The run-up was interminable.
But once it arrived Monday, the NHL’s annual trade deadline veered a bit closer to frantic.
The reigning Vezina Trophy winner was moved for the second time in eight months just ahead of the final bell, but truth told, much of the intrigue was sparked days before when the Florida Panthers loaded up with a pair of high-profile deals and the Boston Bruins plucked a coveted defenseman from the West Coast.
Monday’s top-line buzz came courtesy of Marc-Andre Fleury, who was the league’s best goaltender last season with the Vegas Golden Knights before heading to Chicago in a cost-cutting move over the summer.
He moves about 400 miles northwest to the Minnesota Wild this time around in exchange for a conditional draft pick. It’s a second-round selection in the 2022 draft as of now but will transition to a first-rounder if the Wild reach the Western Conference Final and Fleury wins at least four games in the first two rounds.
The Blackhawks are retaining half of Fleury’s salary in the final season of the three-year, $21 million pact he signed with Vegas in 2018.
“I think just a chance to be in the playoffs, a chance to get there, to battle to get there, to battle to go win,” Fleury told TSN (h/t ESPN) “I think that’s why we all play in the end. Also, a good fit for me with my family. They’re going to stay in Chicago. And it’s not too far away. And obviously [the Wild] have a great team. They’re great defensively. They have a lot of big guys and they play well.”
The Fleury deal highlighted the 30 made Monday before the window closed at 3 p.m. ET, following a stream of 20 other trades that came from March 1-20.
The activity prompted the B/R hockey team to get together for its annual transaction dissection party, which yielded a list of winners and losers from the prolonged deadline frenzy.
Take a moment to peruse our collection, and drop a viewpoint or two of your own in the comments.
Winners: Eastern Conference Contenders
So you wanna be a contender in the Eastern Conference?
Get in line. You’ve got plenty of company.
Nearly all of the major players in the East made at least some sort of bid to improve through Monday afternoon, with the Florida Panthers perhaps taking the biggest leap forward.
The NHL’s southernmost residents got on the board early and often, initially pulling the trigger Wednesday on a trade that brought impending free-agent defenseman Ben Chiarot from the Montreal Canadiens in exchange for prospect Ty Smilanic and a pair of draft picks.
They got back to work again Saturday, connecting this time with Philadelphia on a swap that brought longtime Flyers captain Claude Giroux, forwards Connor Bunnaman and German Rubtsov and a pick to metropolitan Miami in exchange for 2017 first-rounder Owen Tippett and two more picks, including a first-rounder in either 2024 or 2025.
Not to be outdone in their own home state, the two-time defending Stanley Cup champion Tampa Bay Lightning also handled some business, starting Friday with a deal that brought forward Brandon Hagel and two picks from Chicago for two depth forwards and two conditional first-round picks.
They followed up Sunday by getting forward Nick Paul from the Ottawa Senators for forward Mathieu Joseph and a pick and kept it going Monday with a move that brought back forward Riley Nash from Arizona for future considerations.
Elsewhere in the Atlantic Division, the Boston Bruins got themselves a quality blueliner on Saturday when it grabbed Hampus Lindholm from the Anaheim Ducks in exchange for defensemen John Moore and Urho Vaakanainen and three picks. Lindholm was on the verge of free agency, but the Bruins took care of that a day later by signing him to an eight-year deal worth $52 million.