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Ranking the top trade season deals of the NHL's salary cap era

From ESPN - February 15, 2018

Since the salary cap was introduced to the NHL for the 2005-06 season, contractual matters are a heightened consideration in the weeks leading up to the trade deadline.

It's no longer enough for teams to get the right players, as cap considerations must be kept in mind for that season and down the line. Here are the 10 best examples of teams that have struck the perfect balance in getting the help they need without wrecking their cap situations in the short or long term:

1. Tampa Bay Lightning acquired Ben Bishop from the Ottawa Senators for Cory Conacher and a fourth-round pick (Tobias Lindberg), April 3, 2013

At the time, Bishop was a 26-year-old backup with a career .911 save percentage in 36 games, and he was on a one-year contract with an annual cap hit of just $650,000. That's why the Senators might be excused for getting so little in exchange. Little did everybody know that he would soon be considered one of the league's best goalies. Since that date, Bishop ranks fourth in games played, with 277, and his .920 save percentage ranks ninth among those who have played at least 100 games in that span.

There's no question that Tampa Bay received tremendous value from Bishop. On April 15, 2013, Bishop signed a two-year extension with the Lightning, with an annual cap hit of $2.3 million. He went on to finish third in Vezina Trophy voting in 2013-14, and his stellar play in the 2014-15 postseason helped guide his team to the Stanley Cup Final.

In August 2014, Bishop signed another extension for 2015-16, but this time with a more representative annual cap hit of $5.95 million. He was runner-up in Vezina voting in the first season and was traded to the Los Angeles Kings at the trade deadline in the second.

2. Nashville Predators acquire Filip Forsberg from the Washington Capitals for Martin Erat and Michael Latta, April 3, 2013

Nashville was at risk of missing the playoffs and looking to reload, and Washington was poised to win its division for the fifth time in six seasons but had struggled in the playoffs, so it made sense for the two teams to swap a trusted veteran for a promising prospect. It just did not make sense when considering the contractual value involved.

Erat had a strong reputation but was on the decline at age 31 and carried a healthy $4.5 million cap hit for two additional seasons. Meanwhile, Forsberg had three more seasons on his entry-level contract, which carried an annual cap hit of just $894,167. He used the latter two to lead the Preds in scoring, with 63 points in 2014-15 and 64 in 2015-16. After signing a six-year, $36 million contract the following summer, Forsberg led the Predators with 16 points on their way to the Stanley Cup Final in 2016-17.

It's not all bad for Washington, who had acquired Forsberg from Nashville in the first place, in a roundabout way. The Capitals acquired the pick used on Forsberg from the Colorado Avalanche in a trade for Semyon Varlamov, who had been drafted using a pick that had been acquired at the 2006 trade deadline from the Predators for Brendan Witt. In a sense, everything came full circle in the end.

3. Pittsburgh Penguins acquire Chris Kunitz and Eric Tangradi from the Anaheim Ducks for Ryan Whitney, Feb. 26, 2009

One of the key factors behind Pittsburgh's Stanley Cup victory in 2008-09 was the instant chemistry between Kunitz and Sidney Crosby. Kunitz scored 18 points in 20 games down the stretch and added 14 more in 24 games in the playoffs.

Kunitz's contributions did not end there, as he spent eight more seasons with the Penguins, helping them win the Stanley Cup on two more occasions. He initially struggled with injuries, but then he scored 181 points in 208 games between 2011-12 and 2013-14 and was named a First-Team All-Star in 2012-13.

The Penguins even saved a little bit of cap space on the deal. Kunitz was on the first of a four-year deal with an annual cap hit of $3.725 million, which is $275,000 less than the $4.0 million cap hit for Whitney, which would continue for four additional seasons after the trade.

As for Whitney, he was traded at the following year's deadline, this time for Lubomir Visnovsky, who scored 68 points in 81 games the following season, while finishing fourth in voting for the Norris Trophy and being named to the Second All-Star Team.

4. Pittsburgh Penguins acquire Bill Guerin from the New York Islanders for a fourth-round pick (Michael Lee), March 4, 2009

It can be hard to separate one deadline acquisition's impact from another, so we will place Pittsburgh's two big moves from its 2008-09 Stanley Cup season side by side. In this case, Guerin was acquired for virtually nothing and scored 12 points in 17 games down the stretch and then 15 more in 24 playoff games.

Proving to be more than just a solid rental, Guerin signed an extension for one more season for just $2.0 million. Still in strong form, he scored 21 goals and 45 points in the regular season and added nine points in 11 games in the playoffs.

5. Boston Bruins acquire Mark Recchi and a second-round pick (Alex Petrovic) from the Tampa Bay Lightning for Matt Lashoff and Martins Karsums, March 4, 2009

Since the winger was 41 at the time of the trade, it's excusable if the Lightning felt that Recchi's contributions were essentially at their end. Surprisingly, the Hall of Famer had one more Stanley Cup and 137 points left in the tank, including 30 in the playoffs. To make matters even better for the Bruins, Recchi re-signed for just $1.0 million per year for both of those seasons.

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