The trade deadline had a huge impact on a number of NHL rosters, but while some teams loaded up for a big playoff run, it comes at a cost.
The Pittsburgh Penguins undeniably improved their team by the widest margin this trade deadline season, but also at a far higher future cost than any of this year's other buyers like the Boston Bruins and Vancouver Canucks. On the flip side, the Buffalo Sabres got the most future value and did so while giving up less than half of the next top-two sellers, the Dallas Stars and the Calgary Flames.
The true "winners and losers" of the deadline will be revealed only in time, but right now we can get an idea of what each side obtained by examining the expected value of the prospects and draft picks exchanged for present players. And through that lens, it's clear that while the Penguins loaded up for a big playoff push, the price they paid was a very steep one.
To do that, every year we evaluate which teams improved themselves at the trade deadline the most by calculating each acquired player's Goals Versus Threshold (GVT) per game so far this season, and multiplying that by 20 games. This season that should cover the rest of the regular season and at least one round of the playoffs. GVT is measured in goals relative to replacement-level players, which represents the total number of goals a player either scores or prevents for a team relative to how a team would perform with, say, an average AHL call-up instead.
In these GVT terms, even a highly active team is unlikely to make changes that will result in much more than three goals down the stretch, which historically has equated to a single point in the standings, meaning that trade deadline moves are usually aimed primarily on the postseason. As such, we ignore the shootout portion of the player's GVT and ignore any depth players who are currently playing below replacement level. At this point we aren't looking at what these established players might do the following season, if they remain under contract or re-sign, only how they'll help their new teams down the stretch and into the early postseason. So, which teams improved the most with the playoffs on the horizon? And what did it cost them down the line?