After the league and players’ union hammered out a new collective bargaining agreement in January 2013, the 30 GMs had six weeks and 30 or so games to assess their teams before the April 3 trade deadline.
Many of them might feel as though this year’s March 5 deadline also has crept up on them, especially when it arrives 10 days after the NHL’s 18-day shutdown for the Sochi Olympics.
It was March 24, 10 days prior to last year’s deadline, when Pittsburgh Penguins GM Ray Shero created a buzz, trading for gritty forward Brenden Morrow.
The next day Shero picked up defenceman Douglas Murray from San Jose for two second-round draft picks.
Then, on March 28, Shero beat Boston for Jarome Iginla’s services, acquiring the longtime Calgary Flames captain and fan favourite. He had one more move saved for deadline day, adding forward Jussi Jokinen from Carolina.
Pittsburgh had a five-point lead over Montreal atop the Eastern Conference after Shero’s moves and never looked back, winning the conference by eight points over the Canadiens. However, the Bruins got the last laugh by eliminating the Penguins in the East final.
After Boston GM Peter Chiarelli lost out on Iginla, he sent two forward prospects and a pick to Dallas for forward Jaromir Jagr on April 2. Chiarelli added another veteran in defenceman Wade Redden the following day and watched the Bruins maintain their fourth-place standing in the East.
New York Rangers GM Glen Sather also acted on April 2, nabbing gritty forward Ryan Clowe from San Jose for three picks.
Sather was also part of what many considered the most surprising move of deadline day when he shipped three-time 40-goal scorer Marian Gaborik and a pair of minor leaguers to Columbus in a last-minute, six-player deal that saw fellow forwards Derick Brassard and Derek Dorsett, along with defenceman John Moore and a sixth-round pick go to New York.
After the trade, New York jumped two places in the East standings, from eighth to sixth. Gaborik scored three goals and eight points in 12 games as Columbus battled for the eighth and final playoff spot in the West. The Jackets posted a 9-1-0 record in their final 10 games to tie No. 8 Minnesota at the end of the regular season, but lost out on the first tiebreaking criterion with fewer regulation plus overtime victories.
Jason Pominville also made an immediate impact with Minnesota following a deadline-day deal with Buffalo, but the Wild weren’t able to maintain their Northwest Division lead and fell from third to eighth in the West standings.
As for the Canadian teams, Calgary actually climbed one spot to 13th in the West after then-GM Jay Feaster, who would be fired the following season, dealt away defenceman Jay Bouwmeester, forward Blake Comeau and Iginla.
Goalie Miikka Kiprusoff elected to stay with the Flames on deadline day, with Feaster later confirming reports that Toronto requested permission to speak with Kiprusoff to try to persuade him to join the Maple Leafs. Kiprusoff would retire a few months later.
Vancouver Canucks GM Mike Gillis made one notable move leading up to the 2013 deadline, sending defenceman Kevin Connauton and a 2013 second-round pick (Canadian junior goalie Philippe Derosiers) to Dallas for veteran centre Derek Roy. Roy helped the Canucks to a Northwest title with six points in 12 games before signing with St. Louis as a free agent in the summer.
But many people were talking about goalie Roberto Luongo, whom Gillis didn't move prior to the deadline despite months of rumours that he was on the trade block. Asked what may have prevented a deal, Luongo said his 12-year, $64-million US contract signed in September 2009 "sucks" and is probably the reason he's still in Vancouver.
In Ottawa, GM Bryan Murray might be wishing he didn’t follow through on last year’s deadline-day trade that saw goaltender Ben Bishop head to Tampa Bay for diminutive left-winger Cory Conacher.
The 24-year-old Conacher was second in rookie scoring at the time of the deal with 24 points in 35 games but it didn’t translate into immediate success in Ottawa, where the five-foot-eight, 180-pounder finished the season with five points in 12 outings. Conacher has been even less productive this season, with four goals and 20 points in 57 games entering play Thursday.
Bishop, meanwhile, posted good but not great numbers with a 2.99 goals-against average and .917 save percentage in nine games to finish the 2013 campaign.
But this season is a much different story as Bishop is in the conversation for the Vezina Trophy as the NHL’s top netminder. Playing for his third team — St. Louis dealt him to Ottawa in February 2012 for a 2013 second-round pick — Bishop is tops in goals-against average among No. 1 goalies (1.98), second to Edmonton’s Ben Scrivens in save percentage (.933) and third in wins (28).
Montreal, Toronto and Winnipeg didn’t make any impactful moves leading up to the trade deadline, while Edmonton acquired a couple of depth players in centre Jerred Smithson (now in the Maple Leafs organization) and defenceman Garrett Stafford.
Craig MacTavish, in his first season as Oilers GM, could make more noise this time around if he finds a taker for forwards Ales Hemsky and Sam Gagner, who have been the subject of trade rumours this season.
Other Canadian-based players thought to be available include Calgary’s Mike Cammalleri, Montreal’s Daniel Briere, Ottawa’s Chris Phillips, Toronto’s Dave Bolland and Nazem Kadri, Vancouver’s Alex Edler and Winnipeg’s Dustin Byfuglien and Olli Jokinen.
But trade deadline 2014 soon might be remembered for the dealing of the Ryans: Ryan Callahan of the Rangers, Ryan Miller of the Buffalo Sabres and Ryan Kesler of the Canucks, all rumoured to be on the block.