Don Waddell’s phone is not ringing much right now. The seasoned NHL executive expects that to change this weekend.
“It always does,” he said.
Waddell’s Carolina Hurricanes are among the many contenders with limited salary cap space that could wait until much closer to the trade deadline Monday to stockpile before the stretch run to the playoffs. The combination of jumbled standings in the Western Conference and a salary cap that hasn’t gone up in two years because of the pandemic has things mostly quiet now but could set up for a chaotic weekend and deadline day.
“Between the cap, between the cost — all those things, the standings — it adds up,” Edmonton general manager Ken Holland said. “For the most part, it usually happens the last day or two by the deadline. There’s the odd time somebody moves early to get a deal done. But most times the action happens on the Sunday or the Monday.”
A couple of dominos fell Wednesday, with the Florida Panthers acquiring defenseman Ben Chiarot from Montreal after clearing cap space by trading Frank Vatrano to the New York Rangers and the Seattle Kraken sending forward Calle Jarnkrok to the Calgary Flames.
There’s much more to come.
Reigning Vezina Trophy-winning Chicago goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury, longtime Philadelphia captain Claude Giroux and Seattle defenseman Mark Giordano are among the players who could get traded before 3 p.m. EDT Monday. Others, like Nashville forward Filip Forsberg and Dallas defenseman John Klingberg and goalie Braden Holtby and are less likely to be on the move because the Predators and Stars are in the hunt in the West.
Calgary and fellow Western Conference titan Colorado got a jump on the teams below them in the standings.
Asked if he was concerned about helping out a Central Division rival his Wild could see in the playoffs, GM Bill Guerin said flatly: “Nope. I’m worried about us. I’m not worried about them.”
Minnesota is one of nine teams vying for six playoff spots in the West behind division leaders Colorado and Calgary. The Wild have lost seven of their past 10 games, the Winnipeg Jets have won four of five and the race could come down to game 82.
That’s great for drama at the end of April but not so good for the prospect of intense trade chatter.
“It makes it a little more difficult to plan,” said Holland, whose Oilers have won three in a row to move into the top eight in the West. “It’s more wait and see, I think, because when you look at the standings, we’re in a wait-and-see position. I think if you had a 12-point cushion above or you’re 12 points below, it makes it easier to pick up the phone.”
Sakic is working the phones with the Avalanche sitting on a 12-point cushion atop the West and are just ahead of Florida, which is loading up to try to knock off defending champion Tampa Bay. Colorado has been linked to Giroux, who can pick his destination with a full no-movement clause and on Thursday is set to play his 1,000th game — all with the Flyers — before he considers his options.
“I’m very happy I got the chance to do this,” Giroux said. “After that, it’s going to be a change of mindset a little bit and see how things are going to go.”
He won’t be the only player or GM changing his mindset in the coming days.
In the aftermath of recently playing his 1,000th game and despite being honored for that milestone Wednesday night, Giordano was held out of the lineup to prevent injury.
Washington GM Brian MacLellan may have already altered his thinking since saying in early March the Capitals would not be “as aggressive as we normally are” at the deadline. His team is 5-0-1 in its last six games, and goaltending doesn’t look to be as big of a need as it was a month ago because of young Vitek Vanecek’s improved play in net.
Fleury is the top pending free agent goalie potentially on the market, and that’s only if the respected veteran green lights a trade from Chicago. Even if Fleury stays put, the quiet this week could mean a flurry of last-minute trades.
“I don’t know if it’s the calm before the storm,” Guerin said. “Right now ,there’s no real urgency. Asking prices are a little high, but that’s what we do. Things will boil down to Monday.”