The Penguin’s division was the most active on trade deadline day this year. Boston, Washington, and the New York Islanders all loaded up for what is sure to be a knockout fight of a playoff race. The Penguins made an under the radar move to keep pace with their division foes. As the dust settles from deadline action, the question now is: how did the Penguins do compared to the rest of the division? I’m taking a look at the top four teams in the division to give out some grades on their trade deadline deals and see how the Penguins compared.
The Bruins acquired Taylor Hall and Curtis Lazar from the Buffalo Sabres for a 2nd round pick and Anders Bjork. Boston was rumored to be interested in several key deadline players, and they landed the biggest name available. Due to his no-movement clause, underperformance, and large cap hit, the Sabres undersold on Hall. The Bruins needed a top six playmaker and took advantage, adding the former MVP to an already potent lineup. Hall was brutal in Buffalo this year, but who wasn’t? His poor play needs to end, or it will be a bad trade for the Bruins. Still, the price paid was relatively low. I also expect Hall to get a jump in production after joining a playoff-bound team. For the Penguins, it means a team that regularly gives them trouble got even better.
I give them a B+
New York Islanders
Lou Lamoriello fleeced his former team at the trade deadline with his big deadline acquisition. The Islanders traded two prospects, a 2021 1st round pick, and a 2022 4th round pick to the New Jersey Devils for Kyle Palmeiri and Travis Zajac. This trade boosts the Islanders forward corps that lost their captain, Anders Lee, to injury. They get a top six winger in Kyle Palmeiri, and an accomplished center that can play in multiple roles in Travis Zajac. They give up their first round pick in the upcoming draft, but it looks to be somewhere in the mid to late 20’s. That is a small price to pay for the Islanders, and it’s refreshing to see them go for it. Playing in Barry Trotz defensive system can be a challenge for players, but avoiding that, the Islanders did fantastic. I think the Penguins and Islanders are steamrolling towards a first round matchup and it would be a wild ride.
I give them an A+
The Capitals sent Jakub Vrana, Richard Panik, a 1st, and a 2nd round draft pick to the Detroit Red Wings for Anthony Mantha at the trade deadline. They got a good young player and 25 goal scorer in Mantha. He fits the Capitals criteria for a forward almost perfectly: big, physical, and has a scoring touch. To acquire him, the Caps gave up the biggest haul of any team in the division. Jakub Vrana is a good player, arguably the same level of player as Mantha. The Capitals GM indicated they and Vrana were looking for a split in his post trade comments, so the Capitals front office is happy with getting a quality player in return. My biggest problem is they included a 1st and 2nd round pick to offload the contract of Richard Panik. The Capitals are in a precariously similar position to the Penguins. They both have aging stars desperate for another Cup run. To give up two future assets like that in addition to Vrana is a huge gamble. If it pays off, I’m just another critical idiot, in the meantime, I don’t love the move for Washington.
I give them a C
The Penguins traded a conditional 3rd and 4th round pick to the Los Angeles Kings for Jeff Carter. If you want to read a more in depth look at the trade, check out my piece. The LA Kings are retaining 50% of his contract, meaning that he counts for around $2.75 mill against the cap for this year and next. He has 8 goals and 19 points this season. The best part of the deal is they acquired an impact player for minimal cost. They didn’t lose any roster players or prospects and didn’t surrender their 2nd round pick in this draft. Carter isn’t the quality of player that Anthony Mantha or Taylor Hall are anymore, but he’s a scoring forward that can add depth behind the Penguin’s talented top six.
I give them a B-
All in all, the East Division teams stocked up on weapons. The playoff field is not set for another month, but it feels like these four teams will be battling it out to play in the semi-final. Each team added players that can score. Who acquired the best player? In my opinion it’s Taylor Hall for the Bruins. Who made the best trade, though? The Islanders have that locked up for me. The race for the East Division title is on, and it will be entertainment from start to finish.