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Boston Bruins’ Taylor Hall vies for the puck against New York Islanders’ Brock Nelson (29) during the first period Friday, April 16, 2021, in Boston. Hall, a former MVP, was acquired through a trade with Buffalo earlier this week. AP Photo/Winslow Townson

The NHL’s top Stanley Cup contenders welcomed new faces and waved goodbye to old teammates by the time the trade deadline concluded on Monday afternoon.

The Boston Bruins, New York Islanders, Pittsburgh Penguins and Washington Capitals — the top four teams in the East Division — all made transactions with an eye toward the playoffs and hoisting the Cup this summer.

Boston has the most upside with its key acquisition, Taylor Hall, and they will need him to pan out.

The former league MVP has fallen on rough times this season, scoring twice over 37 games. It’s not for lack of effort. Hall’s individual scoring-chance production this season is similar to that of his MVP campaign of 2017-18 in terms of even-strength scoring chances per 60 minutes, including those from the slot or the crease. He just isn’t getting any bounces, leading to a career low 1.5% shooting rate at even strength and 2.3% overall.

Hall has converted his overall scoring chances at a clip of 10% for his career, so this is a massive drop off. If he gets any sort of puck luck it will be wearing a Bruins sweater instead of the Sabres, his former team. And it would give Boston the much needed secondary scoring it sought. He has already scored two goals in his first three games with the new club.

The Bruins also added Curtis Lazar and defenseman Mike Reilly to the mix. It still might not be enough. Heading into the weekend, Boston had a 3% chance to win the division. It was 2% the day before the trade deadline. Considering Boston would be facing the same teams in a divisional title quest as it would in the first two rounds of the playoffs, it may still be an uphill battle for the Bruins.

Pittsburgh made only one transaction at the deadline, and paid the smallest price, adding forward Jeff Carter by shipping a pair of mid-round picks over the next two years to Los Angeles.

Carter and Penguins general manager Ron Hextall are quite familiar with one another — Hextall was a talent evaluator with the Philadelphia when the Flyers drafted Carter in 2003 and an assistant general manager of the Blue Jackets when Columbus acquired Carter from the Flyers in 2011 — and Hextall should have a good handle on how to get the most of the 36-year-old veteran.

Carter is at his best causing havoc in front of the net, a perfect complement to the finesse game of Sidney Crosby and another net-front presence to take some of the pressure off Jake Guentzel. Carter has 21 shots within 10 feet of the goal this season, tying him for the 15th most close-range shots in the league. Only six of those other 14 skaters have scored more goals on those shots than Carter (he has four).

The Islanders bolstered their top-six, and added some center depth, after losing captain Anders Lee to a torn ACL last month. New York gave up a first-round pick, a conditional fourth-round pick and two AHL players to secure right winger Kyle Palmieri and center Travis Zajac from the New Jersey Devils.

The Islanders also acquired veteran defenseman Braydon Coburn from the Ottawa Senators for a seventh-round pick. Coburn provides defensive acumen and championship experience (he won the Cup in 2020 with Tampa Bay) to New York’s blue line.

Capitals general manager Brian MacLellan acquired right wing Anthony Mantha from the Detroit Red Wings for wingers Jakub Vrana and Richard Panik, a 2021 first-round draft pick plus a 2022 second-round pick. Vrana and Panik were each struggling to earn ice time under coach Peter Laviolette, and it appeared a change of scenery might do both players some good. Mantha, meanwhile, had 11 goals and 10 assists in 42 games for Detroit this year. The Capitals also acquired Michael Raffl from the Flyers, who figures to serve as a depth player on his new team.

How much of an upgrade Mantha provides over Vrana is up for debate. Once you normalize for ice time, Vrana produced more goals, points and scoring chances per 60 minutes of ice time at even strength than Mantha, both this year and over the past three years. Mantha, a 6-foot-5, 234-pound forward, did score and add an assist in his first game with the Capitals on Tuesday night and added another goal on Thursday against the Buffalo Sabres, showing he should give the squad a sizable winger with good hands.

“We’re looking at making a move here and making another run at this thing,” Mantha’s new teammate T.J. Oshie said Tuesday morning. “I personally am very excited that the deadline is over and now we can start focusing on getting our team ready to play playoff hockey.”

Washington will need to get focused quickly. They are the favorite to win the division but not quite a lock. According to the playoff projections at Hockey Reference, whose results are based on 1,000 simulations of remainder of season, the Capitals have a 44% chance to win the East this season followed by the Islanders (30%) and Penguins (25%). It’s the only division with three teams given at least a 20% chance of winning the division by year’s end.

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The Washington Post’s Samantha Pell contributed to this report.


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