiens v Carolina Hurricanes Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images

The Hurricanes acquired young, up-and-coming forward Teuvo Teravainen for the price of just two draft picks. Considering Chicago’s bind of a salary cap and their glut of unsignable talent because of it, the Hurricanes made out pretty well for a young team on the rise.

The addition of Teravainen to the Hurricanes has added 16 points in 33 games with hope for a bright future in the top of Carolina’s lineup for years to come. Veteran Bryan Bickell, the other half of the deal, was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis after just seven games played in the 2016-17 season.

It’s not a blockbuster deal by any means, but a solid one that’s given the Hurricanes a young asset to work with.

Anaheim Ducks acquire: 1st-round pick (2016), 2nd-round pick (2017)

Toronto Maple Leafs acquire: G Frederik Andersen

Arizona Coyotes v Toronto Maple Leafs

Despite a rocky start to the 2016-17 season, Frederik Andersen has locked down the Maple Leafs’ net. The deal to get him required only a few draft picks — including the 30th overall from this year that netted Anaheim an extra pick in the first round — and was a pretty small price to pay for Toronto to lock up a starting goaltender for the near future.

Andersen’s .923 save percentage and 2.74 goals-against average has him sitting as one of the top goaltenders in the league this season. It’s not surprising given his track record in Anaheim, but the Maple Leafs finally have stability in goal for the first time in years.