Another trade deadline has passed, and while the day itself was on the boring side, the trading season was easily the most exciting we have had in years. An abundance of stars were dealt, from Bo Horvat on January 30th to John Klingberg at the buzzer. Of course, there were steals, and some mind-numbing decisions. Here are the trades that stood out from their seemingly uneven balance.
Best Value: All of the Third-Party Teams
With the salary cap affecting everyone, third-party teams were necessary to facilitate the large number of massive trades that we saw in the past month. This process is simple: since only 50 percent of a player’s contract can be retained, the seller will trade the player to team who will retain fifty percent of what they received, or 25 percent of the player’s overall salary, so the team that eventually ends up with the player can fit him in their books. In return, the broker will receive a draft pick and/or a player. Since the big-name player is almost always an expiring free agent, there is no real downside for the broker, except for the owner spending a little bit more.
This happened four times this month. The Coyotes picked up a third-round pick from the Rangers for helping New York acquire Patrick Kane, the best package a third-party team acquired. The Canadiens got involved when the Penguins brought Nick Bonino back to Pittsburgh, scooping up a fifth-round pick and a contract slot in Finnish defender Tony Sund. The team that defined this strategy was the Minnesota Wild, who received a fourth and fifth-round pick over two separate deals, putting the contracts of Ryan O’Reilly and Dmitry Orlov on their CapFriendly page. Since the Wild are contenders, these moves were immediately impactful. While they didn’t flip either of the picks that they acquired, the Wild traded two fourth-rounders after these moves, bringing back Klingberg and forward Oskar Sundqvist. That is what salary cap flexibility gifts you.
Worst Value: The Kings Ruining Team Morale for a Trade
The Kings have a good window to contend with a ton of young talent in their system to complement the aging Anze Kopitar and Drew Doughty. Looking to bolster their blue line, Los Angeles was reportedly interested in Arizona defender Jakob Chychrun, but settled on Columbus’ Vladislav Gavrikov. The problem here is that the two players are extremely different. Chychrun excels at both ends of the ice and can play on the top pair while Gavrikov is a good-enough two-way defender to be on pair number two. Sadly, the difference in compensation wasn’t staggering. The Kings traded away a first and third-round pick, while the Senators would eventually acquire Chychrun for a first and two seconds. With the amount of assets that the Kings have, being stingy made no sense.
Even worse is what the rest of the trade entails. The Kings also acquired goaltender Joonas Korpisalo, sending out franchise icon Jonathan Quick without a warning. Yes, the sport is a business, and yes, Quick is having the worst season of his career, but this trade showed an absurd amount of disrespect from the management that players around the league will notice. That doesn’t mention that the swap itself doesn’t really benefit the Kings. Korpisalo is having a better season than Quick, but he has never been on the level of a good NHL goalie, while Quick was instrumental to the Kings’ success just last year. Not only did this reportedly upset the team, but Quick was soon flipped to the rival Golden Knights, where he can immediately hurt his old team.
Best Value: Predators Get Asplund
Nashville had a very solid deadline, just as former coach Barry Trotz was announced to be taking over as General Manager. While this was all still the work of soon-to-be-retiring GM David Poile, the Predators caught eyes around the league when they received Cal Foote and five draft picks from Tampa Bay for Tanner Jeannot. They also brought back picks and offensive defender Tyson Barrie for Mattias Ekholm, and traded away forwards Nino Niederreiter and Mikael Granlund. By far the most underrated of their moves was to pick up Rasmus Asplund from the Sabres for just a 2025 7th round draft pick.
Last season, Asplund broke out with 27 points in 80 games for Buffalo. More importantly, he had elite defensive metrics that had some people hyping him up as a dark horse Selke candidate. He still was nominated, picking up a third-place vote and a pair of fourths. Asplund has been limited to just 27 games this year, with eight points and a decrease in those metrics. He is still just 25 and makes only $825k before becoming a restricted free agent in the offseason. For a future seventh-round pick, this is a great bet for the Preds.
Worst Value: Coyotes Fail to Capitalize on Gostisbehere
Perhaps it was his injury that kept him out until right before the deadline, but Shayne Gostisbehere only netted the Coyotes a third-round pick in 2026 when Arizona traded him to Carolina. Gostisbehere has his defensive issues, but they are far from the significant deficiencies that hurt the stock of Klingberg and Barrie. In 52 games for Arizona, he already had ten goals with 31 points. This comes a season after a 14 goal, 51 point season. Gostisbehere is one of the premier goal-scoring defenders in the league. Since his rookie season of 2015-16, he is 11th among defenders in goals, with a lot less average ice time compared to the guys ahead of him.
Best Value: Blues Bet on Vrana
The Jakub Vrana era in Detroit wasn’t that bad, the problem was that he never played. After coming over in the Anthony Mantha trade, Vrana has been hampered by injuries and off-ice problems, limiting him to just 42 games. However, he has scored 22 goals as a member of the Red Wings. Vrana was a prolific goal scorer as a Capital, with 76 goals in 284 games. He just turned 27 and has one more year left on his contract. Detroit retained half of it, so a $2.625 million cap hit is what goes to St. Louis, and that is not bad at all. The Blues sold off many players this deadline, but can still be competitive next season. The price to acquire Vrana was light: a seventh-round pick and 27-year-old AHLer Dylan McLaughlin.
Worst Value: Pennsylvania General Managers
Both the Flyers and Penguins had very strange deadlines that have fans calling for their GMs’ head. Pittsburgh’s Ron Hextall made an already old team even older, trading away draft picks for aging forwards Mikael Granlund and Nick Bonino and defender Dmitry Kulikov. Exiting were a plethora of bottom-six forwards, as center Teddy Blueger was traded to Vegas, Brock McGinn went to Anaheim for Kulikov, and Kasperi Kapanen was sacrificed on waivers. Whatever Hextall’s plan is, it is not clear at all.
For the Flyers, Chuck Fletcher was shockingly quiet. He made three trades, none of which should raise an eyebrow. Prospect Isaac Ratcliffe was dealt to Nashville for future considerations, and a goon swap of Brendan Lemieux and Zack MacEwen netted the Flyers a fifth rounder. Forward Patrick Brown was also dealt to Ottawa for a sixth. Philadelphia did not trade either of their pending unrestricted free agents, defenseman Justin Braun or forward James van Riemsdyk. Many teams were reportedly interested in van Riemsdyk, and a trade with Detroit reportedly fell through. Holding on to him does not make any sense for the Flyers.