Scouting The Competition; How Eastern Playoff Teams Match Up After Trade Deadline

Mar 4, 2022; Raleigh, North Carolina, USA; Carolina Hurricanes center Vincent Trocheck (16) fights Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman Mark Friedman (52) during the third period at PNC Arena. Mandatory Credit: James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 4, 2022; Raleigh, North Carolina, USA; Carolina Hurricanes center Vincent Trocheck (16) fights Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman Mark Friedman (52) during the third period at PNC Arena. Mandatory Credit: James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports /

33, that’s the number of trades that took place on trade deadline day. There were many more moves in the days leading up to the March 21st deadline as well. The Carolina Hurricanes of course are one of these teams, acquiring Max Domi from the Columbus Blue Jackets in a three-way trade with Columbus and Florida at the buzzer yesterday.

The Eastern Conference is funny because we have known which teams were going to make the playoffs since around late December. Of the eight playoff teams, all of them loaded up yesterday. In this article, we are going to look at what the other Eastern Conference playoff teams did at the deadline and how their new pieces will help them.

Wild Card Teams

Washington Capitals: There is a decent chance the Capitals are the Hurricanes’ first-round matchup, and this may be bad news for Carolina. Washington is currently 3-0 against the Canes this season, including a 4-3 shootout win in Raleigh last Friday. The Capitals took a low-risk approach, acquiring two depth forwards in Marcus Johansson and Johan Larsson yesterday.

It remains to be seen how much these two will really help, but Washington has Carolina’s number this season. This is a likely playoff matchup for the Canes, and they need to find a way to figure out the Caps quickly.

Boston Bruins: It may be a little unfair to call Boston a wild-card team as they are tied with Toronto in points, with one more game played, but for now the Bruins are in the first wild card spot. Their position means that if the playoffs started today they would match up against the Hurricanes in the first round.

Even though the Hurricanes were rather dominant in the season, outscoring Boston 16-1 through three games, the Bruins are never an easy out and would be a tough test for the Canes in the first round.

Boston made a short and long-term splash by acquiring Hampus Lindholm and signing him to an eight-year extension. Lindholm isn’t what he was during his prime, but is still a top defenseman that might do better in an environment like Boston. The Bruins added a great player, even if their hole at second line center is still glaring.

Atlantic Teams

Toronto Maple Leafs: The Atlantic division is incredibly stacked, which seems unfair for a team like the Leafs who desperately need to make it out of the first round, but will likely have to go through the back-to-back champs to do it. The majority of the talk has been surrounding Toronto’s goaltending situation, but the Leafs stood pat on that front and instead decided to upgrade a few of their strengths.

In one deal Toronto was able to acquire Mark Giordano and Colin Blackwell. Blackwell adds more depth to an already solid fourth line while also adding a bit of insurance in case of injury. The former Flame and Kraken captain, Giordano adds even more oomph to an already formidable left-side. If the Leafs can figure out their goaltending situation internally, they may finally break their first-round curse. Maybe.

Tampa Bay Lightning: Losing their entire third line the last offseason is the only dent in Tampa’s armor, and they addressed that this trade deadline. The 2020 and 2021 Stanley Cup champions are third in the eastern conference by points percentage and are gearing up to defend their title yet again.

Tampa acquired Brandon Hagel and Nick Paul, two young top-6 forwards who fit perfectly into Tampa’s game. Although they paid exorbitant prices, particularly for Brandon Hagel, there is no doubt that Tampa will yet again be a hard beast to slay. In a lesser movie, they also acquired former Cane Riley Nash for future considerations.

Florida Panthers: Florida had by far the most interesting deadline in the league. The Panthers are enjoying their best regular season in franchise history and want to ensure that they have the playoff success to go along with that. This is the definition of a team going all-in, and they will not be an easy out this time around as they attempt to win their first playoff series this century.

Last week the Panthers took one of the biggest names off of the board by acquiring Ben Chiarot from Montreal for a HUGE haul. Now a lot of people, including me, don’t think Chiarot is all that good and definitely not worth what they gave up, but he is at the very least an upgrade that bolsters their defensive core.

The biggest fish of the deadline, Claude Giroux also took his talents to the sunshine state, adding yet another elite weapon to the league’s best offense. Florida has their eyes set on the Stanley Cup, much like Giroux himself and as of now, the Panthers and the Avalanche are the favorites to do it.

Florida also added Robert Hagg from Buffalo and for a brief moment technically had Max Domi. The Panthers retained 25% of Domi’s salary before sending him to Carolina, for their troubles they got prospect Egor Korshkov from the Canes and a 6th round pick from Columbus.

Metropolitan Division

New York Rangers: The Rangers, fresh off of their 2-0 shutout of the Hurricanes, did what was best for the team and focused on improving team depth, especially among the forward core. Adding Frank Vatrano in a cap dump from Florida, they added more forwards at the deadline with Tyler Motte and Andrew Copp. The Blueshirts also added more defensive depth with Justin Braun.

The Rangers gave up a lot for Copp but otherwise used their cap space to acquire solid middle/bottom-six players. The bottom 6 was the most obvious weak spot on this Rangers team, and these new additions make that team look a lot better.

Pittsburgh Penguins: The Penguins always seem to have their noses around the trade market and this year was no different. Although not as active as they usually are, the Penguins were able to bring in Rickard Rakell from Anaheim. They sacrificed some depth in doing so, but they added an incredibly skillful winger without giving up a first.

The 2016 and 2017 champs haven’t seen much playoff success recently, failing to make it to the second round the last three seasons, but you can never count out a team that has Sidney Crosby on it. The Penguins are currently third in the metro with 85 points, and assuming the Hurricanes can hold on to their lead in the division, the Rangers and Penguins will most likely be facing off in the first round.

As we can see, the rest of the Eastern Conference loaded up at the trade deadline. Although Max Domi is fine, he likely won’t make nearly as big of an impact as other teams’ acquisitions. The Hurricanes are mainly betting on their current roster, plus the slight upgrade they made, to take them to the Stanley Cup. It will be a war to get out of the first round alone, and no matter who the Hurricanes end up playing in the first round, it’ll be an incredibly tough road to the cup.

Question for Cardiac Cane readers: What would you have done differently at the trade deadline if you were the Hurricanes?

Next. Hurricanes Acquire Max Domi. dark