The Tampa Bay Lightning came on strong late in the day to make the biggest splash in the Eastern Conference on the NHL's trade deadline, and the Winnipeg Jets made the biggest move in the Western Conference several hours earlier.
Lightning general manager Steve Yzerman served notice Monday to the Boston Bruins and the Toronto Maple Leafs, who made their moves on Sunday, that he, too, is all-in when it comes to the chase for the Stanley Cup.
Yzerman paid the biggest price of Monday's trading bazaar by sending forward Vladislav Namestnikov, a first-round pick in the 2018 NHL entry draft, a conditional second-round pick, forward prospect Brett Howden and defence prospect Libor Hajek to the New York Rangers for defenceman Ryan McDonagh and centre J.T. Miller.
When he returns from an undisclosed injury, the 28-year-old McDonagh will give the Lightning arguably the best group of top-four defencemen in the league. Miller, 24, who had 40 points with the Rangers, bolsters the Lightning down the middle.
On the western side of the NHL, Jets general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff stole the show by landing centre Paul Stastny from the St. Louis Blues for a 2018 first-round pick, a conditional fourth-round selection and forward Erik Foley. Stastny, who had 40 points in 63 games with the Blues, waived his no-trade clause to join the Jets, belying the city of Winnipeg's reputation as a place NHL players like to avoid.
In other notable deals made before Monday's 3 p.m. Eastern deadline, forward Tomas Tatar went from the Detroit Red Wings to the Vegas Golden Knights for three draft picks, including a first-rounder in 2018; forward Thomas Vanek landed with the Columbus Blue Jackets with forwards Jussi Jokinen and Tyler Motte headed to the Vancouver Canucks; and the Edmonton Oilers traded winger Patrick Maroon to the New Jersey Devils for forward J.D. Dudek and a third-round pick.
In terms of scoring, the trade of winger Evander Kane, who has 20 goals this season, from the Buffalo Sabres to the San Jose Sharks also ranked with the McDonagh and Statsny deals. But Kane's off-ice activities, which include a series of discipline problems and at least one police investigation, kept the price down. The Sabres received a conditional first-round pick in 2019, a conditional fourth-round pick and prospect Dan O'Regan for Kane.
The other big news of the day was that superstar defenceman Erik Karlsson was not traded by the Ottawa Senators. However, there is little doubt the pending unrestricted free agent will be on the move before July 1, either in a trade or a big-money signing.
"They certainly made a big splash there," said Maple Leafs GM Lou Lamoriello of the Lightning trade. Lamoriello elected not to make any more moves after Sunday's trade with the Montreal Canadiens for centre Tomas Plekanec.
Lamoriello was hoping to add an experienced defenceman to give that unit more depth but a couple of things made him resist a deal. One was the rapid development of rookie defenceman Travis Dermott since he was promoted from the Leafs' farm team in January and the other was the high prices being extracted for rental players.
In the deals made over the past few weeks leading up to the deadline, six first-round picks were traded plus one conditional one in the Kane trade. This was in contrast with the past few years when general managers resisted giving up first-rounders. "I was a little surprised at the number of first-round picks, yes," Lamoriello said.
Cheveldayoff is normally a cautious trader, particularly at the deadline, and the Stastny deal came as a surprise. But the Jets GM showed his belief that his team is a Stanley Cup contender when he parted with a first-round pick for Stastny, who will make the team formidable at centre in addition to Mark Scheifele and Bryan Little.
Any hesitancy in the past to make trades at the deadline or otherwise was only because he didn't see a proper fit, Cheveldayoff said. That changed when Stastny became available.
"When I found out Paul was available, I put everything into that basket," Cheveldayoff said. "That was the move I was willing to let everything else pass by so I could make. I was willing to not make any moves if I couldn't find that move that was the right fit."
The Kane trade marked yet another rebuild for the Sabres and ended a terrible three-year experiment that began with a trade with the Jets and the hope of now-former GM Tim Murray that Kane would be a leader on the team. Instead, Kane's tenure will be remembered more for things like suspensions over missing practices and accusations of sexual assault and harassment that police looked into.
While Sabres fans were expecting a healthy return for Kane, that was not the case. The conditional first-round pick received for him will remain a first-rounder only if Kane, who becomes an unrestricted free agent on July 1, re-signs with the Sharks.
Sabres GM Jason Botterill was quoted on Twitter as saying "We had one legitimate offer for Evander." That was because Kane's off-ice issues made too many GMs wary of adding him to their teams. Only teams that were both in contention for a Stanley Cup and had a strong dressing room with players that could ride herd on Kane could consider him. Those teams – just the Sharks as it turned out – knew full well there were few other bidders for the player.