Bruins, Lightning stock up as Rangers sell big at trade deadline

The NHL trade deadline was filled with the usual buyers and sellers, but no team sold more than the New York Rangers. The Rangers fell out of playoff contention with a 2-9-1 record since the start of February, and their rebuild is off to a flying start with a flurry of trades, culminating Monday with the biggest deal of the deadline. In the last week, New York has dealt Rick Nash, Ryan McDonagh, Michael Grabner, J.T. Miller, Nick Holden, and Ryan Graves. The Rangers received six draft picks and a plethora of young talent in return.

The biggest beneficiaries of New York’s fire sale were two Atlantic Division foes. The Boston Bruins made a pair of deals with the Rangers, trading for Holden a few days before landing Nash for a package including a first-round pick, Ryan Spooner, and Ryan Lindgren. The Nash deal was the biggest of the deadline before the Tampa Bay Lightning swooped in on Monday to grab both McDonagh and Miller, parting with a first-round pick, some prospects, and Vladislav Namestnikov.

With both the Bruins and the Lightning stocking up for a playoff run, the Toronto Maple Leafs were quiet by comparison. Toronto bolstered its centre-depth by getting veteran Tomas Plekanec from the Montreal Canadiens, but that pales in comparison to the level of talent added by their divisional competitors. Tampa Bay, Boston, and Toronto are a lock to be the top three teams in the Atlantic by the end of the season, so they should expect to see plenty of each other in the playoffs. Playing it safe at the deadline could come back to haunt the Maple Leafs in a very direct way.

Other teams in the Eastern Conference were also surprisingly quiet, like the Washington Capitals or the Philadelphia Flyers, but division leaders out west made the most of their opportunities. The Vegas Golden Knights were definite buyers, and although they failed in their bid to pry superstar defenseman Erik Karlsson away from the Ottawa Senators, they did get Tomas Tatar from the Detroit Red Wings for the hefty price of a first, second, and third-round pick. But Vegas’ biggest move was a strategic one, retaining salary in a three-team trade to ensure Derick Brassard went to the Pittsburgh Penguins instead of the Winnipeg Jets.

While the Jets lost out on Brassard, they eventually found a centre in Paul Stastny, who was made available at the last moment by the St. Louis Blues. Winnipeg also added depth defenseman Joe Morrow. The Nashville Predators were active buyers as well, and the San Jose Sharks were able to get troubled but talented forward Evander Kane from the Buffalo Sabres for a pair of conditional picks and a prospect.