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NHL trade deadline day quiet after chaotic buildup: ‘Maybe it’s an abnormal year’

NHL’s two-week stretch ahead of Friday included 43 trades involving 85 players and 55 draft picks
New York Rangers right wing Patrick Kane (88) skates up the ice during the first period of an NHL hockey game against the Ottawa Senators, Thursday, March 2, 2023, in New York. NHL general managers got to work early this year. And it could make for a quiet trade deadline day. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP, John Minchillo

NHL general managers swung a boatload of deals ahead of Friday’s trade deadline.

Teams made more than 40 swaps — featuring most of the big names thought to be available — in the weeks leading up to the league’s 3 p.m. ET cutoff.

After the dust settled following a wild stretch that saw contenders load up, needs addressed and franchise icons wave goodbye, the stage was set for an anti-climatic, underwhelming main event.

“If you would have asked me a month ago, I’d have thought every trade was going to take place March 1, 2, 3,” said Edmonton Oilers GM Ken Holland, who took his big swing Tuesday when he sent underperforming forward Jesse Puljujarvi to the Carolina Hurricanes and acquired defenceman Mattias Ekholm from the Nashville Predators. “I don’t know if this is the way it’s going to be next year, or if next year it’s going to go back.”

“Usually there’s 30 trades, and 25 happen on trade deadline day. Today was quieter, but I don’t really know why.”

Carolina GM Don Waddell said the New York Islanders getting centre Bo Horvat from the Vancouver Canucks in late January, along with salary cap concerns when acquiring big contracts, forced some hands.

“(Earlier) this year than normal for a big guy to get moved,” Waddell said of Horvat. “I think that put a lot of teams saying, ‘You know what? If we’re gonna make a move, let’s get going now.’ There was some sellers out there pretty quick after that.

“Maybe it’s an abnormal year. We’ll see what the future holds.”

Deadline day itself mostly featured depth moves, reclamation projects, and rolls of the dice as GMs largely looked for value in the league’s bargain bin.

Detroit traded Jakub Vrana to St. Louis in a swap that sees the Red Wings retain 50 per cent of the winger’s salary, Pittsburgh reacquired centre Nick Bonino from San Jose, and the Canucks shipped forward Curtis Lazar to New Jersey for a fourth-round draft pick in 2024.

The biggest move by a Canadian team on Friday saw the Winnipeg Jets acquire centre Vladislav Namestnikov from San Jose for a fourth-rounder in 2025.

The Calgary Flames acquired defenceman Troy Stecher and winger Nick Ritchie from Arizona for blue-liner Connor Mackay and forward Brett Ritchie in a case of brothers switching teams.

The Montreal Canadiens made a swap of AHLers that included defenceman Frederic Allard arriving from Los Angeles for centre Nate Schnarr, and also picked up a fifth-rounder from San Jose along with European-based defenceman Tony Sund for retaining 50 per cent of Bonino’s salary in the deal three-team with Pittsburgh.

The Ottawa Senators acquired centre Patrick Brown from Philadelphia for a sixth-round pick in June.

The Flames became the 32nd and final NHL club to make an in-season trade in 2022-23 when they acquired Dryden Hunt from the Leafs for fellow AHL forward Radim Zohorna.

In other notable moves, Philadelphia traded Zack MacEwen to Los Angeles in a deal that included fellow winger Brendan Lemieux going the other way, while Pittsburgh got veteran blue-liner Dmitry Kulikov from Anaheim.

Buffalo acquired defenceman Jordan Greenway from Minnesota for two picks before the Wild turned around and sent winger Oskar Sundqvist to Detroit for 2023 fourth-round selection.

The relative calm was in stark contrast to the last few weeks — especially since Sunday — as GMs across the NHL made a flurry of trades.

Those blockbusters included Patrick Kane going from the Blackhawks to the New York Rangers, Vladimir Tarasenko leaving St. Louis for the same landing spot, and Ryan O’Reilly joining the Toronto Maple Leafs from the Blues, and Timo Meier heading from San Jose to New Jersey.

Surprise moves saw Jakob Chychrun head to Ottawa from Arizona, while Jonathan Quick was dealt away from Los Angeles before eventually ending up with Vegas.

The Leafs were by far the busiest Canadian club in the lead-up to the deadline, making five trades and adding six players since the middle of February as part of an aggressive arms race in the Eastern Conference.

All told, the NHL’s two-week stretch ahead of Friday included 43 trades involving 85 players and 55 draft picks, including 12 first-round selections.

“Particularly this year, the calls started way earlier,” Coyotes GM Bill Armstrong said after trading Chychrun to Ottawa. “I don’t know why that is. I think teams want to get the player they want situated, and they don’t want to wait until the last moment to do so. I do believe there’s a change when teams are negotiating.

“They’re not waiting until the final day. They’re pursuing three weeks out.”

Winnipeg centre Mark Scheifele said it’s been exciting to see all the movement around the league — prior to Friday’s snoozefest — from afar.

“Usually it comes down to the last two days,” he said. “But teams got it going right away. Ever since that Tarasenko trade (Feb. 9), no one wanted to let anyone get the jump on them.

“Teams made their moves and got on the ball quick. There’s definitely some teams that have loaded up and are looking pretty strong.”

—Joshua Clipperton, The Canadian Press

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