PALM BEACH, Fla. – The last trade deadline of David Poile’s distinguished managerial career was a busy one.
The outgoing Nashville Predators general manager was right in the middle of the action, stocking up on draft picks for successor Barry Trotz by shipping out Mattias Ekholm, Tanner Jeannot, Nino Neiderreiter and Mikael Granlund in a series of deals made over the last few weeks.
Poile has spent more than 40 years working in NHL front offices and views the fireworks set off during this particular deadline period as more of an outlier than the start of a new, swashbuckling trend in the league.
NHL GM Meetings: Poile dishes on trades
“A whole bunch of things came together,” Poile said on the opening day of the NHL GM Meetings. “We were sitting on the fence for a long time and then we decided to do what we did. Washington was not a seller and then they decided to do what they did. Detroit was on a winning streak and they lost two games to Ottawa then they did what they did.
“So, there were a whole bunch of things.
“The Eastern teams basically had an arms race and they all totally loaded up. That was ideal to sellers like myself.”
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Poile made the late decision to sell at the deadline because he felt his group needed a refresh while being stuck in the “mushy middle” following eight consecutive years of playoff appearances.
He also felt it was important to do some heavy lifting before Trotz officially took control on July 1.
Arguably the most eye-popping trade made by anyone was the one Poile pulled off with Tampa. He got Cal Foote, a 2025 first-rounder and four other selections in exchange for Jeannot.
The rough-and-tumble 25-year-old winger had just 14 points on the season when the deal was completed Feb. 27, but the Lightning highly coveted his unique skill set and cost-controlled contract.
“The truth there is that I had more calls on Tanner Jeannot than anybody,” said Poile. “We weren’t looking to trade him, but I just set a price and the price I set was two first-round picks. I had lots of offers. A lot of people offered me a first and I’d say the equivalent [in a player], or what have you.
“[Lightning GM] Julien [BriseBois] didn’t have it. He had it sort of in a different way [with all of the picks].”
Added Poile: “I think it seemed fair for my asking price, to have it met. Some day you’ll be putting the names beside what Tanner Jeannot is and we’ll see what we’ve got.”
Three-team deals and trade-related scratches
One aspect of the recent trade deadline that didn’t create much excitement in the NHL head office was how many of the deals required a third-party broker in order to reduce the cap hit on players switching teams.
Minnesota twice served in the role as the go-between on the Ryan O’Reilly trade to Toronto and the Dmitry Orlov deal to Boston.
Montreal, meanwhile, was a third-party broker in the Nick Bonino trade to Pittsburgh, while Arizona served as a go-between in the Patrick Kane trade to the New York Rangers.
Bill Daly said the NHL has never favoured those transactions, but relented to them years ago because the GMs lobbied to have retained-salary transactions included in the collective bargaining agreement.
“It creates the looseness that you're seeing here,” he said. “I think it is in some ways a way to get around the salary cap. So I don’t like that.
“I like a tight salary cap — we have one — but it can always be tighter.”
It doesn’t sound like the deputy commissioner sees any need to create a rule that might restrict teams from scratching players for an extended period of time because of “trade-related reasons.”
That happened with Arizona Coyotes defenceman Jakob Chychrun before his trade to Ottawa and Columbus Blue Jackets defenceman Vladislav Gavrikov before he was dealt to Los Angeles.
“We saw it this year for the first time in any material way,” said Daly. “I’m not sure it was that material, but certainly it raised some eyebrows. I would say in the manner in which we saw it it wouldn’t raise to a level of a concern, but if it becomes a trend then obviously it would.”
There also doesn’t seem to be a movement afoot to curb Arizona’s roster-building strategy.
The Coyotes have been accruing extra draft capital to take on the contracts of injured players, which in turn helps them reach the salary cap floor.
While some may feel that those moves violate the spirit of the NHL’s system, Daly doesn’t see any change on the horizon.
“We went through a long process of ultimately getting to where we got to on that issue — just interpretatively, going way back, to when we first had the cap,” he said. “Looking at what value is being exchanged in deals and that’s important; there’s actual value trading hands.
“Whether we go back on that, I think that would be something that we’d have to discuss with the Players’ Association.
“I’m somewhat skeptical that they would be supportive of making a change in that regard, but we haven’t asked the question.”
Equipment changes coming?
Cut-resistant wrist guards and Kevlar socks aren’t currently required for use by NHL players, despite the rise in skate lacerations we’ve seen in recent years.
That could soon change.
“I think it’s just a matter of time, but the question is the process to get there,” said Daly. “We’re working with the Players’ Association on that. They understand the need to address the issue and we just want to do it in the right way.”
During a report on protective equipment issues made Monday, the GMs were shown video detailing some recent incidents, including four serious injuries dating back to the 2019-20 season that resulted in 110 man games lost because of cuts to the wrist or forearm.
There’s also a considerable number of near-misses, too, which is why some organizations are already requiring their American Hockey League players to wear the protective gear.
Daly said the biggest source of pushback comes from the lack of comfort some feel while wearing wrist guards, which is a complaint they’ve heard during previous equipment implementations.
“We think it’s really a matter of adjustment and I think if we ever moved toward a mandatory rule we’d do it on a grandfathered basis like we did with helmets and visors,” he said. “We’ll let players who are in the league make their own decisions.”
Rule changes being discussed
Among the potential rule change recommendations that could come out of these meetings when they wrap up Wednesday is the scope of what can be challenged by coaches in-game.
The GMs are discussing whether high-sticking reviews should be expanded to include minor penalties, particularly in “friendly fire” cases where a player gets struck by a teammate’s stick and the play is called incorrectly by referees on the ice.
There is also an ongoing discussion about whether puck-over-the-glass penalties should be subject to a challenge to ensure they were correctly assessed.
NHL GM Meetings chatter
The Ottawa Senators sale process continues to chug along with the first round of bids now submitted to Galatioto Sports Partners, the firm overseeing the sale on behalf of the NHL and Melnyk family.
It's not clear, however, when the transaction will be finalized.
“Too soon,” said Daly. “Obviously working and refining those bids is going to take a couple weeks, and then we’ll see where we are.”
The Senators are expected to be sold for north of $800 million.
The freshest face at these meetings has formally been on the job for four days. And he’s carrying an “interim” tag on his title.
Danny Briere is no stranger to anyone in NHL circles, but this is a big leap for the man now tasked with running the Philadelphia Flyers.
“He’s been working hard on the management side of this now for a few years and I’m happy he’s getting his opportunity. He’s a really good guy,” said San Jose Sharks GM Mike Grier, a former teammate in Buffalo.
Briere is such a notoriously nice guy that it’s fair to wonder how he’ll handle the highly competitive world he’s now occupying.
But Grier pushed back on that notion.
“I think sometimes there’s comfort in there if you do deals with people you know and you have a comfort level with,” he said. "At the same time, Danny, he’s a nice guy but we called him ‘Sneaky B’ when he played so I’m sure he’ll do what’s necessary and what’s right for his franchise.”