The 2016 NHL trade deadline came and went on Monday with little fanfare, but most of the bigger trades occurred over the week leading up to the deadline.
Deadlines are important. Every year, one or two trades make big impacts in how the playoff races in both conferences stack up. And though many of the bigger names on the market stayed put, more than a few 2015-16 playoff contenders shook up the balance of power with some shrewd acquisitions. A mini-arms race even went down in the Western Conference.
So let's take a look at the best five playoff contenders in each conference and how they stack up now for the rest of the season and beyond.
What they did (or didn’t do) at the deadline: Acquired F Jiri Hudler, F Teddy Purcell and D Jakub Kindl
How they stack up now: The Panthers were the most surprisingly active team at the deadline. But maybe we shouldn't be surprised. The Panthers lead their division (and have for a solid month now), their young talents (Aleksander Barkov and Nick Bjugstad) are breaking out and their fanbase is finally starting to fill the arena every night. Of course they got aggressive.
As for how they stack up, Florida's position in the playoff race is far stronger than it was a week ago. Hudler is a proven goal scorer who can matchup well with Jaromir Jagr and Bjugstad, and Purcell provides a depth forward that can play up and down the lineup as needed. These are three solid moves that reinforce the Panthers down the stretch.
How they stack up down the road: Florida had a surplus of draft picks to trade and they used them. And they didn't give up any of their talented prospects. Win-now moves that don't hurt them tomorrow.
What they did (or didn’t do) at the deadline: Acquired F Lee Stempniak, D John-Michael Liles
How they stack up now: I mean, I guess they're contenders? Stempniak is having one of the best seasons of his career, so he'll at least offer some scoring depth down the stretch. Liles is a good puck-moving defenseman but on the back nine of his career. They won't make enough of a difference to send Boston to the conference finals, though. So maybe they were better off trading Loui Eriksson.
How they stack up down the road: I really don't like the price they met for Stempniak and Liles. They gave up four picks (a third- and fourth-rounder in 2016, and a second and fifth in 2017) for two veterans who'll provide a marginal difference this year. They sacrificed some future for a long shot at a Cup this season. I have to think they'll pay for it.
What they did (or didn’t do) at the deadline: Acquired D Mike Weber, F Daniel Winnik, F Ryan Bourque
How they stack up now: With John Carlson out for 3-4 weeks, Weber becomes more than just a depth acquisition for the Capitals. Either way, the Caps didn't need to do much at the deadline. They're still the best team in the NHL (without much competition) and Winnik and Weber only further that. Even if they end up with minor roles.
How they stack up down the road: By sending a 2016 second-rounder to the Maple Leafs for Winnik, the Capitals only have one pick in the first three rounds of this year's draft. Shouldn't hurt them too much, but they'll trade that for a Stanley Cup win every time.
What they did (or didn’t do) at the deadline: Acquired C Eric Staal
How they stack up now: That depends on if you like this version of Eric Staal or not. He's either the guy who has 33 points in 63 games this year or he's the 60- to 70-point player who regains that form in New York. If he's the latter, the Rangers become a more serious threat in the Eastern Conference Playoffs. If he's the former, the Rangers remain status quo: a good, but flawed team with a slim shot at a Cup.
How they stack up down the road: Ha. Hahah. Haha. Ha. Not good, pal. They're going to lose Keith Yandle this summer. They'll probably lose Staal. They have one pick in the first two rounds over the next two years. They traded their best (remaining) prospect for Staal. If they don't win it all this year ...
What they did (or didn’t do) at the deadline: Acquired D Justin Schultz
How they stack up now: I hesitate to say this makes them better now. Schultz has been awful for the past two seasons and the likelihood of him reaching his former potential immediately with the Penguins is pretty low. I don't see how this improves their playoff hopes this season.
How they stack up down the road: Let's say Schultz finds his old game. The core of Schultz, Brian Dumoulin, Olli Maatta and Derrick Pouliot on the blueline could pay off in spades for years.
* * *
* * *
What they did (or didn’t do) at the deadline: Acquired F Andrew Ladd, D Christian Ehrhoff, D Jay Harrison, F Matt Fraser, F Tomas Fleischmann, F Dale Weise, D Tim Jackman, F Your First-Born Child
How they stack up now: Boy. Talk about going for it. Any doubt about the Blackhawks' supremacy in the Western Conference is gone now. Ladd solidifies their top six and Ehrhoff, Fleischmann and Weise provide all-important depth. A terrific deadline.
How they stack up down the road: Gave up Marko Dano, Phillip Danault and a few draft picks. But they weren't going to help win a Cup now, weren't amazing prospects and the system is stacked anyways.
What they did (or didn’t do) at the deadline: Acquired D Kris Russell
How they stack up now: About the same as before, honestly. Russell can help kill penalties and is the kind of puck-moving defenseman Jim Nill loves. But he's going to be sheltered on the third pairing, so this doesn't shake up the Western race at all.
How they stack up down the road: That depends on how you value who they gave up. Jyrki Jokipakka and Brett Pollock don't have super-high ceilings. That they could be sacrificing a first-round draft pick hurts their future somewhat, though.
What they did (or didn’t do) at the deadline: Acquired G Anders Nilsson
How they stack up now: Same as before: with a first-round playoff exit in sight. Again. They needed offense to stack up with Chicago and Dallas and they didn't get it.
How they stack up down the road: Well, Ken Hitchcock will probably be fired this summer. So, there's that.
What they did (or didn’t do) at the deadline: Acquired F Kris Versteeg, F Brett Sutter, D Rob Scuderi
How they stack up now: They failed to match Chicago's gumption in the Western Conference arms race, and thus remain the second- or third-best team in the conference. Versteeg provides some scoring depth but Scuderi and Sutter are the hockey equivalent of ¯\_(ツ)_/¯.
How they stack up down the road: L.A. gave up Valentin Zykov for Versteeg. He's a high-ceiling, low-floor prospect, so time will tell if the trade was worth it. Otherwise they didn't sacrifice their future too much.
What they did (or didn’t do) at the deadline: Acquired defenseman Justin Schultz
How they stack up now: Brandon Pirri and Jamie McGinn are good pickups for great prices, but not enough to make them better contenders than the Kings or anyone in the Central.
How they stack up down the road: Getting Pirri for a sixth-rounder was a steal, and losing Patrick Maroon and gaining McGinn opens up cap space this summer. A great deadline of win-now, win-later moves for GM Bob Murray.