Deciding to sell can be a painstaking decision for any NHL general manager, particularly one who has a team that's close to a Stanley Cup Playoff position.
Ray Shero of the New Jersey Devils and Ron Francis of the Carolina Hurricanes were in that position Monday. The Devils were three points out of a wild card in the Eastern Conference, and the Hurricanes were four.
But Shero and Francis had players other teams wanted, and they decided, shrewdly and smartly, to move them before the NHL Trade Deadline passed at 3 p.m. ET, despite not being out of the playoff race. That's why the Devils and Hurricanes lead the list of the four sellers who did the best to improve their chances of a brighter future.
NEW JERSEY DEVILS
Subtractions: RW Lee Stempniak, F Stefan Matteau, D Eric Gelinas
Additions: F Devante Smith-Pelly, D David Warsofsky, fourth-round pick in 2016, second-round and third-round pick in 2017
Why it should work: The Devils were a surprising success story for nearly three quarters of the season, but the bottom started falling out last week when they lost 6-1 to the Columbus Blue Jackets and 4-0 to the Tampa Bay Lightning on back-to-back nights.
It was a reminder they are a team in transition and not ready to be a contender. That's why Shero did what he did Monday. He made the right call.
The Devils now have five picks in the first two rounds over the next two drafts, including their first-round pick in each.
They can always circle back on Stempniak after he becomes an unrestricted free agent on July 1. He was such a good fit it might be worthwhile.
Gelinas didn't get off the ground under two coaches in New Jersey (Peter DeBoer and John Hynes). The Devils got a third-round pick in the 2017 NHL Draft from the Colorado Avalanche for him. It also cleared $1.575 million off their salary cap next season. Warsofsky replaces him for the rest of this season.
Matteau, a first-round pick (No. 29) in the 2012 NHL Draft, wasn't ever a fit in New Jersey. Smith-Pelly has an opportunity to be because he has more speed and should adapt to the Devils' up-tempo system better than Matteau. He has scored some big goals for the Canadiens.
Video: Ray Shero media conference call after trade deadline
Subtractions: C/LW Eric Staal, RW Kris Versteeg, D John-Michael Liles
Additions: RW Valentin Zykov; C Aleksi Saarela; second-round, third-round, conditional fifth-round pick in 2016; second-round, fifth-round pick in 2017
Why it should work: Though not easy, it was the right decision to trade Staal. He gave Carolina a great decade but wasn't working out there anymore. More importantly, Francis wasn't fooled by what has been an otherwise surprisingly good season.
The Hurricanes are a work in progress and they needed to acquire assets who would allow them to get younger and faster. They have that now with seven picks in the first three rounds of the 2016 NHL Draft (two firsts, two seconds, three thirds). They also have six selections in the first three rounds of the 2017 NHL Draft (one first, two seconds, three thirds).
Francis can use some of those 13 draft picks in trades this summer or next season.
The Hurricanes have good pieces in place on the NHL roster, a strong young core with forwards Jeff Skinner, Jordan Staal, Viktor Rask and Elias Lindholm, and defensemen Justin Faulk and Noah Hanifin. It's time to build around them.
Video: Ron Francis press conference following trade deadline
TORONTO MAPLE LEAFS
Subtractions: D Dion Phaneuf, D Roman Polak, RW Daniel Winnik, F Shawn Matthias, F Nick Spaling, F Jeremy Morin, G James Reimer
Additions: Four second-round draft picks (2016, two in 2017, 2018), conditional fourth-round pick in 2018, F Brooks Laich, RW Ben Smith, LW Milan Michalek, F Colin Greening, F Tobias Lindberg, D Jared Cowen, D Connor Carrick
Why it should work: The Maple Leafs are in full rebuild mode, which is why the four second-round draft picks they've acquired since sending Phaneuf to the Ottawa Senators in a nine-player trade on Feb. 9 are the most important assets they got before the deadline. It's also why they don't need veterans Polak, Spaling or Matthias at this point.
It's actually surprising Toronto didn't trade PA Parenteau too.
The Maple Leafs have 11 picks in the first two rounds for the next three drafts, including four in the first round. That's ideal for a team planning a lengthy rebuild, which has been needed for a long time in Toronto.
Video: Lou Lamoriello Presser - February 29, 2016
Subtraction: D Kris Russell, RW Jiri Hudler, RW David Jones
Additions: D Jyrki Jokipakka, C Brett Pollock, G Niklas Backstrom, two second-round picks in 2016 (one conditional), fourth-round pick in 2018
Why it should work: Flames GM Brad Treliving got a strong return for Russell, a 28-year-old defenseman who can become an unrestricted free agent. Everything about this trade makes sense for the Flames, particularly the condition on the draft pick.
The pick turns into Dallas' first-round selection if the Stars reach the Western Conference Final and Russell plays at least 50 percent of the games in the first two rounds.
Moreover, the Flames don't need Russell. They're not a playoff team this season, and now they don't have to worry about trying to re-sign him at what will likely be a high asking price because Jokipakka is cheaper, younger (24) and appears ready to be a full-time NHL defenseman.
Pollock, 19, was a second-round pick for the Stars two years ago. He leads the Edmonton Oil Kings of the Western Hockey League with 67 points, including 42 assists.
Video: Brian Burke provides an update on the Trade Deadline