Bo Horvat was the first to go at the end of January.
Vladimir Tarasenko moved on next. Ryan O’Reilly wasn’t far behind.
NHL trade boards had already shed three big names two weeks before the league’s deadline.
Then the floodgates opened over the weekend. The deluge hasn’t stopped.
General managers have been working at breakneck speed — especially since Sunday — as teams manoeuvre and jockey for position ahead of Friday’s 3 p.m. cutoff.
And televisions executives and pundits tasked with filling hours of coverage are scrambling for content ahead of a deadline that could feature more tumbleweeds than trades.
“We try to ruin the deadline shows,” Arizona Coyotes GM Bill Armstrong quipped Wednesday night after completing the blockbuster Jakob Chychrun deal with the Ottawa Senators.
“We just like to watch those guys talk about nothing for about three hours.”
TSN host James Duthie responded to the quote on Twitter by posting sarcastically: “It’s nine, Bill. Nine hours.”
The dozens of players and draft picks that have already crisscrossed North America in a flurry of moves mean networks will likely need to get creative.
“We’ve never had anything like this,” Chris Johnston, one of TSN’s Insiders, said in an interview with The Canadian Press. “It’s never been this crazy. You always get a little bit anxious about the trades happening early, but this is a new level of chaos.”
That lead-up to the deadline has been fast and furious.
The Toronto Maple Leafs continued their roster renovation, the Edmonton Oilers finally secured a blue-line upgrade, the New Jersey Devils made a giant splash, and two decorated franchise icons moved on.
The Eastern Conference has seen the biggest trades so far, including Horvat joining the New York Islanders from the Vancouver Canucks, Tarasenko landing with the New York Rangers from St. Louis, and O’Reilly, his former Blues teammate, winding up in Toronto.
The Devils made their big move Sunday by acquiring Timo Meier from the San Jose Sharks.
“Part of the business, part of the game,” said Calgary Flames centre Nazem Kadri, whose club is the only one yet to make an in-season trade. “Teams are buying and selling … it’s something you’ve got to deal with.”
The Leafs also got Jake McCabe and Sam Lafferty from the Chicago Blackhawks on Monday before making three more deals Tuesday, including the re-acquisition of Luke Schenn from the Canucks, and the Oilers made a swap for Mattias Ekholm from the Nashville Predators.
“Seems like Toronto has a whole new team coming in here,” Edmonton star Leon Draisaitl said of the Leafs’ six additions before his club picked up a 5-2 victory on Wednesday.
Those trades all set the stage for the biggest to date — Chicago dealing three-time Stanley Cup champion Patrick Kane to the Rangers.
“It’s almost been so busy, I haven’t had a chance to think about it too deeply,” Johnston said of what Friday will look like on TV. “But I do know that we’re gonna have to plan a few extra skits and goofy things.
“The real content might be a bit light.”
That’s going to include at least one pre-recorded bit with former Canucks head coach Bruce Boudreau and an original tune focusing on the presumptive No. 1 pick at the 2023 NHL draft.
“James Duthie wrote a song about tanking for Connor Bedard,” Johnston said. “We all went in last week and dressed up in ridiculous outfits and taped a music video.”
Back to the trades already announced, the Los Angeles Kings got involved after the Kane swap from the Windy City to the Big Apple with a surprise move that sent two-time Cup winner Jonathan Quick to the Columbus Blue Jackets for Vladislav Gavrikov and Joonas Korpisalo.
“It feels like the deadline was (Tuesday), just given all the action,” Vancouver defenceman Tyler Myers said. “But this time every year is always a little hectic, wondering what’s going to happen.
“It’s just part of it.”
Ottawa then followed things up Wednesday by prying Chychrun from Arizona to end 18 months of speculation regarding his eventual landing spot.
Contenders have also made significant adds, including both the Boston Bruins, who acquired Tyler Bertuzzi from the Detroit Red Wings on Thursday, and Tampa Bay Lightning as part of an East-focused arms race.
“Some big names out there getting moved,” Flames defenceman MacKenzie Weegar said.
“The day itself is more a media thing,” head coach Darryl Sutter added of the deadline.
So what’s left for Friday?
“There’ll still be some action, but it’s nine hours,” Johnston said of TSN’s coverage. “It’s not an insignificant amount of time to fill air. Unfortunately, a lot of that falls on (Duthie). The good part about being on the Insiders Desk is they come to us when there’s news.
“If there isn’t a whole lot of news, maybe we’ll just be sitting in the back eating our lunch.”
— Joshua Clipperton, The Canadian Press