The 2023 NHL trade deadline was one of the more chaotic ones that the league has seen in quite some time.
After all, the likes of Patrick Kane, Bo Horvat and Ryan O'Reilly were all moved at the trade deadline. Several of the big names were shipped out way before the clock struck 3 p.m. ET on Friday.
The Eastern Conference really has added a whole lot more star power in the past few days and weeks, which should make the run to the postseason all the more entertaining.
While there were many tremendous acquisitions by teams around the NHL at the trade deadline, there were also some head-scratching decisions that were or weren't made. Let's take a closer look at winners and losers from this year's trade deadline.
New York Rangers
There's no doubt that the Rangers are the biggest winner of the 2023 trade deadline. The Rangers were able to acquire two stars in the form of Patrick Kane and Vladimir Tarasenko that really improve their top-six forward group.
New York had long been linked to Kane in the months leading up to the deadline, but the Rangers threw a wrench into those plans when they acquired Tarasenko on Feb. 9. It sounded like the Kane deal wasn't going to happen, but the tide turned over the last two weeks and the deal got done. On Thursday, Kane made his debut with the Rangers.
So much credit has to go to general Chris Drury for his work to get these two trades done. The Rangers didn't have to part with any of Filip Chytil, Kaapo Kakko or Alexis Lafreniere in order to land Tarasenko and Kane. Drury did ship 2018 first-round pick Vitali Kravtsov to the Vancouver Canucks to help make the money work in the Kane deal, but Kravtsov was underwhelming this season with the Rangers as it was.
Now the Rangers will enter the stretch run with a top-six forward group that includes Mika Zibanejad, Artemi Panarin, Chris Kreider, Vincent Trocheck, Tarasenko and Kane. That's what the team had to do in order to challenge the Boston Bruins, who have been an absolute juggernaut all season long, and got even better this week with the addition of Tyler Bertuzzi. The Rangers now have the potential to make a run at the Stanley Cup, and the front office made the necessary moves while giving up minimal assets.
Defenseman Jakob Chychrun has been mentioned in trade talks for quite some time, and his patience has finally paid off. On Wednesday, the Arizona Coyotes traded Chychrun for a 2023 conditional first-round pick, a 2024 conditional second-round pick and a 2026 second-round pick.
It was reported that the franchise was seeking upwards of three first-round picks and a roster player for Chychrun in the months leading up to the deadline. Still, it's a very solid return for a Coyotes team that is obviously in rebuild mode and can use all the draft capital that they can get their hands on.
For Chychrun, he finally gets out of a less-than-ideal situation in Arizona and jumps right onto a contending roster. Entering Friday, the Senators are just four points out of the second Wild Card spot in the Eastern Conference and are riding a four-game winning streak.
From a Senators standpoint, Chychrun stabilizes a defensive group that already include Thomas Chabot and Jake Sanderson. Even with Josh Norris missing the majority of the 2022-23 season, Ottawa still has an extremely deep forward group that scores 3.15 goals-per-game. The 24-year-old is one of the more gifted two-way defensemen the league has to offer. On top of that, Chychrun is signed through the 2024-25 season with just a $4.6 million cap hit. This was simply a win-win move for both the Senators and Chychrun.
Toronto Maple Leafs
The narrative has been the same for the last several years when it comes to the Maple Leafs: This is a team that just can't seem to make it out of the opening round of the postseason.
However, Maple Leafs general manager Kyle Dubas made a splash in a big way prior to the deadline this year. The biggest acquisition was certainly Toronto going out and landing Ryan O'Reilly in a trade with the St. Louis Blues. O'Reilly registered a hat trick in just his third game with his new team last week and has proved to be a nice fit with Toronto's third line.
The Maple Leafs also got some help on their blue line with the additions of Jake McCabe from the Chicago Blackhawks and Luke Schenn from the Vancouver Canucks. McCabe and Schenn improve Toronto's top two defensive pairings and provide a boost to a team that already allows the fourth-fewest goals-per-game in the league (2.61).
O'Reilly is the true difference maker that a team like the Maple Leafs are going to need come playoff time. He also has the playoff experience that this team needs after winning a Stanley Cup with the Blues in 2019.
Perhaps the Maple Leafs finally have assembled enough talent to make a deep run in the playoffs.
San Jose Sharks
The Sharks got a solid haul for Timo Meier's services, so you may be wondering how their trade deadline performance can be classified as a losing effort -- and it's because San Jose missed out on an opportunity to deal defenseman Erik Karlsson.
It is true that Karlsson isn't an expiring contract as he's signed through the 2027-28 season. However, Karlsson is having a career year as he leads all NHL defensemen in points (78), goals (19) and assists (59).
Yes, his $11.5 million cap hit does make facilitating a deal a tad more difficult, but it's highly likely that something could've been worked out with another team. After all, if Karlsson landed with the right team, he could've transformed them into a Stanley Cup contender due to his offensive prowess.
Karlsson is having his best season since arriving in San Jose, and who knows if this type of production will continue. He's only 32, so he could still have plenty of tread left on the tires, but there's no way to know for sure.
Karlsson's value will never be higher, which is why the Sharks should've dealt him given their status as a rebuilding franchise.
The Philadelphia Flyers have had a calendar year to forget, and it continues to get worse.
During the offseason, the Flyers were unable to sign star winger and New Jersey native Johnny Gaudreau to a big contract in free agency because the team had handed out too many bad contracts in the past. General manager Chuck Fletcher went out and acquired defenseman Tony DeAngelo from the Carolina Hurricanes for a trio of draft picks and is paying him $5 million per season.
The trade deadline came and went with the Flyers making some lackluster moves. Philadelphia traded forward Zack MacEwen to the Los Angeles Kings for forward Brandon Lemieux and a 2024 fifth-round pick. In addition, the Flyers also moved forward Patrick Brown to the Ottawa Senators for a 2023 sixth-round pick.
When the dust settled at the deadline, forward James van Riemsdyk was still on the Flyers' roster. van Riemsdyk is slated to become an unrestricted free agent this summer, so it's shocking that he wasn't moved for even a late-round draft pick. His $7 million cap hit certainly wasn't a major selling point, but a team like the Seattle Kraken or Vegas Golden Knights could've used a veteran forward like van Riemsdyk and had the money to burn.
For a team that is at the bottom of the standings, it was truly shocking to see the Flyers do basically nothing on deadline day.
The Western Conference
In the weeks leading up to the trade deadline, it was an arms race of sorts in the Eastern Conference. It began with the New York Islanders acquiring Bo Horvat just prior to the All-Star break. We saw the New York Rangers add Vladimir Tarasenko and Patrick Kane in February while the New Jersey Devils acquired Timo Meier.
If you take a look at the Eastern Conference standings, there's the Bruins, Rangers, Devils, Devils and Maple Leafs looking to make a run at reaching the Stanley Cup Final. Oh, and let's not forget about the Tampa Bay Lightning, who have reached the Stanley Cup Final in each of the past three seasons.
The East is absolutely loaded. On the other hand, the West isn't quite as top-heavy, and that's why I'm classifying the entire Western Conference as a loser here.
The Western Conference is wide-open. Sure, the Dallas Stars, Vegas Golden Knights, Seattle Kraken and Minnesota Wild have had strong seasons, but none of those teams has really separated themselves from the rest of the pack. Those teams had a chance to create some separation at the deadline and just didn't do so.
The Stars added forward Max Domi and the Wild added defenseman John Klingberg. Those aren't bad moves by any means, but they're not ones that are transforming your roster into a Stanley Cup contender. This was a chance to make a statement and nobody really did.
Now, as brutal as a season as it has been, the Colorado Avalanche could be a lot healthier come playoff time. The Avalanche could swoop right in and make a run at a second consecutive trip to the Stanley Cup Final.