It happens once a year like clockwork. The names are usually big, the expectations are always high and even though you know you will come away disappointed, you can't avert your eyes from it. No, it's not a big budget DC movie—it's the NHL's trade deadline.
Instead of wasting your time by looking at the needs of teams and potential available players and getting your hopes up, I'm going to give you the straight truth about the deadline—your GM will botch it and/or the players your team gets won't matter. Maybe your team will acquire a draft pick that becomes the star player that leads your team to a title in 2026, but chances are, your GM will screw up the pick like he's screwed up everything else.
So here's why your stupid team will screw up the trade deadline.
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31. Arizona Coyotes
When your organizational philosophy is, "Spend as little on the team as possible so we can invest it in cryptocurrency," the Stanley Cup isn't in your future. John Chayka took over a team with 76 points two seasons ago and, after an offseason designed to improve the team immediately, they are on pace for 61 points this season. That would be the fewest points in team history. Look for Chayka to acquire dead salary cap money or a talented young player he will trade again in two years.
30. Buffalo Sabres
What possible trade can a team make when the team is haunted? Can it acquire a Ghostbuster? Jack Eichel has to be one of the five unhappiest millionaires in the world. Why does Stephen King set all his books in a fake New England town when Buffalo is clearly the scariest place in the world? The Sabres are somehow worse than they were two years ago when they landed Eichel.
29. Ottawa Senators
We are two weeks away from owner Eugene Melnyk firing the GM, coach, trainer, a popcorn guy in the lower bowl of the Accumulated Debt Center, and a parking attendant so he can do the jobs himself and save a few bucks. I'm no hockey scientist but when your trade deadline strategy is to shed money like you're Montgomery Brewster, the Stanley Cup isn't in your plans. Ever. Melnyk should just put himself in the lineup for a Leafs game and get it over with. Maybe he'll do that after he deals Erik Karlsson for 35 cents on the dollar.
28. Montreal Canadiens
Imagine being two years removed from having traded PK Subban and still being in charge of that roster? This is like Exxon letting the guy who crashed an oil tanker into an iceberg chart courses for all future tanker voyages. And now the Habs are letting Marc Bergevin make another round of franchise-altering decisions. Somehow I doubt Max Pacioretty for Ryan Callahan straight up will help the Habs end their Stanley Cup drought.
27. Vancouver Canucks
Listening to Jim Benning talk about why he re-signed Erik Gudbranson as opposed to trading him should make clear why the Canucks are doomed. Instead of fleecing a team for a second-round pick, Benning wanted to lock up a defenseman that's never been good but people thought he'd be good a decade ago. Also, he's tall. A professional talented evaluator is basing decisions on the length of a guy's stick. I'm excited to see if Benning forgets to trade Thomas Vanek. "Oh, right, that guy is a UFA after this season, isn't he? That's on me, guys. My bad."
26. Edmonton Oilers
Canadian teams all suck again, huh? Do you think the Oilers have a handler for Peter Chiarelli at things like the GM meetings? Like, there's a guy with a taser that renders Chiarelli unconscious if he ever wanders into a room alone with David Poile so he doesn't trade Connor McDavid for Nick Bonino. "The Oilers are in the market for some wingers" is a damn fun sentence to type. What a league!
25. Detroit Red Wings
This once-proud franchise is desperately and obviously in need of a rebuild, which was why after last season it was fun to hear Ken Holland say, "Nobody wants to see a rebuild." Hey, when you're packing 6,000 per night into a taxpayer-funded pizza joint, you have to get to 85 points any way you can. Waiting to trade Petr Mrazek until his value was at an all-time low is the type of progressive thinking you want from a general manager that's not under contract for next season. Hanging on to Mike Green until he has a lingering upper-body injury days before the deadline? Holland is playing chess while you're playing checkers, my friends.
24. Chicago Blackhawks
It's hard to see a way the Blackhawks bounce back any time soon. Cap circumvention is no longer allowed and they are out of valuable players to package with bad contracts in trades that only help in the short term. What exactly would Stan Bowman have to attach to Brent Seabrook to get another team to take him? The formula for time travel? The pee tape? They say it's wrong to take delight in the misery of others but that does not include the Blackhawks.
23. Florida Panthers
I love that the guy who let Jonathan Marchessault and Reilly Smith go to Vegas in exchange for massage coupons is once again helming a pivotal point for the franchise. What do you think Dale Tallon would have paid for Erik Gudbranson in a trade? Aleksander Barkov and a first? Tallon is probably only still employed by the Panthers because of a human resources paperwork error. He's Milton from Office Space but with power. He will yet again be given the opportunity to drag the team down even further because nothing matters in this organization. It's a great reflection of America, when you think about it.
22. New York Rangers
I totally have faith in a front office that fancied itself a contender seven months ago when it gave Kevin Shattenkirk a gigantic contract and is now announcing to the world it will sell anyone that is bolted to the ice. You mean the fellas that overpaid Brendan Smith and then sent him to the AHL are plotting the course for the future? How do you not have confidence in that sort of vision?!? This is also the leadership group that chose Dan Girardi over Anton Stralman. The Rangers went 54 years between their last two Stanley Cups and it will be another 100 years before they win another one.
21. Columbus Blue Jackets
The Blue Jackets could somehow acquire John Tavares, Erik Karlsson, Ryan McDonagh, Rick Nash, and sign a 24-year-old clone of Wayne Gretzky created from his DNA, and John Tortorella would still find a reason to play Jack Johnson and Brandon Dubinsky 40 minutes a night. This is also the team that let William Karlsson go in the expansion draft, so there's no one to trust here. Either the trade will be bad or the trade will be good and Tortorella will cut the player's ice time because he refused to block a shot with his dick in practice.
20. New York Islanders
Garth Snow has botched more picks than a greasy-handed defensive back and wasted the prime years of a Hall of Famer, but hell yeah, let's have him in charge of the biggest decision in franchise history… what to do with John Tavares. In any other sport, the GM trades the elite talent headed for free agency when the team is at best a coin flip to make the playoffs, then pushes to re-sign him in the offseason. But this is the dumbest sport in the world, so the GM that's underwhelmed for a decade will hang onto Tavares for the rest of the season and potentially lose him for nothing instead of reaping a bounty of futures at the deadline (that he'd probably botch, anyway). The Islanders are the Kobayashi Maru of hockey.
19. Carolina Hurricanes
This is the fourth season of Ron Francis' reign as GM and he's got a shot to bring the Hurricanes to the playoffs for the first time since 2009. Francis already messed up his best chance to improve the goaltending with his idiotic signing of Scott Darling (please do not search for my opinions on Darling before this season) and now the team is one or two pieces away from being a perennial playoff contender, so look for him to pull the trigger on someone like Kris Versteeg or James Wisniewski, moves that won't help or hurt either way.
18. Colorado Avalanche
Joe Sakic is still in charge of the Avalanche, right? It's amazing how after he netted a bunch of prospects and picks for Matt Duchene, suddenly people wondered if he was now good at his job. He is not. It's not a great transaction history for Patrick Roy's best buddy. He found a way to get less for Nick Holden than the Rangers did. Life is a mystery but you can be assured that Sakic will get suckered by someone that had fewer than 1,000 points in their NHL playing career.
17. Calgary Flames
Brad Treliving has done well and the Flames are headed in the right direction, but there's still a little bit of that We Need Guys Who Will Punch Your Dicks Guys thing that doesn't help. I could see the trade report across the scroll: "Flames acquire C Zac Rinaldo from the Coyotes in exchange for sixth-round pick." And that will be the Flames' only move.
16. Los Angeles Kings
Dean Lombardi's ghost is still running things if the Kings think Dion Phaneuf on the roster for the next 100 years helps. The Kings won two Cups after robbing the Blue Jackets blind at the deadline so I will withdraw this if there is a big Kings-Blue Jackets trade on Monday that sends Artemi Panarin to the Kings for Phaneuf in a 1-for-1 deal. Maybe the Coyotes are the new Blue Jackets but somehow I don't think Tobias Rieder is headed toward a Jeff Carter/Marian Gaborik finish to the season.
15. New Jersey Devils
It's been an unexpectedly great season for the Devils, who look locked into a playoff spot with two months to play. But really, what did Ray Shero really do here? He answered a late night drunk dial from Peter Chiarelli and robbed him in the Adam Larsson-Taylor Hall trade; won a draft lottery that landed him Nico Hischier, and dealt Adam Henrique for Sami Vatanen in a no-brainer deal that was only possible because of winning the draft lottery. Shero is due to drop a turd on the floor. Maybe he brings Douglas Murray out of retirement.
14. Philadelphia Flyers
Ron Hextall hasn't been a buyer since becoming a GM in 2014, as the Flyers have mostly been bad thanks to another former Flyer running the team into the ground. Hextall has made some good deals away from the deadline, and getting Petr Mrazek was one of them. I guess what I'm saying here is the Flyers suck and there's nothing Hextall can do to help this team win a Cup this year. The Flyers have been run by an ex-player since 1994; guess how many times they've won the Cup over that stretch? It's zero. That was an easy game.
13. Anaheim Ducks
Last year, Bob Murray acquired Patrick Eaves and the Ducks lost in the conference finals with Eaves missing most of the playoffs with a high-ankle sprain. Two years ago, Murray loaded up by landing Patrick Maroon, Brandon Pirri, and Jamie McGinn, who made it possible for the Ducks to lose in the first round in seven games instead of six. The list of times Murray did the wrong thing goes on and on.
12. Minnesota Wild
Some GMs get their jobs because they were awesome at hockey decades ago; others get the gig because their dads were GMs. Meet Chuck Fletcher, the guy who let Alex Tuch go to the Vegas and gave up a first- and second-round pick at last year's trade deadline for Martin Hanzal, who legally dies before every postseason. I don't know what Fletcher has up his sleeve this year but I bet it's used to overpay for someone who doesn't help the Wild win more than five playoff games.
11. St. Louis Blues
Doug Armstrong might be Batman. He's made a lot of bad moves yet he uses these diversion tactics and people think he's a hero. He's adapted to the darkness. Remember the Ryan Miller deal? Goodness. That was also the Steve Ott deal. The Blues have been fading since a strong start so your only hope is he's out fighting crime and using a weirdly deep voice instead of taking calls from other GMs.
10. San Jose Sharks
Doug Wilson has been pretty much winging it since he tried to shame Joe Thornton into accepting a trade a few years ago and then the Sharks got good again. Despite an aging core, Wilson never looked at rentals, and instead focused on getting players with term left on their contract, like Jannik Hansen. Why make your team much better in the short term when you can do virtually nothing to help it over a longer timeline with guys like Hansen? Sharks hockey, baby!
9. Dallas Stars
Jim Nill once traded a conditional first-round pick for Kris Russell. That's the end of this section.
8. Pittsburgh Penguins
Jim Rutherford has actually made some helpful moves at the deadline to help the Penguins win Cups. But just like other wise GMs, Rutherford has already fortified his contender with [squints at roster] Riley Sheahan and [rubs eyes] Jamie Oleksiak. When you run out of cap space, you always do it for a 30-point center and the Dallas Stars' worst defensemen. Someone should do a study on how many GMs create legacies by winning titles with another GM's players and put Stan Bowman and Jim Rutherford statues outside the Other People's Titles Hall of Fame.
7. Washington Capitals
Against all odds, after a summer of shedding salary and useful players, the Capitals are still near the top of the league. Objectively worse than they have been the past two years, Brian MacLellan has said he doesn't expect the team to be buyers like they were last year, because as we all know, Alex Ovechkin will not continue to age, nor will Nicklas Backstrom. It's also important to pin your team's perpetual shortcomings on two months of Kevin Shattenkirk, this way you can be gun shy about landing a big name again. If at first you don't succeed, trade for Michal Kempny.
6. Toronto Maple Leafs
From the team that brought you "Patrick Marleau for three years and $19 million" last summer comes the exciting late-winter follow-up, "some guy Mike Babcock likes that isn't all that helpful." I don't know who is coming to Toronto but you know it will be someone that gets too many minutes and isn't all that skilled. Maybe it will be Roman Polak's cousin Greco Polak who will play 22 minutes a night because he's "hard to play against." Someone should let the Leafs know their window to win a title is open sooner than they expected so they should go back in time and get Marleau's cap hit off the books so they can add an expensive defenseman.
5. Winnipeg Jets
I like to picture Kevin Cheveldayoff around deadline day like other people are when it comes to visiting the dentist. He knows he has to go but he's constantly putting it off for silly reasons. "What's that? Ken Holland's on the phone? Oh, um, tell him I can't talk trade right now because… ummm… my dog's sick, yeah. Sorry." Then enough time passes and instead of his teeth falling out his team falls apart. They say when a door closes, God opens a window. Maybe that window is a championship window in Winnipeg and God is Cheveldayoff, ready to land a fourth-line winger for a sixth-round pick.
4. Nashville Predators
David Poile does all his work before the deadline so he can spend deadline day doing things like signing 37-year-old men that haven't played hockey in eight months. When it's time to load up at the deadline, that's when Poile lands all his playoff healthy scratches, like PA Parenteau and Mike Santorelli. The Preds lost James Neal in the expansion draft and as a Cup favorite, it's great to see Nashville looking into offensive-minded replacements like Rick Nash, because any time you can snag a guy that hasn't cracked 40 points in three seasons and consistently falls flat in the playoffs, you have to look into that.
3. Boston Bruins
Once you add Nick Holden to a Cup contender, isn't your job already done? Don Sweeney can put his feet up and relax now that he added the defensemen who was run over during last year's playoffs by the run and gun Ottawa Senators. When you have a fast moving boat, it's always important to tie anchors to it. Look for Sweeney and Cam Neely to add to the "Bruins culture" by acquiring 100 pounds of literal grits to rub on David Pastrnak's body.
2. Tampa Bay Lightning
Steve Yzerman is a tremendous GM when it comes to arriving at a job where the foundational pieces are already there or using a terrible CBA to leverage great RFAs into taking bad deals because other GMs are too chicken shit to use an offer sheet. At the trade deadline, this is when Yzerman lands guys like Braydon Coburn and Ryan Callahan. He's also the guy who let Jonathan Marchessault walk for nothing and gave three-goal scorer Callahan $6 million a year through 2020. That's the guy you want evaluating talent for a Cup favorite.
1. Vegas Golden Knights
What a season. What a time to be a sports fan. An expansion team with championship aspirations in its first year. And what other general manager would you have in charge of a team like this other than George McPhee? The guy who traded Filip Forsberg for Martin Erat and got in on the ground floor of the Capitals Can't Get Past The Second Round movement is now tasked with getting the team over the top. Maybe a trade of Alex Tuch for Brent Seabrook? Tie McPhee to a blackjack table all day Monday. It's the only way Vegas wins.