If you go back through the past five trade deadlines and peruse the moves made by Stanley Cup-winning sides, one thing stands out: the big budget, headline-making, splashy moves are the exception, not the rule.
Last season, for instance, the St. Louis Blues made one acquisition at the deadline, landing rearguard Michael Del Zotto from the Anaheim Ducks for a sixth-round selection. He played in seven games for the Blues, all in the regular season, and didn’t see a second of playoff action. The year prior, the Washington Capitals’ big deadline transaction was picking up Michal Kempny from the Chicago Blackhawks. As it turned out, that was a stroke of genius. And the deadline acquisitions by the Pittsburgh Penguins in the two campaigns prior and the Blackhawks before them included the likes Mark Streit, Frank Corrado, Ron Hainsey, Andrew Desjardins and Kimmo Timonen. Not exactly the biggest names.
In fact, the only major waves any of those Stanley Cup winners made in the past five seasons by Stanley Cup-winning teams were the Penguins’ three-way swap with the Ottawa Senators and Vegas Golden Knights that sent Derick Brassard to Pittsburgh ahead of the 2018 deadline. That came three seasons after Chicago’s Antoine Vermette trade with the Arizona Coyotes. But in both instances, those were secondary pieces that supplemented the already-established top stars.
So, ahead of this deadline, it’s worth remembering that the best additions might not be the big guns, but rather the role-players and pluggers who can cement themselves as key pieces of the bottom six. And given more than half the league’s teams have projected cap space below $1.5 million according to CapFriendly, the contending clubs looking to add those types of players will likely have to do so with the spending limit in mind. That could make these 10 skaters prime trade candidates – and sneaky-good additions – come deadline day:
Derek Grant, C, Anaheim Ducks – $700,000 AAV
Grant, 29, has skated with six clubs across his seven seasons in the NHL, which speaks to two things: a number of teams see him as a useful piece and he has enough versatility to fit into just about any lineup. Like a number of players on this list, Grant isn’t going to make or break any organization’s post-season run, but what he will do is provide reliability in depth minutes and solidify a fourth-line with a legitimate big-league skater. Some teams want to entrust those minutes to veteran skaters and veteran skaters only. Grant can be that guy.