NHL general managers have a handful of possible avenues to choose from when it comes time to re-shape their rosters, and perhaps the quickest way to shake things up is to make a big trade. Sometimes you’re trading for draft picks that won’t immediately affect your club, but more often you’re getting pieces to help you in the present.
To fairly evaluate any trade, it’s reasonable to think that you need to wait a few years to see how the involved parties perform in their new environments. How do you know how valuable a pick is if it hasn't even been made yet? That said, most fans will usually have an early opinion on any given trade, and today’s list will look at 15 recent NHL trades that teams are already regretting.
To qualify as “recent,” the trade must have taken place no earlier than the 2016 NHL Entry Draft. There have been 121 trades over that stretch of time, ranging from giant blockbusters to minor “expansion draft consideration” deals.
A few readers will likely will disagree with the stance I take on some of these entries (I’m looking at you, no. 15 and no. 4), but in the end I stand by my decisions and will defend them to the death. Enjoy:
15 P.K. Subban for Shea Weber
Let’s start with one of the more polarizing deals, shall we? On June 29, 2016, the Montreal Canadiens sent star defenseman and fan favorite P.K. Subban to Nashville in exchange for Shea Weber. Fans were divided on this deal, but if you ask me it’s a huge win for Nashville, and Montreal is no doubt already starting to rue the day they traded P.K.
They’re both good players to be sure, but let’s take a look at their contracts. Sure, Weber’s deal carries a cap hit of over $1M less than Subban’s ($7.8M vs. $9M), but it’s really the term that’s of grave concern. Montreal gets Weber from the ages of 31 to 39 at that price, whereas the Predators have Subban from the ages of 27 to 32—really, the peak years for an NHL defenseman. This deal gets worse for the Habs with every passing day. With any luck, a nuclear war gets them out of this pickle before the deal is up.
14 David Desharnais for Brandon Davidson
Sometimes a general manager will take a risk at the trade deadline, and honestly those risks rarely pay off. When you think about it, they really only pay off for the Stanley Cup winning team, as club’s are often mortgaging assets in exchange for the services of a player for just a handful of games and the playoffs. Oilers GM Peter Chiarelli sent defenseman Brandon Davidson to Montreal for David Desharnais prior to the 2017 deadline, and with the way his blue line is struggling to start 2017-18, he’s probably already regretting it.
Look, I’m not here to say that Davidson is going to solve any team’s problems. But with the injury to Andrej Sekera, that Oilers blue line looks mighty shallow. When your bottom four consists of Matt Benning, Kris Russell, Darnell Nurse, and Eric Gryba, you’re in trouble. Statistically speaking, those are all bottom-pairing D-men (even if one of them is paid like a top-end 2nd pairing defender).
13 Mika Zibanejad & a 2nd Rounder for Derick Brassard & 7th Rounder
I still have no clue what the Ottawa Senators were thinking here. They traded Mika Zibanejad—a player just entering his prime and still improving—as well as a 2nd round draft pick to the Rangers in exchange for Derick Brassard and a 7th round pick. Look, I like Brassard just fine, and if this were a player-for-player move I probably wouldn’t have included it on the list. But what’s with that draft pick swap?
When the deal went down, Brassard had played 343 games to Zibanejad’s 151. Brassard had a slight edge in points per game, registering 0.61 to Zibanejad’s 0.53. The kicker is Brassard is actually six years older than Zibanejad, and in his first year in New York Zibanejad posted 0.66 pts/game to Brassard’s 0.48 in Ottawa. Ottawa has GOT to be regretting throwing in that 2nd round pick and getting just a 7th back.
12 Nathan Beaulieu for a 3rd Rounder
The Montreal Canadiens seemed to have a defenseman fire sale over the summer. They of course sent up-and-comer Mikhail Sergachev to the Lightning in exchange for Jonathan Drouin, but the smaller and perhaps more painful move (in terms of return) was when they sent Nathan Beaulieu to the Buffalo Sabres for a measly 3rd round draft pick.
I’ll make it clear that this deal was done out of necessity. Had they not traded Beaulieu for the draft pick, he quite possibly would have been lost to the Vegas Golden Knights for nothing at the expansion draft just a few days later. Still though, when you look at the atrocity that is the Montreal Canadiens blue line these days, surely they could use the help from Beaulieu. Not to mention, a third rounder is a poor return on a former first rounder.
11 Jannik Hansen for Nikolay Goldobin & a 4th Rounder
In the next edition of “mortgaging your future for a few months from a mediocre player” we have the San Jose Sharks sending top prospect Nikolay Goldobin and a 4th round pick to Vancouver at the 2017 trade deadline in exchange for veteran Jannik Hansen. To be fair, Hansen actually had an additional year on his contract, but a counterpoint is he’s scored over 20 goals just once and is on the wrong side of 30.
Goldobin is of course still only a prospect, and it’s tough to say if he’ll ever develop into an NHL player. That said, the scouts say this guy is the real deal, and it shouldn’t be too long before Goldobin earns the call-up from Utica. He has seven goals in seven games for the Comets (over the last two seasons), so there is definitely some talent there.
10 Curtis Lazar and Mike Kostka for Jyrki Jokipakka & a 2nd Rounder
Flames fans probably haven’t quite formed their opinions on this trade yet, but I’m going to come right out and say that Curtis Lazar and Mike Kostka are a weak return for a 2nd round pick (Jokipakka has since defected to the KHL, so he's a non-starter here). Let's begin with Kostka, a 31-year-old defenseman who's played 85 NHL games (and has also defected to Europe since last year). That leaves the centerpiece of the deal, Curtis Lazar.
A former first round draft pick, Lazar has done nothing but disappoint thus far in his NHL career. Lazar had a lot of promise after helping the Edmonton Oil Kings to a Memorial Cup Championship on his final junior season, but he’s yet to make his mark in the NHL. He’ll get a little bit of a longer leash than some thanks to his draft pedigree, but it’s not crazy to suggest Lazar is Europe bound sometime in the next few years.
9 Ryan Reaves & a 2nd rounder for Oscar Sudnqvist & 1st
I will never understand some player valuations in the NHL. At the 2017 NHL Entry Draft, the Pittsburgh Penguins sent a 1st round pick and prospect Oscar Sundqvist to St. Louis for Ryan Reaves and a 2nd rounder. In what world is Reaves worth a 1st round pick? I honestly mean no disrespect to Reaves here—he does serve a purpose. But come on.
Let’s put it this way: Marcus Johansson is a better player than Reaves, yes? Surely not many will disagree with that statement, and if you don’t then I’m afraid we simply will not see to eye to here. Anyway, a few weeks after the Reaves trade, the Devils acquired Johansson from the Caps for a 2nd and 3rd round pick. You’re telling me Reaves nets you a 1st but Johansson just a 2nd and 3rd? Gimme a break.
8 Brayden Schenn for Jori Lehtera & a 1st
The Philadelphia Flyers lost this trade back at the 2017 draft. To be fair, a 1st round pick is nearly fair return for Brayden Schenn, but in addition to netting a 1st they also had to take on Jori Lehtera, who has been nothing but a disappointment in St. Louis (and now Philly) since signing his extension with the Blues back in 2015. Schenn, on the other hand, has developed into a solid player, borderline first-line caliber.
Schenn is off to a fine start in Missouri, scoring six points in his first six games with the Blues. Lehtera, on the other hand, has been a healthy scratch for the first six Flyers games this season. The Flyers better hope Morgan Frost—the player selected with the 1st round pick in this deal—pans out, or else they will regret this move in a big way.
7 Niklas Hjalmarsson for Laurent Dauphin & Connor Murphy
This entry comes with a bit of an asterisk, as the Chicago Blackhawks are pretty much forced to ditch at least one useful player for peanuts on the dollar every season thanks to the cap crunch. One of this offseason’s casualties was defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson, who’d been a member of the Blackhawks for his whole career, and won three Cups with the franchise.
Another reason for the asterisk is that both Dauphin and Murphy could potentially turn into very solid hockey players, but as of today Chicago has traded a cornerstone of their defense for a few maybes. Many agree that Hjalmarsson is actually a better defenseman than Brent Seabrook, but the latter’s contract is nearly un-tradeable, so ultimately Hjalmarsson had to go.
6 Sven Andrighetto for Andreas Martinsen
There’s a handful of teams in the league right now who employ GMs that consistently make head-scratching moves, and Montreal is one of those teams. In what seemed like a minor deal at the time, the Habs sent Sven Andrighetto to the Avalanche at the 2017 trade deadline in exchange for Andreas Martinsen.
The Canadiens are a team that struggle to score, and the early returns on 2017-18 show that Andrighetto might just be a player who could have helped them in that regard. Andrighetto, as well as the Avs, are off to a stellar start, and he's averaging almost a point per game. Martinsen? Well, he failed to crack the Canadiens opening night lineup and is still—at the time of writing—on the Rockford Ice Hogs roster.
5 Martin Hanzal, Ryan White & 4th for Grayson Downing, a 1st & 2nd
The trade deadline is the time of year that clubs notoriously overpay for rentals, and that’s exactly what happened last February when the Wild acquired veteran center Martin Hanzal from the Coyotes. Ryan White went to Minnesota along with Hanzal, and the ‘Yotes received Grayson Downing, a 1st round pick AND a 2nd round pick.
Had the Wild had access to a crystal ball, they would have seen that the Blues would dispose of them in five games in the first round, thus rendering the Hanzal acquisition fairly meaningless. The Wild are a cap team so of course they couldn’t afford to re-up Hanzal, and he walked in the offseason. In the end, Minny sacrificed some pretty valuable assets for 20 regular season games and five playoff games from Martin Hanzal.
4 Taylor Hall for Adam Larsson
This is another polarizing entry on the list. One of two blockbuster deals on this very day, the Oilers sent winger Taylor Hall to New Jersey for defenseman Adam Larsson. GM Peter Chiarelli has shown a willingness to lose a trade to address a position of weakness, but this is simply ridiculous. He then turned around and signed Milan Lucic to replace Hall on left wing, and that hasn’t worked out well so far.
There are still Oilers fans who say Larsson is better for Edmonton than Hall, but I’ve yet to see convincing proof. While the 2016-17 season was great for Edmonton, I personally credit much of the success to Connor McDavid and Cam Talbot rather than Lucic and Larsson. The Oilers improved last season despite this trade, and in no way because of it. With the Oilers struggling out of the gate, it’s fair to question what Chiarelli has done to the roster since arriving in spring 2015.
3 Alex Burrows for Jonathan Dahlen
Canucks GM Jim Benning has received his fair share of flack,—and rightfully so—but he did make a few savvy trades late last season. In what I’d call his best trade, he sent veteran Alex Burrows to Ottawa in exchange for top shelf prospect Jonathan Dahlen. Prospects are always just prospects until they either make it or don’t, but I love the risk/reward bet here for Benning, and no so much for Ottawa GM Pierre Dorion.
What did Vancouver—a club amid a rebuild—have to gain in keeping Burrows beyond the trade deadline? He’s old, and becoming more and more useless by the day. The fact that he garnered the club Dahlen in return is solid. The young Swede broke out in his home country's best league last year, notching 44 points in 45 games for Timra IK. We should fully expect the Swede to crack the NHL full time by next season.
2 Jordan Eberle for Ryan Strome
The wizard Chiarelli shows up one last time on our list, and this one is for the offseason deal that sent Jordan Eberle to the New York Islanders for Ryan Strome. Look, although I’m hugely against the Hall trade, at least Chiarelli was addressing a team weakness with that deal (the Oilers D was in shambles). With this deal, I legit have no idea what Chiarelli was thinking.
First off, Eberle has proven to be a consistent scorer in the past. Even in his “off” year last season, he managed to put up 51 points, the third most on the club and most among players who didn’t spend the bulk of their time with McDavid. That’s higher that Strome’s career high (50), and Strome has finished with 28 and 30 points in the last two seasons, respectively. If it was a salary dump, fine, but that didn’t need to happen until 2018-19, when McDavid’s deal kicks in. It all makes zero sense.
1 Kevin Shattenkirk and Phoenix Copley for Zach Sanford, Brad Malone & a 1st
It should be no surprise that the top spot on our list goes to a rental deal. During the 2016-17 regular season, fans and pundits alike all agreed: this will finally be Washington’s year. The perennial contenders were always missing a few key pieces, but they had nearly the full package. All they need to do was maybe add a deadline defenseman with some offensive punch.
Enter Kevin Shattenkirk. The fact that St. Louis would not be able to re-sign him beyond 2016-17 was the worst kept secret in the NHL last year, and the Caps came at the Blues aggressively, eventually giving up a 1st round pick, Zach Sanford, and Brad Malone for Shatty and Phoenix Copley. That spring the Caps met a familiar foe in round two (Pittsburgh), lost the series in seven games (again), and now have nothing to show for those assets surrendered assets used to acquire Shattenkirk. Bummer.