Tri-State Area Teams Were Busy at NHL Trade Deadline

Our John Fiorino breaks down the NHL trade deadline for the New York Rangers, New Jersey Devils and New York Islanders.

John Fiorino, Entertainment Editor

The 3 p.m. NHL trade deadline came and went on Monday, Feb. 26 and the front office personnel of the three local teams, the New York Rangers, New Jersey Devils and New York Islanders were active, working towards improving their teams for the future, both near and far.

The deadline was slow moving for the majority of the day, large in part to the high prices set by the selling teams.  It wasn’t until the final few minutes where big deals started coming through about the local clubs. In short, the Rangers were sellers, the Devils were buyers and the Islanders failed to commit one way or the other.

New York Rangers: Sellers

The Rangers are selling for the first time in over a decade. In the 12 full seasons that all-star goaltender, Henrik Lundqvist has been with the blue shirts, they have made it to the playoffs 11 times. However, as the standings currently sit, they are en route to fall short of postseason play for just the second time in 13 years, forcing them to finally sell and rebuild.

Since Lundqvist joined the team during the 2005-06 season, New York has had a total of nine first-round picks, only one of which was a top-10 pick. Of those nine, just two players, Chris Kreider and Brady Skjei, are currently with the team. Before 2017, the blueshirts hadn’t had a first-round pick in five years. A rebuild was inevitable.

How did they do it?

Rangers General Manager, Jeff Gorton, was able to get the Boston Bruins to bite on the highly paid Rick Nash. Yes, there are facets to his game that involve more than scoring, but his contract of $7.8 million was based on the scorer he once was. After retaining half of Nash’s salary, New York got Ryan Spooner, Matt Beleskey, with Boston retaining half of his salary, prospect Ryan Lindgren, a 1st round pick in this year’s draft and a 7th round pick in the 2019 draft.

Overall, Gorton obtained a nice haul for the once-thought “untradeable” Nash. Acquiring a couple roster players and a hard-hitting defensive prospect while also acquiring draft picks is a job well done. They weren’t done there though.

It is the end of the Ryan McDonagh era in New York, and with that, J.T. Miller as well. Both players left for Tampa Bay on Monday afternoon after the Rangers got a haul for them. In the swap, the Rangers got forward Vladislav Namestnikov, the Lightning’s first-round pick in 2018, a conditional second-round pick in 2019 and prospects Libor Hajek and Brett Howden.

Namestnikov will slot into the Rangers middle-six forward group immediately. The prospects are on target to be NHL players, but there is always a risk that they won’t make it. Again, in this trade, the biggest pieces are the draft picks. One is a first-round pick in this year’s draft. The other is a second rounder that will become a first in the 2019  draft if Tampa Bay wins the Stanley Cup over the next two seasons.

After a pair of deadline deals and previous trades with the Bruins and the Devils before the deadline, the Rangers now have seven picks in the first three rounds and 10 overall in the upcoming draft. They sold and did what they needed to: stockpile draft picks and prospects.

Final Grade: A-

Gorton did a great job of getting picks for this draft, but probably could’ve sold even more.

New Jersey Devils: Buyers

The Devils find themselves in an interesting situation. They are competitive again and for the first time in quite a few years, they were buyers at the deadline.

New Jersey got off to a hot start this year and as the end of the regular season nears, they are still in the thick of the playoff race. With that being said, the Devils may not be poised to make a deep run in comparison to other teams in the playoff picture, as they do not stack up well in terms of depth. However, aside from adding depth, addressing their scoring was an area of concern, and they just that.

Prior to the deadline, New Jersey acquired Rangers forward and former 30-goal scorer, Michael Grabner. The Austrian winger came at a fairly cheap price, costing just a second-round pick and a prospect who is playing overseas. The Devils have been drafting high for years now. They have prospects in the pipeline and some are already on the pro club, thus making this a reasonable deal.


New Jersey’s main focus was to make sure that they would not go quietly against a big opponent. To do that, they acquired Patrick Maroon from the Edmonton Oilers in exchange for a forward prospect and a third-round pick. Maroon once had 27 goals playing alongside Connor McDavid and that will likely be his peak. That being said, he is still a viable option in a lesser role which is more than likely where the Devils will put the winger. He currently has 30 points in 57 games with 14 goals.

A positive about Maroon is that he could be used in different situations. The Devils can put him on a scoring line, a physical line with another checking winger or on the powerplay. The versatility makes this a solid move for New Jersey.

Final Grade: B

A solid job in getting depth scoring, but what would’ve made them higher would be an even bigger splash. No worries, as the best is yet to come in New Jersey.

New York Islanders: Another waisted deadline

For the Islanders, the major piece was to secure a defenseman, which they did, but not overwhelmingly well. General Manager Garth Snow could have made a big splash with the extra draft picks at his disposal from trading away Travis Hamonic last summer, yet, he failed to utilize them and unless they are moved at draft this summer, it looks more likely that the club will use them.

New York did make two trades though, acquiring Brandon Davidson from the Edmonton Oilers for a third-round pick and winger, Chris Wagner from the Anaheim Ducks in exchange for veteran forward, Jason Chimera. The two trades gave the Islanders what they were looking for: physicality and defense. The issue is, New York should not have stopped there.

There were rental forwards and defenseman on the market that could have helped put the Islanders over the edge. Some names are Niklas Hjalmarsson, Evander Kane and Thomas Plekanec. If the Devils could get Grabner for a second round pick and a prospect from outside of North America, then why did the Islanders not offer something similar?

Unfortunately, we don’t know the answer.

One thing that is for sure though, is that most teams in the division made moves that will improve their lineups. Philadelphia acquired a goaltender, Columbus acquired a scoring forward and Pittsburgh improved at center. All of those teams are in the playoff race with New York and essentially standing pat was the wrong move.

The Islanders have not committed to selling or buying for the last few years. That middle-of-the-road mentality can be taxing on a franchise. It adds uncertainty to the players already there and potential free agents which doesn’t help the look of the team. In the final year of John Tavares’ contract, Snow did not give him any reason to stay on Monday.

Overall, the Islanders added Davidson, a young defenseman who could be promising, but Wagner will probably walk when his contract expires at the end of the year. Thus making this another wasted deadline for the Islanders.

Final Grade: C-

New York acquired a defenseman and successfully subtracted Chimera’s contract, but they needed to do more.