Grades for the latest NHL trades

Browsing social media this week, hockey fans were champing at the bit for newsworthy NHL trades. There were minor deals as the expansion draft passed, and the suspense only grew as the NHL Draft approached.

It’s safe to say that the fans got their wishes.

The past two days have featured former first round picks, backup goaltenders and Stanley Cup champions. If that wasn’t enough, there are likely more coming even before free agency hits on July 1. Until that happens, let’s analyze the top NHL trades that went down before the draft.

Golden Knights ship Trevor van Riemsdyk to Hurricanes

Trevor’s time in Vegas was short-lived, as the expansion team acquired a 2017 second round pick for trading him and a 2018 seventh round selection.

van Riemsdyk is a young asset heading to a younger team. One needs perspective when analyzing his season. He missed time with an upper-body injury which underscored his stats. Still, he was +17 with 100 blocks and 16 points in 58 games.

The former Blackhawk joins three former teammates in Teuvo Teravainen, Joakim Nordstrom and Scott Darling. Perhaps that can help his transition. He’s a capable right-handed shot that helps Carolina get younger and faster. Vegas adds another high draft pick to build their team.

Grade: B+ for Carolina, B for Vegas

Oilers and Islanders swap Jordan Eberle and Ryan Strome

Jordan Eberle was the first of what Isles fans hope to be more NHL trades.

Jordan Eberle heads to the Big Apple. Photo by Andy Devlin, NHLI via Getty Images.

New York getting Eberle long seemed inevitable, but it was intriguing how it occurred. It was a one-for-one swap after many reports had Edmonton seeking a prospect or draft picks.

This was an excellent move from Isles general manager Garth Snow. He paid a heavy price in a first-rounder to prevent Vegas from taking a number of players, and it essentially means they traded it for Eberle.

The former first-round pick disappointed with the Oilers after scoring just 51 points. Pairing with his world championship teammate, John Tavares should boost his input and give Tavares confidence to sign in New York long-term.

As for Edmonton, this was a move that helps more for cap than on-ice skill. They ship $6 million on Eberle’s contract, which helped them extend defenseman Kris Russell. It also increases cap space for when Hart winner Connor McDavid needs a new deal.

As for Strome, he didn’t live up to his fifth overall selection with just one 50-point campaign in four years. He could benefit from a new environment, but on the ice, the Oilers don’t benefit as much. Edmonton could’ve received more for Eberle, it seemed.

Grade: A for New York, B- for Edmonton

Canadiens bring in David Schlemko from Golden Knights

Vegas sends out another expansion draft pick for a 2019 pick. This was a minor move from both sides, which didn’t have to give up much.

Montreal needed defensive help after shipping prospect Mikhail Sergachev and Nathan Beaulieu. In Schlemko, they get a blue liner with back-to-back double-digit point seasons. The 30-year-old vet had 112 blocks and a 53.6 percent Corsi rating. It’s not a major step forward; he hasn’t played a full season. If he’s healthy, he helps.

Grade: B for Montreal, INC for Vegas with draft pick too far away to judge

Niklas Hjalmarsson moves from Blackhawks to the Coyotes

Niklas Hjalmarsson's move to Arizona ignited the flurry of NHL trades.

Niklas Hjalmarsson is headed to the Coyotes. Photo by Matt Marton, AP.

This is when the NHL trades started to boil. Chicago sent their 10-year defenseman to Arizona for defenseman Connor Murphy and forward Laurent Dauphin.

Even though Arizona’s front office is in a tenuous phase, they still took a big swing for a three-time Stanley Cup winner. He logged over 20 minutes per game in the past six seasons and had a career-high 181 blocks last season. He has excellent size, moves the puck well and can anchor the Coyotes’ blue line for a few more years.

As for Chicago, let’s just say fans were not happy about the news. They lose a strong core of their championship teams to relieve their cap.

Murphy is the better piece in the return deal, but he’s not as skilled as Hjalmarsson defensively. He’s 6-foot-4 and more lauded for his skating ability. The 2011 first-round pick can develop well under new assistant coach Ulf Samuelsson. How well he does dictates if this gamble pays off for Chicago.

Grade: A- for Arizona, C+ for Chicago with chance to work out better

Brandon Saad returns to Midway while Artemi Panarin heads to Columbus

Chicago wasn’t finished. In fact, they dropped a bomb on the NHL with this move. Saad returns to the Blackhawks along with goalie Anton Forsberg and a 2018 fifth-rounder. The Blue Jackets receive Panarin as well as forward Tyler Motte and a sixth round pick in today’s draft.

This is a slam dunk for Columbus. They receive a Calder Award winner with consecutive 30-goal seasons. He’s dominant on the power play and adds a versatile offensive game to a team that can use it. His contract runs for two more years at $6 million, about the same as Saad.

The decision-making behind this for Chicago stems from Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane. Panarin’s next contract would cost too much for Chicago based on their contracts. Plus, Saad was impressive playing on Toews’s line for two Stanley Cups.

Chicago Sun-Times writer Mark Lazerus made a good point yesterday: Toews could regain his success with Saad while Kane will still produce without Panarin.

The Blackhawks have turned their team around to keep themselves atop the Western Conference. They have the chance to do that after these trades, but it’s a gamble. Columbus should get a productive Panarin, but it remains to be seen if he can contribute just as much without Kane. Each trade has its risks, but this is a balanced trade on both sides.

Grade: A- for Columbus and Chicago

Rangers dispatch Antti Raanta, Derek Stepan to Coyotes

Arizona continued to wheel and deal yesterday when they snagged their new starting goalie and a top-six forward. In exchange, young blue liner Anthony DeAngelo and the seventh overall pick, which the Rangers used to pick center Lias Andersson.

As written last week, Raanta was a name to watch in the expansion draft. When Vegas didn’t select him, Arizona was salivating. The Blueshirts’ netminder enjoyed a career season. He deserves the chance to nab the starting job.

As for Stepan, his contract was steep for New York and he’s automatically the Coyotes’ most expensive player. He’s also the best center now, recording four straight 50-point campaigns. Stepan also helps on the power play that ranked 26th last season in the desert. This was a high-upside trade that fills multiple roles. Now, about finding a head coach…

Meanwhile, New York gets younger on defense with DeAngelo. He’s just 21 years old with an offensive acumen, notching 14 points in 39 games for the Coyotes. DeAngelo is undersized and will have to improve defensively to crack the Rangers’ lineup. Andersson’s play will determine how this trade shakes out for New York. He comes from the elite HV71 in Sweden. While his skating, versatility and defense are superb, he didn’t stuff the scoresheet with 19 points in 42 league games.

Grade: A for Arizona (not just for the alphabet), B- for New York

Blue Jackets and Wild exchange forwards

Rounding out yesterday’s pre-draft NHL trades came with a small move for both teams. Dante Salituro heads to Minnesota while Jordan Schroeder goes the other way.

The 20-year-old Salituro provides goal scoring ability from a 5-foot-8 frame. He impressed in training camp and signed a three-year, two-way contract with Columbus last July. In 295 games across five OHL seasons, he tallied 122 goals and 160 assists. He won’t arrive in the Twin Cities anytime soon, but he has potential.

Schroeder is another small forward but is six years older. With the Wild this year, Schroeder scored six times for 13 points in 37 games. At 5-foot-9, he has to overcome his size. But on the ice, he has the instincts to maintain a roster spot.

Grade: B for Minnesota, C for Columbus

Blues snag Brayden Schenn from Flyer to shed Jori Lehtera

While yesterday trade hype built in the afternoon, it was quiet for most of the draft. There was a minor Blackhawks-Stars trade, but St. Louis and Philadelphia broke the silence. Schenn heads to the Blues by himself while Philly acquired Lehtera, the 27th overall pick (used on Morgan Frost) and a future conditional first-round pick. Elliotte Friedman breaks down the conditional pick.

The Blues upgrade with a more bona fide scorer in Schenn, who has 82 goals in the past three seasons. Lehtera is a great facilitator, but Schenn is an upgrade and Lehtera is making a lot of cash. The negatives for St. Louis is the possible price. They went back into the first round by trading Ryan Reaves to Pittsburgh, so the 27th doesn’t hurt. Two possible first-round picks can be a steep price.

Philadelphia can use Lehtera for depth as they ease new draft pick Nolan Patrick into the team. Frost provides speed and special teams abilities down the middle too. It seems the Flyers are prioritizing playmakers that can move the puck. Depending on where the conditional pick winds up, they can add even more pieces.

They have to replace Schenn’s production. Will they give Patrick the chance? Those two questions are the risks for Philadelphia at the moment, but ones that have quick solutions for a team on the rise.

Grade: B for St. Louis, B+ for Philadelphia

The Final Trade

As for Reaves heading to Pittsburgh, it’s icing on the cake for the Metro division. Reaves is an aggressive player that was 10th last season in hits. The Penguins love those types of players. He should perform well there as the division improves exponentially.

 

Feature image of Blackhawks General Manager Stan Bowman by Anthony Souffle of the Chicago Tribune

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New Jersey Devils face choice at 1st: Nolan or Nico?

In just over two weeks, the New Jersey Devils are officially on the clock. On June 23rd, both Nolan Patrick and Nico Hischier will hear their names in the 2017 NHL Draft.

It is unknown, however, where they will start their NHL careers.

The Devils, who received a gift from the angels in the first overall pick, will certainly choose one of them. The team hasn’t tipped their hand, leading to intense speculation about who goes to the Garden State. It depends on what the Devils value more: the better player or the better fit.

What the Devils Need

Devils GM Ray Shero

Devils GM Ray Shero hasn’t talked about a preference between Nolan Patrick or Nico Hischier. Photo courtesy of NHL.com

All in all, the New Jersey Devils were terrible on both sides of the puck. They were 28th in the league in goals per game and in the bottom ten in goals allowed per game. Only the Vancouver Canucks had fewer shots per game. Their offense and defense were disappointing, and Cory Schneider struggled in net as a result.

Individually on the offensive side, their top line produced very well. Taylor Hall, Travis Zajac and Kyle Palmieri showed good chemistry in their first year playing together. The only problem was that they were the only consistent line. Head Coach John Hynes had to shuffle the lineups to provide depth to the team, and it did not always lead to better results.

In their overall production, the Devils got the least offensive production from left wingers, accounting for just 38 of the team’s 180 goals. However, neither Patrick nor Hischier are left wingers, and there isn’t a left winger worthy of the top pick. The Devils want to play younger guys like Miles Wood and Blake Pietila, so team needs are probably not the priority, especially with the first pick. The best player available is what the Devils should look for. So who is that?

The Case for Nolan Patrick

Even before the season, many considered Nolan Patrick the top pick. In 72 games for the WHL’s Brandon Wheat Kings in 2015-16, Patrick tallied 41 goals and 102 points. He eventually won MVP in the WHL postseason and captured the Ed Chenowyth Cup. TSN’s Bob McKenzie once called this the “Nolan Patrick Draft”, putting him on a similar level to how many viewed Auston Matthews last season.

Nolan Patrick has been a consensus pick for some at #1 for the Devils

Nolan Patrick during his time for the Brandon Wheat Kings. Photo courtesy of Philly.com

His play from two seasons ago was impressive, and when he played this past year, he showed flashes with 46 points in 33 games. However, he missed most of the season with a sports hernia in his right groin and an upper-body injury. At the NHL combine last week, he revealed that he had another hernia in his left side. He had surgery for both. Sports hernia injuries aren’t historically kind to NHL players. Washington’s Karl Alzner struggled this season after repairing his torn groin last offseason. Claude Giroux and Shayne Gostisbehere of the Flyers have dealt with recurring issues from sports hernia surgery. Patrick has the talent, but his injury history has to have the Devils concerned.

With all that said, Patrick at his best is a good fit for New Jersey in more ways than one. He’s a big body center at 6-foot-3. His speed complements a Devils team that doesn’t have much of it. Ultimately, what stands out is his two-way ability. He is exceptional in protecting the puck with his hands and has excellent strength to find it too. The Devils need help in multiple units and they don’t have many two-way forwards. He fills multiple areas for New Jersey.

The Case for Nico Hischier

Nolan Patrick was on everyone’s radar for a while. Nico Hischier hasn’t, but that doesn’t mean he’s not capable of the top pick. The Halifax Moosehead was tenth in the QMJHL with 86 points and seventh with 38 goals. He has U-18 World Juniors experience with Switzerland and played well in the tournament with four points in five games. He’s smaller than Patrick at 6-feet, but he plays both at center and on the right wing. Scouts and hockey personalities rave about his dynamic speed and puck-handling ability and claim he is the more explosive pick.

There are few concerns about Hischier, with most of them about his size. He is younger than Patrick and only recently graduated to North American hockey at Halifax. He’s had small run-ins with injuries, but not as much as Patrick. Jeff Marek of Sprotsnet said back in March that he played a bit differently after returning from an injury and there are worries about his energy. The question is if he can continue jumping to a higher level. With his talent, he should immediately contribute to an NHL team. He needs to make the adjustments necessary to play against bigger competition and more skilled players.

Nico Hischier has recently gained traction for the Devils' top pick.

Nico Hischier on the Halifax Mooseheads. Photo courtesy of The Metro News/Photo by Jeff Harper.

With that said, there is little doubt he can do just that. He’s shifty and a tremendous playmaker who gets his teammates involved just as much as he does. His passing and his instincts will strengthen his linemates. He’s young, but he can help Wood and Nick Lappin or other linemates. If he plays on the wing, then Pavel Zacha and John Quenneville could benefit too. In the same way Patrick aids multiple units, Hischier betters the team.

Who Fits Better?

At this point in time, it’s a smart choice no matter which player the New Jersey Devils pick. General Manager Ray Shero has to decide who will turn out to be the franchise leader. At the combine last week, Hischier tested higher in four of the five batteries, but those numbers shouldn’t be the entire indicator. Patrick is the better goal scorer and excels in more areas than Hischier, but Nico has more quickness and skill on his resumé. Don’t be surprised, however, if injuries are the biggest factor. If Shero wants to take the risk, then he should select Nolan Patrick.

Feature image courtesy of TSN. Nico Hischier on the left and Nolan Patrick on the right.

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