Full analysis of Sean Walker, Alex Wennberg and all other NHL trade deadline deals – The Athletic

By Shayna Goldman2h ago

With the NHL trade deadline on Friday, Shayna Goldman of The Athletic is providing instant analysis on the major moves as they happen.

The Athletic also has live coverage of the NHL trade deadline.

Deadline resources: Trade board

Wennberg gives Rangers depth at center

To Rangers: F Alex Wennberg
To Kraken: 2024 second-round draft pick
2025 fourth-round draft pick
(retain 50 percent of Wennberg’s salary)

In Wennberg, the Rangers upgraded their 3C position with Filip Chytil shut down for a year. Wennberg is the kind of player who does the little things right in order to be really effective in the middle of a lineup. He can help shoulder minutes against top competition to alleviate some of Mika Zibanejad and Barclay Goodrow’s workload and be counted on to disrupt play, both at even strength and on the penalty kill. Wennberg can move the puck out of his own zone and help set up plays for his linemates — he is through and through a playmaker, and not a very frequent shooter. So, with the right deployment and linemates, there is a ton of potential to help play him to his strengths.

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Teams have had to spend a lot on center depth this year, so second- and fourth-round picks seem pretty reasonable for New York. The key is salary retention — only being on the hook for 50 percent of his cap hit will allow the Rangers to address their next big area of need: a top-six right-winger.

The return seems fair for Seattle as well, especially if management did not want to risk losing him for nothing in free agency this summer. This move shouldn’t take the Kraken out of the playoff race either, with other center options available to step up in his place.

Middelstadt, Byram in Avalanche, Sabres swap

To Avalanche: F Casey Middelstadt
To Sabres: D Bowen Bryam

This might be the most interesting deal so far because it comes with an element of surprise. It’s been asked, for a while, how or where the Avalanche may shed cap space, and whether Sam Girard would become a cap casualty. Instead, it’s Bowen Byram on his way out.

Byram made an instant impact in Colorado and really shined during the Stanley Cup run. That just isn’t the caliber the Avalanche have seen from him in the regular season since then. Injuries are likely a factor here, and so could be the fact that there isn’t room for him to have an expanded role on the blue line. That should change in Buffalo.

Mittlestadt has had a great year for the Sabres, and has been one of their more consistent players, even when some of their top performers have struggled. But his next contract is approaching and the Sabres have a lot tied up already in their top-two centers. If management feels that his results this year are a bit inflated and are going to lead to an overpayment, the trade makes even more sense. It works really well for the Avalanche, who had a clear need down the middle; Mittlestadt is unquestionably an upgrade over Ryan Johansen.

Buffalo bringing back Byram adds some more skill to their young blue line. The only question is whether they now have too many left-handed defenders. If he or Owen Power could shift to the right so that Byram could play second-pair, there would be a ton of intrigue here.

Walker boosts Avalanche’s blue line

To Avalanche: D Sean Walker
2026 fifth-round draft pick
To Flyers: 2025 first-round pick (top-10 protected)
F Ryan Johansen

Sometimes you just have to let Colorado cook. The Avalanche brought the heat with two major trades in just minutes on Wednesday — the first being the Sean Walker deal.

Walker has had a fantastic breakout season with the Flyers this year. He’s been somewhat of a rover with his ability to skate the puck out of his own zone and jump up in the rush to help generate offense. And he has been a positive relative to his teammates defensively, as well. The big question is how he will look outside of a system that has clearly clicked so well with him, especially since he doesn’t have a proven foundation behind him at this point.

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Colorado tends to be a place where incoming players hit their potential, which works in his favor. But will the Avalanche have too many like-skill sets on this blue line, and will his smaller stature be a weakness come the playoffs? Management seems content, based on this move and the Bowen Byram deal, to just keep playing to their strengths and going from there.

Not only did the Avalanche bring back one of the top defenders, and most cost-effective options on the market, but managed to shed Ryan Johansen in the process. He was a fine bet last offseason but didn’t rebound as hoped. That’s a contract the Flyers can bury for now, and call up if needed down the road. The team got what they were looking for in Walker, with a first-round pick showing that their eyes are still on the long term despite their current playoff standing.

Henrique, Carrick move from Ducks to Oilers

To Oilers: F Adam Henrique
F Sam Carrick
Ducks’ 2024 seventh-round pick
G Ty Taylor
To Ducks: Oilers’ 2024 first-round pick
Oilers’ 2025 fifth-round pick (fourth-round if Oilers win Stanley Cup)
(retain 50 percent of salary on Henrique and Carrick
To Lightning: Oilers’ 2024 fourth-round pick
(retain 25 percent of salary on Henrique and Carrick)

Henrique feels like the right fit for Edmonton. The Oilers really didn’t need to go bigger than this up front — they need a supporting forward to complete their top-nine. Henrique accomplishes exactly that while adding some lineup flexibility thanks to his ability to play center or wing. He can easily round out a top-six line alongside either Connor McDavid or Leon Draisaitl. Or, if Draisaitl jumps up to that top line, he can shift to middle-six center.

While Henrique isn’t a play-driver at this point in his career, he is a complementary forward who can contribute in a bunch to different areas in all situations. That really is all Edmonton needed. To swing that while paying only 25 percent of his cap hit is a real win, because the Oilers have more than just one position to address at the deadline. Then there is the added bonus of some bottom-six forward depth with Sam Carrick.

The Ducks net a first-round pick (and more) back for a pending UFA, which lines up with this year’s center market. The only downside is that he ticks off their last salary-retention slot for now. That is something GM Pat Verbeek should be able to handle until summer, though, when Henrique’s contract expires. If the team still wants to move Frank Vatrano, they should be able to swing a solid return without any salary retention.

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Tampa Bay leverages the cap space they opened up with Mikhail Sergachev’s injury as well, for the price of a fourth-rounder. If any team needs trade assets, it’s them, making this a small victory for the Lightning.

Panthers pick up Tarasenko

To Panthers: F Vladimir Tarasenko
To Senators: 2024 fourth-round draft pick (becomes third-round with a Cup win)
2025 third-round pick
(retain 50 percent of Tarasenko’s salary)

The Panthers were already one of the strongest contenders in the league, and the Vladimir Tarasenko trade takes that up a notch. Florida isn’t bringing in the veteran winger to be The Guy, which he isn’t at this point in his career. Tarasenko has taken a real step back, even from last year’s deadline, let alone his peak years, with dips in his shot creation and play back in his own zone. Instead, he is going to rightfully become a part of Florida’s supporting cast, with a prime opportunity to maximize his strengths. A very likely landing spot could be on the second line with an elite playmaker in Matthew Tkachuk, which could allow Tarasenko to just focus in on his best weapon: his shot. The winger looks like an upgrade for that second line over Nick Cousins, making the rich richer in Florida.

There is, of course, a risk that Tarasenko does not rebound. But it was a risk worth taking, considering the price of acquisition for the winger with 50 percent salary retention. At worst, he shifts into a third-line role. The Panthers have a fine top-six without him, if necessary.

The return underwhelms for the Senators, but that may have been out of their control given Tarasenko’s trade clauses. The player had control here, and Ottawa didn’t have a ton of leverage. It also doesn’t help that so scoring wingers there are on the trade board this year.

Golden Knights make move for Mantha

To Golden Knights: F Anthony Mantha
To Capitals: 2024 second-round pick
2026 fourth-round pick
(retain 50 percent of Mantha’s salary)

Anthony Mantha is having a really strong season compared to past seasons with the Capitals. He has picked up the pace with his scoring, which primarily comes at five-on-five, and has been a positive on both ends of the ice relative to his teammates. His shooting percentage is high and is likely to regress, but maybe having more support around him in Vegas will help him keep his production up.

Adding Mantha helps Vegas replenish its primary area of need: winger depth. That was a pivotal part of their success in their championship season last year, with three lines few opponents could match up to. The key is that the Golden Knights don’t need Mantha to step in and be the guy — his season is a major step in the right direction from the last few years, but he has proven to be more middle-six-caliber at this point. And with 50 percent salary retention, Vegas can still afford to go after a higher-caliber winger ahead of the deadline.

The biggest positive for Washington here is that management recognizes what needs to be done, even though the Capitals are still in the thick of the Metropolitan Division slog-fest. The team should be angling for any future assets that can help turn things around in the summer, and beyond.

Devils pick up MacDermid from Avalanche

To Devils: D Kurtis MacDermid
To Avalanche: 2024 seventh-round pick
F Zakhar Bardakov

New Jersey adds size, strength, and some sandpaper with the acquisition of Kurtis MacDermid. That seems to be exactly what the team was looking for, maybe in reaction to some physical games late in February — like their matchup with the Rangers. MacDermid brings experience and good vibes to the locker room, but there is a reason he did not play that much in Colorado. The defender is a black hole for offense and isn’t defensively stout enough to make up for it. He was one of the few players to fall below break-even in expected goals on the Avalanche this season.

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Lyubushkin moves to Maple Leafs in three-team deal

To Maple Leafs: D Ilya Lyubushkin
Rights to F Kirill Slepets
To Ducks: Toronto’s 2025 third-round pick
(retain 50 percent of Lyubushkin’s salary)
To Hurricanes: Toronto’s 2026 sixth-round pick
(retain 25 percent of Lyubushkin’s salary)

Trading for Ilya Lyubushkin accomplishes two things. It brings a right-handed defender to the Maple Leafs, which the team sorely needs. And he doesn’t break the bank with a cap hit that falls below league minimum, thanks to both Anaheim and Carolina retaining salary. But that doesn’t make this a good trade. Lyubushkin’s poor season doesn’t appear to just be a result of playing on a bad team. He has been a negative on both ends of the ice relative to his teammates at five-on-five, despite playing sheltered minutes.

That, paired with a negative penalty differential, is a red flag for a Toronto team with so much riding on this season. It just isn’t worth a third-rounder and a sixth-rounder; those are assets management could have invested elsewhere. If he can somehow find his game from his last Maple Leafs tenure, it will be fine. But he has looked pretty far removed from that over the last year and a half.

The Ducks come out of this trade with a win, gaining two draft picks for a pending unrestricted free agent.

Stars upgrade on defense, acquire Tanev from Flames

To Stars: D Chris Tanev
G Cole Brady
To Flames: D Artem Grushnikov
Dallas’ 2024 second-round pick
Dallas’ 2026 third-round pick (conditional)
To Devils: Dallas’ 2026 fourth-round pick
(retain 50 percent of Tanev’s salary)

On paper, Chris Tanev is a perfect fit for the Stars. Right-handed defense was the team’s top area of need heading into trade season, and the Nils Lundkvist injury only further strained an area of weakness. Tanev comes to Dallas and slots right in as the team’s No. 3 and knocks the rest of the blueliners into more appropriate roles. His defensive upside and ability to go up against top competition gives the Stars more options on the back end, whether he ends up being a part of a pure shutdown second pair or slots across from one of the team’s leading lefties, Miro Heiskanen and Thomas Harley. There is some injury risk with his style of play, and his offense has faded this year, but his ability to suppress scoring chances and transition the puck out of his own zone should make up for it.

The cost of acquisition was a lot less than expected, especially with 50 percent salary retention, making this a real win for the Stars. The big question is whether the Flames could have benefited from waiting closer to the deadline to try and push for more in return.

Monahan moves from Canadiens to Jets

To Jets: F Sean Monahan
To Canadiens: 2024 first-round pick
2027 third-round pick (conditional)

All credit to the Canadiens here. Sean Monahan ended up being the perfect reclamation project for them. Montreal bought low, helped him revive his career, then flipped him for a first-rounder. That is an excellent bit of business that other rebuilding teams should be trying to replicate.

With the top center off the market in Lindholm, prices inevitably were going to rise for every other available option. That helped Montreal here but hurt Winnipeg. The Jets paid a hefty price for a solid playmaker who carries some risk. It wasn’t clear at the time of the trade whether Monahan was going to be able to maintain his scoring rate, which is heavily influenced by power play production. Plus, there are some flaws back in his own zone, and the Jets have enough defensive liabilities at front. The Jets just have to hope that the upside — Monahan’s skill in the top-six, plus more lineup flexibility — makes the cost of acquisition worth it.

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Canucks make first big move, land Lindholm

To Canucks: F Elias Lindholm
To Flames: F Andrei Kuzmenko
2024 first-round pick
D Hunter Brzustewicz
D Joni Jurmo
2024 fourth-round pick (conditional)

There is a lot to like for Vancouver with the Elias Lindholm trade. First, there is the timing: the sooner a team makes a move, the more bang for their buck they get to end the regular season. Plus, it gives management a chance to assess the fit ahead of the deadline and contemplate what, if any, moves should follow this one.

Second, there is the price. It was somewhat steep for someone experiencing a down year, but it is fitting for the best center on the market this year. And it paid for the Canucks’ shedding of Andrei Kuzmenko’s cap hit.

Then there is the actual fit. Lindholm’s ability to be deployed down the middle, in any situation, against top competition adds versatility to the Canucks’ top-six. On a team with as much skill as Vancouver, it seems like a prime opportunity to maximize elements of his game (including a below-average shooting percentage) to rebound.

From the Flames’ perspective, the return is fine. Management could have waited to try and amp up the return, but the 2024 first-rounder and Hunter Brzustewicz should help the team in the long run.

(Data via Evolving-Hockey, HockeyViz, NaturalStatTrick, HockeyStatCards, AllThreeZones, and CapFriendly)

(Top photo of Eric Hartline: xx / USA Today)

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Shayna Goldman is a staff writer for The Athletic who focuses on blending data-driven analysis and video to dive deeper into hockey. She covers fantasy hockey and national stories that affect the entire NHL. She is the co-creator of BehindtheBenches.com and 1/3 of the Too Many Men podcast. Her work has also appeared at Sportsnet, HockeyGraphs and McKeen’s Hockey. She has a Master of Science in sports business from New York University. Follow Shayna on Twitter @hayyyshayyy

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