The top six teams heading into the final six weeks of the NHL season played an impressive game of Keeping Up with the Joneses in the days, hours and minutes leading up to the trade deadline.
After the Boston Bruins (Rick Nash, Brian Gionta) and Toronto Maple Leafs (Tomas Plekanec) beefed up over the weekend, the Nashville Predators (Ryan Hartman), Vegas Golden Knights (Tomas Tatar), Tampa Bay Lightning (Ryan McDonagh, J.T. Miller) and Winnipeg Jets (Paul Stastny, Joe Morrow) improved their respective lineups on Monday.
The biggest deal of the day, one that saw 18 trades involving 37 players, was the McDonagh and Miller move from the New York Rangers to the Lightning in exchange for Vladislav Namestnikov, junior prospects Brett Howden and Libor Hajek, a 2018 first-round pick and a conditional 2019 second-round selection.
But the most intriguing move was the Jets landing Stastny from the St. Louis Blues for a 2018 first-round pick, a conditional 2019 fourth-round choice and Providence College third-year left wing Erik Foley.
St. Louis will receive a fourth-round pick if Foley doesn’t sign an entry-level deal with the Blues before Aug. 15, 2019.
The hockey world was abuzz the last week or so with names that could be on the move, such as McDonagh, Evander Kane — who wound up with the San Jose Sharks — and defencemen Mike Green and Erik Karlsson, both who stayed put in Detroit and Ottawa, respectively.
But nobody mentioned Paul Stastny, especially with the Blues still in the hunt for a playoff spot despite only winning three of their past 11 outings entering Monday night.
According to Jets general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff, St. Louis GM Doug Armstrong sent his Winnipeg counterpart a text over the weekend to measure his interest if Stastny was made available.
Waived no-trade clause
Sure, the 32-year-old Stastny is set to become an unrestricted free agent this summer, but he had a full no-trade clause in his contract. The Jets and Blues worked out the particulars of the trade on Sunday evening. Now the big question was would Stastny want to leave home in St. Louis for a chance to move to a contender in Winnipeg?
He said yes. His friend and Jets captain Blake Wheeler played a role in convincing Stastny. They played together during the 2012-13 lockout in Munich and on the 2014 United States Olympic team.
“The opportunity to contend was more attractive than anything I was going to say,” said Wheeler, trying to downplay his contributions.
Stastny and Wheeler could end up linemates, but in the meantime, the new addition not only strengthens the Jets up front, his presence gives this rather green playoff team some post-season experience. Stastny has played in 55 career playoff games, including a trip to the West final two years ago.
It was four years ago that McDonagh pushed the Rangers into the Stanley Cup final against the Chicago Blackhawks. Among the finalists, McDonagh played the second-most minutes per game at 26:49. Only Chicago’s Duncan Keith was on the ice more at 27:49.
After dishing it out to the Tampa Bay Lightning, Ryan McDonagh (left) will now be defending for them after being acquired from the New York Rangers on Monday. (Mike Carlson/Getty Images)
McDonagh’s arrival in Tampa Bay addresses its weak spot, its depth on defence. He’s only 28 and will be a nice fit anchoring the Lightning’s second pairing behind Victor Hedman and Anton Stralman.
The move was yet another solid one in Hockey Hall of Famer Steve Yzerman’s career as an executive.
He has won a world championship as Canada’s GM in 2007, a Stanley Cup as vice-president of the 2007-08 Detroit Red Wings and two Olympic gold medals as Canada’s executive director in 2010 and 2014.
In Tampa, he made a deft trade in moving a disgruntled Martin St. Louis four years ago and convinced Steven Stamkos to re-sign with the Lightning two years ago when he was on the verge of becoming an unrestricted free agent.
Now we’ll see if the moves from Yzerman or Cheveldayoff, or someone else at the deadline, will be enough.
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