The first trade in PWHL history was announced on Sunday, Feburary 11. Boston sends Sophie Jaques (D) to Minnesota in exchange for Abby Cook (D) and Susanna Tapani (F).
Jaques was Boston's 10th overall pick in the second round of the inaugural PWHL draft. The 2023 Patty Kazmaier award winner had a storied career at Ohio State and became only the second defender to win the award. She scored 61 goals and added 95 assists over her 5-year NCAA career. Of course, transitioning from NCAA to pro can necessitate an adjustment period. Jaques has shown that she has great offensive instincts – she has a great first pass and can also carry the puck well – but hasn't produced anything offensively for Boston in 7 games (goals or assists). She has also struggled a bit defensively. It seems like Boston's staff weighed the options of developing Jaques' game versus getting both defense and scoring help now – and they chose the latter.
Boston's offense has struggled to find rhythm and seemingly only produces in fits and starts. Alina Müller is involved in over half of the team's goals so far, and while others have contributed, scoring is hard in this league and it's important to diversify. Boston needs to jumpstart their offense while not giving up much defensively, and for that reason, I think Cook and Tapani could be great additions to the team.
Tapani, Minnesota's fifth-round pick at 25th overall, is a veteran forward who can play either center or wing and will likely see herself on the second line right away. She can thrive on transition and work her way into soft areas of the ice to create, and finish, scoring opportunities. On a Boston team with forward lines that still feel a little disjointed, Tapani could be part of a positive shakeup.
As for Cook, she provides a more conservative option at D, as a known quantity with a few pro seasons under her belt already in the SDHL and SWHL (plus a handful of games with Boston in the PHF). She isn't a high-scoring defender but she has a good shot from the blueline and uses her size well both with and away from the puck.
In short: Boston gains a two-way forward and a reliable D and gives up an extremely promising young defender, signed to a three-year guaranteed contract, who hasn't hit the ground running yet.
On the flip side, Minnesota is extremely lucky to have Jaques join their organization and a change of scenery could be exactly what the first-year pro needs. Jaques, who shoots right-handed, immediately becomes a great offensive weapon to have in Minnesota's toolkit and their high-energy, opportunistic style could free her up to be mobile and take chances, especially if paired with someone like Lee Stecklein who can back her up and help her learn how to balance her offensive and defensive instincts. Minnesota gets some jump and high-end offensive upside at the blueline that was previously lacking, and Jaques finds herself in a situation where her game, as it stands right now, can be an asset.
It's still weird to think about trades in pro women's hockey. It was not that long ago that trades simply weren't possible and rosters were built primarily based on who was willing to live somewhere, rather than hockey GMs trying to put together the best possible roster. This concept of being able to put the hockey first is extremely new. Clearly both Boston's Danielle Marmer and Minnesota's Natalie Darwitz each felt their team had a need and pulled the trigger on something that they felt would be mutually beneficial to their organizations.
In a vacuum, it's hard to say how common this kind of move will be. It's certainly the league's first blockbuster. Jaques was one of the most exciting players who entered the PWHL draft directly from the NCAA. She is only 7 games into her pro career and signed a three-year contract. Trading her so soon into the season seems to signal a sense of urgency on Boston's part – and, perhaps, proactivity on the part of Minnesota, who can't be unhappy with the way their season and franchise history have started, but recognize the need for more of a long-term plan at D. Why not add someone sooner rather than later who has the potential to produce game-breaking offense?
During the Rivalry Series broadcasts this past weekend, Tessa Bonhomme said on TSN that the PWHL doesn't seem to be requiring teams to be compliant with the salary average rule if their noncompliance is the result of a "reasonable" trade – but this has not been confirmed by the league. (She actually said "salary cap", though there is technically not a salary cap per the CBA but a salary average of $55,000 which teams are supposed to be in compliance with.) I asked prior to the season whether teams were required to make trades in such a way that it kept them in alignment with the salary average, but I did not receive an answer. The league has also seemingly not been enforcing a hard roster limit of 23, allowing teams to sign short-term SPAs as needed if an active roster player is for some reason unavailable.
(As long as GMs all have the same benefit of being able to do this, and have received the same instructions, it's probably fine to adjust about this on the fly – but it would still be good to have public clarity on what GMs can and cannot do in roster moves. I have reached out to the PWHL to ask for clarity about the salary compliance rules around trades and the roster compliance rules around short-term SPAs.)
We still don't know salaries publicly, except that Jaques is making $80,000 or more annually on a three-year deal. Tapani is signed to a 2-year deal and Cook to a 1-year deal. If Minnesota was required to make some effort towards salary compliance in order to get the deal done, trading 2 players on smaller contracts for 1 player on a larger one makes even more sense.
Both teams could be "not done yet" as they say. The PWHL's press release about the trade specifies that any other roster moves required to make each team compliant with relevant rules will be completed before Wednesday's games.
The PWHL has announced that the trade deadline will be March 17, so there is over a month of speculation until we can be certain how each team will look headed down the stretch and into the playoffs.