The defending Stanley Cup champion Tampa Bay Lightning went into the NHL trade deadline without much money to make a move.
As the league’s best teams often do, the cash-strapped Lightning found a way to improve their chances of winning with a shrewd deal.
The Buffalo Sabres, meanwhile, had one of the most coveted players on the market and a chance to boost their rebuilding project with a trade.
As one of the franchises in the league that can’t seem to get it right, the Sabres failed to get a great return for 2018 NHL MVP Taylor Hall.
Here’s a look at some teams that appeared to win, and lose, in the days and minutes leading up to the trade deadline Monday afternoon:
The Lightning bolstered their blue line and chances to repeat by acquiring defenseman David Savard from Columbus in a three-team trade on Saturday.
Tampa Bay connected with former general manager Steve Yzerman, taking advantage of the Detroit Red Wings’ cap space to swing a deal to acquire a solid, 30-year-old defenseman with 20 games of postseason experience the last two years.
The Lightning did have to give up a first-round pick this year and a third-round selection next year to add one of the best assets available via trade. That’s a small price to pay for a player to pair with with Victor Hedman on a team shooting to repeat with the expected return of injured star Nikita Kucherov.
The lowly Sabres, who are last overall in the league, are slumping toward an NHL record-matching 10th straight season without a postseason appearance.
In Hall, they had what appeared to be one of the top talents available with an expiring, $8 million, one-year contract and didn’t seem to make the most of the opportunity.
The Boston Bruins landed the 29-year-old forward in exchange for fourth-year forward Anders Bjork, who has five points in 30 games this year, and a second-round pick, in a deal that includes Buffalo retaining half of the remainder of Hall’s salary.
The Maple Leafs, desperately seeking to hoist their first Cup in more than a half-century, left no doubt they’re in it to win it this season.
Making moves that leave Toronto with just six selections in two years, the North Division-leading team improved its championship chances by adding insurance up front, on the back end and in net.
The Maple Leafs acquired forwards Nick Foligno and Antti Suomela, defenseman Ben Hutton and goaltender David Rittich in a relatively flurry of activity to add layers of insurance on their talent-laden roster.
The Washington Capitals made the boldest move, giving up a lot to Detroit — perhaps too much — for underperforming forward Anthony Mantha.
Washington sent the Red Wings 25-year-old winger Jakub Vrana, who has 157 career points, journeyman forward Richard Panik, a first-round pick this year and a second-round selection in 2022 and gave up all their salary cap space to acquire Mantha.
While the 26-year-old Mantha is potentially a power forward every team wants, he has just 21 points in 42 games this season and seems to to simply float around the ice during some shifts.
The Bruins didn’t have to give up much to get Hall, a six-time 20-goal-scorer that had a 93-point season just a few years ago in New Jersey.
Boston needs Hall and he needs another fresh start.
The Bruins are trying to hold off the New York Rangers and Philadelphia for the fourth and final playoff spot in the East Division. Hall will be highly motivated to produce to increase his value as a free agent after betting on himself with a one-year deal in Buffalo, turning own longer-term offers elsewhere.
Yzerman gave up on Mantha, who he believed was a key piece of the franchise’s rebuilding plan just months ago when signing him to a four-year deal with average annual value of $5.7 million.
The Hall of Fame player and experienced executive took on another underperforming player, Vrana, who will count $3.35 million against the cap next season, and added to his stockpile of selections over the next two years.
Yzerman said himself that picks are good, but wins are better, and the franchise he is leading has more of the former than the later and it’s difficult to envision that changing anytime soon.
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