NHL Trade Deadline Acquisitions Making Biggest Playoff Contributions

Boston Bruins, Tyler Bertuzzi #59, NHL. (Photo by Richard T Gagnon/Getty Images)
Boston Bruins, Tyler Bertuzzi #59, NHL. (Photo by Richard T Gagnon/Getty Images) /

Every year there’s always debate on who should win the Hart Memorial Trophy as the de facto NHL MVP. Most of the debates come down to the actual definition of the award, that it should be given to the player “who contributes most to his team’s success”, instead of the league’s best player.

The perfect example of this is the 2018 winner, Taylor Hall. Hall was one of, but not the runaway, the best player in the league that season, but the New Jersey Devils would have been nowhere near the playoffs without his contributions in a career season.

Let’s use that same logic to look at some player transactions from the 2022-23 NHL season. These moves were significant, but they weren’t earth-shattering or headline-grabbing.

Bigger names were moved at the NHL Trade Deadline, but these moves are the ones that are making a big difference for their respective teams more than some might have thought.

These might be the most impactful NHL Trade Deadline acquisitions.

Eeli Tolvanen

When a player of Tolvanen’s caliber ends up on waivers, it’s going to send minor waves through the NHL transaction watchers. Picked up by the Seattle Kraken, Tolvanen has become an impact player just short of stardom.

Dan Rosen explained in one of his “Over The Boards” mailbag columns for NHL.com that the Nashville Predators ran out of patience with their former first-round pick. General manager David Poile shared a similar sentiment saying it might have been a mistake.

Meanwhile, Tolvanen immediately made his part in Kraken franchise playoff history by scoring the franchise’s first-ever goal in the Stanley Cup Playoffs in addition to 16 goals and 11 assists in 48 games since trading a Nashville jersey for a Kraken sweater.

These are the things that aren’t surprising. First, Tolvanen is good. Second, he couldn’t find a consistent place in Nashville’s lineup and thus made himself expendable.

What was surprising is that Nashville basically put him out there as “free to a good home!” Tolvanen found a great home with the Kraken, indeed.

There had to be a better way for Nashville to ship Tolvanen off to someone who could use him. If there’s one way to describe Tolvanen’s tenure with the Predators, it’s “mismanagement”.

Look at the value Tolvanen has to the Kraken, just like most knew he would. You’re telling me a trade of some type couldn’t be worked out?

The Kraken were still firmly in the playoff picture when Tolvanen was put on waivers. Maybe Nashville could have got an extra piece that put them in the Wild Card race to stay.

Mattias Ekholm

The second Nashville cast-off on this list, Ekholm was traded to the Edmonton Oilers when Nashville saw the writing on the wall that they most likely weren’t going to make the postseason.

The Predators didn’t get the type of haul they got for Tanner Jeannot from the Tampa Bay Lightning for Ekholm, but they did get point-producing defenseman Tyson Barrie who can still produce at a high level.

Edmonton is an offensive juggernaut that leaves a lot to be desired in the “keep pucks out of the net” category. Outslugging their opponents has been their game plan during the entire Connor McDavid era as they’ve struggled to find consistent goaltending.

Stuart Skinner is finally holding down the net, in good but not elite fashion (also Jack Campbell lead the Oilers to a playoff game victory, but that’s a different story for a different time). The addition of Ekholm was a long-awaited addition to Edmonton’s roster to strengthen their defense.

We’ve focused so long on them finding a goalie who can stop pucks, but how about getting a few defensemen who can help before the rubber even gets to him? Ekholm is that type of guy.

The addition of Ekholm, along with the emergence of Skinner, is what moved the Oilers from “playoff contenders” to “Stanley Cup contenders” in my book. Ekholm is also the gift that keeps on giving since he’s signed through the 2025-2026 season.

Tyler Bertuzzi

If there was ever a player that fit the Boston Bruins like a glove, it’s Tyler Bertuzzi. Absolutely no one expected Bertuzzi to struggle to fit in. Bertuzzi has lived up to the expectation that he’d fit in with Boston like he had been there all along, and then some.

Bertuzzi is the physical, bottom-six forward teams like Boston love to have and can’t seem to get enough of. He might not have turned heads in the regular season (eight goals and 22 assists in 50 games this past year), but come playoff time, he can be the difference between moving on or having an early spring.

Remember, the Tampa Bay Lightning’s much-hyped fourth line from their back-to-back championships that included Blake Coleman, Patrick Maroon, and Barclay Goodrow? The ones that were credited with making the Lightning harder to play against for deeper playoff runs? Bertuzzi is like that entire line put together.

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Boston is loving his scoring contributions as well. Entering Tuesday’s potential clincher against the Florida Panthers, Bertuzzi has two goals and four assists in four playoff games.