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NHL Pucks Drops: Bringing in the playoff beef

Hockey pundit talks Cup contenders bulking up at NHL trade deadline

This year's NHL trade deadline saw most of the Stanley Cup contenders make significant deals. Their moves could determine which one takes home the big mug later this spring.

Lightning rods

The Tampa Bay Lightning made the biggest trade, acquiring defenceman Ryan McDonagh and versatile forward J.T. Miller from the New York Rangers. McDonagh provides a big boost to the Lightning's blue-line while Miller's two-way skills and ability to play centre or wing provides invaluable flexibility at forward. 

The Nash-ty Bruins

On the day before the deadline, the Boston Bruins pried away the top playoff rental player in veteran winger Rick Nash from the Rangers. An unrestricted free agent this summer, the 33-year-old Nash is no longer the dominant scorer of his youth. However, he's already established a solid scoring rapport with Bruins' second-line centre David Krejci. 

Fuelling the Jets

The Winnipeg Jets are Canada's best hope to end the nation's 25-year Cup drought. They pulled off the deadline's most surprising move, landing centre Paul Stastny from the St. Louis Blues. The fact the pending free agent was willing to waive his no-trade clause to join the Jets speaks volumes for the small-market franchise's contender status. Stastny's slick playmaking skills makes an already potent Jets' offence even more dangerous.  

Defending the castle

The defending Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins weren't idle, acquiring Derick Brassard from the Ottawa Senators in a complicated three-team deal that involved the Golden Knights. Brassard will centre the Penguins' third line and can also move up if Sidney Crosby or Evgeni Malkin become sidelined by injury. 

Expanding their horizons

While the expansion Vegas Golden Knights failed to pry superstar defenceman Erik Karlsson away from the Ottawa Senators, they added a scoring winger in Tomas Tatar from the Detroit Red Wings. The 27-year-old winger is a proven 20-goal, 40-point producer who can bring an added measure of scoring punch to the Golden Knights. Signed through 2020-21, Tatar could also serve as long-term insurance in case pending free agents James Neal and David Perron depart in July. 

Other notable moves

A Kings ransom

Dealt by the Ottawa Senators to the Los Angeles Kings nearly two weeks before the deadline, defenceman Dion Phaneuf is fitting in well with his new club. Entering this week, Phaneuf had six points in 10 games for the surging Kings, who've also won six of those contests since he joined their ranks. 

Kane is able

It took only a conditional draft pick and a prospect for the San Jose Sharks to get left wing Evander Kane from the Buffalo Sabres. He wasted little time making a positive impression, collecting five points in his first three games with the Sharks. 

The plucky Plekanec

The Toronto Maple Leafs couldn't find a suitable defenceman to bolster their blue-line before the deadline. They did, however, add experienced depth at centre by acquiring Tomas Plekanec from the Montreal Canadiens. His defensive skills should improve the Leafs' penalty kill and faceoff win percentage. 

Lyle Richardson is a freelance writer with Sporting News and runs the website Spector’s Hockey. His column will appear in The Guardian throughout the NHL hockey season.

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