NEW YORK — Bryan Murray’s phone hasn’t been ringing too much since the Ottawa Senators general manager arrived in New York for the NHL draft.
Meanwhile, on the New Jersey side of the Hudson River, Winnipeg Jets GM Kevin Cheveldayoff has a much different view.
“Right now, the happiest people are the phone companies,” he said. “There’s lots of GMs with cell phones attached to their ear. It is unpredictable in a lot of different ways. Each draft seems to take on its own life and certainly there’s lots of new factors that come into play on this one.”
How vibrant the trade market is depends on who you’re talking to. The consensus is that some prominent players are available, but the salary cap dropping and teams using compliance buyouts complicate the landscape.
“It’s different than we’ve ever seen before, no question about that,” Toronto Maple Leafs GM Dave Nonis said. “Usually you get big names put out there, there’s a bunch of teams that are trying to pounce on it. That’s not the case right now, and it’s not because the players are not quality players or quality people. The cap jumping down, it has a significant impact on what teams can do.”
Even with the cap dropping from US$70.2 million to $64.3 million, plenty of teams have space to work and seem willing to shake things up. Big movement could come as the July 5 start of free agency approaches, or it could get going Sunday at the draft.
That will be the second time in four days that general managers are together. Many were in town for the board of governors meeting Thursday that could be considered the beginning of trading session.
“There’s lots of conversation,” Cheveldayoff said. “You make different calls to different teams, depending on their situations, where they are in the draft about potentially moving up and seeing what that price is and what their appetite is and if they’re going to do it. You get a lot of groundwork laid to see if anything does come into place.”
Cheveldayoff said trading picks is in vogue given that everyone in the league is around for the draft. The owners of the top five selections — the Colorado Avalanche, Florida Panthers, Tampa Bay Lightning, Nashville Predators and Carolina Hurricanes — figure to be on the receiving end of plenty of calls.
The Calgary Flames pick sixth in a draft that includes about that many players who could be in the NHL next season.
“We are still trying to advance some things and also getting a lot of calls about our pick at six,” GM Jay Feaster said Friday. “While we’ve made no secret of the fact that we wouldn’t mind moving up, there are a lot of other teams that would like to move up, and not just into that top five but even to get into that No. 6 spot.”
Move up, move down, stay pat or get out is a debate going on in dozens of meeting rooms across New York and New Jersey. What general managers must deal with is the delicate balance between getting immediate help and building for the future.
Given the big names that could be available — such as Boston Bruins forward Tyler Seguin, Vancouver Canucks goaltenders Roberto Luongo and Cory Schneider and Buffalo Sabres goaltender Ryan Miller — that desire to borrow from the future is even more tempting.
“Well I have heard have some names,” Murray said. “The rumour I hear is that, yeah, there are some fairly substantial players that may be available.”
With countless conversations going on, it’s impossible to know how much activity there will be Sunday at Prudential Center in Newark, N.J. Mike Gillis of the Canucks said the level of talks “ebbs and flows.”
“When there’s good players being talked about, there’s potential for lots of movement,” he said.
Of course general managers are dealing with what Cheveldayoff called “lots of nuances and complexities” that are unique to this off-season. Teams can use up to two compliance buyouts this summer or next, and almost $6 million is coming off the salary cap.
How that will directly affect trades is anyone’s guess.
“I think there’ll be a lot of surprises, a lot of things going on, juggling things depending what happens,” Pittsburgh Penguins general manager Ray Shero said. “There could be some trades here over the next couple of days, for sure. And we’ll see what develops.”