1
Photo Credit: Marc DesRosiers-USA TODAY Sports

The Eastern Conference landscape after the trade deadline

To the delight of some and the dismay of others, the Leafs mostly stood pat at the deadline, only making minor deals and not adding big pieces at the deadline. They’re in a weird spot where they’re good enough to compete, but young enough that it doesn’t entirely make sense to ship off prospects for rentals. So, where do the Leafs stand after the deadline, compared to their friends in the East?

1. Tampa Bay Lightning

48-11-4 (100 points) / Goals For: 242 (1st) / Goals Against: 165 (3rd)

The Lightning have been far and away the league’s best team, and have shown no signs of slowing down, having already hit 100 points this season. Despite this success, the Lightning opted to not make any moves at the deadline, although they were rumoured to be acquiring Rasmus Ristolainen from the Sabres. Considering how well the team has done, it makes sense to not try and mess with a bad thing, and their upcoming cap crunch would make it even more difficult to pull something off.

2. Boston Bruins

37-17-9 (83 points) / Goals For: 187 (t-15th) / Goals Against: 157 (2nd)

The Bruins continue their hot stretch, even despite lengthy injuries throughout the season to players like Bergeron, Krug, McAvoy, Pastrnak, and a leave of absence from Rask. But, their middle of the pack offense was a cause for concern, particularly their depth after the top line, so they made a couple additions at the deadline, acquiring Charlie Coyle from the Wild for Ryan Donato and a conditional 5th, and Marcus Johansson from the Devils for a 2nd and a 4th, hoping to shore up their forward depth going into the postseason.

3. Toronto Maple Leafs

38-20-4 (80 points) / Goals For: 221 (4th) / Goals Against: 176 (8th)

The Leafs have remained in the upper tier of the East despite a month without Matthews and two without Nylander. But, the team is really starting to click, especially since the arrival of their “deadline” acquisition of Jake Muzzin about a month ago. However, they were relatively quiet around the actual deadline, only bringing in Nic Petan from the Jets for Par Lindholm. With a bit of a weird window, it’s hard for the team to be giving up young assets unless it’s for a deal that affects them in the long term.

4. New York Islanders

36-19-7 (79 points) / Goals For: 176 (t-23rd) / Goals Against: 144 (1st)

Despite the loss of John Tavares in the offseason, the Islanders are proving a lot of people wrong and sit first in the Metro, albeit with a lot of luck on their side. However, the Isles decided to be quiet at the deadline, which is probably the safer choice, especially considering that the inevitable regression will kick in, and make those rentals obsolete.

5. Washington Capitals

36-21-7 (79 points) / Goals For: 217 (t-5th) / Goals Against: 204 (24th)

The Caps have been another interesting team, as they really haven’t been playing well in spite of their record. Maybe it’s the Stanley Cup hangover, but the team hasn’t exactly been amazing. However, they made a couple trades at the deadline to help the team, acquiring Carl Hagelin from the Kings for third and conditional sixth, and Nick Jensen and a fifth from the Red Wings for Madison Bowey and a second, hoping to increase their depth a little bit.

6. Montreal Canadiens

34-23-7 (75 points) / Goals For: 194 (t-12th) / Goals Against: 186 (14th)

The Habs have been one of the biggest surprises of the season, as trades that were thought to be downgrades in the summer ended up working out for them, and they’ve seen some success this season, currently sitting in the first wild card spot. However, being in the middle and being as young as they are, the Habs didn’t make a whole lot of deals at the deadline, acquiring Christian Folin and Dale Weise from the Flyers and Nate Thompson from the Kings earlier in the month, and then trading Michael Chaput for Jordan Weal on the deadline day. Bergevin sure does love his fourth liners.

7. Carolina Hurricanes

34-23-6 (74 points) / Goals For: 186 (t-17th) / Goals Against: 169 (5th)

The Hurricanes are in the thick of the playoff race with a chance to make the playoffs for just the second time since they won the Stanley Cup in 2006. Their only notable transaction was acquiring Nino Niederreiter from the Wild in mid-January, but other than that, the Hurricanes have mostly stood still, which when you’re in the middling position that they are currently in, is probably the smarter idea.

Oct 19, 2017; Boston, MA, USA; Boston Bruins center Tim Schaller (59) fights with Vancouver Canucks defenseman Erik Gudbranson (44) during the first period at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

8. Pittsburgh Penguins

33-22-8 (74 points) / Goals For: 217 (t-5th) / Goals Against: 195 (18th)

The Pens currently have the longest playoff streak at 12, and for the first time, that may be in jeopardy. They’ve had no problem scoring, but Matt Murray has had a less than ideal season, and the defense hasn’t exactly been helping them. And the Pens addressed this by… acquiring Chris Wideman and Erik Gudbranson. Yeah, I don’t know about that one chief.

9. Columbus Blue Jackets

35-24-3 (73 points) / Goals For: 197 (10th) / Goals Against: 184 (t-12th)

The Blue Jackets find themselves in an interesting spot as well, with the high chance of losing both Panarin and Bobrovsky to free agency, and after trying to trade them to no success, they decided to do a complete 180, and go all in. They were the busiest at the deadline, trading for Matt Duchene and Ryan Dzingel from the Senators in two separate trades, Keith Kinkaid from the Devils, and Adam McQuaid from the Rangers. Their chance is now, and, at the very least, they’re making the most of it.

10. Philadelphia Flyers

30-26-7 (67 points) / Goals For: 186 (t-17th) / Goals Against: 210 (27th)

The Flyers were on the opposite end of the spectrum this season, starting the season 15-22-6, but a recent stretch of 15-4-1 hockey put them in a similar situation to Buffalo, not close to the playoffs, but not in lottery contention. Regardless, they sent Wayne Simmonds to Nashville for Ryan Hartman, and a conditional fourth rounder, but otherwise kept most of the team intact. Not a bad idea for a team with some good young players to not really sell, but if they knew they weren’t going to bring Simmonds back, it wasn’t a bad idea to get what they could.

11. Buffalo Sabres

29-26-8 (66 points) / Goals For: 177 (t-21st) / Goals Against: 197 (t-19th)

After a 10 game winning streak in November had Buffalo contending for the Atlantic division lead, the Sabres have since gone 12-20-6, and find themselves eight points out of a playoff spot, with only 19 games to go. With a relatively bright future ahead of them, the Sabres didn’t really sell at the deadline, aside from trading Nathan Beaulieu for a sixth round pick, but they also made some moves to improve the team in the long run, like acquiring Brandon Montour for Brendan Guhle and one of their later first rounders, but otherwise didn’t really get involved.

12. Florida Panthers

28-25-9 (65 points) / Goals For: 194 (t-11th) / Goals Against: 206 (26th)

The Panthers have been bad for a majority of the season, so it was no surprise that they were sellers at the deadline, however, the surprising thing for them was that they didn’t really do a whole lot of selling. They sent Chris Wideman to the Penguins for Jean-Sebastien Dea, recent addition Derrick Brassard to the Avalanche for a third and a sixth, and Tomas Jurco to the Hurricanes for Cliff Pu (and there’s future conditions on both ends of the deal), but were pretty quiet for a team that was supposedly going to trade Huberdeau and Hoffman.

13. New York Rangers

27-26-9 (63 points) / Goals For: 177 (t-21st) / Goals Against: 205 (25th)

Much to the plan of their rebuild, the Rangers weren’t good this year, and as such, sold off a lot of assets at the deadline. As the deadline approached, they shipped off Adam McQuaid, Kevin Hayes, and Mats Zuccarello, and in return got a few younger players and six picks from the three deals. Not a bad few days for the Rangers, and pretty much what was expected from them.

14. New Jersey Devils

25-30-8 (58 points) / Goals For: 183 (t-19th) / Goals Against: 211 (28th)

Last season saw the Devils be the team that defied the numbers, and are paying for it this year with a poor season. However, they were sellers at the deadline, as they traded away Marcus Johansson, Keith Kinkaid, and Ben Lovejoy (as well as Brian Boyle earlier in the month), and brought in five draft picks in return, as well as Connor Carrick in the Lovejoy deal (hey, remember him?). Much like the Rangers, they did about the best they could at the deadline, and got a decent return for the assets they shipped off.

15. Detroit Red Wings

23-32-9 (55 points) / Goals For: 176 (t-23rd) / Goals Against: 215 (29th)

The Red Wings have been losing for Hughes all season, and to nobodies surprise, they were sellers at the deadline. The biggest surprise was how little they sold off, as of their five notable UFAs (so everyone except Luke Witkowski), they only traded two of them, dealing Gustav Nyquist to the Sharks for a second and conditional third, and Nick Jensen and a fifth to the Caps for Madison Bowey and a 2nd. Not bad returns for two of their bigger UFAs, but it’s probably a bit disappointing that they weren’t able to trade away more UFAs for assets.

16. Ottawa Senators

22-36-5 (49 points) / Goals For: 189 (14th) / Goals Against: 235 (t-30th)

To the surprise of nobody, the Senators have been one of the worst teams in the league, and were looking to be one of the biggest sellers at the deadline with pending UFAs Mark Stone and Matt Duchene’s contract situations in doubt. However, they went all in as sellers around deadline day, shipping off Stone, Duchene, and Ryan Dzingel, and brought in a solid haul, including a 1st, a conditional 1st, three 2nds, and some great prospects, particularly Erik Brannstrom. The Sens were the biggest sellers at the deadline, and they did a great job bringing in solid assets for their big pieces, to the surprise of a lot of people.

What Does It All Mean?

While the West saw a lot of the big teams load up for playoff runs, the East’s top dogs stayed relatively quiet, aside from some depth acquisitions. The most active teams at the deadline were the middling teams who really want to get in the playoffs, that being Columbus and Pittsburgh, and the three big sellers in the basement in the Sens, Rangers, and Red Wings.

That’s probably good news for the Leafs though. If the Lightning loaded up any more than they already are, they’d be pretty much impossible to stop, and with the Bruins being rumored to get players like Mark Stone, they didn’t need them to get any better either. The only teams that really made moves were the middling Metro teams, which the Leafs probably won’t have to deal with unless one of them goes on a run to the Conference Finals. All of the big fishes either went to the West, or to Columbus, which will make things a bit easier for them in the playoffs.

Would it have been nice to see the Leafs bring in a high end, right shot defenseman or a heavy forward. Sure, but clearly there weren’t any available for the price the Leafs were willing to pay, and the Leafs have a bright future ahead of them, so they don’t need to be dealing away prospects and picks left and right at this time, especially since most of the teams in the East didn’t get a whole lot better than they were before.