Not all trade deadlines are created equal. There are always buyers and there are always sellers, but usually there are only so many available pieces to go around. Sometimes a team gets lucky and can strike a deal that puts it in a more desirable position heading into the second half, but oftentimes it strikes out with its action -- or, possibly, lack thereof.
This year's deadline, so let's take a look at which players and teams can feel good about their moves, as well as who might be losing a little bit of sleep tonight.
Winner: The Tampa Bay Lightning
The Lightning made the biggest splash of the day with a blockbuster deal for Ryan McDonagh and J.T. Miller. That deal gave them a much-needed top-four defenseman to add to their back end (which already includes Victor Hedman, Anton Stralman and Mikhail Sergachev), plus a versatile forward that should be a key contributor down the stretch. It only cost them one roster player (Vladislav Namestnikov), two solid-but-not-elite prospects (Libor Hajek and Brett Howden) and two draft picks. The Lightning were able to improve significantly without having to subtract any major pieces from their current roster or prospect pool, which is pretty remarkable.
It's clear that Tampa is aggressively trying to win a Stanley Cup in the next few years (as they should with all the talent on their roster) and this is a deal that undoubtedly gets them closer in that regard. It's hard to say that's not a win.
Winner: The 2018 Stanley Cup Playoffs
Who doesn't love a good ol' fashioned arms race? The trade deadline can often be underwhelming if good teams are content with their roster and decide to stand pat, but that's not what happened this year. Though some players and teams had surprisingly quiet days, a lot of really good teams scoffed at complacency and took an aggressive approach at getting even better. Three of the best teams in the Eastern Conference made major acquisitions (McDonagh/Miller to Tampa, Rick Nash to Boston, and Derick Brassard to Pittsburgh), while a number of other playoff hopefuls (Toronto, Columbus, New Jersey, Philadelphia) were proactive in finding notable upgrades.
In the West, it seemed like the Jets were going to be hard luck losers at the deadline until they pulled off a surprising deal with the St. Louis Blues to acquire veteran center Paul Stastny -- taking away a key player from a division rival -- and now have added depth to an already dangerous lineup. The Golden Knights reportedly went after Erik Karlsson pretty hard and fell short, but they did add Tomas Tatar from the Red Wings to bolster their offense. Nashville is looking to make back-to-back runs to the Cup Final and they went out and got Ryan Hartman from Chicago to help them do it. The Sharks plucked Evander Kane from the Sabres at a cost that was surprisingly low.
Seeing the majority of big moves get made by teams that were already well-positioned makes for great theater and sets up what could be an awesome playoff dogfight in the spring.
Winner: New York Rangers
You can make the argument that the Rangers didn't necessarily "win" any of their three big trades (McDonaugh, Nash and Michael Grabner) but yet they were still the best sellers at the deadline. Credit where credit is due, they said they were going to blow it up, and they committed to it.
As a result, they added few solid prospects to their pipeline, stocked up on some valuable draft picks and added a bit more weight to their sinking ship as they look to improve their draft status this summer. Of the teams that were expected to be sellers (Rangers, Senators, Red Wings, Sabres, Canadiens, Canucks, etc.), the Rangers came away as the most successful -- and it really wasn't even close. As a result, they'll hopefully be able to turn an eye towards the future and put this mess behind them.
The city of Winnipeg has had its name, but the Jets got some sweet redemption on Monday. Not only did Winnipeg GM Kevin Cheveldayoff finally manage to snag a nice player at the deadline, he also convinced that guy to waive his no-movement clause to make it happen! What a monumental day for Winnipeg and its terrible WiFi.
Loser: Erik Karlsson
With the Senators in turmoil and unsure if they can keep franchise defenseman Erik Karlsson in Ottawa beyond next season, there was a lot of will-they-or-won't-they trade speculation surrounding Karlsson leading up to this year's deadline. Ultimately, the Senators decided to hang onto him for the rest of the season.
That's a tough break for Karlsson, who won't get a chance to go to a contender and provide an encore to his incredible playoff performance last season. Instead, he'll be stuck in Ottawa playing for a team that stinks while having to answer questions about his future. Karlsson hasn't committed to signing a new deal with the Sens -- and why should he? they're a mess -- and now he'll likely be the subject of more trade chatter in the upcoming offseason.
Loser: Vegas Golden Knights
As the Western Conference's top team in the opening half of their inaugural season, the Golden Knights were the biggest story of the first half ... and for good reason. They've positioned themselves to make some noise in the playoffs, but -- considering the financial wiggle room and stockpile of assets they've got -- they could have done a lot better for themselves at this deadline.
They used some of that extra money to eat some of Derick Brassard's contract in order to facilitate his trade to the Penguins. The thinking was that if the Knights helped the Pens get Brassard, it would keep him away from a Western Conference foe (namely the Jets, who were in on the center) and, thus, potentially make the Knights' playoff road a little bit easier.
However, that move didn't completely screw the Jets. Winnipeg still went out and found a solid upgrade down the middle with Paul Stastny, and Vegas is stuck paying 40-percent of Brassard's salary with only Ryan Reaves to show for the gesture. The Knights did manage to add some offensive help by acquiring Tomas Tatar from Detroit, but they overpaid for him, surrendering first-round pick, a second-round pick and a third-round pick for the streaky scorer. In addition, they'll be paying Tatar $5.3 million on the cap for the next three seasons.
Loser: Jussi Jokinen
At this point, Jussi Jokinen may as well not even bother unpacking his suitcase. The 34-year-old Finnish forward was traded to his fourth team of the season on Monday, going to Vancouver alongside Tyler Motte in exchange for Thomas Vanek.
Jokinen started out the year with the Oilers but struggled and was traded to the Kings in November in exchange for Mike Cammalleri. That move didn't work out, either, and Jokinen was waived by the Kings in January. He was claimed by the Blue Jackets, who then turned around and traded him to the Canucks. What a year. I hope he's at least collecting those sweet, sweet frequent flyer miles.
Loser: Hesitations over trading first-round picks
Trading first-rounders at the deadline took a brief hiatus, but it's back and better than ever, baby!