Most Improved Team After 2023 NHL Trade Deadline Discussed

The NHL landscape has been radically altered over the past five weeks thanks to a flurry of trades, many involving big names like forwards Patrick Kane, Vladimir Tarasenko and Timo Meier.

With the 2023 NHL Trade Deadline having passed Friday at 3 p.m. ET, rosters are set, for the most part, for the rest of the season.

After the flurry of trades big and small since the New York Islanders opened the floodgates by acquiring Bo Horvat from the Vancouver Canucks on January 30, many teams believe they have improved significantly.

But which team improved the most? We asked a panel of employees for their opinions, which are presented in alphabetical order by team.

Boston Bruins

It’s almost unfair. Or maybe it really is unfair. The Bruins, the best team in the NHL all season and the fastest in league history to reach 100 points (101 in 61 games), significantly improved before the deadline with the acquisition of the defenseman Dmitry Orlov and Garnet Hathaway from the Washington Capitals on February 23 and beyond Tyler Bertuzzi from the Detroit Red Wings on Thursday. Orlov had three goals in 43 games this season with the Capitals; he already has three of four games with the Bruins. Boston is 4-0-0 with Orlov and has won nine straight. Of course, things aren’t all good around the Bruins. Forward Taylor Hall had to go on long-term injured reserve and going forward Nick Foligno on injured reserve, each with a lower body injury. But that’s what makes the additions of Hathaway and Bertuzzi so important and smart. They’ll fill the spots left by Hall and Foligno, and Boston won’t feel much of a difference. When healthy, the Bruins will have 14 forwards who can play in their top 12 without a problem. They have eight defenders who can play in the top six. Oh, and they have the keeper, Linus Ullmark, who is the favorite to win the Vezina Trophy as the best in the NHL. The Bruins were already deep; with Orlov, Hathaway and Bertuzzi they are fully loaded. — Dan Rosen, Senior Writer

Video: NHL Tonight talks latest Bruins deadline move

Carolina Hurricanes

Certainly. You can add flashy new toys—players with Stanley Cup championships and individual awards on their resumes—but you run the risk of disrupting your chemistry. Sometimes less is more. The Hurricanes seemed to need a big scorer after forward Max Pacioretty unable to come back from an achilles tendon injury and all they did was put forward Jesse Puljujarvi of the Edmonton Oilers and defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere from the Arizona Coyotes. Each trade was a value play — low risk, high upside — but neither player is likely to make a difference. That’s fine in this case. It may turn out to be the best. The Hurricanes (39-12-8) entered Friday in second place in the NHL standings, on pace for the best regular season in their history. They ranked second defensively (2.58 goals against per game), and they ranked ninth offensively (3.34 goals per game) despite not having anyone in the top 50 in scoring. — Nicholas J. Cotsonika, columnist

Edmonton Oilers

The cry regarding the Oilers for a few seasons was to get stronger on defense, and they did that by buying Matthias Ekholm from the Nashville Predators on Tuesday. It’s not about his scoring (19 points; five goals, 14 assists in 58 games this season through Friday). It’s about adding a defensive defenseman, something the Oilers have needed. They have also added depth to purchasing Nick Bjugstad from the Coyotes on Thursday. Besides bringing some potential secondary scoring, Bjugstad is a good two-way player who can contribute to the team’s defense. Are these features flashy? No. A team that has forwards Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl does not need flash. It needed defense to counter the offense that has been there. Mission accomplished. — Tracey Myers, Staff Writer

Nashville Predators

With another angle on this, I think the Predators did the best for themselves by trading away players to acquire pieces for the future. In a trade alone with the Tampa Bay Lightning for the forward Tanner JeannotNashville acquired a 24-year-old defenseman Cal Foote (pick No. 14 in the 2017 NHL Draft), a conditional first-round pick in the 2025 NHL Draft, a second-round pick in the 2024 NHL Draft, and third-, fourth-, and fifth-round picks in the 2023 NHL Draft. The Predators also traded forward Nino Niederreiter to the Winnipeg Jets for a second-round pick in the 2024 draft and beyond Mikael Granlund to the Pittsburgh Penguins for a second-round pick in the 2023 draft. A Stanley Cup playoff spot in the Western Conference was within reach for the Predators before these moves, but they needed to rebuild, and these draft picks give incoming general manager Barry Trotz additional assets to work with and a head start as he takes over for the retiring David Poile 1 .July. — Tom Gulitti, staff writer

New Jersey Devils

The worst-kept secret in the weeks leading up to the deadline was the possibility that the Devils could work on a deal to get the skilled power they coveted in Meier from the San Jose Sharks. It happened Sunday, five days before deadline day, and the acquisition makes New Jersey a stronger, deeper team when generating offense in front of the net becomes more difficult. Meier is physical and a proven goalscorer. The Devils also acquired a forward Curtis Lazar in a trade with the Canucks on Friday. Lazar, who can play wing or center, is a serviceable middle-six forward capable of blocking shots and winning key face-offs. New Jersey did what they needed to do, adding important pieces without breaking up the core. — Mike G. Morreale, Staff Writer

Video: The guys on the state of the Devils after the deadline

New York Rangers

Consider these eye-popping numbers: 712 goals. 1,074 assists. 1,786 points. Oh, and let’s not forget four Stanley Cup rings. That’s what the Rangers have in the newly acquired dynamic duo of Tarasenko (from the St. Louis Blues on Feb. 9) and Kane (from the Chicago Blackhawks on Tuesday). It could be argued that one of these players could be the biggest difference among those who have changed address in recent weeks. Do you get both? What team can boast that it did better than that? This team is stacked at every position. Tarasenko and Kane join top offensive talent in the forwards Chris Kreider, Mika Zibanejad and Artemi Panarin. Adam Fox, Jacob Trouba and K’Andre Miller is the backbone of the defender. Goalkeeper Igor Shesterkin is one of the best in the industry. Don’t forget the under-the-radar addition on Feb. 19 of the Ottawa Senators bottom-six forward Tyler Motte, who knows the system from his time with the Rangers last season. Add it all up and this team is poised to make a deep playoff run. — Mike Zeisberger, Staff Writer

Ottawa Senators

I’m going with a bold choice, but I’m not just thinking about this season. I think about both now and the seasons to come. Ottawa is going places. This is an up and coming team with a bright, bright future, a team that could even end up making the playoffs this season. The Senators thought they were ready, that they played well enough and had earned a splash from general manager Pierre Dorion. He delivered, provided defender Jakob Chychrun from the Coyotes on Wednesday. Chychrun could be a big part of the playoff run the Senators make as well as the one they will make in the near future, given that he has two more seasons on his contract. At 24, he can share the workload with the top defender Thomas Chabot. This is a huge addition for the already impressive core of the Senators, who would greatly benefit from getting playoff experience this season without having to make a deal for a rental. This ticks all the boxes for me, for now and for later. — Amalie Benjamin, staff writer

Toronto Maple Leafs

Sure, the Rangers and Devils made big splashes in the Eastern Conference with the acquisitions of Kane and Meier, but the Maple Leafs added the grit, as well as experience and postseason success, they’ve been missing. Toronto should be a tougher out after adding Ryan O’Reilly – who in 2019 won both the Stanley Cup and the Conn Smythe Trophy as MVP in the playoffs – and co-forward Noel Acciari from the St. Louis Blues on Feb. 17, defenseman Jack McCabe and forward Sam Lafferty from the Blackhawks on Monday, and defenders Luke Schenn from the Canucks on Tuesday. We all know the Maple Leafs have been eliminated in the first round of the playoffs six straight seasons and haven’t won a postseason series since 2004, and we won’t know until the playoffs start if what they did will be enough for them to go further in a likely first-round match against the Lightning. But they are a much better team than they were two weeks ago. — Bill Price, Editor-in-Chief

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