PITTSBURGH - Evgeni Malkin, Sidney Crosby and the surging Pittsburgh Penguins made quick work of the Los Angeles Kings.
Malkin and Crosby each had a goal and an assist to help the Penguins beat the Kings 4-1 on Friday night. Marc-Andre Fleury made 24 saves, and Tyler Kennedy and Bill Guerin added goals for Pittsburgh.
The Penguins, tied with Philadelphia for fourth in the Eastern Conference, have won three straight to improve to 12-1-3 under interim coach Dan Bylsma.
"There's a confidence and a swagger to our team," Bylsma said. "We have every right to have that right now with our record over the past 16 games."
The Penguins have a chance to break their tie with Philadelphia on Sunday, when they host the Flyers.
"It seems like everything is going good for us," Fleury said. "We're having more fun. We're happy, smiling, and the team is improving."
Friday's game was decided in the first period, when Malkin and Crosby scored to give the Penguins a 2-0 lead.
Crosby opened the scoring with 7:27 left in the first period, stealing a pass from Justin Williams in the right faceoff circle and firing a backhander past goalie Jonathan Quick.
Crosby extended his points streak to 12 games with his 28th goal.
"Los Angeles is a team that works hard on the road," Crosby said. "It was important for us to get the lead. We did that and kept it."
Almost five minutes later, Malkin redirected a pass from Crosby and scored a power-play goal to give the Penguins a two-goal advantage.
Malkin leads the NHL with 104 points on 33 goals and 71 assists. Crosby, with 94 points, passed Washington's Alex Ovechkin for second place.
Kennedy and Guerin scored 2:23 apart in the second period to give Pittsburgh a 4-0 lead.
Bylsma, a former Kings player who was coaching against Los Angeles for the first time, was happy with his team's aggressive play.
"This was a game where it didn't matter if it was Los Angeles, Boston, or Philadelphia," he said. "We needed to focus on playing the right way. It was good to see us come out and play the right way."
Michal Handzus scored, and Quick made 22 saves for Los Angeles, which is 1-1 on a season-long six-game road trip.
The Kings, who entered the game in 13th place in the Western Conference, beat Boston in overtime Thursday night.
"We battled and fought hard, but we just didn't have it today," Quick said.
Handzus spoiled Fleury's shutout with a 5-on-3, power-play goal, his 17th of the season, with 12:33 left in the game.
"When you're down 4-0, you have to keep working at your game, and that is really important when you're in that situation," Los Angeles coach Terry Murray said. "We're a young club that has to figure that out."
Los Angeles finished 1-for-8 on the power play. The Penguins have killed 39 of 42 penalties over their past nine games and are 7-0-2 in that span.
"It's disappointing to let that one up, but it is 5-on-3," Bylsma said. "For the rest of the game, our penalty kill was strong."
Notes: Los Angeles activated Williams off injured reserve before Friday's game. The right winger, acquired from Carolina just before the trade deadline, broke his left hand Feb. 15 while playing with the Hurricanes. ... Kings D Denis Gauthier was scratched, and is expected to miss up to two weeks with an upper body injury. In his place, the team called up D Davis Drewiske from Manchester of the American Hockey League. ... The Penguins are 3-0-1 on a franchise-record eight-game homestand. ... Bylsma appeared in 220 games for Los Angeles over parts of five seasons from 1995-2000.
Back before basement-dwelling teams spent trade deadline day dealing away futures, picks, and rentals to the contenders, some teams managed to get together to make hockey trades.
Today is trade deadline day, which means you can expect to hear certain words repeated over and over. "Buyers." "Sellers." "Rentals." Those are the key terms on a day filled with bad teams flipping players to good teams in return for future assets.
But back in the old days, there used to be a different term that showed up occasionally on days like today: "Hockey trades."
To be honest, back then we pretty much just called them "trades," and they went something like this: Two teams exchanged players in a deal where both sides were trying to get better. Nobody was throwing in the towel and rebuilding, and nobody was sacrificing future assets for a short-term boost. Just two teams, both trying to improve their rosters right now, and using a trade to do it.
I know. Crazy stuff.
But it did happen. And we even sort of got one Tuesday night -- the Brandon Davidson/David Desharnais deal, while not anyone's idea of a blockbuster, was at least kind of hockey-ish. So today, while we wait for the rental market to heat up, let's look back at five true hockey trades from deadline history where there were no clear buyers and no sellers, just two teams trying to get the best end of a deal.
1989 – Mike Gartner and Larry Murphy for Dino Ciccarelli and Bob Rouse
Let's start back in 1989 with a classic hockey deal. No picks, no prospects, just a forward and a defenseman on each side of the trade.
Oh, and 75% of the deal ended up in the Hall of Fame. That's not bad for a day's work.
The deal saw Capitals GM David Poile trade away Gartner, at the time the franchise's all-time leading scorer, and Murphy, who'd been a Norris finalist less than two years ago. In exchange, the North Stars gave up their top goal-scorer in Ciccarelli and a hard-nosed blueliner in Rouse.
As it turned out, none of the players stuck around in their new homes all that long. Gartner was traded again at the 1990 deadline, and by the time Ciccarelli was dealt to Detroit in 1992, all four players had moved on. Still, at the time this was an impressive blockbuster, and in hindsight it's probably the most star-studded four-player deal in league history.
1991 – Ron Francis, Ulf Samuelsson and Grant Jennings for John Cullen, Zarley Zalapski and Jeff Parker
This may be not just the biggest pure hockey trade in deadline history, but the biggest trade of any kind, period. It was a monster blockbuster, one that left fans in Hartford perplexed and fans around the league worrying that a good Penguins team had just added the final piece.
As it turns out, both of those reactions were on the nose. The deal was a major win for the Penguins; the 28-year-old Francis was a perfect fit behind Mario Lemieux, giving Pittsburgh one of the best one-two punches down the middle in a generation. Today, the deal is often described as a heist, one that may even have contributed to the Whalers' eventual move to Carolina.
But at the time, it wasn't all that hard to see what Hartford was doing. They got a little younger and added a player in Zalapski who became their best offensive blueliner. More importantly, while it's been all but forgotten now, the 26-year-old Cullen was in the middle of an absolute monster year, and had 94 points through just 65 games when the deal went down. He finished the season ranked fifth in the Art Ross race with 110 points; that wasn't just more than Francis would manage that year, it was more than the Whalers' star had ever had during any season in his career.
Still, there's no doubt that in hindsight, the Penguins won the deal. Cullen never hit those heights again, while the move rejuvenated Francis. And the grizzled (and occasionally outright dirty) Samuelsson was the perfect fit for a skilled Pittsburgh team looking to make a long run through the postseason grinder.
1991 – Geoff Courtnall, Sergio Momesso, Cliff Ronning and Robert Dirk for Garth Butcher and Dan Quinn
Our second entry from 1991 was the biggest of the actual deadline day (the Francis deal came the day before). The Blues and Canucks hooked up on a six-player trade, and it's another one that looks lopsided in hindsight.
At the time, the Blues looked like a team that was ready to make a run at the Stanley Cup. They battled division rival Chicago all the way to the wire for the Presidents' Trophy, ultimately ending the season sitting second overall with 105 points. Like so many contenders before and after, they wanted more toughness on defense, and Butcher certainly fit that description. Adding him to a blueline that already featured Scott Stevens left the Blues with two guys who could eat big minutes and still beat you in the alley. Quinn was a nice add as well, 25 years old and just two years removed from a 94-point season.
But in hindsight, the Canucks made off with a haul, adding four veterans in the deal (as well as the deal's only draft pick, a fifth-round choice). The best of those turned out to be Ronning, who had 85 points two years later. Along with Momesso and Courtnall, he was a key piece of the Canucks' team that made a run to within one win of a Stanley Cup in 1994.
The Leafs threw in a fourth-round pick and the rights to a prospect who never made the NHL, but this was essentially a one-for-one deal. And it even featured two players who were virtual clones of each other: Old but speedy right-wingers who ended up in the Hall of Fame based on their offense.
So why make the swap at all? For the Rangers, the move came as part of a massive deadline day shakeup by GM Neil Smith that saw them make five trades involving nine players. The day was all about reshaping a team that was challenging for the Presidents' Trophy, but had its eye firmly on the bigger prize of ending a 54-year Cup drought. Anderson didn't have Gartner's numbers, but he had five Cup rings, and Smith was betting that he could make it six in New York.
That bet ultimately paid off. Anderson's time in New York was underwhelming, as he managed just twelve points combined in the regular season and playoffs before bolting as a free agent. But the Rangers did win their Cup, so Smith's long day of deadline work can't be viewed as anything other than a win.
As for Gartner, he spent two seasons in Toronto, scoring 35 goals in 1995-96 at 36.
2006 – Jose Theodore for David Aebischer
We'll close with the only entry from the cap era on our list. One year into the new CBA, the deadline was a busy one, and one of the most interesting deals was a good old-fashioned one-for-one goalie trade.
It was a rare case of two teams making a mid-season trade of guys who were at least ostensibly their starters. The two players were roughly the same age – Theodore was 29, while Aebischer was 28 – and both had put up similar career numbers. Theodore's peak had been far higher, including a Hart Trophy in 2002, while Aebischer was having the better season. Theodore was also more expensive and was recovering from a heel injury.
In hindsight, the deal ended up being fairly even. While Theodore never regained his Hart Trophy form, he spent two full years in Colorado compared to Aebischer's one in Montreal. Theodore later resurrected his career with a good 2007-08 campaign and went on to play through 2013, while Aebischer never overtook Cristobel Huet for starter duties in Montreal and was out of the NHL for good by 2007.
Sean McIndoe has been writing about the NHL since 2008; you may know him from Twitter as @downgoesbrown. His e-book, The 100 Greatest Players in NHL History, is available now. He appears weekly on TheHockeyNews.com.
The Capitals are all-in and the acquisition of Kevin Shattenkirk put the rest of the Metropolitan on notice. Will the other top teams in the division answer back? And if so, how?
The Capitals seemed a long shot to land Kevin Shattenkirk at the deadline, so much so that Washington really wasn’t even all that much on the radar for the rearguard until mere hours before he was dealt to the Metropolitan Division leaders. And even when the rumor mill started to heat up speculating the Capitals could be in on Shattenkirk, it still seemed like there would be no way it actually came to pass.
But did the Capitals ever put the rest of the division on notice when they managed to pull the trigger on a deal that, in the eyes of many, could very well put them over the top. All it cost to pick up Shattenkirk at the cost of two drafts picks, Zach Sanford and Brad Malone. If that’s enough to put the Capitals into the winner’s circle come season’s end, it was more than worth the price.
Don’t go thinking the rest of the division will go without a response, however. The battle for Metropolitan supremacy has been the toughest in the league this season, and with four other teams from the group in the hunt for the playoffs, there’s no doubt going to be some moves made as a reaction to the Capitals’ splash with the trade deadline fast approaching.
The Capitals are tired of playoff disappointments. Already the best team in the league, they decided overkill was the smart strategy. That's why they went out and got the best player on the trade market.
The Penguins were actually the first squad in the division to make a move, but it was as much out of necessity as it was in effort to take top spot in the Metropolitan. With Olli Maatta hitting the shelf with a hand injury and Kris Letang sidelined day-to-day with an upper-body ailment, Pittsburgh GM Jim Rutherford looked to his old stomping grounds in Carolina and picked up Hurricanes blueliner Ron Hainsey. That likely isn’t everything the Penguins do with the deadline approaching, however.
Realistically, the Penguins could still do with adding another depth blueliner, even if he doesn’t see the ice all that often. Security on the back end would be a nice thing to have going into the playoffs, especially with the Capitals loading up. It’s clear that’s of interest to the Penguins, too, as they were reportedly in on Shattenkirk, as well.
It wouldn’t be out of the question for Pittsburgh to also look to see if there’s a way to add another depth scorer to the roster, either. One of the most important facets of the Penguins’ run to the Cup in 2015-16 was their depth scoring. Players such as Bryan Rust, Tom Kuhnhackl and Conor Sheary stepped up at the right time. Jake Guentzel has been playing lights out of late, but maybe there’s another cheap piece to be added somewhere. A cheap scorer, maybe Radim Vrbata or P-A Parenteau, could fit the bill.
The Penguins have all the top-end skill a team needs to compete in the post-season, but the make or break factor could be ensuring there’s not even the slightest hole in their lineup. That’s what it’s going to take to win the Metropolitan, too.
Columbus Blue Jackets
The Blue Jackets are having what projects to be the most successful regular season in franchise history. The shame is, though, the 16-game win streak has been followed by a 12-10-1 stretch. Columbus is above .500 since their outstanding run, sure, but few would put them in the same conversation as the Capitals or the Penguins. The question then has to be what the Blue Jackets can do to put them into true contention for the Metropolitan crown.
Up until Tuesday, the Blue Jackets had stood pat, and the only move the team has made to potentially improve leading up to the deadline was Tuesday’s signing of Marc-Andre Bergeron. The 36-year-old blueliner isn’t exactly the kind of player who’s about to come aboard and make all that much of a difference, though, and there’s no telling if he even gets any NHL games under his belt this season. This is to say the Bergeron signing, while nice for the veteran rearguard, doesn’t move the needle for Columbus.
The Blue Jackets could use another defender, though. It’d be tough to make any of the high-priced defensemen work, but one option could be New Jersey Devils defender Kyle Quincey. He’s not carrying a massive cap hit — $1.25 million and a UFA at the end of the season — and could easily skate middle- or bottom-pairing minutes for Columbus. He has playoff experience and he’s got some offense to his game, providing four goals and 12 points this season.
However, it wouldn’t be all that shocking if the Blue Jackets stand pat, for the most part. This is a growing team with a lot of talented, young pieces. Their window isn’t all the way open yet, and there’s no reason to go all-in yet. Building off this strong season would be as good as trading away assets in a division they’re unfortunately unlikely to win.
New York Rangers
The Rangers might just have to wait for the off-season to get Shattenkirk, but that doesn’t mean they’re not going to add the blueliner they’re after. New York was reportedly interested in Detroit’s Brendan Smith even before Shattenkirk came off the board, and the Rangers carried out the deal with the Red Wings Tuesday afternoon by sending a pair of draft picks the other way.
Smith isn’t Shattenkirk, that much is clear. The Capitals pulled in an 11-goal, 42-point rearguard, and the Rangers answered back with one who has two goals and five points. What Smith can do, however, is play significant minutes somewhere in the Rangers’ bottom two pairings. They desperately needed someone to do so, too. And even with Smith, it wouldn’t be the worst idea for the Rangers to keep looking at defensemen, even if it means sacrificing some offense in a trade. New York has 203 goals for, which is the second-best mark in both the league and division. Their 162 goals against are 11th in the league, though, and the back end doesn’t exactly strike one as the most fierce in the division.
What the Rangers need most is someone who can reliably share the top-pairing minutes with Ryan McDonagh. Right now, there’s a nearly four-minute gap between McDonagh’s average ice time and that of Nick Holden, who’s second on the club with 20:37 per game. Smith probably doesn’t skate alongside McDonagh or average near the same ice time. Quincey could be an option, or maybe the Rangers consider someone along the lines of Johnny Oduya.
Finding a top-two guy is almost impossible, especially with Shattenkirk off the board, but having someone to help share the top minutes with McDonagh would be a boon for the Rangers.
New York Islanders
Unlike the Penguins, Blue Jackets and Rangers, the Islanders aren’t in the conversation to win the Metropolitan. However, they stand a chance of competing against their divisional rivals if they sneak into the post-season in the second wild-card spot. That would mean a date with the Capitals, and if the Islanders want to be able to put up a fight, they’re going to need to make some additions.
The Islanders aren’t in the same position as the other teams within the division in that they’re quite set on the back end. Having a top three of Nick Leddy, Johnny Boychuk and Travis Hamonic, when he returns from injury, makes for quite the blueline, and while the bottom three of Dennis Seidenberg, Calvin De Haan and Thomas Hickey aren’t without their flaws, it’s not a bad way to round out the defense. Adding another piece back there could help, absolutely, but it’s not a big-time must.
Adding some scoring to the lineup is, however. The Islanders rank 10th in the league in scoring with 179 goals, but that’s almost entirely because of John Tavares and Anders Lee. More than a quarter of the team’s goals have come from those two players, both of whom have 23 markers this season, and a top three scorers that consist of Tavares, Lee and Josh Bailey isn’t exactly Murderers’ Row.
Making the money work wouldn’t be easy, but wouldn’t it be interesting to see Duchene land with the Islanders? Giving Tavares a speedy, 30-goal player to work alongside could give New York a solid 1-2 punch on offense. But if the Islanders want a short-term fix to try and get into the playoffs and make some noise, they wouldn’t go wrong with Vrbata or Parenteau. Maybe they even try bringing Thomas Vanek back. Just three seasons ago, he scored 17 goals and 44 points in 47 games while playing primarily with Tavares as his center.
The Sharks are still trying for that elusive Stanley Cup title, while the Canucks are building for the future in this win-win trade
Winning the Stanley Cup one year after losing the final series is very difficult. The Pittsburgh Penguins did it back in 2009 and now San Jose is in that position. With the acquisition of right winger Jannik Hansen, the Sharks have added one more weapon to an already potent lineup.
San Jose grabbed Hansen from Vancouver in exchange for prospect left winger Nikolay Goldobin and an interesting conditional pick: a fourth-rounder in 2017 that becomes a first-round selection, should the Sharks win the Cup. So we know who Vancouver will be cheering for this summer.
"Jannik is a versatile, gritty player who plays with speed and is talented on both sides of the puck," said Sharks GM Doug Wilson. "We think he is a perfect fit for the style of our team.”
Indeed, speed will likely be imperative in the playoffs, as it was last year when the Penguins skated circles around the competition (including the Sharks). San Jose already brought in another burner before this campaign began in Mikkel Boedker and although he hasn’t been a real difference-maker so far, every bit of depth counts in the post-season. Add in ascending rookie Kevin Labanc and you’ve got a decent amount of new blood on a squad led by the impressive veteran core of Brent Burns (a Hart trophy candidate), Joe Pavelski, Joe Thornton and Logan Couture.
With Thornton and suddenly-spry Sharks lifer Patrick Marleau in the twilights of their careers, San Jose is really making one last stand here before the mantle gets completely passed to Pavelski, Burns and Couture. And they could pull it off.
For Vancouver, GM Jim Benning continues to have a good deadline with this deal. The Canucks have already amassed a very nice pool of prospects and Goldobin could slide into the NHL lineup right now. He’s a skilled, creative playmaker whose weak spots are defense, but he has been working on rounding out his game in the AHL and the Sharks were pleased with his progress. Add him to a Canucks future centered around Bo Horvat, Troy Stecher, Brock Boeser, Olli Juolevi and Thatcher Demko among others and all of a sudden, Vancouver’s looking pretty good in a few years. Now, they have five picks in the first four rounds this summer and potentially two first-rounders, should the Sharks triumph.
San Jose and Vancouver definitely caught each other at the right time on this deal.
A team saying goodbye to a free agent-to-be at the deadline doesn't have to say goodbye forever. Here are past examples of traded players heading back to where they came from in their subsequent free agency.
Thomas Vanek is in an interesting situation heading into Wednesday’s deadline. The veteran winger was bought out ahead of 2016-17 by the Minnesota Wild, and the Red Wings took a flyer on him ahead of the campaign, inking him to a one-year, $2.6-million contract. He has taken that deal, turned in a stellar 15-goal, 38-point performance in 47 games and made himself one of the most intriguing potential additions at the trade deadline.
The thing is, though, that Vanek has seemingly found his stride again in Detroit and that could be reason enough for him to want to stick around. Unfortunately, without any form of trade protection, it seems as though he could be good as gone by the time we reach Wednesday’s deadline.
However, if Vanek really sees himself as a Red Wing in the future, there’s nothing stopping the 33-year-old from deciding he wants to call Detroit home and talking contract with the Red Wings come the off-season as he’ll become a free agent once again on July 1. If we make two assumptions — the first that Vanek is traded, the second that the money works out and he comes back to Detroit for 2017-18 — it would make Vanek one of the rare players to be dealt away at the deadline only to come right back to his former team. He wouldn’t be the first player to do so, though, nor would any other unrestricted free agent-to-be who ends up back with his former team.
Here are five players who’ve been the very definition of a rental, sent off to one team only to come right back to where they were before the deadline to start the following campaign:
Keith Tkachuk — Traded to Thrashers, signs with Blues
Acquiring Tkachuk at the 2007 trade deadline, in exchange for Glen Metropolit, 2007 first- and third-round picks and a second-rounder in 2008, is arguably the biggest trade the franchise made while still in Atlanta.
It paid dividends for the Thrashers as they headed into the post-season for the first time in history. Over the course of his 18 regular season games in Atlanta, Tkachuk scored seven goals and 15 points. The playoff run wouldn’t be nearly as successful, however. Tkachuk kept scoring, collecting a goal and three points, but the Thrashers were swept by the New York Rangers.
When the off-season rolled around, Tkachuk was right back in St. Louis, however. He signed a two-year, $8-million deal with the Blues, and remained with the organization through to the 2009-10 campaign. That Tkachuk didn’t stick around in Atlanta did save the Thrashers a 2008 first-round pick, though, as one would have been owed to the Blues if Tkachuk re-signed in Atlanta. That was the third-overall selection, used to pick Zach Bogosian.
Matt Moulson — Traded to Wild, signs with Sabres
Moulson was in the midst of a second-consecutive down season after three-straight 30-goal years when he was shipped off to Minnesota at the 2014 deadline to add some scoring punch to the playoff-bound Wild. In order to land the winger, as well as Cody McCormick, Minnesota paid a steep price, sending Torrey Mitchell, a 2014 second-round pick and a 2016 second-round pick to Buffalo.
He managed to provide the offense the Wild were looking for, though. Through 20 games with Minnesota to end 2013-14, Moulson scored six goals and 13 points and then pitched in another goal and three points in 10 playoff games as the Wild made it to the second round.
Moulson’s stay was short-lived, however. Traded to Minnesota on March 5, 2014, he was back in Buffalo by July 1, inking a five-year, $25-million with the Sabres. Oddly enough, Moulson was joined back in Buffalo by McCormick, who also headed back to the Sabres as soon as free agency opened. He signed a three-year, $4.5 million deal to return.
Antoine Vermette — Traded to Blackhawks, signs with Coyotes
Chicago made a splash at the deadline in 2015 by going out and acquiring Vermette. The move was made to bolster the depth down the middle, and the hope was he could be a difference maker both offensively and defensively for the Blackhawks. For much of his time in Chicago, that wasn’t quite the case, and his biggest use through the 20 regular season games he played was as a faceoff man.
He picked the right time to come alive, though. In Game 3 of the Western final, Vermette scored the game winner, and then he became a hero with the winners in Games 1 and 5 of the Stanley Cup final. His send off was hoisting the Stanley Cup. Little more than two weeks later he inked a two-year, $7.5-million deal to return to Arizona.
The return to the Coyotes didn’t quite work out for Vermette. After potting 17 goals and 38 points in 2015-16, Arizona bought him out and he has since landed with the Anaheim Ducks. Arizona does still have Nick Merkley from the trade with the Blackhawks, however. He was acquired using the first-round selection, 30th overall, given to the Coyotes in exchange for Vermette. Merkley’s considered one of the better prospects in Arizona’s system.
Zbynek Michalek — Traded to Blues, signs with Coyotes
Michalek was the kind of player that teams were looking for specifically to fill a role as a depth defenseman for the post-season run, and one of his biggest attributes was his ability and willingness to block shots. Turns out he also had a bit of offense in his stick when he ended up in St. Louis, though. After the Blues acquired Michalek — at the cost of prospect Maxim Letunov — he wound up potting two goals and four points in 15 games.
Michalek fell out of favor come the post-season, however. The Blues wound up ousted from the post-season in six games at the hands of the Minnesota Wild, and Michalek didn’t find the score sheet once and watched his ice time dwindle from nearly 19 minutes in Game 1 to a combined 25:34 in the final two outings of the series.
The disappointing end to Michalek’s season isn’t near as troubling as his current turn in Arizona has gone. He signed back with the Coyotes on a two-year, $6.4-million contract on July 1 and watched his ice time drop by more than four minutes per game from 2014-15 to 2015-16. Worse yet, he hasn’t seen a single second of NHL ice time this season.
Roman Polak — Traded to Sharks, signs with Maple Leafs
Toronto was chock full off players on expiring deals for the sole purpose of stockpiling draft picks. It was a clever move and Polak was part of that plan. He had 25 games of playoff experience, had played on the Blues teams who were competitive in the Western Conference and possessed the physicality some teams love come the post-season.
He interested the Sharks enough that they coughed up two second-round picks, along with Raffi Torres, for a package of Polak and Nick Spaling. Polak was an every-gamer for the Sharks, and while no one would confuse his 15:45 average ice time in the post-season with him being a top contributor, the fact of the matter is he was relied upon for bottom-pairing minutes on the Western Conference champion and a team that came within two wins of the Stanley Cup.
Polak ended up back in Toronto, signing a one-year, $2.25-million contract. He wouldn’t exactly be called trade bait this time around, however. Set to become a UFA, he’s skating two fewer minutes per game than he did in 2015-16. His trade last season was useful, though. The 2017 second-round pick was shipped to the Tampa Bay Lightning for Brian Boyle, Toronto’s biggest acquisition thus far at the current deadline.