Approaching `last call' for NHL GMs to tweak rosters
David Poile made an impressive splash on the NHL trade market earlier this month.
The Nashville Predators general manager knows better than to make any assurances he's done altering his NHL-leading lineup.
"I can say to you right now, I don't feel like I'm going to make any trades," Poile told The Associated Press. "But I'm not closing the store."
He's not the only one as trade talk and speculation build ahead of Monday's trade deadline. Tightly contested playoff races in both conferences and a rash of injuries to star players, most significantly Chicago's Patrick Kane, have NHL executives jockeying for position.
Over a three-day stretch entering Friday, nine trades were made involving 14 players, nine draft picks and one future consideration. The Predators, for one, sent two players to Toronto for defenseman Cody Franson and forward Mike Santorelli, and Thursday, the Panthers acquired veteran forward Jaromir Jagr by sending a pair of draft picks to New Jersey.
The activity is likely to pick up, too. At least 30 players have changed teams on the NHL's trading deadline day since 2001.
"It's picked up. The last two days have been busier for sure," Sabres GM Tim Murray said Thursday night.
Added Florida's Dale Tallon after trading forward Sean Bergenheim to Minnesota on Tuesday: "We'll try to add something that gives us a little more offense."
There are still plenty of talented players on the market.
The Arizona Coyotes are expected to shop forwards Antoine Vermette and Martin Erat, with both eligible to become unrestricted free agents this summer. The Sabres, who already made a seven-player deal with Winnipeg two weeks ago, are taking offers for pending free-agent forwards Chris Stewart and Torrey Mitchell.
Then there's the Maple Leafs, who have begun unloading high-priced, veteran talent in a bid to rebuild from scratch. Forwards Joffrey Lupul and Tyler Bozak have been mentioned in trade talks, and Phil Kessel's future is considered uncertain.
The Maple Leafs' latest deal came Thursday, when they traded underperforming forward David Clarkson - and his $5.25 million salary-cap hit - to Columbus for Nathan Horton, whose career is in jeopardy because of back problems. Horton's $5.3 million salary-cap hit won't count in Toronto if he never plays again.
"Right now I'd tell you that we're not close on anything else, but Monday's still a little ways away," Maple Leafs GM Dave Nonis said following the trade.
The Blackhawks suddenly have a need - and additional salary-cap room freed up - with Kane expected to miss 12 weeks after breaking his collarbone on Tuesday. The Vancouver Canucks could use goaltending depth with star Ryan Miller expected to miss four to six weeks after being hurt last weekend.
In Calgary, Flames captain and the NHL's top-scoring defenseman, Mark Giordano, is out indefinitely after sustaining an upper-body injury.
The Boston Bruins are suddenly in a tailspin, going 1-5-2 in recent days. The slump has left the Bruins clinging to the Eastern Conference's final wild-card spot, just two points up on Florida, and with Philadelphia and Ottawa not far behind.
The West race is also jumbled, with Minnesota, Calgary and San Jose battling for the final wild-card spot.
The Wild made what has been regarded as one of the most impactful trades of the season so far. It happened on Jan. 14, when they acquired goalie Devan Dubnyk from Arizona for a third-round pick. Dubnyk has gone 14-3-2 since in helping Minnesota vault from 12th to the eighth place in the West.
Wild GM Chuck Fletcher told NHL.com this week that Minnesota's surge has altered his approach to the trading deadline.
"Obviously, if we had gone the other way and we were well out of a playoff spot, then you'd be looking to sell assets instead of looking to potentially acquire them," Fletcher said.
"It's your last chance to change, improve your team," said Nashville's Poile, who two weeks ago relinquished a first-round draft pick as part of the four-player deal with Toronto. "It's kind of like last call at your favorite bar."
AP Sports Writers John Marshall, Dave Campbell, Josh Dubow and Will Graves, and freelance writer Matt Carlson contributed to this report.