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Deals done long before NHL trade deadline set stage for more

Busy NHL GMs create a rush of pre-deadline movement, say there’s more to come
Los Angeles Kings goaltender Jonathan Quick (32) reacts after New York Rangers’ Vincent Trocheck scored his second goal of an NHL hockey game, during the second period, Sunday, Feb. 26, 2023, in New York. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)

David Poile did not go into the final deadline of his quarter-century-long tenure as general manager of the Nashville Predators thinking he would trade longtime defenseman Mattias Ekholm or 25-year-old forward Tanner Jeannot.

But the seasoned executive started listening on offers a long time ago, has so far completed three deals and said, “My phone is on.” Not just his, and there’s still plenty of time until 3 p.m. EST Friday.

“There’s been a lot of phone calls, not a lot of sleep and a lot of activity the last few days,” Columbus GM Jarmo Kekalainen said Wednesday. “I expect that to continue.”

The Blue Jackets got in on the action very late at night Tuesday to finish the flurry of 11 trades agreed upon, most notably Patrick Kane going to the New York Rangers. Several of those moves set the table for more trades to come before the dealing is done.

On Wednesday, the domino effect continued with the defending Stanley Cup champion Colorado Avalanche acquiring center Lars Eller from the Washington Capitals for a 2025 second-round pick. Eller scored two of the biggest goals on Washington’s 2018 championship run, including the game-winner in the clinching game of the final, and can win faceoffs and kill penalties and fill a void down the middle.

“Solid, big, strong third-line center,” coach Jared Bednar told reporters in Denver. “That’s what he is. Penalty killer, good on draws, lots of experience. This is a good pickup.”

Eller was expected to be traded with free agency pending. Two-time Cup-winning goaltender Jonathan Quick was not.

The stunning deal of Quick from Los Angeles to Columbus immediately made the 37-year-old a top target to get dealt again. The last-in-the-league Blue Jackets took Quick along with a first- and a third-round pick to balance out the salaries of defenseman Vladislav Gavrikov and goalie Joonas Korpisalo going to L.A.

Columbus could now flip Quick to a contender looking for depth in net, and Kekalainen said he’s “going to try to do the right thing” with the respected veteran. Vegas, Toronto, Seattle and Pittsburgh are options.

Perhaps even Carolina, since the Hurricanes still have plenty of salary cap space left after acquiring winger Jesse Puljujarvi from Edmonton, which was clearing room to get Ekholm from Nashville. Goaltending injuries contributed to derailing the Hurricanes’ playoff run last year, and now in first place with a deep roster, now’s the chance to bolster the odds of coming out of a loaded Eastern Conference.

After NHL-leading Boston added size, toughness and depth by acquiring defenseman Dmitry Orlov and forward Garnet Hathaway from Washington, the New York Rangers got elite playmakers Patrick Kane and Vladimir Tarasenko, New Jersey stocked up for now and later with big winger Timo Meier, Tampa Bay gave up the farm for Jeannot and Toronto added six new players over the past two weeks, Carolina has plenty of motivation to make another trade.

Ducks defenseman John Klingberg, who was linked to the Hurricanes at the deadline last year before Dallas opted to keep him, is an option to help the power play, even though he’s going through a rough season. Anaheim is keeping Klingberg out of game action for trade-related reasons.

Another is Arizona’s Jakob Chychrun, the 24-year-old blue liner who has been on the block for more than a year. The Oilers getting Ekholm, the Maple Leafs trading for Jake McCabe, Luke Schenn and Erik Gustafsson and the Kings making the move for Gavrikov dried up the landing spots for Chychrun.

But with an impetus to get something done with Chychrun before Friday, Coyotes GM Bill Armstrong could find a trade partner in an unlikely place. The Capitals have shown a willingness to buy as well as sell, giving up a first-round pick with Gustafsson to get Rasmus Sandin from Toronto, and because Chychrun is signed for two more years he’s got value beyond teams looking ahead to the playoffs.

Columbus could even be a player for Chychrun with the extra high draft picks from the Kings — and more if Quick is on the move again.

“Definitely with the picks we have now as assets, we’re looking to make our team better — not just be picking year after year,” Kekalainen said. “It’s a busy time, and everybody’s trying to figure out the present and the future.”

—Stephen Whyno, The Associated Press

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