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2018 NHL Trade Deadline Review: The Rangers Wave the White Flag, and the Lightning are really, really good

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The 2018 NHL trade deadline passed on Monday, and although there were some headline moves, many major players involved in rumors were either traded earlier in the week or not traded at all. Although this was nowhere near the busiest NHL trade deadline day ever (just 18 moves were made, as opposed to the 2010 record of 31), or one in which numerous top players were shipped to new cities, the NHL’s most valuable team, the New York Rangers, made multiple significant moves.

In addition to sending Michael Grabner, arguably the NHL’s fastest player, across the Hudson River to the Devils last Thursday, and former Rocket Richard winner and 6-time All-Star Rick Nash to Boston on Sunday, the Rangers pulled off the day’s only major blockbuster. For the second trade deadline day in four years, the Rangers sent their captain to Tampa Bay (Ryan Callahan, 2014), when they agreed to trade Ryan McDonagh, along with forward J.T. Miller, in exchange for a 2019 first-round pick, a second-round pick (conditional on Tampa Bay’s playoff finish), forward Vladimir Namestnikov and WHL stars Brett Howden and Libor Hajek. Tampa was already picked by many to be a Stanley Cup favorite, but by acquiring an elite two-way defenseman, along with a very productive top-6 forward, there should be no doubt they will be at least favored to make it out of the East.

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Contrary to Tampa, the Washington Capitals, the East’s other division leader, did absolutely nothing at the trade deadline. Although they have glaring needs, such as an elite playmaking and puck-controlling defenseman, and were linked to multiple of these—McDonagh, Senators two-time Norris Trophy winner Erik Karlsson and Mike Green—a deal was unable to be made to acquire any. This left the Caps not only in the same place as they have been all season, but now much worse than Tampa. It also left them with a problematic permanent roster for the rest of the season that will need to ward off two teams right behind them in the division (Philadelphia and Pittsburgh) that both made big deals in the last week.

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Other notable trades included Vegas, who is looking to make more expansion team history in the playoffs, going even more all in, as they sent three draft picks to Detroit in exchange for Tomas Tatar. Furthermore, Toronto received one of the league’s longest tenured players, Tomas Plekanec, from Montreal, and 13-year veteran Thomas Vanek went from Vancouver to Columbus. Nashville and Winnipeg each traded away their first-round picks in next year’s draft in order to keep pace with each other in the Central Division, with Nashville acquiring Ryan Hartman from Chicago, and Winnipeg getting Paul Stastny from St. Louis


  • New York Rangers
  • Tampa Bay Lightning
  • Vegas Golden Knights
  • Philadelphia Flyers
  • Ryan McDonagh

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By completing their blockbuster deal, New York and Tampa both got what they wished for; Tampa is in a much better position to make a Stanley Cup run, and the Rangers were able to begin early preparation for next year, as they have new prospects and draft picks to do so. Philadelphia did nothing at the deadline, but their under-the-radar acquisition of Petr Mrazek from the Red Wings last week could pay dividends down the stretch, as they have been dealing with extensive goalie issues, and Mrazek can provide stability between the pipes until Brian Elliot and Michal Neuvirth are healthy. Vegas proved they are not satisfied at simply blowing by expectations so far this season, and that they want to make a Stanley Cup run this year. As of right now, as hard as it is to believe, the favorite for the Stanley Cup Final matchup has to be Vegas vs. Tampa.


  • Washington Capitals
  • Brian MacLellan
  • Erik Karlsson
  • Carolina Hurricanes

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Washington really missed out on a chance to improve its defense, which has been such an issue all season that former-Vezina-trophy-winner Braden Holtby’s play has suffered, and the Caps have let multiple games, such as one in Columbus the night of the trade deadline (5-1 loss) get out of hand on the back end. General Manager Brian MacLellan had a chance to acquire one of many top defensemen, but was likely gun shy after losing a first round pick for rental Kevin Shattenkirk last season, in a deal that didn’t end up working out. Erik Karlsson is also a loser at the trade deadline because he is just so good that he deserves to be on a contending team and make the playoffs every year. Instead, he will be stuck with the middling Senators for at least six more meaningless weeks. Carolina, the holders of the league’s longest current playoff drought at eight seasons, also did nothing at the trade deadline to improve their roster. For a team that hasn’t had success in so long, sits just four points out of the playoffs and has been struggling for fan support, acquiring a star could have been just the boost they needed on and off the ice.


Tampa Bay Lightning over Vegas Golden Knights in 6 games


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