There have been 25 NHL trades in the past five days — and the trade deadline isn’t until 3 p.m. ET on Friday. The hockey world is moving at breakneck speed right now, so it’s been hard to process all the changes, like David Poile, the architect of the Nashville Predators for as long as they’ve existed, stepping down and Barry Trotz coming in. It all comes in a year where league executives have argued they would be weary of the stagnant salary cap.
“It was an unexpected level of activity, to say the least,” said one NHL general manager. “We’re acting like we’re the NBA right now. It’s crazy.” And over the next 24 hours, things show no signs of really shutting down.
Here are some things I hear:
When I asked general managers for theories as to why teams were particularly happy with the trades, I heard a common refrain. Three teams that usually do this this season — St. Louis, Nashville, Washington — focused on becoming sellers despite being in different playoff spots.
The Predators, who never found a consistent groove after their 2017 Stanley Cup Final appearance, are looking to knock it down to get it back on track. As Nashville transitions its leadership, the team has notified the league that there are only three untouched on the roster: captain Roman Josi, goaltender Jose Saros and the recently extended Filip Forsberg. Make a good offer to anyone else, and they’ll listen. Trotz is going to get a much cleaner slate with a ton of sunk capital.
As for St. Louis and Washington? It’s a different approach. Both general managers are looking for a faster tool. The Blues were among the teams scouting Jakob Chychrun. Expect St Louis GM Doug Armstrong to be active this summer, using his new assets to find players in their 20s, building a new core around Robert Thomas and Jordan Kyrou.
The Caps felt like they were chasing injuries all season. So GM Brian MacLellan cut bait. It’s the first time in MacLellan’s tenure that he’s had to be a salesman, and he admitted to me that none of this has been easy for him. But the organization made a promise to Alex Ovechkin that they will try to contend through his current contract (three more years), and MacLellan will do everything he can to make sure they’re in a better position to start next year. Rasmus Sandin was the first addition and we expect more before next season.
Is Karlsson staying put?
The San Jose Sharks made a good faith effort to trade Erik Karlsson, and the defenseman — who is coming off a breakout season — was open to it. But ultimately a deal never materialized. Karlsson’s $11.5 million salary through 2026-27 was too complicated for any team to make work.
The further the Sharks got it sounds like it was with the Edmonton Oilers. Edmonton was looking for a playable defenseman and wanted Karlsson — but wanted San Jose to retain nearly 50% of his salary, which became a sticking point. Edmonton then traded for Mattias Ekholm.
As there are no other trade offers for Karlsson, he will remain in place for the time being. But expect San Jose to re-engage in trade talks this summer.
Boeser after Vancouver?
Brock Boeser’s name has been floating around in trade rumors for years. But he admitted to reporters in Vancouver on Wednesday that this time is different. Behind the scenes, the Canucks and Boeser agreed, it would be best for the winger to get a fresh start. A ton of teams have shown interest in Boeser, who has always had a knack for scoring — but teams were also eyeing his salary: $6.65 million through 2024-25.
From the teams I’ve talked to, the Canucks are open to retaining some salary if they perform well, and have even talked about including other capital in a deal. As of this week, it seemed like a 50/50 proposition whether Boeser was traded before Friday or during the summer.
Smaller moves could pay off for Carolina
The Carolina Hurricanes were open to making a big splash. With Max Pacioretty at LTIR he is the rare serious prospect with serious cap space. They looked to replace Pacioretty. Carolina made what was described to me as a “very good” offer for Timo Meier, but ultimately didn’t win those sweepstakes. They also participated in the Chychrun talks. They then rotated into depth addons at a good cost. Shayne Gostisbehere, who had rebuilt his game in Arizona after catching fire in Philadelphia, was a consolation for Chychrun. The Canes felt comfortable going with their standard no-rent policy for the low acquisition cost (2026 third-round pick) and know Gostisbehere helps their power play.
I also wouldn’t sleep on Jesse Puljujarvi, who the Canes acquired from Edmonton, as a playoff breakout candidate. The 24-year-old is as clear a “needs a change of scenery” candidate as you’ll find. Puljujarvi’s attributes — offensive rebounder, good skater — will fit Carolina’s style. The Spades turn the puck away more than any other team and their success is based on work. With four other Finnish players on the roster, it will be a welcoming culture after six years under the harsh spotlight in Edmonton.
More on Kane in New York
While many teams were interested in Patrick Kane, the winger made it known to his camp: If he moved, he only wanted to go to New York. And so, even after GM Chris Drury traded for Vladimir Tarasenko, they pushed behind the scenes to create a path for Kane to New York. I’m told Kane was more emotional than expected as he dealt with leaving Chicago, something he never envisioned doing this year. By giving Chicago only one destination, it significantly reduced the potential return for the Blackhawks.
Team CEO Danny Wirtz wrote a letter to team officials following the trade. “These decisions are tough,” Wirtz wrote. “And I commend Kyle (Davidson) and his team for their leadership in navigating this challenging trade deadline.”
For his part, Kane had to do what was best for him. He wanted to play his entire career in Chicago and that was no longer realistic. There were never official extension talks between Kane and management, but he understood the Blackhawks preferred to create separation from their dynasty years so they could move forward with the rebuild.
The next steps in Philadelphia
The Flyers have begun to talk openly about their rebuild, starting with John Tortorella’s letter to fans earlier this month. Their message is clear: They need to build the team, younger with more talented players, period. This will take time. So while they don’t destroy the squad – young players like Owen Tippett, Cam York and Noah Cates are likely to stick around – they will need to make changes.
The question is what changes? There has been some push to look for trades for Kevin Hayes, but I think even if the Flyers keep their salary, there is a limited market at this point in the week. They are trying to move Ivan Provorov, but no deal has been done yet. James van Riemsdyk, a pending unrestricted free agent, is the most likely Flyer on the move.