Playoff Rentals: How the NHL’s Major Trade Deadline Acquisitions Are Going
Every March, NHL offices go into a mad dash to fine-tune their rosters before the league’s trade deadline.
Teams not in playoff contention are looking to offload expiring contracts in exchange for long-term assets, while teams still in the hunt for the playoffs have their eyes on the immediate future as they are trying to load stars and actors on short-term contracts in hopes of stringing together a long Stanley Cup Playoff streak.
Some of these movements are successes, others failures. This year, four rental players stood out from the others:
Nick Paul, F (Tampa Bay)
Say it with me, “Nick Paul does it all!” After being traded from the Senators, Nick Paul was a perfect Swiss army knife type player for the Bolts. The 27-year-old played a big role in the playoffs, seeing his minutes on the ice go from 14:06 per game in the regular season to 18:55 in the playoffs. He was instrumental in Tampa’s strong shorthanded effort against two of the league’s best offenses, gobbling up the second minutes shorthanded. Recently, Paul centered Tampa’s front line to replace injured Brayden Point between Nikita Kucherov and Steven Stamkos. Most importantly, Paul scored both goals in the Lightning’s 2-1 triumph over the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Tampa’s acquisition of Paul is further proof that the Lightning’s roster management is unprecedented. The Lightning’s ability to round out their roster with key players has contributed to their back-to-back cup victories, and could be what leads them to the coveted ‘three rounds’.
Claude Giroux, F (Florida)
It’s easy to overlook Claude Giroux’s contributions after the Panthers were swept in the second round. Still, even in the Tampa Series, Giroux contributed 33% of the team’s points (still impressive until you factor in that Florida only scored three goals against Tampa – but at least he was there, right?).
Kidding aside, Giroux was crucial in helping the Panthers through the first round against the Capitals. The veteran had seven points in sux games and was the difference maker even though most of Florida’s top talent underperformed. Giroux’s eight points in 10 games was good for the team’s second. So despite still eluding a cut, the former Flyer appeared to be one of Florida’s few bright spots this postseason.
Evander Kane, F (Edmonton)
We’re taking a few liberties here because he technically wasn’t a timed acquisition, but he was signed with the clear intention of helping the team’s playoff efforts. He spent more time with his team than most rentals, which could explain why he was able to score a league-leading 12 goals in 12 playoff games.
Kane’s impact is hard to deny. He leads the team with two game-winning goals, and the Oilers have won every game in which Kane has scored. Curiously, his score came in bunches. Kane’s 12 goals came in just five games, and each of those five games came with multiple goals (two of them were hat-tricks). Even scoring in bursts, Kane added extra firepower to an Oilers team that has long relied on the offensive production of Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl.
Andrew Copp, F (New York)
Copp started the postseason strong, playing at a point-per-game pace in the Rangers’ first-round win over the Penguins. Then, in his first three games against the sweltering Hurricanes, Copp was kept off the scoresheet. Luckily for Rangers, the versatile forward came back to life on Tuesday, posting a team-leading three points in a critical 4-1 win that tied the series at 2-2.
Copp’s performance on Tuesday shows exactly why he’s been great for Rangers. In the first period, he connected on the power play, setting up a goal from Frank Vatrano with a nice cross pass. Two minutes later, Copp assisted the second goal for Rangers after beating Vincent Trochek for a puck in the Carolina zone. Then, with just under 9 minutes left in the game, Copp finished on a rushing pass from Ryan Strome to give Rangers a 4-1 lead. He did it all while gobbling up a team-leading 2:41 shorthanded time.
Like Nick Paul, Copp is a player who has worn many different hats in the playoffs. He has played a role on both special teams, he leads all Rangers forwards in defensive zone starts and he averages just over 20 minutes per game. To top it off, Copp is third on the team with 10 points in 12 games. The former Jet has spent this post-season developing his versatility and helping Rangers with a bit of everything.