Did these five Eastern wild-card contenders do enough at the trade deadline?

The top teams in the Eastern Conference loaded up ahead of the NHL trade deadline. The Boston Bruins, New Jersey Devils, Toronto Maple Leafs, Tampa Bay Lightning, and New York Rangers all made major moves, seemingly trying to one-up each other in the process.

There’s also a tight race for the two wild-card spots. Here is a look at what those teams did at the deadline:


IN: Pierre Engvall, LW; Bo Horvat, C

The Islanders’ acquisition of Horvat on Jan. 30 opened the floodgates for a wild trade season. Since debuting for the Islanders after the All-Star break, Horvat has eight points in 13 games. His impact has been most felt on the power play; the Islanders have scored on 25 per cent of their chances since he joined them, compared to 15.5 per cent before the trade.

“He is a threat in the slot, so there’s a little bit more awareness of him, which can open up other people,” Islanders coach Lane Lambert told reporters last month.

Unfortunately, an injury to Mathew Barzal has prevented him and Horvat from developing chemistry at even strength. The early results were promising; Barzal, Horvat and Josh Bailey had a 54.6 xGF% in 52:13 of ice time. (Barzal is listed as week to week.)

Engvall, who skated on the top line with Horvat and Anders Lee in his Islanders debut, can play up and down the lineup. That versatility will come in handy down the stretch.


IN: Nick Bonino, C; Mikael Granlund, C; Dmitry Kulikov, LD

The Penguins were the busiest of the bubble teams, but quantity doesn’t always equal quality. Bonino was part of Pittsburgh’s back-to-back Stanley Cup wins in 2016 and 2017 as a dependable third-line centre behind Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin. He is still a top-notch defensive forward, especially in his own zone, where he ranks seventh out of 476 qualified forwards (min. 100 minutes) in 5-on-5 defensive plays per 20. That includes pass blocks, shot blocks, stick checks, and body checks.

Bonino, however, doesn’t generate much offence these days. Granlund has also struggled in that department, though he is a solid distributor, completing 1.86 passes to the slot per 20 in all situations — 53rd among qualified forwards.

On the back end, Kulikov was in over his head this season with the Anaheim Ducks, who had a 38.2 xGF% when he was on the ice at even strength, which was a lot (17:01 EV TOI/GP).

These felt like panic moves by Penguins general manager Ron Hextall, who could be out of a job if the team misses the playoffs for the first time since 2006. Bonino, Granlund and Kulikov, all of whom are over 30, aren’t difference-makers at this stage of their careers.

BUFFALO SABRES (68 points)

IN: Jordan Greenway, LW; Riley Stillman, LD

It has been a tough season for Greenway, who has two goals and seven points in 45 games. The Sabres bought low on the 6-foot-6 power forward, hoping a change of scenery will rejuvenate him. (They also acquired an adequate depth defender in Stillman.)

The Sabres’ 40.7 per cent dump-in rate at 5-on-5 is the lowest in the league, but they still need players who can chase down pucks and win battles. Greenway has shown that he can excel in those areas. Last season, he recovered 2.31 dump-ins per 20, which was 22nd out of 521 qualified forwards. His 9.21 loose puck recoveries per 20 in the offensive zone were 34th.

If Greenway, who carries a $3 million cap hit through 2024-25, rediscovers his game with the Sabres, it would be a big win for them as they chase their first playoff berth in 12 years.


IN: Jakob Chychrun, LD

What has gotten into the Senators? Since Jan. 25, their .781 points percentage (12-3-1) is second in the league, behind only the Carolina Hurricanes.

GM Pierre Dorion wanted to reward his team for staying in the race, so he went out and got Chychrun from the Arizona Coyotes. Chychrun is one of the most dynamic defencemen in the league and a perfect fit for the Senators’ fast-paced offence, which has averaged 4.06 goals over the past 16 games.

The Senators now have another defenceman who can move the puck up ice at a high level, which should take the pressure off Thomas Chabot. Chychrun has already made an impact. The Senators have outscored their past two opponents 4-1 at 5-on-5 with him on the ice.

Although the Senators face long odds to make the playoffs, keep an eye on them over the next month. 


IN: None

The Panthers were quiet at the trade deadline. Of course, they made their splashy move during the off-season when they brought in Matthew Tkachuk, who is on pace for a career-high 105 points.

Tkachuk’s extraordinary season, however, hasn’t helped the Panthers lock up a playoff spot. They’ve been held back by subpar goaltending, having allowed 21.4 goals above expected in all situations. That ranks 25th in the league.

Florida is capable of scoring its way into the playoffs. The recent return of Anthony Duclair from an Achilles injury adds another high-end scorer to the Panthers’ lineup. Duclair has 10 scoring chances in four games and doesn’t appear to have missed a step after an extended absence.

Time is running out on the Panthers’ playoff push. They’re in danger of becoming the first reigning Presidents’ Trophy winner to miss the playoffs since the 2014-15 Bruins.


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