There are always trades to be expected in the days and hours leading up to the NHL Draft, but this year has already brought some huge deals that caught many by surprise.
The Blackhawks were front and center in the transaction wire ahead of Friday night’s draft. They made a couple of major deals that indicated an organizational shift, but they weren’t the only ones active on the market.
The Coyotes were also in on a couple of big deals, and the Rangers and Blue Jackets also got in on the action.
Here’s a recap of what’s gone down so far.
Blackhawks trade Niklas Hjalmarsson to Arizona
Niklas Hjalmarsson (D)
Connor Murphy (D)
Laurent Dauphin (F)
The Coyotes picked up some significant defensive help in Hjalmarsson, the veteran Blackhawks shutdown blue liner that won three Stanley Cups in Chicago.
The 30-year-old Hjalmarsson is a big loss for Chicago, but in return they get the 24-year-old Connor Murphy. He’s not the player that Hjalmarsson is but he’s younger, cheaper and provides more cost certainty to a team tight against the cap.
While Hjalmarsson will make $4.1 million over the final two seasons of his current deal, Murphy carries a cap hit of $3.8 million through 2022.
Dauphin, 22, split time between the NHL and minors last season and has four points in 32 career NHL games.
This is a deal that makes the Blackhawks worse in short term, but it’s also a deal that gives them some financial breathing room and a little more certainty long term.
Rangers unload vets (and money) to Arizona
Derek Stepan (F)
Antti Raanta (G)
Anthony Deangelo (D)
2017 1st round pick (7th overall)
New York dumps salary and picks up a lottery pick while the Coyotes acquire some valuable pieces to help them win now.
Stepan is a veteran presence up front and will provide consistency for the Yotes in a top-six role down the middle. The 27-year-old has put up 50-plus points in each of the last four seasons.
Meanwhile, Raanta will get a chance to a full-time starter between the pipes in Arizona, where he’ll replace Mike Smith, the longtime Coyotes goaltender that was traded to Calgary earlier this month.
Raanta has been one of the league’s most steady backups over the past few seasons. In 29 games last season, he posted a .922 save percentage and 2.27 goals-against average. He’s got one year left on his deal.
Getting rid of Stepan and Raanta frees up $6.6 million in cap space for the Rangers heading into next season, leaving them in good position to make a splash in free agency this July.
They also get that No. 7 pick and Deangelo, who was taken 19th overall by the Lightning in 2014. The 21-year-old defenseman scored five goals and added nine assists in 39 games with the Coyotes last season.
Blackhawks re-acquire Brandon Saad for Artemi Panarin
Brandon Saad (F)
Anton Forsberg (G)
2018 5th round pick
Blue Jackets get:
Artemi Panarin (F)
Tyler Motte (F)
2017 6th round pick
This is an interesting deal reunites Saad with some old friends in Chicago, where he won two Cups.
Those old friends — primarily Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane — might be a big reason the deal happened, as they reportedly informed Blackhawks GM Stan Bowman that they wanted Saad back.
The 24-year-old Saad is a strong offensive talent who the Blackhawks had trouble replacing on Toews’ line, so his return will likely be received quite well by the Blackhawks’ captain. Saad has had three straight 50-plus point seasons and should continue that type of production in his second stint in Chicago.
Unfortunately for the Blackhawks, he comes at the expense of Panarin, who put up back-to-back 30-goal seasons and recorded 151 points in 162 NHL games. That’s significant firepower heading to Columbus, though Panarin will have to prove that he’s capable of similar production while playing away from Kane.
For the Blackhawks, Saad-Panarin swap also gives them additional cost certainty. They have matching $6 million cap hits, but Saad is signed through 2021, while Panarin is due to hit unrestricted free agency in 2019.
Chicago also acquires a cheap potential backup goaltender in the 24-year-old Forsberg, while Columbus gets the 22-year-old Motte, who has seven points in 33 career games.