Confusion reigned Monday night, as the Pittsburgh Penguins and Chicago Blackhawks announced that Trevor Daley and Rob Scuderi would switch teams. Thanks to the handful of remaining fans who are old enough to remember such things, it was eventually explained that this was an obscure type of player transaction known as a "midseason trade."
OK, that's laying it on a little thick, but fans could be forgiven for needing a refresher on how these deals work, given that we'd had only one all season, and that one didn't involve any actual NHL players. But now that general managers Stan Bowman and Jim Rutherford have broken the seal for the rest of the league, why stop at one? We got a minor deal between the Habs and Coyotes Tuesday night. Maybe Scuderi-for-Daley can be the domino that finally, mercifully gets the trade market moving.
That's probably a pipe dream, but just in case: Who's up for an old-fashioned ranking post? Let's take all 30 teams and try to figure out which ones are the most likely to make a trade or two (or more) between today and the week leading up to the trade deadline, when everyone tends to wake up and start dealing.
I'll be looking at each team's position in the standings and how much cap room it has available. More importantly, we'll be looking at the track record of each of the 30 GMs, which ones tend to be the most risk-adverse, and which ones are willing to get aggressive.
Remember, this isn't a ranking of the best GMs -- it's a ranking of the ones who are most like to make a deal over the next six to eight weeks or so. And sure, sometimes the best trade is the one you don't make, as the cliché goes, but for this exercise we're looking for quantity over quality.
Is this all an exercise in guesswork? Mostly. Does it virtually guarantee that two GMs I've ranked low will hook up on a blockbuster by the end of the week? Almost certainly. Will I attempt to take credit for that by claiming the whole thing was an elaborate reverse jinx? Cannot confirm or deny.
Let's start with the guys who are most likely to stand pat, counting down to No. 1, at the bottom of the page. (Salary cap info in this post comes from generalfanager.com; trade histories from individual GMs come from nhltradetracker.com.)
30. Ken Holland, Detroit Red Wings
Current standings: 16-9-6, second place in the Atlantic
Estimated cap room: $5.2 million
As the longest tenured GM in the league, nobody gives us more of a track record to look at than Holland. And that track record is fairly clear: Don't expect the Red Wings to do much until the deadline nears. That's when Holland typically does all of his trading work; he hasn't made an offseason deal involving players since 2012, and hasn't made one between opening night and the end of January since 2002. (That was the big "Jason Woolley from Buffalo for future considerations" blockbuster, in case you were wondering.) History says he'll probably do something around the deadline, but if he makes a deal before then, it will be the first time in the history of the cap era.
29. Brian MacLellan, Washington Capitals
Current standings: 22-6-2, first place in the Metro
Estimated cap room: $40,000
MacLellan has only been on the job since last offseason. Last season, he didn't make any midseason deals until the deadline, and his only move that approaches "big deal" status was last summer's T.J. Oshie trade. That doesn't give us much to work with, but we might not need it. As currently constructed, the Caps are already very good and very close to being capped out, so we're unlikely to see much action in Washington until closer to the deadline.
28. Lou Lamoriello(?), Toronto Maple Leafs
Current standings: 10-13-6, last place in the Atlantic
Estimated cap room: $6.6 million
We're still not really sure who's making the trades in Toronto's front office -- they've made only one relatively minor one since Lamoriello was hired in July, and he's tended to prefer to wait for the deadline in recent years. Whether it's him or Kyle Dubas or Brendan Shanahan or some combination calling the shots, the Leafs seem content to go conservative. While they've remade just about every facet of the organization since Shanahan took over last season, the core of the roster has remained remarkably unchanged apart from the Phil Kessel deal. You have to think that the wrecking ball will hit the roster eventually, and maybe once that dam bursts, they start moving everyone. But at this point the organization doesn't seem to be in any hurry, and it looks like another season of minor rental deals at the deadline and not much else.
27. Ray Shero, New Jersey Devils
Current standings: 16-11-4, fourth place in the Metro
Estimated cap room: $8.4 million
Shero has been on the job for only six months, and he's yet to trade a player off the Devils' roster. He made his share of moves in Pittsburgh, though, and could be getting eager to put his stamp on a Devils team that we all thought would be firmly in selloff mode by now. Instead, they're hanging around in the Metro playoff race, which means Shero has a tricky call to make. He could be forgiven for waiting as long as possible to make it.
Current standings: 13-12-6, sixth place in the Metro
Estimated cap room: $4.3 million
Hextall has made a few small deals in his year and a half on the job, but hasn't pulled the trigger on anything major. That might not change anytime soon; the Flyers aren't very good and many of the veterans whom they might otherwise be looking to move for future assets have contracts that will make that difficult to do midseason. Still ... patience, calm and quiet? From this guy? That just doesn't seem right.
Current standings: 12-14-5, seventh place in the Metro
Estimated cap room: $8.1 million
Francis has been GM in Carolina since April 2014 and has made a handful of medium-sized deals over that time. There are bigger ones looming on the horizon, including a potential Eric Staal trade as the deadline nears. We've already covered our ongoing confusion over the Hurricanes this season, and some of that applies here too. The standings say that this is a team in need of a major rebuild, but Francis has been largely conservative. That has to end soon. Maybe. We think. Or not.
24. Dean Lombardi, Los Angeles Kings
Current standings: 19-9-2, first place in the Pacific
Estimated cap room: $700,000
Lombardi has generally been pretty busy, although last season he made only one deal (the Andrej Sekera trade leading up to the deadline). He doesn't have much cap room to work with, which could prevent him from making the sort of aggressive moves that marked L.A.'s two Cup wins under his guidance. Of course, the Kings might be in a position to cruise to the Pacific title without adding anything. But if the opportunity presents itself and Lombardi can make the dollars work, he'll be listening. (Update: The Kings have since freed up a significant chunk of additional cap space.)
23. Bryan Murray, Ottawa Senators
Current standings: 16-11-5, fourth place in the Atlantic
Estimated cap room: $6.8 million
Murray's pattern over the last few years has been fairly clear: Occasional big deals in the summer, smaller deals near the deadline, and not much in between. He hasn't made a trade from October through January since the Kyle Turris deal in 2011. Of course, if he can find a move that works out as well as that one, he'd be thrilled. Budget is always a concern in Ottawa, but with the Senators still hanging around in the Eastern playoff race, Murray's probably at least putting out a few feelers.
Current standings: 15-16-1, sixth place in the Central
Estimated cap room: $8.5 million
In theory, the Avalanche should be one of the teams working the phones -- they're not where they expected to be in the standings, they've got obvious holes and they have lots of cap space to work with. There's still a chance that they'll eventually have to bite the bullet and move into full-on rebuild mode (again), in which case they'd have plenty of talent to move. But it's hard to get a read on Sakic and the rest of the front office; they're one of the few remaining teams to take a decidedly old-school approach. Does that extend to their trading habits? Not yet. Sakic has been GM for only one season, but it's worth noting that he's yet to make a midseason trade outside of trade deadline day.
21. Don Maloney, Arizona Coyotes
Current standings: 14-14-2, tied for third place in the Pacific
Estimated cap room: $10.1 million
Maloney has been relatively quiet in recent years, doing almost all of his work at the deadline and in the offseason. Given where the Coyotes are in what figures to be a long-term rebuild, we probably shouldn't expect much action until deadline day nears, especially given Maloney's track record (although he did make that deal with Montreal Tuesday night, and we have to award him a few bonus points for acquiring a Hall-of-Famer last season). Tuesday's news that goaltender Mike Smith will be out 8-10 weeks after surgery could force a move because asking Anders Lindback to carry the load for two or three months seems dicey.
20. Jeff Gorton, New York Rangers
Current standings: 19-9-4, second place in the Metro
Estimated cap room: $150,000
Gorton was named Rangers' GM on July 1; the team made a very minor deal that day, but nothing since. Still, he'd been assistant GM for four years, so it's not unreasonable to think he learned a thing or two from Glen Sather. If so, we'd expect him to be aggressive and willing to move futures, although perhaps not until the deadline gets closer. Given the team's cap situation, he might not have much choice but to wait.
19. Dale Tallon, Florida Panthers
Current standings: 15-12-4, sixth place in the Atlantic
Estimated cap room: $5.4 million
The Panthers are looking like a playoff bubble team, which in theory means we'd expect them to be aggressive. They also have lots of cap room, although like most internal budget teams, we don't know how much of it they can use. Tallon's track record is mixed. He's made a lot of deals, but they've been mostly smaller ones. Then again, he was the guy who figured out how to pull the trigger on getting Roberto Luongo out of Vancouver and he surprised most of us last season by landing Jaromir Jagr. So if you're looking for a sneaky dark-horse candidate to get things moving, Tallon might be your guy.
Current standings: 20-9-3, first place in the Atlantic
Estimated cap room: $2.1 million
Bergevin has been under pressure to make a deal, with some fans looking for a move to bring in a veteran goaltender to bridge the gap until Carey Price returns. Although he's resisted so far, he has made his share of deals over the years, although he's stayed away from anything you would call a blockbuster. The Canadiens wouldn't seem to have the cap room to pull off anything major and what little they do have is being saved up for that Eric Staal deal at the deadline. (But try to look surprised.)
17. Doug Armstrong, St. Louis Blues
Current standings: 18-10-4, second place in the Central
Estimated cap room: $2.5 million
Armstrong has been around the block a few times and he's not afraid to be aggressive or creative. His biggest move in recent years was the Ryan Miller trade in 2014; that didn't work out all that well, but it stands as one of the few midseason blockbusters that we've seen lately, so we'll nudge him up the list as a thank you. The Blues have been playing well and don't look like a team that needs a change, but given their recent playoff history it wouldn't be a shock to see them get antsy as the deadline draws closer.
Current standings: 16-13-3, fifth place in the Atlantic
Estimated cap room: $30,000
All eyes are on Yzerman as the ongoing Steven Stamkos drama continues to play out in a way that suggests a once-unthinkable trade could actually happen. Stamkos has a no-movement clause and holds all the cards, so it doesn't seem like there's any way the Lightning can win here. Then again, you could have said the same about the Martin St. Louis situation back in 2014, and Yzerman found a way to get a very good deal out of all that. If he could pull it off again, he might wrap up GM of the Year honors with one move. As for non-Stamkos trades, all seems quiet; the Lightning don't have much financial flexibility to work with, either now or in future years, and Yzerman went right to the deadline last season without making any deals. He'd probably prefer to be patient if it were up to him. The question is whether it will be.
15. Doug Wilson, San Jose Sharks
Current standings: 15-14-1, second place in the Pacific
Estimated cap room: $1 million (assuming Ben Smith is on the LTIR)
Remember when a Patrick Marleau deal felt like a sure thing? That was only a few weeks ago, but the buzz around that move has quieted down significantly. The wide-open Pacific says Wilson should be looking to deal; the cap says he might not be able to. Either way, he tends to do most of his trading in the offseason or at the trade deadline. And history says we shouldn't expect anything over the next few weeks; he hasn't made a deal in December since 2006.
Current standings: 17-9-4, second place in the Atlantic
Estimated cap room: $600,000
You have to hand it to Sweeney -- the rookie GM certainly wasn't shy about pulling the trigger after being promoted in the offseason. He made several big trades, including those involving Dougie Hamilton, Milan Lucic and Martin Jones (twice). Granted, those deals got mixed reviews, but the key point is that Sweeney doesn't seem to have gotten the memo in his orientation package about being timid on the trade front. The only thing keeping him from ranking higher is the Bruins' tight cap and their place in the standings -- not bad enough to rebuild, not quite good enough to go try to load up.
13. Peter Chiarelli, Edmonton Oilers
Current standings: 14-16-2, tied for third in the Pacific
Estimated cap room: $3 million
Perhaps no team was as heavily featured in the early-season rumor mill as the Oilers, who have apparently been on the verge of trading just about everyone on the roster for months. That talk has died down as the team has found its footing in recent weeks, which probably suits Chiarelli just fine; he tends to save his dealing for the deadline. If the Oilers go back to their losing ways, pressure will build for Chiarelli to finally break up the core. Of course, if they can stay in the race until Connor McDavid returns, he might be looking for reinforcements instead. There are lots of ways this could go, but Chiarelli's track record says he'll be patient.
Current standings: 11-19-3, last place overall
Estimated cap room: $1.4 million
Kekalainen has made decent-sized deals over the years, but he doesn't have much cap room to work with and with the Jackets' season all but lost, we'll hear plenty about how other GMs will be throwing anchors instead of life jackets. But Kekalainen might not have the option of staying patient -- he has already fired his coach and conventional wisdom says that his chair will be the next to get warm. And now that his new coach seems to be feuding with one of his best players, the rumor mill will no doubt be launching into action, so don't be surprised if he starts making moves soon. Just, uh, no deals with the Kings, OK?
11. Chuck Fletcher, Minnesota Wild
Current standings: 16-7-6, tied for third in the Central
Estimated cap room: $1.2 million
Fletcher seems to be the rare GM who prefers to do his work during the season; he hasn't made a trade involving a player in either of the past two offseasons. But he stays busy once the games start, and he made one of 2014-15's biggest deals in January when he saved the Wild's season by landing Devan Dubnyk from the Arizona Coyotes. Franchise-altering trades in January? Must be something in his DNA.
10. Kevin Cheveldayoff, Winnipeg Jets
Current standings: 14-15-2, last place in the Central
Estimated cap room: $12.4 million
This was the toughest call on this list. On the one hand, Cheveldayoff might be the most notoriously conservative GM in the entire league when it comes to trading. From his first day on the job in 2011 through this February, he had famously never made a single trade involving NHL players on both sides, leading critics to wonder what he actually did to earn his paycheck. Then came that elusive first real trade, and it was an honest-to-goodness blockbuster -- a seven-player monster that shipped Evander Kane to the Buffalo Sabres. Add the fact that Cheveldayoff has a team on the playoff bubble, three pending free agents reportedly asking for big money and more cap space to work with than any team in the league, and the ingredients are there for the Jets to be the trade market's biggest player. So which Cheveldayoff shows up? The situation demands that the Jets be in the top 10, but their GM's history says don't get your hopes up.
Current standings: 18-9-5, third in the Metro
Estimated cap room: $6.3 million
I still maintain that there aren't many more unexpected plot twists over the past decade than "Garth Snow develops into one of the better GMs in the league." He also has been one of its most aggressive, making plenty of deals in recent years, most of which have worked out well. (There was also the whole Thomas Vanek thing. Look, we said "most.") The Islanders don't have any glaring weaknesses, but they're as much in the mix for the Metro as anyone. With a new arena to fill and going on 23 years without a playoff series win in a division in which some of the big guns are faltering, this could be the season to push some chips into the middle.
8. David Poile, Nashville Predators
Current standings: 15-10-6, fifth in the Central
Estimated cap room: $10.1 million
The only GM in Predators franchise history is also the second-longest serving GM in the league, trailing only Ken Holland by a few months. Poile has made plenty of deals over those years, featuring players ranging from Peter Forsberg to James Neal to Hugh Jessiman. He's also not a guy who insists on sitting around waiting for the deadline; over the past two years, he has made three trades in December and January. With the Predators right in the mix for the ultra-tough Central logjam, it wouldn't be a shock to see Poile get to work again.
7. Brad Treliving, Calgary Flames
Current standings: 14-14-2, third in the Central
Estimated cap room: $2.2 million
Treliving hasn't been all that active since taking over the Flames' GM duties last summer, making a handful of minor deals and one big one: the Dougie Hamilton blockbuster at this summer's draft. Still, until very recently the Flames looked like a team that needed to make a move or five, and goaltending is still a major issue. We're also going to nudge Treliving up the list based on two factors: First, he gets a bye into the top 10 by virtue of having been the only GM all season to actually acquire a player before this week. And second, we can't ignore the Brian Burke factor. No, Burke isn't the GM, but he is Treliving's boss, and no front-office executive has been more willing to swing big deals over the past decade. You could slap a lot of adjectives on Burke's résumé as a GM, but "timid" sure isn't one them.
6. Jim Benning, Vancouver Canucks
Current standings: 11-13-8, tied for third in the Pacific
Estimated cap room: $2.2 million
Benning has been an NHL GM for only 18 months, but he has already pulled off 14 trades involving players. That's downright prolific in today's NHL. Canucks fans might have mixed reviews about how those deals have worked out, but from a purely volume-based perspective, Benning isn't afraid of getting it done. There could be more to come, as the organization will eventually realize that it desperately needs to start rebuilding because it's bad. But even if that epiphany doesn't arrive until the offseason or beyond, Benning has shown no signs that he'll stand pat.
5. Bob Murray, Anaheim Ducks
Current standings: 11-13-5, last in the Pacific, somehow
Estimated cap room: $8.7 million
Murray tends to be fairly active on the trade market, making four deals at the deadline last season and four more in the offseason. He's also not afraid to make a move during the season; he made three trades last year in November and December. The Ducks have cap space, although they're a budget team with a few big-ticket contracts that could make it tough to make major moves. Given that they might be the biggest disappointment in the league so far, the betting here is that Murray finds a way. He might not have a choice.
4. Tim Murray, Buffalo Sabres
Current standings: 13-16-3, seventh in the Atlantic
Estimated cap room: $8.8 million
Murray might have cruelly dumped on my brilliant trade-boosting draft pick idea and he might be wrong about why fans enjoy trading in the first place. But there's no denying that he has been one of the most aggressive GMs when it comes to swinging deals over his nearly two years on the job in Buffalo. He spent the first season finishing the work of tearing down the roster, and much of the past year building it back up, swinging big deals for players such as Ryan O'Reilly, Robin Lehner and Kane. He also has plenty of cap room -- and more importantly, unlike most other teams in that boat, he also has an owner who will let him use it. The Sabres don't seem to have a pressing need for a deal, but when that day comes, Murray will be ready to get to work.
3. Jim Rutherford, Pittsburgh Penguins
Current standings: 15-12-3, fifth in the Metro
Estimated cap room: $1.3 million
Rutherford has been doing this a long time and has plenty of big moves under his belt, both with Pittsburgh and over his two decades with the Whalers/Hurricanes. He made one of the biggest trades of the offseason when he landed Phil Kessel, although so far that hasn't worked out as well as expected. He is handcuffed by big contracts and has already conditionally dealt away his first-round pick next year. Still, you can't help but feel like something big needs to happen in Pittsburgh these days, and Rutherford has already played his fire-the-coach card. He made one trade this week, but the Penguins look like they're going to need a lot more than a shakeup on the third pairing.
2. Jim Nill, Dallas Stars
Current standings: 23-6-2, first place overall
Estimated cap room: $3 million
The Stars' roster has been largely built by trades, which is one of the reasons that they're your new favorite team. While Nill hasn't been behind all of those, he has pulled off a few blockbusters in his two years at the helm (although those have all come during the offseason). He has the track record, cap space to play with, a possible question mark still lingering in goal and a Cup-caliber roster in its prime whose best chance to win it all just might be right now. Add it all up and the chances of the Stars staying quiet are just about, well, nil.
1. Stan Bowman, Chicago Blackhawks
Current standings: 17-11-4, tied for third in the Central
Estimated cap room: $2.2 million
As the famous Sean Connery line goes, "Losers always whine about the salary cap. Winners go home and shine their Cup rings." At least I think that's how it went; it's been a while since I saw that movie. As he demonstrated yet again this week, Bowman tends to be among the more active GMs, regardless of whether it's midseason, trade deadline or summer. His deals don't always get the thumbs-up when they're made, but his record speaks for itself. And all of that is despite the Blackhawks usually being right up against the cap, a position where we're constantly told that trading is supposed to be impossible. Weird how that works. It's almost as if a really good GM can still find a way to get deals done while the mediocre ones are just making excuses ... nah.