This season the NHL trade deadline on February 25th finally saw some big fish change their habitats, whereas previously it’s been just about as interesting as watching grass grow. Several teams pulled the trigger on anticipated headline deals, while some certain trade baits were left untouched. We are of course interested on how these decisions affect the outcomes of coming regular season games and more importantly, the playoffs.
By running Accuscore’s simulations before and after the deadline trades – or actually a bit before as some decisive moves were already made previous week, we can determine the impact these changes have had on the teams, both in the short and the long run.
Overall the changes definitely made a couple of teams stronger and of course then left a couple of stragglers weaker. Interestingly though, with less than 20 games left in the regular season, the impact on the predicted point totals changed only very slightly. This is probably due to the fact that teams growing stronger were already comparatively strong and most of the strong teams got better – and respectively the bad teams were already bad. Let’s see what effect the trades have had on some of the contenders and their likely playoff partners.
Trade deadline winners
Columbus Blue Jackets
Not only did the Blue Jackets finally add a legitimate presence at the centre in Ottawa’s Matt Duchene and necessary depth in mid-6 wing in Ryan Dzingel, but they managed to hold on to talisman Artemi Panarin and no.1 goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky. Addition of hard-nosed defenseman Adam McQuaid and backup keeper Keith Kinkaid added some icing to the cake. With the moves, Columbus grew significantly stronger in offense and more reliable in the back. More notably, the trades allow moving the current players to their more suitable roles, namely a step or two down the hierarchy.
Pre-DL: to make playoffs 83%, to win division 15%, point total 94
Post-DL: to make playoffs 97%, to win division 20%, point total 98
Vegas Golden Knights
Arguably the best player and probably one of the most undervalued two-way forwards in the game, Mark Stone left Ottawa for the Golden Knights. One of the most constant performers in struggling Senators, Stone brings a truckload of offensive talent to Vegas – something the team has been lacking. Stone instantly became Golden Knights best scorer with almost 20-point margin with his 62 points in 59 games. Rarely has an impact of a single addition been as big as Stone’s is for Vegas. And they know it, since instantly after the trade the former Senator signed an 8-year $76M contract, making him the highest paid Golden Knight in history.
Pre-DL: to make playoffs 71%, to win division 0.03%, point total 88
Post-DL: to make playoffs 84%, to win division 0.10%, point total 91
Boasting an already strong team, Nashville Predators upgraded a couple of key positions albeit not growing stronger depth-wise. Kevin Fiala and Ryan Hartmann were sent away and in return the Predators acquired Mikael Granlund and Wayne Simmonds. While Granlund provides some much needed talent in the offensive end with his hockey IQ and passing ability, Simmonds brings in another tough net-front presence which will be much needed in the post-season. Although Simmonds has disappointed this season, change of scenery might spark a little life on the big forward. Bottom-6 veteran centerman Brian Boyle joined already earlier, providing some depth to the offence. Fiala and Hartmann were solid roster players, but it seems their replacements add some value to Pred’s Stanley Cup run.
While the regular season’s predictions improved only marginally for the Predators after trade deadline, the impact on probabilities to win a playoff series increased with almost 5% against their Western Conference rivals – except for the Jets.
Also considered one of the frontrunners for Stanley Cup in the western conference, Jets did what they did last season: acquired a center for top-6. Last year it was Paul Stastny, now in Vegas and this year it is Ranger’s Kevin Hayes, a big body as is Jets’ configuration with some excellent prowess in both ends of the ice. He’s been a solid +40 point scorer in more or less chaotic Rangers team and is expected to jump in to help the likes of Patrik Laine and Nikolaj Ehlers to score the goals. Jets also bolstered their D with Panthers’ Bogdan Kiselevich, who adds depth to injury ridden defensive core missing Josh Morrissey and Dustin Byfuglien. Buffalo’s defender Nathan Beaulieu came in as a reclamation project after failing to make an impact in his two seasons and just might get a chance in the coming weeks. Matt Hendricks came in as a veteran presence to the dressing room and will probably spend a lot of time as a healthy scratch mentoring the youngster and filling in the 4th line if necessary.
Like with Predators, Jets’ predictions for regular season improve only slightly due to the additions. And as is with the Predators, Jets’ chances of winning a playoff series improved closer to 4% - except against the Predators.
Several teams consider contenders made some roster changes which have no impact according to the simulations. Some teams needed to shake it up without really improving that much and some teams preferred more suitable players for different role – be as it may, the following trades provided some headlines but didn’t affect or had a marginal effect on Accuscore’s regular season predictions and the playoffs-scenarios.
Washington Capitals acquired defenseman Nick Jensen from Detroit Red Wings in exchange to Madison Bowey. While Jensen is a definite upgrade to Bowey as of now, the impact in solid Capitals defence is minimal at best. Carl Hagelin’s arrival from LA Kings should provide some depth in offense, but his numbers this season and last season are so poor his impact is marginal as well.
Pittsburgh Penguins GM Jim Rutherford continued his shuffling of the deck at the deadline. Already having sent out Carl Hagelin to LA for Tanner Pearson, Pearson was now exchanged for hard-nosed bruiser of a defender Erik Gudbranson of Vancouver. Former 3rd overall pick never filled his potential and is unlikely to have a big impact on Penguins hunt for the Cup, especially since exactly similar calibre Jamie Oleksiak was let go earlier. Coming in already before the deadline were also Florida’s Nick Bjugstad and Jared McCann while Derick Brassard and Riley Sheahan went the other way. The moves balance out overall and the impact is literally non-existent.
Dallas Stars would’ve probably been in the winner side, but Mats Zuccarello’s injury in his first appearance pushed the Stars down a bit – especially with most of the other western contenders growing stronger. Additions of Andrew Cogliano and Jamie Oleksiak already in January and Ben Lovejoy joining in exchange to Connor Carrick are only fringe moves, which are not showing up on simulations. Healthy Zuccarello has a small impact, but in the playoffs Stars did not get remarkably better.
Toronto made their move already in January, acquiring Jake Muzzin to bolster the defence. Maple Leafs boast such an impressive team that Muzzin addition had no significant impact to their expected results. The same goes for San Jose Sharks, who added forward Gustav Nyquist from Detroit Red Wings. Already having a playoff percentage of 100% and point total prediction at 104, Nyquist makes no difference in Accuscore simulations.
Colorado Avalanche added centerman Derick Brassard, now with his 3rd team of the season. His numbers are remarkably poor and there’s only a marginal impact on Colorado’s probabilities.
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