(AP) – Leave it to the defending Stanley Cup champion Vegas Golden Knights to pull off what could be the biggest deal at the NHL’s trade deadline on Friday.

After the Carolina Hurricanes and Florida Panthers slugged it out in adding talent to shore up their respective rosters with offense and experience, the Golden Knights sneaked in under the deadline to land Tomas Hertl in a trade with San Jose.

Hertl, who has enjoyed nine 15-goal seasons in his 11-year career, provides the Golden Knights offensive depth down the middle, and joins a retooled team that added defenseman Noah Hanifin in a trade with Calgary on Wednesday and acquired forward Anthony Mantha in a trade with Washington on Tuesday.

The only downside for the slumping Golden Knights, who have dropped four straight and are 2-8-1 in their past 11, is waiting a few more weeks while Hertl continues recovering form having left knee surgery last month.

In the meantime, the Panthers and Hurricanes — the teams who met in the Eastern Conference finals in a series Florida won in a four-game sweep — were major players on the trade front.

After acquiring scoring winger Jake Guentzel from Pittsburgh in a blockbuster deal late Thursday, Carolina kicked off the action Friday by adding center Evgeny Kuznetsov in a trade with Washington.

The Panthers followed suit. Two days after landing scoring winger Vladimir Tarasenko from Ottawa, Florida added depth and leadership in landing Buffalo’s Kyle Okposo. Buffalo acquired minor-league defenseman Calle Sjalin in a deal that provides the 35-year-old Sabres captain a chance to compete in the playoffs in what could be his final NHL season.

“I think they know it at this point that we are going to do everything we can to help them do their thing,” Panthers GM Bill Zito said of helping a team that entered Friday leading the NHL with 43 wins and 90 points, and last year lost the Cup Final to Vegas in five games.

“It’s their team. It’s their success,” he added. “But to the extent that we can help, I think the guys appreciate it. And they know that we’re all in it with them.”

Unofficially, because the NHL hasn’t released its totals yet, 23 trades were completed on Friday involving 32 players and 22 draft selections. That compares with 21 trades involving 34 players and 14 draft picks moving on deadline day last year.

The Boston Bruins became the last of the top contenders in the East to add, getting three-time Cup champion Patrick Maroon from Minnesota for young forward Luke Toporowski and a conditional 2026 sixth-round pick.

The Metropolitan Division-leading New York Rangers added blue-line depth by acquiring Chad Ruhwedel from a Penguins team that is suddenly entering a rebuilding mode. They also got center Jack Roslovic from Columbus.

In other moves:

— Winnipeg completed separate trades with New Jersey, acquiring forward Tyler Toffoli and defenseman Colin Miller.

— Nashville, which holds one of the West’s two wild-card spots, attempted to shore up its playoff position by getting forward Jason Zucker from Arizona for a sixth-rounder this year.

— Philadelphia shored up its depleted defense by acquiring veteran Erik Johnson for a fourth-round draft pick in a deal with Buffalo.

— Tampa Bay added hard-hitting defenseman Matt Dumba in a trade with Arizona.

— The Devils swapped goalies, acquiring Kappo Kahkonen from San Jose for Vitek Vanecek. New Jersey also acquired goalie Jake Allen from Montreal for a conditional third-round pick.

The Hurricanes were busy adding to an already talented roster, and a team that managed a combined six goals in being swept by Florida in the playoffs last year.

“Evgeny is a high-level playmaker who will add to our offensive firepower,” Hurricanes general manager Don Waddell said. “He brings even more playoff experience to our lineup, and we’re excited to give him a fresh start in Carolina.”

Kuznetsov, 31, cleared waivers last weekend upon being able to practice after receiving care from the player assistance program. He was then demoted to the minors, with Capitals GM Brian MacLellan saying he would attempt to trade the player who led Washington in scoring during its run to win the 2018 Stanley Cup.

Guentzel is eager to join the Hurricanes and get back on the ice, with the trade coming as he is on the verge of returning to play after missing nearly a month with an upper body injury.

“You know what the team’s done in the past and how close they’ve been,” Guentzel said Friday. “This is a special team. They’ve got a lot of high-end players, and they’re really well-coached.”

The Los Angeles Kings were the only team among the top 12 Stanley Cup favorites not to make a significant addition over the past several weeks.

Meantime, its the Capitals and Penguins who find themselves in the unusual position of being sellers at the trade deadline after nearly two decades of dominance that began with the arrivals of Alex Ovechkin in Washington in 2004 and Sidney Crosby in Pittsburgh a year later. Two teams that have combined to win four Stanley Cups since are focusing on the future with both in jeopardy of missing the playoffs for a second consecutive season.

“It’s a tough situation, we understand. Just enjoy playing the game and play hockey. It’s a great group here, great people around, great organization. I still believe in myself,” Penguins forward Evgeni Malkin said Friday.

The 37-year-old Malkin, however, made it clear he’s not given up on the season, though the Penguins sit eight points out of contention.

“Maybe a couple new guys give us energy, who knows?” he said. “We still believe we have, not big chance, but we still believe we have a chance to make the playoffs.”


AP Sports Writer Will Graves in Pittsburgh, Tim Reynolds in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, Tim Booth, in Seattle, and AP freelance writer Denis Gorman contributed to this report.


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