2018 was a big year for hockey. In late September, the Philadelphia Flyers introduced Gritty, their new mascot that would immediately go viral. As an expansion team, the Vegas Golden Knights made it all the way to the Stanley Cup finals. And no hockey franchise had a bigger 2018 than Alex Ovechkin\’s Washington Capitals, who won their first Stanley cup in their 44 year history. Throughout the year, there were many transactions that will be noted for years to come. Here is a look at five of them.
Honorable mention: 2018 NHL draft
I\’m not including this as one of the five transactions since the draft is an obvious one, and isn\’t really a transaction to me. But, it did introduce future stars Rasmus Dahlin, Andrei Svechnikov, Jesperi Kotkaniemi and a lot others to the NHL, so of course it had to be mentioned on this list.
5. Blues acquire Ryan O\’Reilly
While all other teams were busy signing players on July 1st, the St. Louis Blues and Buffalo Sabres pulled off a blockbuster. 27 year old top six center Ryan O\’Reilly was traded to the Blues in exchange for forwards Vladimir Sobotka, Patrik Berglund, Tage Thompson, a 2019 first round pick and a 2021 2nd round pick. For the Blues, they got the top-6 center they desperately needed, and got him under contract for the next five years. While he carries a large $7.5 million cap hit, they shipped out nearly $8.3 million in cap hit in the three players traded. The Sabres freed up the long term money, while acquiring a first round pick, a 21 year old ex first round pick in Thompson, a second round pick, and two bottom six forwards (though Berglund was released in December).
4. Flames, Hurricanes blockbuster
On the second day of the draft, the Calgary Flames and Carolina Hurricanes pulled off a blockbuster that shocked many people. Calgary acquired 21 year old defenseman and 2015 5th overall pick Noah Hanifin, as well as forward Elias Lindholm, in exchange for 25 year old top pairing defenseman Dougie Hamilton, gritty forward Michael Ferland and prospect Adam Fox. Calgary acquired a young defenseman, who they signed later to a six year deal (Hanifin was an RFA at the time of the trade), and a forward that would play on a line with stars Johnny Gaudreu and Sean Monahan. Carolina got a good defenseman with three years left on his contract, a forward that can play second/third line, and a young prospect that had showed promise at the WJC the year prior. It is a trade that will take a lot of time to see who won.
3. Lightning acquire McDonagh, Miller
The only move on the list that happened during the season, the Tampa Bay Lightning were looking to improve their team for their playoff run in 2018. At the 2017-18 trade deadline, they acquired New York Rangers captain Ryan McDonagh and promising forward J.T. Miller for forward Vladislav Namestnikov, a 2018 first round pick (Rangers picked Nils Lundkvist), a conditional 2019 2nd round pick (It would become a first if Tampa wins the Stanley Cup in either 2017-18 or 2018-19), and prospects Brett Howden and Libor Hajek. Signed under contract through 2018-19, McDonagh is a top pairing defenseman they were putting on their second pair. Miller is a top six forward that was an RFA after 2017-18, and was later signed to a 5 year deal. Miller then scored 18 points in 19 games down the stretch for Tampa Bay. For the Rangers, they moved on from their captain, and acquired a young forward in Namestnikov, a first round pick (possibly two), and two top prospects, including Howden, who would later make the 2018-19 roster. Another huge trade.
2. Leafs sign Tavares
The only signing on this list, Tavares was the only big free agent on the market in the offseason. He had an offer from both the Leafs and his old team, the New York Islanders, for $11 million a season. He took one year less to go home to Toronto, possibly sparking a new rivalry. It made the Leafs a big time contender, and put the in jeopardy, as they had stars William Nylander, Mitch Marner and Auston Matthews soon becoming RFAs.
1. Sharks acquire Karlsson
The top defenseman in the NHL, the Ottawa Senators\’ Erik Karlsson is a UFA after the 2018-19 season. After an awful 2017-18 season, it was hard to see Karlsson sign an extension with Ottawa. So, they traded him to the San Jose Sharks for forward Chris Tierney, defenseman Dylan DeMelo, prospects Josh Norris (who is the best friend of recently drafted Senators prospect Brady Tkachuk) and Rudolfs Balcers. Plus, the Sens also received a conditional 2019 2nd round pick (higher pick between the two 2nd round picks the Sharks own), a conditional first round pick in 2020 (Becomes a 2019 first if Sharks don\’t make the playoffs in 2018-19), a conditional 2021 2nd round pick (Sens get the pick if Karlsson is re-signed) and a conditional first round pick no later than 2022 (Sens receive the pick if Karlsson is on an Eastern Conference roster in 2018-19). This trade changed the league, making the Sharks an immediate favorite, as the now had two Norris trophy favorites in Karlsson and Brent Burns. The Sens get a couple of picks, and a bunch of players. While Karlsson may only be on the Sharks for a season, it is a trade that will no doubt impact the league for years to come.