After a furious rush to beat the clock in 2022, NHL general managers are acting early and often to jockey for the top players available or stockpile future assets in advance of the trade deadline this year.
Following nearly a dozen trades getting done Tuesday, more than a handful more with playoff implications were completed Wednesday. Defending Stanley Cup champion Colorado filled a void, while Metropolitan division-leading Carolina made another low-risk move in bracing for a tough road through the loaded Eastern Conference. Pittsburgh refused to stand pat, and Ottawa won the Jakob Chychrun sweepstakes, by landing a player who has been on the block for more than a year.
“There’s been a lot of phone calls, not a lot of sleep and a lot of activity the last few days,” Blue Jackets GM Jarmo Kekalainen said Wednesday after trading defenseman Vladislav Gavrikov and goaltender Joonas Korpisalo to Los Angeles. “I expect that to continue until Friday at 3 p.m.”
Columbus got two high draft picks from the Kings, along with veteran goaltender Jonathan Quick, the top candidate to be on the move again – flipped to a contender, and there are plenty in need of help in net. Vegas, with starter Logan Thompson on the shelf with a long-term injury, would fit the bill after Kekalainen said he’s “going to try to do the right thing” for Quick, a respected veteran who has won the Cup twice.
The reigning champion Avalanche acquired center Lars Eller from the Washington Capitals for a 2025 second-round pick. Eller scored two of the biggest goals on Washington’s 2018 title run, including the game-winner in the clinching game of the final, and can win faceoffs and kill penalties and fill a void down the middle.
“Solid, big, strong third-line center,” coach Jared Bednar told reporters in Denver. “That’s what he is. Penalty killer, good on draws, lots of experience. This is a good pickup.”
After buying low on underachieving winger Jesse Puljujarvi, the Hurricanes made another under-the-radar pickup by getting defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere from Arizona for a 2026 third-round pick.
“Shayne is a smooth-skating, puck-moving defenseman,” Carolina GM Don Waddell said. “We think his offensive skill set and veteran presence will help bolster our blueline.”
He was not the only Coyotes defenseman on the move. They finally traded the 24-year-old Chychrun, with the Senators sending Arizona a conditional 2023 first-round pick, conditional 2024 second-rounder and a second-rounder in 2026.
“A defenseman we’ve coveted, Jakob is big and plays imposing,” Ottawa GM Pierre Dorion said.
Logical landing spots for Chychrun dried up in recent days with the Oilers getting Mattias Ekholm from Nashville, the Maple Leafs trading for Jake McCabe, Luke Schenn and Erik Gustafsson and the Kings making the move for Gavrikov. The Senators beat others to the punch, notably after Detroit added a first-round pick by trading Filip Hronek to Vancouver.
The Penguins, fighting to extend their playoff streak to 17 straight seasons, made a handful of moves to clear salary cap space and bolster an inconsistent bottom six forward group.
Pittsburgh sent center Teddy Blueger to Vegas for defenseman Peter DiLiberatore and a 2024 third-round pick. The team then assigned forward Brock McGinn and defenseman Mark Friedman to the minors to clear enough salary cap space to acquire veteran forward Mikael Granlund from Nashville.
The 31-year-old Granlund has nine goals and 27 assists this season for the Predators. He is signed through the 2024-25 season with an average annual value of $5 million. Granlund has experience both on the power play and the penalty kill, a role he will likely be asked to play with Blueger now in Vegas.
The flurry of trades thus far leaves few high-profile names left on the market, some 36 hours before the deadline hits. Among the more notable trade candidates left is Anaheim Ducks defenseman John Klingberg, who is being held out of playing for trade-related reasons.
The Flyers chose the opposite approach, with pending free agent winger James van Riemsdyk and defenseman Justin Braun – perhaps their top trade chips – in the lineup against the New York Rangers, who will get Patrick Kane on the ice Thursday after acquiring him from Chicago in the most-anticipated deal of the season.
The Rangers adding Kane and Vladimir Tarasenko, Boston adding size, toughness and depth by acquiring defenseman Dmitry Orlov and forward Garnet Hathaway from Washington, New Jersey stocking up for now and later with big winger Timo Meier, Tampa Bay giving up the farm for 25-year-old Tanner Jeannot and Toronto adding six new players over the past two weeks has only upped the ante in the East, which has the top six teams in the NHL.
Watching from his seat now as a seller with his team last in the league, Kekalainen looks around the East and admired his colleagues for going all-in.
“I like the approach,” he said. “You do everything you can in the year where you feel like you have a chance to win the Cup. That’s what we’re all here for.”
In other moves, Tampa Bay and San Jose swapped forwards with Mikey Eyssimont going to the Lightning in exchange for Vladislav Namestnikov. Tampa Bay retained half of Namestnikov’s $2.5 million contract through the end of the season but still saved some room under the cap with Eyssimont owed only $750,000 this season.
The 30-year-old Namestnikov has six goals and nine assists in 57 games this season. The 26-year-old Eyssimont, had four goals and nine assists in 39 games this season for Winnipeg and San Jose.
Among moves looking ahead beyond this year, Buffalo acquired a 2023 third-round pick from L.A. for the rights to unsigned Swedish goaltending prospect Erik Portillo, who is wrapping up his junior season at the University of Michigan. — AP Hockey Writer John Wawrow and AP Sports Writers Will Graves and Josh Dubow contributed. — Follow AP Hockey Writer Stephen Whyno on Twitter at https://twitter.com/SWhyno — AP NHL: https://apnews.com/hub/nhl and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports