The 2021 NHL trade deadline came and went with relatively little fanfare. Deadline day saw just 17 trades made (a new eight-year low) that involved only 26 players (a new 20-year low). The obvious downside to a quiet deadline is that it’s not very exciting to follow and doesn’t create the same number of stretch-run storylines to follow. The upside? With so little news to cover, nothing slipped through the cracks. Insiders, such as Elliotte Friedman, have come out with more “almost-trades” than in most years, and they have been compiled below. Enjoy reveling in what could have been:
Nicolas Deslauriers to the Pittsburgh Penguins
The Penguins and Anaheim Ducks came so close on a trade for Deslauriers that an article was published on the topic. Friedman reported that a deal was done, but then backtracked as talks fell apart. Pittsburgh ended up adding experience to its bottom-six from another West Division source, adding Jeff Carter from the Los Angeles Kings.
Jamie Oleksiak to the Edmonton Oilers
In the middle of the deadline-day chaos, several pundits reported that Dallas Stars defenseman Oleksiak was on his way to Edmonton. Yet, as time ticked by and there was no announcement, it became clear that a deal had not been completed. Oleksiak had been linked to both Edmonton and the Toronto Maple Leafs, but he stayed put, with the speculation now being the Stars hope to re-sign him. The Oilers, who also missed out on Patrik Nemeth, ended up finding their stay-at-home defenseman in the New Jersey Devils’ Dmitry Kulikov.
One of the biggest misses of the deadline was the Jets’ failure to add an impact defenseman. Winnipeg did add Jordie Benn late, but that hardly fills its gaping hole in the top four. In retrospect, the mistake could have been focusing too much on defensemen who weren’t truly available. Friedman believes that the team tried to acquire either Gavrikov or Goligoski, or perhaps even both. Gavrikov would have been a very nice addition for the Jets, but by all accounts, the young Columbus Blue Jackets defender was not really for sale. And while the Arizona Coyotes were expected to listen to offers for their expiring contracts, they ended up standing pat and not moving the veteran Goligoski. TSN’s Pierre LeBrun reports that the Chicago Blackhawks were at least listening to offers for RFA blue liner Zadorov as well, and the Jets made a push, but to no avail.
Taylor Hall to the New York Islanders or Vegas Golden Knights
Friedman began his post-deadline “31 Thoughts” by confirming the suspicions that Hall left the Buffalo Sabres little choice but to trade him to the Boston Bruins, stating that Hall had decided that was where he wanted to go and used his no-movement clause to make it happen. However, two other teams made a strong push, and that was the Islanders and the Golden Knights. Hall was even open to joining New York, but once the team acquired Kyle Palmieri and Travis Zajac he turned his focus to Boston even though the Isles maintained interest. The Sabres were seemingly very interested in making a deal with Vegas, as Friedman notes that multiple teams were contacted about acting as a salary-cap broker for a potential deal. In the end, Hall preferred Boston, and that is all that mattered.
Many have been critical of the Sabres’ return for Hall — a Boston second-round pick and forward Anders Bjork — but they tried their best to get more. Friedman reports that Buffalo asked Boston about moving one of its promising young keepers, as both Vladar and Swayman have shown NHL ability in recent weeks as the injury replacements in the Bruins net. However, once the Bruins knew that Hall wanted to go there and could control the decision, they held all the leverage. The team easily declined moving either talented netminder.
Conor Garland to the Toronto Maple Leafs or Vegas Golden Knights
While the team ended up acquiring Nick Foligno instead, Friedman notes that the Toronto Maple Leafs did express interest in affordable Arizona Coyotes forward Garland. Garland would have fit nicely under the cap, but he would have been expensive to require and near impossible to re-sign for the cap-strapped Leafs. The team thus went in a different direction. The Golden Knights were also linked to Garland, but they could not make a deal work with their division rival. Garland remaining with the Coyotes could be what is best for both parties in the long run anyhow.
Ryan Getzlaf to the Vegas Golden Knights or Montreal Canadiens
The Golden Knights just missed out on seemingly everyone, huh? Friedman notes that the team was close to adding Anaheim captain Getzlaf, and the career Duck was open to the nearby move. However, Vegas allegedly was unwilling to meet the trade demands for the veteran center. For the same reason, the Canadiens likely missed out. Friedman notes that they had serious interest, but talks never got far. Dan Kingerski of Pittsburgh Hockey Now adds that the Penguins kicked the tires on Getzlaf as well, but they never made a serious offer. Anaheim clearly put a high price tag on the face of the franchise and never even approached him about waiving his no-movement clause.
Travis Zajac to the Pittsburgh Penguins
While it’s easy to lose track of when trades were made and talks were had around the deadline, per Friedman, it seems the Penguins had their sights first set on Zajac from New Jersey, then Getzlaf and finally Carter. The Kings veteran is not a bad acquisition for a third choice. The Penguins do have to face Zajac on a fellow East Division contender the rest of the way, though, and surely hope that Carter proves to be the superior player head-to-head.
David Rittich to the Colorado Avalanche
The top two contenders with issues in net, the Avalanche and the Toronto Maple Leafs, both made their moves before the deadline. Colorado first acquired Devan Dubnyk from the San Jose Sharks while the Leafs grabbed Rittich from the Calgary Flames. However, it may have been reversed. Friedman reports that the Avs were considering Rittich before moving on Dubnyk, opting for the vet either due to the higher asking price or a desire to add more experience.
MacKenzie Weegar to the Toronto Maple Leafs
Jeff Marek noted on the “31 Thoughts” podcast that the Maple Leafs tried to pry defenseman Weegar from Florida. However, considering the Panthers’ success and Weegar’s own strong season, Florida was also a buyer and never entertained moving a core piece of their blue line.
Adam Gaudette to a number of teams
While Gaudette moving to the Chicago Blackhawks doesn’t seem like one of the bigger moves of deadline day, the team should feel fortunate to have him. Gaudette was reportedly very much on the Vancouver Canucks trade block, and they received no shortage of interest. While Friedman names the Boston Bruins and Nashville Predators specifically, others have linked the young center to at least a half-dozen clubs.
Ryan Murray to a number of teams
At the end of the day, Murray was available, but in the words of GM Tom Fitzgerald, the rebuilding New Jersey Devils “weren’t just giving players away.” There was plenty of interest in the two-way defenseman, but no offers met the Devils expectations. They opted to hold on to Murray and could try to re-sign him before free agency opens.
While there were surely some proposals out there that never reached the ears of the insiders, not much went unnoticed this year. A quiet market was a well-covered market, and if your team missed a great opportunity this year, you likely heard about it.