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NHL trade deadline 2021 winners, losers: Maple Leafs, Islanders, Capitals are all in; Sabres fans should look away

Last year when the buzzer went off at the NHL’s trade deadline, 32 deals were done involving 55 (not including all the picks). 

In 2021, well, not nearly as much as just 26 players got new sweaters in 17 trades. While a couple of expected names got sent packing, there really weren’t any unexpected, blockbuster deals. 

Obviously, the big question is where does it all lead? For now, that’s anyone’s guess — especially considering quarantines will keep some guys off the ice for a week — but that won’t stop us from taking a stab at assessing the biggest winners, losers, and those who fell in between.

NHL trade deadline winners, losers

Winners: Maple Leafs

In case you didn’t know, now you do: the Maple Leafs are all in.

After adding Alex Galchenyuk back in March — and turning him into a first-line winger — they added everything they needed, and then some at the deadline. GM Kyle Dubas snagged forward depth (Stefan Noesen, Riley Nash, Antti Suomela), defensive depth (Ben Hutton), goaltending depth (David Rittich) and a versatile veteran forward who not only has a strong defensive game but can put the puck in the net no matter where he plays in the lineup (Nick Foligno).

MAPLE LEAFS TRADE GRADES: Nick Foligno | David Rittich

Of course, the biggest question mark right now is the health of Frederik Andersen. Dubas said on Monday that while he fully expects him to play for the Leafs again this year, they want him to get back to being100 percent healthy. Adding the Flames’ backup Rittich to now backup Jack Campbell at least gives Andersen the time he needs to get back on track.

Winner: Mike Foligno

“He’s pretty excited I’ve got to admit,” Nick said of his dad Mike regarding the younger Foligno’s trade to the Maple Leafs. “It was nice to have that phone call with him and tell him there’s going to be another 71 flying around the ice [for Toronto].”

Mike Foligno skated for the Maple Leafs for 129 games over the course of four seasons. 

“His advice is enjoy and play with passion,” Nick added. “The fans of Toronto are passionate, and I think that lines up with who I am and how I play and I think it’ll just come out that way. I’m going to enjoy every minute of it and this is something I got to witness as a young kid and now to have that opportunity kind of come full circle and be able to play for the Toronto Maple Leafs, it’s a dream come true in a lot of ways.”

Losers: Fans who love a lot of trades … and producers who have to fill hours of television

As mentioned, it really wasn’t a busy trade day on Monday. In fact, according to the NHL, this year had the fewest players traded on the last day (26) since 2000 saw 23 guys move. The late-night trades Sunday night and the lack of moves throughout the day — most came through in the last two hours — kept producers on their toes trying to fill air time.

Trade deadline activity last five years

SEASON
DATE
TRADES
PLAYERS
2016-17 
March 1, 2017 
18
33
2017-18 
Feb. 26, 2018   
18
37
2018-19
Feb. 25, 2019  
20
32
2019-20
Feb. 24, 2020 
32
55
2020-21
April 12, 2021
17
26

Losers: Sabres fans

Sabres fans look away. Your GM traded away Taylor Hall basically for a draft pick — and no, not a first-rounder either. And keep turning away because other teams did get first-round picks (like Detroit, Columbus — times two! — and New Jersey). What did your team get? A second-round pick. Do you know who else got a second-round pick? Calgary for Sam Bennett. 

Oh, and your team also is retaining 50 percent of his salary. Yikes.

I believe the Sabres had a better offer for Hall from a Western team but as Hall said, he really wanted to play in Boston.
And that’s absolutely his right with the full NMC. https://t.co/ofoSknV2nQ

— Pierre LeBrun (@PierreVLeBrun) April 13, 2021

Taylor Hall trade takeaways: Bruins get a bargain from Sabres in head-scratching deadline deal

Winner: Taylor Hall

Taylor Hall only wanted to go to one place. Taylor Hall got his wish.

Losers: Anyone who ever said John Tortorella doesn’t care about his players

Winner: Blue Jackets reload

According to Blue Jackets GM Jarmo Kekalainen, the Blue Jackets are not rebuilding, their reloading. And they did just that with the hauls they picked up in exchange for Foligno and David Savard. Columbus now has nine picks in the 2021 NHL draft with three in the first round alone.

NHL TRADE TRACKER 2021: List of deals completed before the deadline

TBD: Sam Bennett

The now ex-Flames forward had a tumultuous spin in Calgary, culminating in about four months’ worth of enough content to fill newspapers for the rest of 2021 (and we don’t mean the season, we mean Dec. 31). From wanting a trade to not wanting a trade. From wanting to play wing to wanting to play center. From being scratched to being a Sutter guy. And that doesn’t even include his never-ending up and down movement in the lineup. 

“I think that’s a good word to describe it is a ‘rollercoaster,’ ” Bennett said on a call with reporters Monday. “I’ve had my ups and downs. Obviously, my career hasn’t gone the way I expected and I think I have a lot more to prove and I have a lot more to give.”

Bennett needed a change, the question is will he actually change now being in Florida? 

Winners: Defensive depth guys

You get a defenseman. And you get a defenseman. Everyone (it felt like) gets a defenseman. 

From Sporting News calculations, between April 10-12, 19 defensemen were traded including 10 on Monday. Of those traded, a bunch went to the North Division including Dmitry Kulikov (to the Oilers), Jordie Benn (from the Canucks to the Jets), Ben Hutton (Maple Leafs) and Jon Merrill and Erik Gustafsson (Canadiens).

Each of those teams is in the playoff race, and expected to make the postseason, and wanted to shore up the blue line now or add a defenseman who could slot in when called upon. In the Canadiens case, Gustafsson and Merrill could help out now with Ben Chiarot out with a broken hand.

TBD: The term “broker team”

This one is dicey. Do we like this? Hard to say. A broker team is a term being used for a club that helps out two other clubs looking to trade by retaining some salary in exchange for something (i.e. a draft pick).

Does it help a team circumvent a salary cap issue? Yes. Is it basically selling a pick in exchange for cash? Kinda. Do we hate the idea? Not necessarily. If teams want to do it, so be it but it does help other clubs whose hands may be otherwise tied out (looking at you Steve Yzerman helping out your old friends in Tampa), which may irk other teams. 

Winners: East Division GMs

After Anders Lee went down with a season-ending injury, Islanders general manager Lou Lamoriello went out and got Kyle Palmieri and Travis Zajac. Capitals GM Brian MacLellan went out and sent a few disgruntled guys away for young power forward Anthony Mantha. The Penguins added veteran Jeff Carter while the Bruins got Mike Reilly and, as mentioned, Taylor Hall.

NHL TRADE GRADES: Kyle Palmieri, Travis Zajac

The four teams in the postseason (right now) for the East Divison beefed up their teams at the deadline. It’ll be a rumble royale to see which team is left standing as the division’s semifinal representative in the Stanley Cup playoffs.

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