With only minutes left before the 12pm trade deadline, the Ottowa Senators traded F Mark Stone to the Vegas Golden Knights for F Oscar Lindberg, minor league D Erik Brannstrom, and a 2020 2nd round pick.
Stone (28 goals, 64 points) was the the biggest name out there heading into today’s NHL trade deadline. Any team looking to land the coveted forward was going to have to give up a significant piece of their franchise. Vegas was willing to do just that. Erik Brannstrom was the Golden Knights 3rd pick (15th overall) in the 2017 draft. Along with Brannstrom, the Knights sent F Oscar Lindberg, and a 2020 2nd round pick to Ottowa.
Brannstrom is a tough guy to see leave the organization. He has 7 goals and 21 assists with the Chicago Wolves of the AHL. Brannstrom has been considered by many to be the most “NHL ready” prospect in the Knights system. He’s a very skilled defenseman who isn’t afraid to jump into the rush offensively. The Golden Knights do have a lot of depth on the defensive side, though. Guys like Nic Hague, Dylan Coghlan, and Zach Whitecloud are all top young prospects. So, while Brannstrom is a loss, he isn’t a game changing loss for Vegas.
Let’s take Brannstrom and the 2020 2nd round pick out of the equation for a minute. Neither of those two things were going to make a difference for Vegas THIS year.
What you’re left with is Mark Stone for Oscar Lindberg. Lindberg has played in just over half of the Knights games this season (35/63) tallying 4 goals and 8 assists. That’s just 12 points. 12! The Knights have been terrible on the offensive end for a lot of this season, especially since the all-star break. Losing Lindberg doesn’t hurt your offense at all. It was also announced that Stone will be signing an 8 year extension with Vegas, meaning he’s not just a 2 month rental.
Mark Stone has played in 59 game, scored 28 goals and has 34 assists. That’s 62 points! I’m not the best at math, but I’m pretty sure 62 is a much better number than 12. To put that into perspective, Alex Tuch is the Knights leading scorer this season with 43 points is 55 games played. Mark Stone immediately becomes your top offensive player.
You need to also take into account how this move affects the rest of the lineup. Stone can pretty much slot in anywhere on the top three lines. If he plays on the 1st line, he replaces Reilly Smith. On the 2nd line, he replaces Alex Tuch. On the 3rd line, he replaces Lindberg, or Carpenter, or Nosek, or…you get the point. Vegas head coach, Gerard Gallant has not been afraid to shake up his lines this season looking for offense. Stone gives him so much more flexibility than he’s had all year.
The top line, which was one of the best line in the NHL last season, has not been particularly great this year. They need more fire power. Stone for Smith gives them instant offense. The question becomes where does Smith go? The second line of Stastny, Tuch, and Pacioretty has been the most consistent line on the team since coming together, so moving Tuch off that line in favor of Smith might not be the best play. Smith is a very good passer and sees the ice well. He may be most useful on the 3rd line with Brandon Pirri and Cody Eakin. We’ve seen what Pirri can do offensively when given the puck in the right spots. Smith is a definite upgrade to that line.
When it’s all said and done, this move is a win for Vegas. Their timetable to win was given a significant push by making the SCF last season. They can’t afford to sit back and wait for the prospects to mature. They need to make moves that will help them win right now. Mark Stone, who’s only 26 years old, helps them win right now as well as sets them up for more long term success.