NHL Deadline Deals Bolster Stanley Cup Race

In the days leading up to the Feb. 26 NHL trade deadline, general managers have had their final chance to decide whether to buy or sell as they hunker down for the dog days of the playoff chase. Below are the breakdowns from some of the most noteworthy storylines on the deadline.

New York Rangers Break Up Their Core

The Rangers have maintained a strong core centered around their star goaltender Henrik Lundqvist. The apex of the Rangers’ seven consecutive playoff appearances occurred in 2014 when the team reached the Stanley Cup Finals only to lose to the Los Angeles Kings in five games.

Four years after their finals appearance, the Rangers traded five of their key starting players. The team made its first move Feb. 20 when it traded defenseman Nick Holden to the Boston Bruins for a third-round pick and a prospect in the 2018 NHL Entry Draft.

New York’s trades gradually grew. The team traded forward Michael Grabner to the New Jersey Devils for a 2018 second-round draft pick and a prospect. New York then made another deal with the Bruins during which the Rangers parted ways with top-six forward Rick Nash for a 2018 first-round draft pick, prospects and utility players.

The Rangers put an exclamation on their deadline deals by trading their team captain, defenseman Ryan McDonagh and another top forward, J.T. Miller, to the Tampa Bay Lightning. In exchange, the Rangers received a 2018 first-round draft pick; a conditional 2019 second-round draft pick; an established player, Lightning forward Vladislav Namestnikov; and a pair of prospects.

Those major deals reveal the Rangers’ commitment to a rebuild and their aim to create a core that will lead to future success.

Lightning  Power Move in Bringing in McDonagh and Miller

Unlike the tanking Rangers, the Tampa Bay Lightning put together a strong 2017-18 campaign and added two talented players at the deadline.

Since McDonagh entered the league in 2010, he has been the Rangers’ most prized possession as the top defenseman on their blue line. As the Rangers’ captain for four seasons, he led the defensive unit that carried the team to the 2014 Stanley Cup.

With an already stout defensive unit headed by Victor Hedman, the Lightning added another asset — Miller — who gives them arguably the best defense in the league.

Along with McDonagh, the Rangers sent Miller, who accumulated 72 goals and 100 assists in 341 NHL games, to Tampa Bay.

Bruins Bolster Forecheck With Rick Nash

The Boston Bruins’ most notable acquisition is Ranger forward Rick Nash, who has played more than 1,000 games in the NHL and obtained nearly 800 career points.

Over the years, Nash has built a reputation as one of the league’s most prolific scorers, with his highest goal total adding up to 42 in the 2015 regular season. While Nash has only 18 goals so far this season, he remains a valuable addition and slots in as a top-six forward on almost every team in the league.

Jets, Sharks, Golden Knights Aim for Playoff Push out West

In the Western Conference, the Winnipeg Jets, San Jose Sharks and Vegas Golden Knights all made hefty acquisitions, each claiming a productive forward.

Currently No. 2 in the Central Division, the Jets added skilled center Paul Stastny from the St. Louis Blues to the roster. But Stastny came at a steep price of a 2018 first-round pick, a 2020 fourth-round pick and a prospect. He has played in more than 800 games and amassed more than 600 points throughout his 12-year career. In 63 games this season, Stastny has totaled 12 goals and 28 assists.

The Sharks claimed left winger Evander Kane, a former No. 4 overall draft pick from the 2009 draft. Kane’s scoring dynamic has been consistent since his first year in the league, and he has totalled 340 points in 557 games played. In exchange for Kane, the Sharks forfeited a 2019 conditional first-round pick, a 2020 conditional fourth-round pick and 24-year-old forward Daniel O’Regan, who is just starting his NHL career.

In a shocking initial season, the Golden Knights hold the best record in the Western Conference. The Knights traded their 2018 first-round pick, 2019 second-round pick and 2021 third-round pick to the Detroit Red Wings in exchange for forward Tomas Tatar.

Tatar has yet to hit his stride this season, joining the Knights with only 28 points in 62 games played with a struggling Red Wings team. With a change of scenery, the Knights hope Tatar will improve his record, given his previous three straight 40-plus point seasons with the Red Wings and a career high of 56 points back in the 2014-15 season. With more than 400 games played in the NHL, Tatar brings to the Golden Knights experience and another solid addition to their forecheck.