A day after the Bruins landed power forward Rick Nash from the Rangers, the Lightning followed suit by acquiring New York captain Ryan McDonagh in a multiplayer trade.
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”We take note and we look around, and we feel the moves made in our conference, those teams are better,” Yzerman said shortly before the NHL-leading Lightning played at Toronto. ”But our moves were not to keep up with the Jones.”
Whatever Yzerman’s motive, it didn’t matter to Rangers GM Jeff Gorton as he continued to overhaul an aging roster.
New York also sent forward J.T. Miller to Tampa Bay in a deal that netted the Rangers forward Vladimir Namestnikov, two prospects and two draft picks: a first-round selection in 2018 and a conditional first-rounder in 2019.
”Just trying to take it all in,” Gorton said. ”We have a lot of new players, a lot of new faces, and we’re looking forward to the opportunity as we go forward.”
The rebuilding Rangers now have three first-round picks, including one from the Bruins, in this year’s draft and seven in the first three rounds.
The 28-year-old McDonagh joins a Lightning lineup already well-stocked with elite defensemen. Miller is a two-time 20-goal scorer.
”You’re always looking at ways to try and improve your team,” Yzerman said. ”Whatever we were going to do was to improve it and not do it at an outlandish price.”
The Lightning weren’t the only contender to part with high draft picks among the 18 trades made on Monday.
The Winnipeg Jets gave up a first-rounder as part of a trade to acquire forward Paul Stastny, a six-time 20-goal scorer, in a trade with St. Louis.
”Incredibly excited when I first caught wind of it being a possibility, and even the possibility was really exciting,” Jets forward Blake Wheeler said of adding Stastny. ”A really, really great addition.”
And the expansion Vegas Golden Knights added to their Western Conference-leading team by acquiring three-time 20-goal-scoring forward Tomas Tatar from Detroit. The Red Wings added three draft picks, including a first-round selection.
The San Jose Sharks added size and scoring by acquiring Evander Kane from Buffalo for two picks, including a conditional 2019 first-round selection, and a prospect.
The four first-round picks swapped – not including the two conditional selections – were the most to move on the final day of NHL trading since at least 2008, according to league figures. And no first-rounders had moved on each of the previous two trade-deadline days.
Sharks general manager Doug Wilson attributed the amount of high draft picks swapped to how tight the playoff races are, particularly in the Western Conference. Before games on Monday, six points separated the Sharks, who sit second in the Pacific Division standings, and Colorado, which is 11th in the West.
”It’s supply and demand of those players that can make a difference,” Wilson said. ”Some people would say pricey, but it almost always is pricey at this time of year when you have competitive juices flowing.”
Not all teams found takers.
The Ottawa Senators were unable to move captain Erik Karlsson, a two-time Norris Trophy winner who will be making $7.5 million in the final year of his contract.
General manager Pierre Dorion acknowledged he fielded offers on every player over the past few months. When it came to Karlsson, Dorion said there was no ”franchise deal out there” for his franchise player.
Even Sabres general manager Jason Botterill acknowledged having difficulty finding a trade partner for Kane, who is completing the final year of his contract.
”The bottom line is we had one legitimate offer for Evander and that’s why we worked off of it with San Jose,” he said.
The teams who began the day holding the East’s final two playoff spots made deals.
Eighth-place Columbus acquired veteran forward Thomas Vanek from Vancouver and veteran defenseman Ian Cole from Ottawa.
The Philadelphia Flyers claimed Johnny Oduya after the two-time Stanley Cup-winning defenseman was waived by Ottawa. The Flyers, who have won five straight and are 9-0-2 in their past 11 games, lost defenseman Mark Alt, who was claimed on waivers by Colorado. And the Calgary Flames added forward depth by claiming Chris Stewart, who was waived by Minnesota.
AP Hockey Writers Larry Lage and Stephen Whyno, sports writers Josh Dubow, Mitch Stacy and Dan Gelston, and freelance writers Denis P. Gorman, Mark Ludwiczak and Jim Diamond contributed to this report.