Mark Stone was considered the best player available as the NHL trade deadline approached, a 26-year-old forward who consistently has 60 points a season.
The Vegas Golden Knights made a calculated gamble to acquire him Monday in the boldest move around the league simply because of the steep price paid in their bid to win the Stanley Cup. Vegas gave up 19-year-old defenseman Erik Brannstrom, a prized prospect, a 2020 second-round pick and seldom-used forward Oscar Lindberg.
“This type of player doesn’t come available very often,” Golden Knights general manager George McPhee said. “We believe he is one of the best all-around players in the NHL.”
Columbus, meanwhile, bolstered depth by adding defenseman Adam McQuaid from the New York Rangers and goaltender Keith Kinkaid from New Jersey after previously picking up forwards Ryan Dzingel and Matt Duchene.
“I feel we have a really good team and this gives us an opportunity to compete for the Stanley Cup,” Blue Jackets general manager Jarmo Kekalainen said.
The Central Division-leading Winnipeg Jets made one big deal, acquiring forward Kevin Hayes, and a series of smaller ones to keep pace with Western Conference contenders such as Pacific Division-leading Calgary, San Jose, Nashville and Vegas.
“It’s an exciting time for lots of franchises around the league that were able to add players,” said Detroit Red Wings general manager Ken Holland, who traded forward Gustav Nyquist and defenseman Nick Jensen to San Jose and Washington. “Lots of teams added lots of good players, so it’s shaping up for an exciting Stanley Cup playoff.”
COLUMBUS BLUE JACKETS
Columbus chose not to deal star forward Artemi Panarin and goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky along with their expiring contracts for high picks and promising prospects. The 26-year-old Dzingel is perhaps the most significant addition, putting a player with a career-high 44 points in the lineup.
In a subtle move for a team with solid playoff positioning, forward Marcus Johansson was acquired from the New Jersey Devils for a second-round pick this year and a fourth-round pick next year. Johansson has 27 points this season and is capable of more, producing a career-high 58 points with Washington two years ago.
The NHL-leading Tampa Bay Lightning stood pat, appearing to be content with a double-digit lead over the rest of the league with a stacked team from front to back. And the Metropolitan Division-leading New York Islanders did not make a trade in the NHL’s only division that has five teams with 70-plus points.
VEGAS GOLDEN KNIGHTS
The slumping team should get a quick return on its investment in Stone. He has 62 points — two short of his career high this season — and 311 points in 366 career games.
“You hope it brings something,” Vegas coach Gerard Gallant said. “Obviously the players know who Mark Stone is, they know he’s a great player. One of the top players in the league and he should definitely bring a lot of energy to our room.”
It appears to be a move for short- and long-term goals, because Stone said on Canada’s TSN he agreed to a long-term contract extension with the second-year franchise.
“We would not have done a rental,” McPhee said. “Too much risk in that.”
Nashville got stronger up front, acquiring wingers Mikael Granlund (Minnesota) and Wayne Simmonds (Philadelphia). Granlund, who has 49 points, averaged 68 points the previous two years. If he can do that again, it may be enough to help the Predators outlast the Jets in the division.
Hayes was perhaps the second-best player available, averaging 43-plus points over five seasons with the New York Rangers, and it cost a package that included a first-round pick to get him.
“You have to be comfortable with the acquisition price,” Jets general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff said.
Winnipeg advanced in the playoffs last year for the first time since moving from Atlanta in 2011 and knows it needs all the help it to top last year’s run that ended against Vegas in the conference finals. The Jets made six trades on deadline day.
The Western Conference leaders added only Oscar Fantenberg from the Los Angeles Kings because they don’t need much help. Fantenberg, a defenseman with three points in 46 games this season, does provide insurance on the blue line in case of injuries.