TORONTO — Canadian teams were the driving force behind an NHL trade deadline that buzzed with late activity.
Only a handful of significant transactions were made ahead of Monday’s 3 p.m. ET deadline, the most notable of which saw 26-year-old Mikkel Boedker sent to Colorado and Calgary defenceman Kris Russell dealt to Dallas.
Nineteen trades, involving 37 players, were ultimately made, many coming through in the hours after the deadline officially passed.
Most of the major dealing was done in the days before the deadline, highlighted by a class of Canadian teams likely to miss the post-season collectively for the first time since 1970.
Nearly every Canadian club dealt expiring contracts for future assets.
A predictable seller coming into the season, the rebuilding Maple Leafs started the dealing process in the first week of February, sending captain Dion Phaneuf to Ottawa in a nine-player blockbuster. They continued to jettison veteran roster pieces, moving Shawn Matthias, Nick Spaling, Roman Polak, James Reimer and Daniel Winnik in various deals that netted the club six draft picks and a pair of prospects.
While Toronto planned to sell after signing a number of free agents to short-term contracts last summer, it’s fair to suggest that none of the remaining Canadian sellers expected to be in such a position. Three of the five clubs made the playoffs last season (Calgary, Winnipeg and Montreal) and were expected to get back again this year.
Buoyed by an ever-promising group of emerging talent, which included 2015 first-overall pick Connor McDavid, the Oilers were hopeful to contend for their first playoff spot since 2006.
They proved a disappointment, though, stuck as the worst team in the Western Conference on deadline day.
Edmonton dealt Teddy Purcell and his expiring contract as well as young goaltender Anders Nilsson and 25-year-old defenceman Justin Schultz, who struggled to find his fit over three-plus seasons in Edmonton.
“At this point of the year we’re not a contending team,” Oilers general manager Peter Chiarelli said after moving Purcell.
“And part of management’s job is managing assets so we felt we should trade (Purcell) for an asset and that’s what we did.”
A surprise playoff team last season, Calgary fell out of the playoff mix this year and also sold ahead of the deadline. Jiri Hudler was dealt to Florida over the weekend in a deal that netted the Flames future picks in the second and fourth rounds. On Monday, Calgary sent Russell to Dallas for a relatively rich return of 24-year-old defenceman Jyrki Jokipakka, a prospect and a conditional second-round pick in 2016.
The pick moves to the first round if the Stars reach the Western Conference final and Russell plays in 50 per cent of playoff games in the first two rounds.
“We’re going to cheer like crazy for the Dallas Stars,” said Flames general manager Brad Treliving. “Having that one potentially turn into a first-round pick — that gives us some bullets.”
Calgary also managed to land a sixth-round pick from Minnesota for winger David Jones, whose deal expires after the season.
The Jones deal was one of many to be announced after the deadline officially passed.
Unable to sign Andrew Ladd to a long-term deal, Winnipeg joined the Leafs in trading their captain. In perhaps the most noticeable transaction outside of New York’s acquisition of long-time Hurricanes captain Eric Staal, the Jets dealt Ladd to Chicago last week for a package that netted the Jets a future first-round pick as well as prospect Marko Dano.
Montreal’s season unwound after an early-season injury to reigning Hart Trophy winner Carey Price and they also opted to sell, sending depth forwards Dale Weise and Tomas Fleischmann to Chicago. In return the Canadiens got back promising young centre and former first-round pick Phillip Danault.
The club also swapped young forwards with New Jersey, landing former first-round pick Stefan Matteau from the Devils in exchange for Devante Smith-Pelly. Matteau bounced between the NHL and AHL over four seasons with the Devils.
“We were both seller and buyer,” Canadiens general manager Marc Bergevin said, noting the acquisition of Danault.
Ottawa, too, proved both seller and buyer. The Senators acquired Phaneuf to solidify their defence earlier this month, while also dealing 23-year-old forward Shane Prince and its own seventh-round pick this June for a third-round selection, also in 2016.
The Canucks were the only Canadian team that did nothing of consequence to its NHL roster before the deadline. Vancouver had two intriguing trade candidates in winger Radim Vrbata and defenceman Dan Hamhuis, but traded neither.
“It wasn’t from a lack of trying,” Canucks GM Jim Benning said. “The market this year, there wasn’t a lot of buyers in the marketplace. The teams that were buying weren’t really paying a lot to get those players.”
Treliving seemed to expect activity of that kind.
In the days before the deadline he described the trade market as “tight”, labelling it a “grind” shortly afterward. “The question is why,” said Treliving. “I think it’s a financial reality. Those picks and prospects have got greater value now with the financial reality of our league.”
Chiarelli thought a flat cap might have something do with it while Leafs G.M. Lou Lamoriello believed increasing separation in the standings left fewer teams buying assets like Leafs impending unrestricted free agent P.A. Parenteau, who was not traded despite Lamoriello’s best attempts.
“Where I think if you would’ve seen the standings a little tighter than they really are — there has been a separation over the last week to 10 days — I think you would’ve seen more teams look at players like P.A. and so forth to add to them,” Lamoriello said. “And a lot of teams were in cap trouble also.”