Carolina is buying low on an underachieving young scorer, Toronto is making wholesale changes to prepare for the playoffs and two perennial contenders are looking toward the future.
In a flurry of moves Tuesday with three sleeps left before the NHL trade deadline, the Hurricanes got Jesse Puljujarvi from the Edmonton Oilers, who were also active in adding Mattias Ekholm from Nashville, and the Maple Leafs completed three separate deals with an eye on navigating a difficult road through the Eastern Conference. And the league is still waiting for the long-anticipated trade of Patrick Kane to the New York Rangers.
That deal is still expected to happen sooner rather than later, but it didn’t stop rivals in the East and contenders in the West from loading up themselves.
Hours after Metropolitan Division-leading Carolina acquired Puljujarvi in hopes of unlocking the 24-year-old’s offensive potential, Toronto acquired big defenseman Luke Schenn from Vancouver, sent Rasmus Sandin to Washington for a first-round pick and veteran Erik Gustafsson and traded forward Pierre Engvall to the New York Islanders.
General manager Kyle Dubas said it was no secret the Maple Leafs “wanted to become more competitive” and that’s evident now that they’ve brought in six new players in the past two weeks. Engvall, traded for a 2024 third-round pick, is one of two additions for the Islanders, who are chasing one of two wild-card spots in the East and were eager to augment their forward depth.
Out West, Minnesota paid that same price in a deal with Washington for well-traveled forward Marcus Johansson, who has now been traded five times in under six years, including the second time the Wild have added him.
Minnesota also got injured winger Gustav Nyquist from Columbus for a 2023 fifth-round pick, which the Wild got from Bruins for facilitating the trade with the Capitals last week.
Keeping true to general manager Brian MacLellan’s plan to reset quickly to try to win again as soon as next year, the Capitals sent Boston’s first-round pick that they got last week to Toronto with Gustafsson for Sandin, who turns 23 next week and is signed through next season at the bargain price of $1.4 million.
Nashville, which like Washington is a playoff mainstay, continued selling by trading Ekholm to Edmonton for defenseman Tyson Barrie, forward prospect Reid Schaefer, a first-round pick this year and a fourth-rounder in 2024. Ekholm gives the Oilers, who are giving up more than three goals a game, some balance on the blue line behind the top two scorers in the league: MVP favorite Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl.
“And I know they have a bunch of other guys that really can put the puck in the net,” Ekholm said. “Coming in as a defensive defenseman, I know that if we can (handle) our defensive side of the game and I guess I’m doing my job, then I think we have a great chance of winning hockey games.”
The Hurricanes would love to roll through the loaded East and figure Puljujarvi can help them do that. They sent the rights to 22-year-old unsigned draft pick Patrik Puistola to the Oilers in a swap of Finnish forwards.
The Hurricanes aim to unlock Puljujarvi’s offensive abilities after the 2016 No. 4 pick has put up just 117 points in 337 NHL regular-season and playoff games. The move helps replace what Carolina expected out of Max Pacioretty before the veteran winger re-tore his right Achilles tendon last month.
“Jesse possesses a great blend of size and skill, and he will add to the depth of our forward group,” Hurricanes general manager Don Waddell said. “He has familiarity with some of our other Finnish players, and we see him as a great fit for our team and locker room.”
Puljujarvi, 24, joins countrymen Sebastian Aho, Teuvo Teravainen, Jesperi Kotkaniemi and Antti Raanta with the Hurricanes. He played on a line with Aho for Finland at the 2016 world junior championship and led the tournament with 17 points in seven games.
“I think I’m going to be a good fit on that team,” Puljujarvi said. “I’m getting a new opportunity, and I’m excited for that. I hope this is going to be good for me, and I’m going to work really, really hard to do everything right and be best player I can be and help the team in Carolina.”
The top teams in the East have all made at least one move so far, including the NHL-leading Bruins getting Dmitry Orlov and Garnet Hathaway from the Capitals and Tampa Bay trading five picks and a young player to Nashville for Tanner Jeannot. The Rangers already traded for prolific scoring winger Vladimir Tarasenko and big defenseman Niko Mikkola and for the majority of the past week have been doing the salary cap and roster gymnastics necessary to land Kane from Chicago.
A trade of Kane from the Blackhawks to the Rangers would also require a third team involved to make the money work.
Follow AP Hockey Writer Stephen Whyno on Twitter at https://twitter.com/SWhyno
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