A flurry of last-minute deals, highlighted by the trade that sent Ottawa’s Mark Stone to Vegas for bluechip prospect Erik Brannstrom, made Monday’s NHL trade deadline one of the busiest days for player swaps in several years. By the time the final trade was announced a little after the official deadline of 3 p.m. ET, a total of 23 moves involving 35 players and 17 future draft picks had been completed.
Aside from the NHL Draft weekend in late June, the last week in February has become the busiest period on the schedule for player movement.
Before the day even began, there were several high-profile players who were already moved. The biggest deal took place Friday when the Senators shipped center Matt Duchene to Columbus for a pair of prospects and high draft picks. Additional deals followed on Saturday, as the Rangers sent left wing Mats Zuccarello to Dallas, and Columbus struck a second deal with Ottawa by adding left wing Ryan Dzingel.
MORE TRADE DEADLINE:
SN grades every major trade from 2019 NHL deadline day
Unlike the Duchene trade, however, neither of those moves involved prospects.
Player movement on Monday moved at a snail’s pace, with Winnipeg’s acquisition of Rangers center Kevin Hayes for prospect Brendan Lemieux and a 2019 first-round pick serving as the juiciest storyline well into the early afternoon. It wasn’t until the final hour when the remaining prizes, namely Stone and Philadelphia’s Wayne Simmonds, were sent packing to their respective western conference destinations in Las Vegas and Nashville.
While the potential for established NHL players to change addresses attracted the most attention, the cost in draft picks and prospects necessary to acquire them became an integral part of the discussion, especially in this salary cap era where young, cheap talent are as critical to a struggling bottom feeder as the veteran hired guns are to the Stanley Cup contenders.
Teases in the form of occasional two-game winning streaks notwithstanding, the grim reality of a hockey-less spring for fans of just under half the teams in the NHL likely set in sometime around Christmas. And as demoralizing and inadequate the prospect of habitual losing may make them feel, the period surrounding the trade deadline always presents them with the opportunity to cash in on a contending team’s desperation for postseason success.
Knowing what we now know, let’s analyze the prospects involved in the last seven days of frenzied wheeling and dealing.
NHL DRAFT 2019: SN’s mock draft 1.0 | Top 31 big board
Minnesota C Charlie Coyle to Boston for RW/C Ryan Donato and a conditional 2019 fifth-round pick (fourth round if Bruins win one playoff round in 2019)
Ryan Donato, RW/C
6’0, 193 | 4/9/96 | Boston, NHL | BOS 2nd/2014
The Harvard-schooled Donato got off to a slow start with the Bruins after he played well for them late last season. He looked far from the Calder Trophy candidate most thought he would be this season. Keep in mind, however, that through Monday, Donato among NHL rookies at even strength ranked first in individual chances for per 60 minutes (18.74), second in shots-per-60 (10.96), and third in individual scoring chances for-per-60 (9.21). The shooting percentage is paltry — 4.4 percent (three even-strength goals on 69 shots), but the Wild should chalk it up to puck luck more than anything, as Donato scored three goals on only 15 even-strength shots (20.0 percent) a year ago.
Donato can play both center and wing. His best asset is his shot — he owns a powerful shot-release combination that makes his low shooting percentage seem more than a bit perplexing. He can play a fast-paced style and will exploit flat-footed defenders with bursts of speed, but Donato’s decision-making can at times be puzzling.
It also seemed like he regressed from his college days by playing with a lower compete level and sputtering motor. Still, he’s an offensive forward with top-six potential who is only a minor tweak or two from rejuvenating his season and taking positives with him into training camp.
Ottawa trades C Matt Duchene and RHD Julius Bergman to Columbus for RW Vitalii Abramov, RW Jonathan Davidsson, 2019 1st Round Pick (top-three protected), Conditional 2020 1st Round Pick
Vitaly Abramov, LW/RW
5’9, 171 | 5/8/98 | Cleveland, AHL | CBJ 3rd/2016
A former QMJHL scoring champion with Gatineau in 2016-17, Abramov is a Russian-born offensive forward who makes up for a lack of size with incredible stick-handling, vision and elusiveness. He averaged 100 points in three seasons in major junior, and through Sunday was 27th among under-21 AHL scorers with 22 points (12 goals, 10 assists) in 52 games for the Blue Jackets’ affiliate in Cleveland.
Drafted in the third round in 2016, Abramov has rotated from the left-wing slot on the top three lines three lines and sees most of his power-play time on the second unit. He is as good a finisher as he is a set-up man, and he can control the flow of an offensive zone possession either from the half wall or keeping his feet moving and eyes peeled during a cycle. Abramov’s balance has improved, but he’s an offense-first winger who tries to avoid contact and use his agility and escapability to sidestep pressure. Abramov isn’t the type of player a coach would want on the ice to help protect a lead late in the third period.
From purely a puck-skills perspective, Abramov is a blue-chip prospect. Some said his freewheeling ways would have ticked off Blue Jackets head coach John Tortorella, but he plays a similar style to Artemi Panarin, who has been a star since being traded to Columbus. Considering the number of two-way forwards in Ottawa’s system, the acquisition of Abramov adds a needed wrinkle to the prospect pool and can be seen as the replacement for sniping winger Jonathan Dahlen, who the Senators traded to Vancouver for Alexandre Burrows.
GRADES: Blue Jackets turn to Senators for a No. 1 center
Jonathan Davidsson, RW
5’11, 185 | 3/12/97 | Djugardens, SHL | CBJ 6th/2017
Drafted in 2017 as a 1997-born double overager, Davidsson is one of several speedy NHL-drafted prospects with a Djugardens squad that likes to play an up-tempo style. More of a playmaker than a finisher, Davidsson is a heady player who has improved the physical aspect of his game in the form of finishing his checks, battling in the corners and maintaining his balance as he powers into the zone. You get the impression that his coach leans on him heavily for all situations, and like Abramov, Davidsson sees most of his power-play time on the second unit. Davidsson, who has been averaging close to 19 minutes a game since the new year, plays at even strength mostly with fellow neophytes Marcus Davidsson (BUF) and Emil Bemstrom (CBJ).
Still, it’s his fourth season in the league and he turns 22 in less than three weeks. His stats (21 points in 36 games through Monday) put his production a bit in perspective and are in line with what one would expect from one of the SHL’s younger “veterans.” Davidsson, a sixth-round pick in 2017, gives the Senators two-way depth on the wing, and he’s proven to be a low-maintenance prospect no matter the style of the center he flanks.
Anaheim trades RHD Brandon Montour to Buffalo for RHD Brendan Guhle and a 2019 1st round pick (conditional)
Brendan Guhle, RHD
6’2, 196 | 7/29/97 | Rochester, AHL | BUF 2nd/2015
A smooth-skating defender, Guhle was the centerpiece of Buffalo’s rebuilding efforts along its blue line before Rasmus Dahlin arrived to take the league by storm. Although he put up decent numbers in the AHL (27 points in 50 games), the Sabres never seemed comfortable giving him much of a look on a back-end that is bottom 10 in goals allowed at even strength.
Guhle is at his best when he’s pushing the puck past center ice and using his agility and lateral quickness to create a numbers advantage in the offensive zone. His defensive-zone play and coverage are improving, but are otherwise spotty, and Anaheim paid a heavy price in giving up a mainstay like Montour. Still, and offensive-minded rearguard like Guhle should fit in nicely with the Ducks and their group of budding scorers.
Rangers trade C Kevin Hayes to Winnipeg for RW Brendan Lemieux, a 2019 1st round pick, and a 2020 4th round pick (conditional)
Brendan Lemieux, RW
6’1, 210 | 3/15/96 | Winnipeg, NHL | BUF 2nd/2014
A former high draft pick of the Sabres, Lemieux slowly developed into a dependable role player on a Cup-contending team in Winnipeg. He was practically invisible the first half of the season, generating next to nothing in both shots and scoring chances. It wasn’t until the promotion of fellow prospect Mason Appleton, however, when Lemieux started seeing his attempts find the back of the net.
Big, strong and physical, the son of multi-Cup winner Claude Lemieux can be a serviceable checker while pitching in with occasional offense. The Rangers require maximum effort from their players regardless of age or the number of zeros on their pay stubs, so Lemieux should not only fit in, but possibly become a fan favorite.
Ottawa trades RW Mark Stone to Vegas for LHD Erik Brannstrom, C Oscar Lindberg and a 2020 2nd round pick (Dallas)
Erik Brannstrom, LHD
5’10, 173 | 9/2/99 | Chicago, AHL | VGK 1st/2017
The entire hockey world knew acquiring Mark Stone would not come cheap, but the ability of Ottawa general manager Pierre Dorion to pry away one of the best prospects in the world is something that should be recognized. Brannstrom, the 15th pick in the 2017 draft, is an on-ice general who controls the pace and flow of a game by using his elite hockey sense, swift skating and playmaking. He unloads a very hard shot and doesn’t hesitate to use it.
Brannstrom is one of the AHL’s top scoring rookie defensemen, registering 28 points (7 goals, 21 assists) in only 41 games for the Golden Knights’ affiliate in Chicago. Blessed with exceptional leg drive and closing speed, he is as strong as an ox and can deliver big hits despite being smaller than a good chunk of the forwards he faces on a nightly basis. He can log big minutes, play in any situation, and serve as his coach’s problem solver no matter the score or time on the clock.
GRADES: Senators enter next phase of rebuild without Mark Stone
Carolina trades C Cliff Pu to Florida for LW Tomas Jurco
Cliff Pu, C
6’2, 193 | 6/3/98 | Charlotte, AHL | BUF 3rd/2016)
The lone prospect involved in Carolina’s preseason trade with Buffalo for Jeff Skinner, Pu struggled to produce as a rookie AHLer for the Canes’ deep and talented minor league affiliate in Charlotte to the point where he recently was demoted to the ECHL. He plays both center and wing although his natural position is as a pivot, and he is a very good penalty killer. Still, it’s hard to sugarcoat his one goal and six points in 44 games, even if you factor in the Checkers’ prospect-loaded lineup with several centers (including Pu) that played out of position.
Pu, who skates very well for his size and puts forth a solid effort, seems to be unfairly judged as the “centerpiece” of Carolina’s return for a fan favorite like Skinner. But lest we forget the deal also included a second- and third-rounder heading the Canes’ way. The kid needed a change of scenery, and Florida’s farm team in Springfield should be a welcomed change.
San Jose trades C Linus Karlsson to Vancouver for LW Jonathan Dahlen
Linus Karlsson, C
6’1, 179 | 11/16/99 | Karlskrona, Allsvenskan | SJS 3rd/2018
Karlsson is a two-way center with average speed and an edge who comes across as a jack-of-all-trades, master-of- none type of forward. He was rather invisible at the U-20 World Junior Summer Showcase, but on occasion he displays the ability to take over shifts thanks to his puck protection and balance. Karlsson is a decent playmaker via vision or creativity, but he also sets up scoring chances off board battles by using his strength and high compete level to win pucks and feed them for immediate chances near the net.
Karlsson, who currently ranks second among Allsvenkan junior-aged players with 13 assists in 48 games, normally centers Karlskrona’s second line and can used in all three zones despite below-average face-off success. For whatever reason, he did not play for Sweden at any of the four major under-20 international tournaments despite being one of the better young players in the Allsvenskan
Jonathan Dahlen, LW
5’11, 180 | 12/20/97 | Utica, AHL | OTT 2nd/2016
Dahlen, whose father Ulf was a scoring winger during a lengthy NHL career, was Ottawa’s second-round pick in 2016 but was immediately traded to Vancouver for veteran Alexandre Burrows. He was Allsvenskan league MVP in 2018 and was putting up decent numbers (14 goals and 29 points in 50 games) this season as an AHL rookie with Utica.
There were reports that the Canucks had soured on his overall game, and Dahlen requested a trade because he was unhappy with his role within the organization — his third in three years. Although he’s a sniper and a dangerous power-play threat, the last thing a rebuilding team like the Canucks need is a malcontent, regardless of how close Dahlen was with budding superstar (and fellow Swede) Elias Pettersson. It was easy to envision a lengthy run of Peterson feeding Dahlen pucks for one-timers, but if the reports are true, the decision to cut ties with him was one that had to be made.