There’s been a lot of talk about the moves the Leafs made at the deadline, and all the new players they will be bringing in, and why not? They’re players we haven’t seen on the Leafs before, and it’ll be fun to see what kind of impact they make.
But, the Leafs rival teams also made some additions as well, some bigger than others, but if the Leafs want to go on a deep run, it’s good to know how their biggest competitions improved. There was a bit of a trend within the division as it seemed like the Canadian teams didn’t really want to go all in when they didn’t feel like they could beat the Leafs, and outside the division the bigger teams only made a couple big acquisitions.
The Habs made their biggest deal a few weeks before the deadline by bringing in Eric Staal for a 3rd and a 5th, but they also made a couple smaller moves this week by bringing in Jon Merrill and Erik Gustafsson to beef up their blue line a little bit. Staal bring a bit of extra scoring touch to the team, but no move really moves the needle to the point where they’re better than the Leafs.
The Jets may have been the biggest surprise at the deadline, mostly because they were one of the playoff teams with the biggest need, and they did absolutely nothing to improve it. Their blueline has been brutal this year and mostly reliant on Connor Hellebuyck to bail them out, so adding a top four would’ve been huge, and they got *checks notes* Jordie Benn. I love it.
Ken Holland famously said after the deadline that you have to pick and choose which deadlines you go all in, which either meant he was afraid of the Leafs or he realized he messed up last deadline and didn’t trust himself. Either one is hilarious, and because of that, he only brought in Dmitry Kulikov, who is surprisingly not bad any more, but not something that will put the Oilers over the top. Which is perfect, because that’s what Holland wanted.
The Avs made a few small moves to round out the team, but no huge splashes that some people thought. They brought back two former Avs in Patrick Nemeth and Carl Soderberg, and then also brought in Dubnyk to shore up their goalie depth. Not that Dubnyk is really good, but I’m sure the Avs want to avoid another “Michael Hutchinson in Game 7” situation.
Vegas Golden Knights
The Golden Knights continue to be right up against the cap, so it kept them from being big players at the deadline, but they did make one significant move, acquiring Mattias Janmark from the Blackhawks to add a little bit of depth, but otherwise nothing too crazy.
Let’s not talk about it please, I’m still grieving…
Tampa Bay Lightning
The Lightning might have made the biggest non-Taylor Hall deal of the deadline, bringing in David Savard to help a surprisingly weak right side on an otherwise dominant team. They also traded for Frederik Claesson on deadline day, but of course their biggest addition will be Nikita Kucherov when he’s healthy for the playoffs.
The Canes may have done the least impactful thing out of the contenders at the deadline, trading Hadyn Fleury to the Ducks for Jani Hakanpaa and a 6th round pick. Like, at least the other teams did something. But, when you’re in the same division as Tampa, I don’t blame you. Trust me, it’s something we can relate to.