The 2019 NHL trade deadline was on pace to be one of the slowest on record until a furious last half hour led to a 23-trade day and a number of players changing addresses.
But while draft picks were the currency of the day, something continued to change around what the value of those picks is. While a 50-plus point rental winger used to go for a first-round pick as the primary asset in return, those now seem to be the price for centres or players with term.
Only three first-rounders were traded ahead of this deadline: Winnipeg gave one up for rental centre Kevin Hayes; Buffalo gave up one of their three for Brandon Montour, a 24-year-old top-four defenceman with one year left on his deal before becoming an RFA; and Toronto gave up theirs for Jake Muzzin, who has one more season on his contract.
But the rentals wingers (Gustav Nyquist, Marcus Johansson, Ryan Dzingel, Mats Zuccarello) went for a combination of later picks, some with conditions to improve the selection if the player re-signed. Not even Mark Stone – the best rental winger available, who agreed to re-sign for eight years with Vegas – got a first-rounder back for Ottawa. He did, however, retrieve a high-value prospect in Erik Brannstrom.
Another interesting wrinkle around the 2019 trade deadline was which years the traded draft picks came from. Starting from the Matt Duchene trade on Feb. 22, there was a total of 10 post-first-round picks moved from the 2019 draft and 11 from the 2020 draft (conditionals included). It’s an interesting indicator that, perhaps, teams aren’t as high on the depth available in the 2019 draft compared to projections for 2020.