During every NHL season (both in-season or the offseason), teams make trades to improve their roster. While some backfire, a lot end up paying off big time for some teams. NoVa Caps looks at the five best trade acquisitions of the 2020-21 season.
Before we jump into the five best trade acquisitions, here are the list of players acquired via trade by the 2021 Stanley Cup Champion Tampa Bay Lightning last season:
* RHD David Savard
* LHD Fredrik Claesson
C Jeff Carter, Pittsburgh Penguins
Trade: Acquired from Los Angeles Kings in exchange for 2022 third-round pick, 2023 conditional fourth-round pick (which can become a third if Carter plays at least 50 games this season)
In the midst of a rebuild, the Kings dealt the 36-year-old to the Penguins, who were missing center Evgeni Malkin for 23 games due to a lower-body injury at the time of the deal, for two draft picks.
After earning eight goals and 19 points in 40 games with the Kings prior to the trade, Carter topped his goal total in Los Angeles this season (nine – only one of which came on the power play) and earned 11 points in only 14 games with the Penguins. Though, he shot at a 24.3% rate during just his stint in Pittsburgh to end the season, almost 5% higher than his career-high set in his first full season in Los Angeles in 2012-13.
Carter added four goals and five points in the team’s first-round exit to the New York Islanders in the 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Carter is signed for one more season, so the Penguins will get at least one more kick at the can with him on board.
LW Jakub Vrana, Detroit Red Wings
Trade: Acquired, along with right-wing Richard Panik, the 23rd overall pick in the 2021 NHL Draft (C Wyatt Johnston, taken by Dallas Stars), and a second-round pick in the 2022 NHL Draft, from the Washington Capitals in exchange for left-wing Anthony Mantha
The Red Wings were open for business at the 2021 NHL Trade Deadline and willing to listen on anyone. When the Capitals were willing to part with Vrana and more to acquire Mantha and get Panik’s $2.75 million cap hit off of their salary cap, the Red Wings cashed in big time.
Following an 11-goal, 25-point output in 39 games under head coach Peter Laviolette in Washington where he struggled to fit in and was even scratched twice prior to the trade, the 25-year-old popped off for eight goals and 11 points in 11 games with the Red Wings. That included a four-goal performance on April 23 in a 7-3 victory over the Dallas Stars. Though, Vrana’s 25% shooting percentage in his 11-game stint in Detroit after the trade was nearly 9% higher than his career-high during his time with the Capitals.
The Red Wings did not qualify for the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the fifth consecutive season but Vrana ended up leading the team in goals (by eight) and was their only player with at least 30 points last season.
Vrana signed a three-year contract that carries a $5.25 million cap hit with the Red Wings as a restricted free agent after the season.
C Sam Bennett, Florida Panthers
Trade: Acquired, along with a sixth-round pick in the 2022 NHL Draft, from the Calgary Flames in exchange for left-wing prospect Emil Heineman and a second-round pick in the 2022 NHL Draft
After requesting a trade out of Calgary and earning four goals, 12 points, and a -14 rating in 38 games with the Flames to start the season, the 25-year-old’s request was finally accommodated at the trade deadline as he was dealt to the Panthers.
Bennett fit in perfectly in Florida where he ended the campaign with six goals, 15 points, and a +12 rating. He went into the postseason on a six-game point-streak where he earned three goals and 10 points. Bennett’s shooting percentage during his short stint in Florida was higher than it was in any of his seven seasons in Calgary but not drastically as he shot at a 15.4% rate in Florida and his previous career-high was 13.24%. Though, it was at 6% this season prior to the trade.
Bennett missed a game of the Panthers’ six-game first-round series loss to the Lightning due to suspension but scored a goal and five points in the five games he played.
After the season, Bennett signed a four-year contract that carries a cap hit of $4.425 million.
LHD Devon Toews, Colorado Avalanche
Trade: Acquired from New York Islanders in exchange for second-round picks in the 2021 (LHD Janis Moser, picked by Arizona Coyotes) and 2022 NHL Drafts
With the Islanders in a salary cap crunch and needing to re-sign restricted free agent center Mathew Barzal and left-handed defenseman Ryan Pulock, they dealt the 27-year-old to the Avalanche for two high draft picks. The Avalanche then signed the restricted free-agent to a four-year contract that counts $4.1 million against the NHL salary cap.
In his first season in Colorado, where he averaged a team-high 24:46 per game (including 1:43 on the power play and 3:06 while shorthanded, which was 13 seconds behind defenseman Ryan Graves for first on the team), Toews set career-highs in goals (nine), points (31), and plus-minus (+29) while also tying his personal best in assists (29). He also earned a 60.38% Corsi-for percentage, a 63.09% expected goals-for percentage, and a 63.62% scoring chances-for percentage at five-on-five in the 2020-21 season.
Toews earned a goal, six points, and a +10 rating in 10 Stanley Cup Playoff games.
LW Taylor Hall, Boston Bruins
Trade: Acquired from Buffalo Sabres, along with RW Curtis Lazar, in exchange for LW Anders Bjork, 53rd overall pick in 2021 NHL Draft (LW Alexander Kisakov)
After the 29-year-old underperformed in his 37-game stay with the Sabres, where he mustered just two goals, 19 points, and a -21 rating, the team, who retained half ($4 million) of Hall’s cap hit and were sitting last in the NHL for most of the 2020-21 season, dealt him (a pending unrestricted free agent) to the Bruins to avoid losing a player of his caliber for nothing.
Hall, who was traded for the second time in as many seasons and on his fourth team in that time, appeared to find a home in Boston behind the Bruins’ top-line of center Patrice Bergeron, left-wing Brad Marchand, and right-wing David Pastrnak. He turned in eight goals, 14 points, and a +15 rating in just 16 regular-season games with the Bruins.
Hall posted three goals and five points in 11 Stanley Cup Playoff games with the Bruins.
Just six days before he was set to become an unrestricted free agent for the second time in as many years, Hall signed a four-year contract extension that carries a $6 million cap hit to stay with the Bruins.
By Harrison Brown