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The Eastern Conference’s New Look

A quick recap of the moves the Metropolitan Division and a few Atlantic Division contenders made at the 2023 deadline

Ottawa Senators v New York Rangers Photo by Jared Silber/NHLI via Getty Images

The trade deadline came, and the trade deadline went and per usual every contending team and their mother powered up for a post-season run, the New York Rangers included. Since the scenery and familiar faces have changed a bit, we’re going to dive into the additions or subtractions, each team in the Metro made and a few other contending teams in the Atlantic.

(We won’t be analyzing the Rangers’ moves)

Carolina Hurricanes

1st in Metropolitan Division

43-12-8 (94 points)

Leading up to the deadline the Metro leading Canes were a front-runner for Timo Meier but after missing out on this year’s top prize, they were left to find other ways to boost their roster. They parted ways with Patrik Puistola who was their 2019 third-round pick and were able to take Jesse Puljujarvi back from the Edmonton Oilers. Puljujarvi was never able to live up to the lofty expectations he had as a prospect, but the skill is there, and it’s possible in Carolina’s system he finds a way to increase his production, especially if he’s reunited with fellow countryman Sebastian Aho.

As the deadline crept closer, Carolina made their final move. Trading a 2026 third-round pick for the Arizona Coyotes’ offensive defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere. The idea was he would come in and help their power play. Whether playing on the second unit or doubling up on their first unit, which is already run by Brent Burns. While the Hurricanes didn’t add a huge piece, they quietly improved both their forward and defensive depth and continue to be one of the strongest teams in the East.

New Jersey Devils

2nd in Metropolitan Division

42-16-6 (90 points)

Not to be one-upped by their Hudson River rival, the New Jersey Devils went fishing and caught the biggest target in the pond. After a massive trade that seemed a bit underwhelming at the end of the day, Timo Meier was finally a Devil. The Sharks retained 50% of Meier’s salary and sent several prospects and minor league players along with a 2024 fifth-round pick. In return, the Sharks received Fabian Zetterlund, Andreas Johnsson, defenseman Shakir Mukhamadullin and Nikita Okhotiuk, a conditional first-round pick in 2023, a conditional second-round pick in 2024, and a seventh-round pick in 2024. With New Jersey finishing high in the standings and attempting to go on a deep run in the playoffs, that first-round pick is bound to be in the high 20s. With Meier a pending RFA the Devils will have a bit of control over his future in the NHL which makes this deal far more palatable than if he was able to just walk, however, his qualifying offer is $10 million which many teams, especially contending teams wouldn’t be able to manage.

On top of their biggest move, the Devils added to their depth by trading a 2024 fourth-round pick for Curtis Lazar. Giving their bottom half of the forward roster more depth and safety in case of injury. The Devils will likely be the first opponent for the New York Rangers in the playoffs this year, and the addition of a skilled power forward like Meier makes their potent offense even more dangerous.

New York Islanders

4th in Metropolitan Division

34-25-8 (76 points)

Lou Lamoriello was one of the first GMs to make a big move in the time leading up to the trade deadline. He acquired Bo Horvat from the Vancouver Canucks for Anthony Beauvillier, Aatu Raty, and a conditional 2023 first-round pick. The team then signed Horvat to an 8-year extension. Horvat should fit in nicely and help an Islanders team that spent the better half of the first season floundering. They’ve managed to remain in playoff contention however and with another depth add of Pierre Engvall from the Toronto Maple Leafs for their third-round pick in the 2023 draft, the Islanders are pushing to remain in the playoff picture.

Pittsburgh Penguins

5th in Metropolitan Division

32-22-10 (74 points)

The Penguins have had a weird and down season, yet the team can surprise anyone with the still-dominant Sidney Crosby. The report is that the Penguins were in deep talks with the Coyotes to acquire Jakob Chychrun but didn’t have the cap space or maneuvering ability to get it done. A lot of insiders think that was the primary motivation in waiving the overpaid and underperforming Kasperi Kapanen when they surely could have gotten some type of asset return for the winger.

When it became apparent the Chychrun acquisition wasn’t going to work out the Penguins GM Ron Hextall made a flurry of other additions. He shipped out Teddy Blueger, traded Brock McGinn and a third-round pick in 2024 to Anaheim for Dmitry Kulikov, sent a couple of picks to San Jose for Nick Bonino and the biggest piece of all was trading a second-round pick in 2023 to the Nashville Predators for Mikael Granlund. Even without a microscope, what Hextall is doing in Pittsburgh is confusing, to say the least. He acquired older players, some with term and a high dollar contract in comparison to their on-ice performance, yet with Crosby leading the way the Penguins are still a dangerous team. Are they actually better? That remains to be seen, but as of right now they’re only seven points behind the Blueshirts and are currently slotted in the first wild-card spot. Today’s game is an important one.

Washington Capitals

6th in Metropolitan Division

31-28-7 (69 points)

The Washington Capitals embraced the fact they were either missing the playoffs or bowing out early enough to justify becoming sellers. They sent Dmitry Orlov and Garnet Hathaway to the Bruins for Craig Smith a 2023 first-round pick, a 2024 third-round pick, and a 2025 second-round pick. They then turned right around and sent the Bruins first rounder with Erik Gustafsson to Toronto for Rasmus Sandin, which is quite a good move on their behalf. But wait, there’s more! The team sent Lars Eller to the Colorado Avalanche for a 2025 second-round pick and Marcus Johansson was sent to the Minnesota Wild for a 2024 third-round pick. Sheesh, talk about restructuring a roster! While Washington isn’t primed to make the postseason this year, their draft capital and acquisitions of a promising young defenseman in Sandin saw them have quite a successful deadline.

Philadelphia Flyers

7th in Metropolitan Division

24-30-11 (59 points)

Oh, the Flyers. Fate has not been kind to the NHL team hailing from the city of brotherly love this season. Whether it’s lack of a cohesive roster or overall skill the team has struggled mightily all season long but not enough to be in the race for primo prospect Connor Bedard. Their struggles continued when their GM Chuck Fletcher failed to make any impactful trade at the deadline. His biggest accomplishment was acquiring Brendan Lemieux from the Los Angeles Kings. James Van Riemsdyk, Kevin Hayes, Ivan Provorov, and Justin Braun are all somehow still Philadelphia Flyers. Yet after this season and his failure at the deadline, Fletcher is not. The organization officially hired Danny Briere after terminating Fletcher’s contract. This team has a busy offseason coming with lots of decisions to be made by their brand-new GM.

Columbus Blue Jackets

8th in Metropolitan Division

20-37-7 (47 points)

Unlike the Flyers the Blue Jackets were wheeling and dealing at this year’s deadline. Kekalainen got creative and moved a slew of players off their roster. First up was their trade with the Kings, Columbus sent defenseman Vladislav Gavrikov and goalie Joonas Korpisalo to Los Angeles for a conditional first-round pick in the 2023 draft and a third-round pick in the 2024 draft. The condition is reliant on LA making the playoffs this season for it to be a first-round pick, otherwise, Columbus will get LA’s second-round pick in both 2023 and 2024. As soon as this trade was made there was chaos. Quick’s unceremonious departure from the only team he’s ever known was not well received and he was quickly shipped off to the Vegas Golden Knights for Michael Hutchinson and a seventh-round pick in the 2025 draft. While not a hefty return it was still impressive how quickly Kekalainen was able to turn Quick into more draft capital.

Columbus wasn’t quite done. They got more money off their books by sending Jakub Voracek to Arizona and even made another meaningful trade in shipping out Gustav Nyquist to the Minnesota Wild for a 2023 fifth-round pick. The Blue Jackets are currently in last place in the league, and shipping out several of their roster players will help keep it that way as the race for Connor Bedard is rounding the last lap.

Boston Bruins

1st in Atlantic Division

49-9-5 (103 points)

Yeah, yeah, yeah, the Boston Bruins are on a historic run this season, we know. Perhaps my saltiness as a Rangers fan living in Massachusetts is shining through a bit too much but it’d be easier to describe what Boston didn’t do to power up at the deadline than to highlight all the moves they did make, but let’s get to it.

In: Dmitry Orlov (D), Garnet Hathaway (F), and Tyler Bertuzzi (F)

Out: Craig Smith (F), 1st Round Pick 2023, 1st Round Pick 2024, 3rd Round pick 2024, 2nd Round Pick 2025, 4th Round Pick 2025

The Bruins loaded up making their already formidable roster appear to have no weaknesses. While they may have mortgaged their future draft picks, this team is all in and credit should be given to Don Sweeney for not parting ways with either of his top two prospects Fabian Lysell and Mason Lohrei. The Bruins will be the team to beat this year.

Toronto Maple Leafs

2nd in Atlantic Division

39-17-8 (86 points)

Toronto, as cursed as the team may be, doesn’t stop putting their best foot forward and honestly, you have to respect that. Dubas swung for the fences and added some key players to his roster in an attempt to get out of the first round and go for it all. They are perhaps the most restructured team in the Eastern Conference.

In: Erik Gustafsson (D), 1st Round Pick 2023, Luke Schenn (D), 3rd Round Pick 2023, Jake McCabe (D), Sam Lafferty (F), 5th Round Pick 2025 or 2026, Ryan O’Reilly (F), Noel Acciari (F)

Out: Rasmus Sandin(D), 3rd Round Pick 2023, Pierre Engvall (F), 1st Round Pick 2025 (conditional), 2nd Round Pick 2026, Joey Anderson (F), Pavel Gogolev (F), Mikhail Abramov (F), Adam Gaudette (F), 1st Round Pick 2023, 3rd Round Pick 2023, 2nd Round Pick 2024, 4th Round Pick 2024

Their roster is entirely made over from top to bottom. Will it be enough? Only time will tell.

Tampa Bay Lightning

3rd in Atlantic Division

38-21-6 (82 points)

The past few seasons the Lightning made some moves that have left folks scratching their heads, but after the playoffs concluded we saw Julien BriseBois and the Tampa Bay Lightning brass having the last laugh. So far, this season looks no different. In what is universally considered an overpayment the Lightning acquired the big winger Tanner Jeannot from the Nashville Predators. We saw the Lightning send Cal Foote, a 2025 first-round pick, a 2024 second-round pick, and picks from the third, fourth, and fifth rounds in 2023 as well. The question now is, what did they see that the rest of us do not? To sum up the rest of their moves they traded Vladislav Namestnikov to San Jose for Michael Eyssimont in what many considered a move to clear cap space. Tampa Bay will always be dangerous and this season is no different.