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Trade grades: Analyzing Markstrom deal, Dubois stunner

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With the Stanley Cup on another two-day hiatus, the NHL had itself a mini trade deadline on Wednesday when a pair of blockbuster trades set the hockey world ablaze out of nowhere.

First, the New Jersey Devils and Calgary Flames finally agreed on a deal involving Jacob Markstrom. Then, the Los Angeles Kings and Washington Capitals swung a stunner that sent Pierre-Luc Dubois to D.C.

Below, we analyze how each team fared in their swaps.

Trade No. 1: New Jersey receives Markstrom for defenseman Kevin Bahl and a 2025 first-round pick. The pick is top-10 protected, and Calgary will retain 31.25% of Markstrom's salary for the final two seasons of his current contract.

Flames' perspective

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General manager Craig Conroy didn't have much leverage in this one. Markstrom had full control with a no-trade clause, and the relationship between the goalie and front office was clearly strained after months of uncertainty around the former's future.

The Flames and Devils negotiated a Markstrom deal at this year's deadline, but it reportedly fell apart over salary retention. Calgary now has $1.875 million allotted to Markstrom through 2026. Because the cap rising significantly, though, that's not a huge strain, especially considering the Flames' new duo in the crease - Dan Vladar and restricted free agent Dustin Wolf - will likely cost less than Markstrom's old cap hit alone. The team also still has two first-rounders in each of the next three drafts.

Conroy had Bahl on his radar. Many were skeptical of the executive's desire to bring in Yegor Sharangovich from the Devils in the Tyler Toffoli trade, but he went on to bag a career-high 31 goals for Calgary this season. Perhaps there's enough evidence to trust his player evaluation.

Bahl, a 6-foot-6, left-shot defender, notched 11 points this season and posted strong defensive metrics in sheltered minutes for the Devils. He's owed $1.05 million in 2024-25 before he hits restricted free agency, and he should give Calgary some reliable blue-line depth. Bahl's only 23, so it's a worthwhile gamble to see if he can develop into a top-four fixture while his price tag is low. After dealing Chris Tanev and Noah Hanifin in-season, the Flames needed help on the back end, and Bahl will be able to provide important minutes immediately.

The Flames reportedly shopped Markstrom to several teams but ultimately sent him to the perceived frontrunners. To reel in a first-round pick and a roster-ready player for an openly available, 34-year-old goalie with control over his destination is tidy business.

Grade: B+

Devils' perspective

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Devils general manager Tom Fitzgerald let the entire hockey world know he'd be going big-game hunting for a new goalie this summer - and he jumped the market to get his guy. Several teams on the precipice of contention need reinforcements between the pipes, and limited options are available. New Jersey suddenly feels like a strong pick to make the playoffs again next season after finishing 2023-24 as one of the league's biggest disappointments.

The Devils were done in by injuries this past campaign, sure, but they fell out of the wild-card race largely because their .885 team save percentage owned ranked 30th in the league. Markstrom posted a .907 clip over four seasons in Calgary and was individually brilliant in 2023-24 despite a mediocre win-loss record. He finished third among all netminders with 28.93 goals saved above expected and ninth in standing points above replacement at 8.1. Even if he's less dominant next season, any performance close to that level should launch the Devils into the Eastern Conference playoff picture.

Alongside Jake Allen - who they acquired in March, the Devils now have a reliable, experienced tandem in goal for a combined $6.05 million. And their newly hired bench boss, Sheldon Keefe, has more talent to work with on his blue line than he ever had during his run in Toronto to help insulate his netminders.

The Flames did well to secure some future assets, but the Devils are the slight winners by being aggressive in triggering a move that vastly improved their championship chances in a blink.

Grade: A

Trade No. 2: Los Angeles receives goaltender Darcy Kuemper for Dubois in a one-for-one switch.

Kings' perspective:

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There were rumors of the Kings buying Dubois out this offseason, but they instead decided to ship him out before his no-trade clause kicked in on July 1. The optics of this deal from L.A.'s side are undeniably ugly, as they landed Dubois from the Winnipeg Jets last offseason in a sign-and-trade that included an eight-year, $68-million contract for the enigmatic center. That move can now be boiled down to Alex Iafallo, Gabe Vilardi, Rasmus Kupari, and a second-round pick for Kuemper. Ouch.

Although the Kings were strong-armed by a strict timeline to make a decision on Dubois' future, landing only Kuemper is underwhelming. Los Angeles has needed help in goal for several years, but Kuemper is 34, posted an .890 save percentage en route to losing his starting gig to Charlie Lindgren this season, and is owed $5.25 million through 2027. He's more of a hopeful stopgap than a long-term solution in the crease.

If there's a silver lining in the Kings admitting the Dubois experiment was a failure, it's that Los Angeles suddenly has over $23 million of cap space to play with this summer. The shock factor of Wednesday's trade is unlikely to wear off until further improvements are made and, until then, we're going to be harsh about this one.

Grade: D

Capitals' perspective:

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The Capitals are taking a big risk by bringing in Dubois, who's now failed to click in Columbus, Winnipeg, and Los Angeles. With veteran Nicklas Backstrom on long-term injured reserve, Dubois is now Washington's second-highest paid player behind Alex Ovechkin and will jump to the top of the club's depth chart at center. There will be nowhere for him to hide in taking on a bigger role, and expectations to produce are going to be enormous.

Washington is banking on the promise Dubois has shown in three separate 60-point seasons. The soon-to-be 26-year-old is a strong playmaker when engaged, and can be difficult to defend when using his size effectively. The tools have always been there, but the Caps need to find a way to consistently get the best out of him. Otherwise, they've just taken on one of the league's most cumbersome contracts.

The Capitals would grade out much worse if they gave up more to acquire Dubois, but shedding Kuemper's contract and handing the reins to Lindgren is a positive. Washington took the bigger risk in this trade, but there's more potential for upside if Dubois can find his groove.

Grade: B-

(Statistics courtesy: Evolving-Hockey, CapFriendly)

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