Kyle Dubas watched his Atlantic Division counterparts make their moves.
Then the Toronto Maple Leafs general manager came back with his.
Dubas capped a weekend of wheeling and dealing among NHL rivals jockeying for playoff positioning when he acquired veteran defenceman Mark Giordano from the Seattle Kraken on Sunday.
That late-afternoon swap came on the heels of the Florida Panthers, Boston Bruins and Tampa Bay Lightning all making splashes of their own.
“We had our plan going in,” Dubas said shortly after Monday’s NHL trade deadline passed at 3 p.m. ET. “You expect every team is going to do all they can to improve.
“Everything we did was just to abide by the plan that we had going in and not be too reactive.”
The biggest trades across the league came over the weekend – much to the chagrin of TV talking heads hoping to fill day-long coverage – paving the way for a Monday mostly devoid of drama.
Sure, the Minnesota Wild traded for reining Vezina Trophy winner Marc-Andre Fleury from the Chicago Blackhawks, while the Carolina Hurricanes added winger Max Domi from the Columbus Blue Jackets, but many of the deals announced were for depth purposes, asset management or salary cap manoeuvring.
“The market is hard to predict,” Canucks general manager Patrik Allvin said in Vancouver. “You can see high prices and you see the retained salaries. I think this is the parity of the league.
“There’s a lot of teams that the window is short and they’re trying to go for it.”
The Panthers acquired centre Claude Giroux from the Philadelphia Flyers and blue-liner Ben Chiarot from the Montreal Canadiens in the days leading up to the deadline, while the Boston Bruins nabbed defenceman Hampus Lindholm from the Anaheim Ducks.
The Lightning made a deal with Chicago for winger Brandon Hagel before adding centre Nick Paul from the Ottawa Senators on Sunday night.
“Just stick with our plan and roll,” Dubas added of his approach. “We feel we stack up well against those clubs.”
The biggest move involving a Canadian team Monday saw the Winnipeg Jets send forward Andrew Copp and a 2023 sixth-round pick to the New York Rangers for prospect Morgan Barron, a 2023 fifth-round selection and two conditional second-rounders.
The Edmonton Oilers acquired Derick Brassard from the Philadelphia Flyers for a fourth-rounder in 2023 and Brett Kulak from the Montreal Canadiens for fellow defenceman William Lagesson and a second-rounder in 2022.
The Senators shipped forward Zach Sanford to the Winnipeg Jets for a 2022 fifth-rounder and sent defenceman Josh Brown to Boston for prospect Zach Senyshyn in a trade that also included a swap of late-round picks this July after signing goaltender Anton Forsberg to a three-year contract extension.
After a busy Sunday that saw the Canucks trade Travis Hamonic to Ottawa and acquire fellow blue-liner Travis Dermott from Toronto, Vancouver sent winger Tyler Motte to the Rangers for a 2023 fourth-rounder.
The Canadiens, meanwhile, also traded winger Arturri Lehkonen to the Colorado Avalanche for a pick and a prospect.
The Calgary Flames, who made early moves by nabbing forwards Tyler Toffoli last month and Calle Jarnkrok last week, acquired centre Ryan Carpenter from Chicago for a 2024 fifth-rounder.
According to data provided by the NHL, of the 1,177 players traded on deadline day between 1980 and 2021, just 26 have gone onto win the Stanley Cup that season.
“We did a lot of our heavy lifting in the weeks leading up to (Monday),” said Flames GM Brad Treliving, whose team sits first in the Pacific Division. “Today we were sort of working around the edges. You’re always in conversations, but we didn’t anticipate it being a real active day for us.
“We were looking at depth.’
That wasn’t the case in the Atlantic in the days leading up to the deadline.
“One big arm’s race and everybody’s trying to get that extra edge,” Lightning head coach Jon Cooper said of the division during his Monday media availability. “Sometimes getting the edge is doing nothing and sometimes the edge is going out and getting players. Looks like everybody in the Atlantic decided it was time to go get guys.
“It should make for a fun final 20 games of the year and an exciting playoffs.”
Dubas, whose team lost Finnish goalie Harri Sateri on waivers to the Arizona Coyotes after agreeing to terms with the Olympic gold medallist on Sunday, was asked about a detailed report Toronto was far down the road on a Fleury trade that never materialized.
“I’m disappointed that that conversation is public,” he said in a direct shot at Blackhawks rookie GM Kyle Davidson. “I’ve never had that before where these specifics like that have been made public.”
Leafs No. 1 goalie Jack Campbell (rib injury) has resumed skating and struggling backup Petr Mrazek went unclaimed on the waiver wire Monday, while surprising rookie Erik Kallgren’s resume is paper-thin.
Still, Dubas remains confident his group has the horses to get it done with a roster that just added Giordano and depth forward Colin Blackwell – the other piece in the trade with Seattle – and should get blue-liner Jake Muzzin (concussion) back before the start of the playoffs.
“We’re excited about that all this subjective leadership experience, competitive stuff is important,” Dubas said of Giordano. “But first and foremost we brought him in because we think he’s a very good player and going to help us a lot as a hockey team.”
The Leafs sat two points up on Boston for third in the division heading into Monday’s action, while Toronto was one back of Tampa and seven adrift of Florida.
“I know that the division looks ominous,” Dubas said. “But I think that level of competition is great because it you know who you’re going up against every single night.
“The division is very difficult. And I think for us that’s the best thing for us. It’d be great if it was easy, but I think how big of a challenge it is forces our group in the final stretch to get our game into order.”
—Joshua Clipperton, The Associated Press