NHL general managers are inherently optimistic creatures, despite being 32 of the most jaded individuals in sports.
They have to believe what they’re building will work. They have to believe that the players they acquire will fulfill expectations. Most of all, right now, they have to believe that a trade market with the momentum of a semi-tractor trailer stuck in quicksand is going to get rolling before the March 3 deadline.
So far, hockey fans have been waiting for the earth-shattering kaboom like Marvin the Martian holding a malfunctioning Illudium Q-36 Explosive Space Modulator. The most notable trade in the first three months of the season? One could argue it’s the New York Rangers dealing Ryan Reaves to the Minnesota Wild for a fifth-round pick.
It’s been that kind of malaise. When “Gustav Nyquist might be traded” is the hottest rumor, you know the market’s in stasis.
“It’s not surprising really. We’ve got like six weeks to go. A lot of things can happen, whether it’s in the standings or injuries,” one general manager told me recently, when I asked for his trade deadline vibes.
“Do I think something will happen at the deadline? Always does,” another said, laughing.
“Every year we get asked this question. And I always think it’ll be busy. It’s slow going up to it, and then all of a sudden, boom!” another GM said.
This has been the trend for at least three seasons now, as the best laid plans of NHL general managers were scuttled by a flat pandemic-era salary cap. The only recent early-season blockbusters we’ve seen involved disgruntled players being moved: Pierre-Luc Dubois going from John Tortorella’s doghouse to the Winnipeg Jets, and the Buffalo Sabres ending the Jack Eichel saga with a trade to the Vegas Golden Knights, both in 2021.
The players are simply too content. We need more messy drama! You know, outside of Vancouver …
There’s optimism from general managers that this trade season won’t be a total bore, but there’s also realism about the market forces impacting it.
I spoke with a handful of general managers and sources on the players’ side to get a better topographic map of the landscape as we march to the March deadline. Here are a few key factors to consider: