NHL teams were so busy wheeling and dealing in the days ahead of the trade deadline, Arizona general manager Bill Armstrong jokingly wondered if there would be anything left to talk about come the final day on Friday.
“We try to ruin the trade deadline shows, that’s the biggest thing in Toronto,” Armstrong said with a laugh, referring to the NHL’s broadcast partners, who dedicate a majority of their airtime to monitor the movement. “We just like to watch those guys talk about nothing for about three hours on trade deadline day.”
Armstrong spoke after continuing the Coyotes youth rebuilding movement by trading defenseman Jakob Chychrun to the Ottawa Senators two days before the deadline.
With dozens of high-profile names having already switched teams, including goalie Jonathan Quick twice, the NHL’s familiar frenzy of last-minute moves seemed likely to be more of a trickle.
The final day’s moves began with Detroit continuing to sell off players, dealing winger Jakub Vrana to St. Louis for a 2025 seventh-round pick and minors player Dylan McLaughlin, while retaining half of Vrana’s salary through next season.
In Vrana, the Blues got a third low-risk player in as many weeks after reacquiring depth forward Sammy Blais in the trade that sent Vladimir Tarasenko to the New York Rangers and plucking underachieving winger Kasperi Kapanen off waivers from Pittsburgh.
The Penguins, meanwhile, brought back Nick Bonino in a trade with San Jose. The New Jersey Devils added more forward depth following their deal for winger Timo Meier by getting Curtis Lazar from Vancouver for a 2024 fourth-round pick.
Among the top trade candidates still considered available were three Anaheim Ducks players: defenseman John Klingberg and Dmitry Kulikov, and forward Maxime Comtois.
The two-week stretch leading into Friday was the busiest for trading in the NHL over the past decade: 43 trades involving 85 players and 55 draft picks, including 12 first-rounders, all since Feb. 17.
That’s more than double the trade volume over the same spans since the 2012-13 lockout. Going back to the All-Star break this year, there have been 44 trades with 89 players and 57 draft picks, kicked off by the Rangers getting Tarasenko in a multiplayer deal with St. Louis.
The Rangers also added the biggest fish, getting three-time Stanley Cup champion Patrick Kane from Chicago earlier this week. That answered the rival Islanders’ addition of Bo Horvat, the Devils’ acquisition of Meier and plenty more movement around the loaded Eastern Conference.
Just as notable were the teams in contention that mostly stood pat. They included the Seattle Kraken, who began the day third in the Pacific Division standings, and Calgary Flames, who are ninth in the Western Conference race and five points out of contention. In the East, the Buffalo Sabres have mostly stood pat despite being just four points out of contention in a bid to end an NHL-record 11-season playoff drought.
The trade deadline last year featured 32 trades, tying a one-day record set in 2020, involving 51 players and a record-matching 26 draft picks.
Armstrong said it was hard to pin down why GMs have been so proactive ahead of the deadline this year.
“It’s a great question because particularly this year, the calls started way earlier. It seems like we’ve been at this for three hard weeks already,” said Armstrong, who collected seven draft picks, including a conditional first-rounder from Ottawa, in making five trades over the past two weeks. “So I do believe that there’s a change in when GM’s are negotiating. They’re not waiting for the final day.”
AP Hockey Writer Stephen Whyno contributed.
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