NHL trade deadline 2021 winners, losers: Capitals, Red Wings make last-minute splash

The NHL trade deadline day looked like it was going to be boring with big-name unrestricted free agents Taylor Hall, Nick Foligno and Kyle Palmieri all moving in the days leading up to Monday.

And with a flat salary cap, the need for the traded players to quarantine and several teams pushing back into the playoff hunt and out of the trade market, not much was happening — at least early on.

But it was redeemed at the end with the Washington Capitals and Detroit Red Wings pulling off an old-fashioned major hockey trade.

Here are the winners and losers of the trade deadline:

Jakub Vrana has a combined 60 goals over the past three seasons. (Photo: Eric Hartline, USA TODAY Sports)

Winners

Red Wings: Not only did Detroit general manager Steve Yzerman salvage what was a rather uneventful trade deadline at the last minute, he did a lot to move forward his team's rebuild. The Red Wings traded away a skilled, young power forward, Anthony Mantha, who is in the first year of a contract extension, but got back a dynamic forward (Jakub Vrana, a pending restricted free agent), a valuable role piece (Richard Panik) and two high picks (first in 2021 and second in 2022). While Vrana has been criticized for being inconsistent, so too is Mantha, and even in a down year, Vrana has 11 goals and 25 points — and entered this season with 49 combined goals in the two seasons prior. Detroit has 12 picks in the 2021 draft, with five in the first two rounds. This is the kind of creative deal-making that sets up a franchise for the long haul.

Toronto Maple Leafs: Trade season was quite kind to Toronto, and we're going to rewind a couple months. Part of the Leafs' promise stems from a mid-February trade in which they got forward Alex Galchenyuk, the third overall pick in 2012 who at 26 had already played for five organizations, and have seemingly remade his game (six points in 11 contests). On Sunday, they moved to acquire veteran, high-character leader Nick Foligno from the Blue Jackets in a three-team deal. They also bolstered their goaltending core by getting David Rittich from the Calgary Flames. Foligno adds a well-rounded game to their middle-six forward group and Rittich provides important insurance. They also added depth on defense with Ben Hutton.

Boston Bruins: Their trades were in the works before the Bruins lost 8-1 to the Capitals, but Boston pulled off moves that brought the struggling team hope. Their biggest issues were secondary scoring and a banged-up defense. And now they have Hall, Curtis Lazar and defenseman Mike Reilly. Hall has struggled this season but could pick up his play on David Krejci's line. Reilly is dependable and will help the Bruins weather injuries.

Tampa Bay Lightning: The defending Stanley Cup champions managed to add a solid defenseman in David Savard without having any cap space. They got the Red Wings involved and Detroit and the Blue Jackets retained 75% of Savard's salary. The Lightning will also be getting former MVP Nikita Kucherov back for the playoffs after a season-long absence, again making them a team to beat.

Losers

Buffalo Sabres: Their return for Hall seems lacking. They gave up Hall, Lazar and retained 50% of Hall's $8 million salary and all they got back is Anders Bjork, who didn't fit in the Bruins' plans, and a second-round pick. They were handcuffed by Hall's no-movement clause and the fact he had two goals this season. 

Trade deadline fans: First, they had to stay up late on Sunday because of the late-breaking trades of Foligno, Hall and Jeff Carter. Then the day was a snoozer with the re-signing of the Los Angeles Kings' Alex Iafallo and Philadelphia Flyers' Scott Laughton knocking those players off the market. Carl Soderberg to the Colorado Avalanche and Sam Bennett were a little more interesting. Then the Capitals-Red Wings trade jolted everyone awake.

Flyers: The struggling team either needed a shot in the arm with a big trade or to sell its players for good draft picks. It did neither. Re-signing Laughton was important, but all they got were late-round picks for Erik Gustafsson and Michael Raffl.

San Jose Sharks' Patrick Marleau: Marleau is four games away from tying Gordie Howe for most games played, but the 41-year-old has still not won a Stanley Cup. And it will not happen now, even though he was open to going elsewhere. It would have been nice to add the Marleau-Stanley Cup story line to the playoffs. It's unclear if his career will continue after this season.

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