- Emily Kaplan is ESPN’s national NHL reporter.
There have been 25 trades in the NHL over the past five days — and the trade deadline is not until 3pm ET on Friday. The hockey world is operating at warp speed right now, so it’s been hard to process all of the changes, such as David Poile, the architect of the Nashville Predators for as long as they’ve existed, stepping down and Barry Trotz stepping in. It’s all happening in a year where league executives claimed they’d be hamstrung by the stagnant salary cap.
“It’s been an unexpected level of activity to say the least,” one NHL general manager said. “We’re operating like we’re the NBA right now. It’s nuts.” And over the next 24 hours, things show no sign of truly shutting down.
Here are a few things I’m hearing:
When I asked general managers for theories why teams have been particularly transaction-happy, I heard one common refrain. Three teams that typically are going for it this time of year — St. Louis, Nashville, Washington — pivoted to being sellers, despite being within varying reaches of playoff position.
The Predators, who never found a consistent groove following their 2017 Stanley Cup Final appearance, are looking to tear it down to reset. As Nashville transitions its leadership, the team has let the league know that there are only three untouchables on the roster: captain Roman Josi, goaltender Juuse Saros and recently-extended Filip Forsberg. Make a good offer on anyone else, and they’ll listen. Trotz is going to get a much cleaner slate with a ton of draft capital.
As for St. Louis and Washington? It’s a different approach. Both general managers are looking for a quicker re-tool. The Blues were among the teams looking into Jakob Chychrun. Expect St Louis GM Doug Armstrong to be active over the summer, using his new-found assets to find players in their mid-20s, creating a new core around Robert Thomas and Jordan Kyrou.
The Caps felt they were chasing because of 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 seller, and admitted to me that none of it has been easy for him. But the organization made a promise to Alex Ovechkin that they would try to be contenders through his current contract (three more years) and MacLellan will do everything he can to make sure they’re in better position to start next year. Rasmus Sandin was the first addition, and expect more before next season.
Karlsson staying put?
The San Jose Sharks put in a good faith effort to trade Erik Karlsson, and the defenseman — who is having a resurgent season — was open to it. But ultimately a deal just never materialized; Karlsson’s $11.5 million salary through 2026-27 was too complicated for any team to make work.
The furthest the Sharks got sounds like it was with the Edmonton Oilers. Edmonton had been looking for a puck-moving defenseman and wanted Karlsson — but wanted San Jose to retain close to 50% of his salary, which became a sticking point. Edmonton then traded for Mattias Ekholm.
With no other trade proposals matriculating for Karlsson, he will stay put for now. But expect San Jose to re-engage in trade talks over the summer.
Boeser next out of Vancouver?
Brock Boeser’s name has circulated in trade rumors for years. But he admitted to reporters in Vancouver on Wednesday that this time it feels different. Behind the scenes, the Canucks and Boeser have agreed, it would be best for the winger to get a fresh start. A ton of teams have showed interest in Boeser, who has always had a knack for scoring — but teams have also balked at his salary: $6.65 million through 2024-25.
From teams I’ve talked to, the Canucks are open to retaining some salary if it nets a good return, and have even talked about including other draft capital in a deal. As of this week, it seemed like a 50/50 proposition if Boeser got traded before Friday, or over the summer.
Smaller moves could pay off for Carolina
The Carolina Hurricanes were open to making a big splash. With Max Pacioretty on LTIR they are the rare serious contender with serious cap space. They looked into replacing Pacioretty. Carolina made what was described to me as a “very good” offer for Timo Meier, but ultimately didn’t win those sweepstakes. They were also in on the Chychrun talks. They then pivoted to depth adds at good costs. Shayne Gostisbehere, who had rehabbed his game in Arizona after flaming out in Philadelphia, was a consolation for Chychrun. The Canes felt comfortable going against their typical policy of no rentals for the low acquisition cost (a 2026 third round pick) and know Gostisbehere helps their power play.
I also wouldn’t sleep on Jesse Puljujarvi, who the Canes got from Edmonton, as a breakout candidate in the playoffs. The 24-year-old is as clear a “needs a change of scenery” candidate as you’ll find. Puljujarvi’s attributes — aggressive forechecker, good skater — will fit into Carolina’s style. The Canes dump the puck more than every other team, and their success is predicated on work. With four other Finnish players on the roster, it will be a welcoming culture after six years under a harsh spotlight in Edmonton.
More on Kane to New York
While plenty of 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’ve been told that Kane was more emotional than he expected as he came to grips with leaving Chicago, something he never had envisioned doing before this year. In giving Chicago just one destination, he significantly lowered the potential return for the Blackhawks.
Team CEO Danny Wirtz wrote a letter to team employees 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 formal extension talks between Kane and management, but he understood the Blackhawks preferred to create separation from their dynastic years so they could go full steam ahead on the rebuild.
Next steps in Philadelphia
The Flyers have begun to talk openly about their rebuild, beginning with the letter John Tortorella sent to fans earlier this month. Their message has clarified: They need to build the team, getting younger with more talented players, period. That’s going to take time. So while they’re not gutting the team — young players like Owen Tippett, Cam York and Noah Cates are likely sticking around — they are going to need to make changes.
The question is, what changes? There was some momentum to look for a trade for Kevin Hayes, but I think even if the Flyers retain salary, there’s a limited market at this point in the week. They’ve been trying to move Ivan Provorov, but no deal has materialized yet. James van Riemsdyk, a pending unrestricted free agent, is the most likely Flyer on the move.
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