When the St. Louis Blues players bid farewell to Oskar Sundqvist before boarding the plane for their next game, it marked the final departure for many players from the group that won the Stanley Cup in 2019.

There are only 10 guys left who played in that Stanley Cup final. The Washington Capitals still have nine players from their 2018 championship team. Only five players remain from the Penguins squad that won Pittsburgh’s second straight title in 2017.

As back-to-back defending champion Tampa Bay Lightning charged at the trade deadline in search of a hat-trick, St. Louis, Washington and Pittsburgh all made moves in hopes of recapturing some old magic for continue another deep playoff run.


For the Blues, that meant shipping Sundqvist to improve defense with Nick Leddy. The Capitals brought back Marcus Johansson, whom they traded the summer before winning the Cup, while the Penguins shuffled two players from the roster to add winger Rickard Rakell.

Pittsburgh, in fact, has changed its entire front office since back-to-back titles, Washington is on its second manager since winning the Cup and yet St. Louis might provide the biggest contrast. The Blues have just two players back from their championship defense and over the past three years they’ve gone from a big, heavy team that made it through the playoffs physically wearing down their opponents to a team that can win with skill, speed and attack.

“I just think the balance of the team is different,” coach Craig Berube said. “Since the Cup year, we’ve moved the puck better, I think, in the neutral zone. We move the puck better in the neutral zone and in the offensive zone, we score a lot of goals. »

Rakell has twice 30-plus goals in a season and gives the Penguins significant offensive uplift in Dominik Simon and Zach Aston-Reese, who went to Anaheim with a pick and a prospect.

“We know we have a good team,” general manager Ron Hextall told reporters. “We just wanted to add a piece – but it had to fit.”

That’s what Washington general manager Brian MacLellan thought of Johansson, who played his first seven seasons with the Capitals and still has eight teammates from that era. Johansson even started his second term with the Capitals on the first line alongside Alex Ovechkin and Evgeny Kuznetsov.

“He knows where he’s going, he knows how to move and he knows everyone in the room, and it’s a completely different feeling to walk into a locker room where you don’t know anything, you don’t know anyone and you don’t know anyone. don’t know how to get to the rink,” coach Peter Laviolette said Tuesday. “There’s a lot of familiarity with that. Sometimes it’s like walking in old slippers: you know what you’re doing. are comfortable.

When Barry Trotz coached for Washington, he liked to say the team was comfortable being uncomfortable. That suits the Blues too, especially after adding a veteran with previous (if different) Cup experience to Leddy.

General manager Doug Armstrong cited Leddy’s long runs in 2013 when Chicago won it all, 2014 when the Blackhawks reached the Western Conference Finals, and the past two years when the New York Islanders won it all. made the Eastern Finals as an added advantage for St. Louis coming into the playoffs.

“Experience is everything,” Leddy said after his first morning skate with his new team. “The more experienced the guys are, I think the more comfortable you feel in those situations.”

GOALS OUTSIDE OF BROADWAY

Two NHL teams have a pair of players ranked in the top 10 in goals this season: the Edmonton Oilers with Leon Draisaitl and Connor McDavid — and a few forwards from the Nashville Predators.

Filip Forsberg and Matt Duchene sit seventh and eighth in the league, trying to outdo each other seemingly in every game, sometimes every period. The two, playing on the same line as Ryan Johansen, each scored two goals Monday night in a 6-3 win at Anaheim.

“We’re both having the best years of our careers right now, and it doesn’t matter,” said Duchene, who, at 34 goals, is Forsberg’s fullback. “The competition is great.”

They have a lot of help carrying the scoring load this season. Captain Roman Josi, the 2020 Norris Trophy winner, leads all defensemen with 75 points in the best offensive season of his career.

“Jose pushes us too,” Duchene said. “Jose has racked up the points, and I think we’re all competitive with each other, but in the right way where we’re pushing each other to be better and up.”

Josi is set to become the NHL’s sixth different defenseman with a 100-point season. It would be the first since Brian Leetch’s 102 in 1991-92.

The combination has helped the Predators win seven of their last 10 games.

CRAZY DEADLINE

The 33 trades made on deadline day was an NHL record. The defending Vezina Trophy winner was traded on deadline day for the first time with Marc-Andre Fleury who moved from Chicago to Minnesota. He was one of 54 players traded, with a record 28 draft picks changing hands.

ALL-FEMALE “NHL TONIGHT”

The NHL Network aired the first all-female edition of “NHL Tonight” — its flagship studio show — on Tuesday with co-hosts Jamie Hersch and Jackie Redmond and analyst Kendall Coyne Schofield. The network has done an all-female edition of “NHL Now” in each of the past four seasons.

GAME OF THE WEEK

The Predators visit the Vegas Golden Knights on Thursday in a game between teams battling for spots in the crowded Western Conference playoff race.

LEADERS (until Monday)

Goals: Auston Matthews (Toronto), 46; Helpers: Jonathan Huberdeau (Florida), 65; Points: McDavid, 91; Ice time (active players): Brent Burns (San Jose), 26:22; Victories: Andrei Vasilevskiy (Tampa Bay), 32; Goals-against-average: Igor Shesterkin (NY Rangers), 2.05; Percent Saving: Shesterkin, 0.938.

___

AP sportswriters Teresa M. Walker and Will Graves contributed.

___

Follow AP Hockey writer Stephen Whyno on Twitter at https://twitter.com/SWhyno

___

More AP NHL: https://apnews.com/hub/NHL and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports