Photo: Palm Beach Post
Every season, teams across the NHL try to improve their team from outside of their respective organizations and some try to do it for the present. While all moves are made for good intentions, some backfire while others push their teams to the next level. With the 2021-22 season now in the books, NoVa Caps examines the five best trade acquisitions of the campaign.
LW Pavel Buchnevich — St. Louis Blues
In need for some more grit over skill after being pushed around by the Washington Capitals and New York Islanders in 2020-21, the New York Rangers dealt the 27-year-old to the Gateway City in exchange for a 2022 second-round pick and left-wing Sammy Blais. The Blues re-signed Buchnevich to a four-year contract that carries a $5.8 million cap hit before he was eligible to become a restricted free agent.
In his first season with the Blues, Buchnevich shattered his previous NHL career-highs as he earned 30 goals (second on the team behind right-wing Vladimir Tarasenko’s 34), 46 assists (fourth), 76 points (third), a +29 rating (second), and a 52.15% five-on-five expected goals-for percentage in 73 regular-season games. He added a goal and 11 points in 12 Stanley Cup Playoff games.
Buchnevich, who averaged 2:15 on the power play (fifth among Blues forwards) and 1:36 on the penalty kill (fourth), never hit the 25-goal or 50-point mark in New York, though was on pace for 30 goals and 73 points over a full 82-game season during the 2020-21 campaign.
G Darcy Kuemper — Colorado Avalanche
After Philipp Grubauer left in free agency, the Avalanche sent a 2022 first-round pick, defenseman Connor Timmins, and a 2024 third-round pick to the Arizona Coyotes to acquire the 32-year-old to be their starter.
Kuemper went 37-12-4 (tied for fourth in the NHL in wins) with a .921 save percentage (fifth, including .928 at five-on-five), 2.54 goals-against average (11th), five shutouts (tied for fourth), a 16.40 five-on-five goals-saved above average, an .863 five-on-five high-danger save percentage, a 13.19 five-on-five goals-saved above average, and an .879 save percentage on the penalty kill in the regular season.
In the postseason, Kuemper, who can become an unrestricted free agent on July 13, got injured a couple times but finished 10-4 with a .902 save percentage, a 2.54 goals-against average, and a shutout to lead the Avalanche to the mountain top.
LW Artturi Lehkonen — Avalanche
Looking to add some scoring depth, the Avalanche forced the Montreal Canadiens to move on from the 26-year-old, who can become a restricted free agent on July 13, by giving up defenseman Justin Barron (the 25th overall pick in the 2020 NHL Draft) and a 2024 second-round pick after the Canadiens were hesitant to move him.
The Avalanche’s persistence on acquiring Lehkonen paid off as he earned six goals, nine points, and a 51.51% five-on-five expected goals-for percentage in 16 regular-season games after the trade. He averaged 2:16 on their power play (sixth among the team’s forwards) and 54 seconds on Colorado’s penalty kill (eighth) to finish off the regular season.
During Colorado’s run to the Stanley Cup, Lehkonen notched eight goals (including the one that sent his team to the Stanley Cup Final and the Stanley Cup-clinching goal) and 14 points in 20 games. Lehkonen, who can become a restricted free agent with arbitration rights on July 13, averaged 1:38 on the power play (fifth) and 51 seconds on the penalty kill (sixth).
C Andrew Copp — New York Rangers
Right before the NHL Trade Deadline, the Winnipeg Jets dealt the 27-year-old pending unrestricted free agent to Broadway, along with a 2023 sixth-round pick, in exchange for defenseman Morgan Barron, a 2022 first-round pick, a 2022 second-round pick, and a a 2023 fifth-round pick.
Copp posted eight goals, 18 points, a 49.62% faceoff-winning percentage, a 56.44% five-on-five expected goals-for percentage in 16 regular-season games after the trade. He also averaged 1:35 on the power play (fifth among Rangers forwards) and 1:38 on the penalty kill (fourth).
Copp added six goals and 14 points in 20 postseason games for the team, who advanced to the Eastern Conference Final. He played an average of 2:20 on the penalty kill (second) and 59 seconds on the man advantage (sixth).
RW Claude Giroux — Florida Panthers
Going all-in for the Stanley Cup, the Eastern Conference leaders acquired the 34-year-old from the Philadelphia Flyers along with center German Rubtsov, center Connor Bunnaman, and a 2024 fifth-round pick in exchange for right-wing Owen Tippett, a 2023 third-round pick, and a conditional first-round pick in 2024 or 2025.
Even though the Panthers did not go as far as they hoped to in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, Giroux turned out to be quite the pickup for the team as he earned three goals, 23 points, a 59.85% five-on-five expected goals-for percentage, and a 57.94% faceoff-winning percentage in 18 games to finish off the regular season in Florida. Giroux played an average of 3:35 on the power play (second) and 50 seconds on the penalty kill (seventh).
In the 2022 Stanley Cup Playoffs, Giroux tallied three goals and eight points in 10 games. He averaged 3:34 on the power play (fourth).
By Harrison Brown