NHL players talk about what it’s like to get traded

The Hockey Central panel talk about possible players that could be moved at the NHL Trade Deadline.

Well, we’re in the heart of trade season now.

On Tuesday, the dam began to break on the trade market — specifically the defence market as Brenden Dillon, Marco Scandella and Dylan DeMelo were all sent to new teams. On Monday Andy Greene was dealt, as were forwards Tyler Toffoli and Blake Coleman. On Wednesday, Alec Martinez was sent to Vegas.

As fun as it is for armchair GMs, fantasy players, and fans in general to see players swap jerseys, it can be easy to forget the impact a trade can have on the individual players involved. It can be a big change in a new city, possibly on the other side of the continent, and a new dressing room with new teammates. Under a different coach, the system will likely bring new challenges as well, not to mention the off-ice complications of changing addresses and moving a family around.

Erik Gudbranson once told a great story to Sportsnet’s Luke Fox about his first trade, when Vancouver acquired him from Florida in the summer of 2016.

“I was on a safari in Africa, the middle of nowhere, in the middle of Botswana on a riverboat cruise. There’s no cell service there,” Gudbranson said. “I made a transfer through three countries, finally made it to my hotel in Zimbabwe, got some Internet, and my phone just blew up. My girlfriend had taken care of talking to my agents and setting everything up.”

Gudbranson met up for lunch with friend and now-former teammate Shawn Matthias at a Zimbabwe hotel, and the trade news was broken to him…three days after it had been consummated.

“It was pretty funny,” Gudbranson said. “I went to sit down at the table, and he was dying laughing: ‘Dude, you just got traded.’ I said, ‘C’mon, no chance.’ He said, ‘Yep. You’re gonna be a Canuck now.’

“I hit the panic button quick a couple minutes after that, but it was good.”

Over the next few days, you’re going to see a number of players change cities and jerseys. There will be breaking news, follow-up analysis and big picture breakdowns on what all this could mean for the playoffs and the upcoming battle to get into them.

But it’s stories like these from Gudbranson that remind us of the human factor. Over the weekend, and before he was dealt to the Washington Capitals, Dillon was asked about the potential that he could be moved by the deadline and his emotional response further drove home that reality.

So, with the help of our reporters around the NHL, we asked players various questions about being traded.

WHAT IS IT LIKE TO BE TRADED?

Max Domi, Montreal Canadiens
• Traded from Arizona to Montreal for Alex Galchenyuk on June 15, 2018

“It just turns your whole life upside down. You’re just so used to… you have your house, you have the same restaurants, whatever it is, all of a sudden that’s not your life anymore and it’s not like you can just go back. You’re now in a whole new home. When I first got to Montreal, even though it was the off-season, it felt like I was on a road trip. And I was like, ‘Okay, this is your actual home and I’m not going back to Arizona,’ so it was like a pretty foreign and unique feeling. But I really enjoyed it. Everyone takes it differently, but I like the new scenery, I like coming to a new group and kind of hitting the refresh button.

“The hardest part is leaving your teammates and all your buddies. For me personally, I’m still a young guy, so it wasn’t that bad in terms of family and stuff. But I can’t imagine how tough that would be if you had kids and school and all that stuff it would a bit of a grind. Now, with a couple of years reflecting I feel like, even though it was tough in the beginning, it was good for me and my career in the long run.”

Niklas Hjalmarsson, Arizona Coyotes
• Traded from Chicago to Arizona for Connor Murphy and Laurent Dauphin on June 23, 2017

“To spend 10 years with the same team, it’s a long time. That first feeling is not great, honestly. I didn’t want to get traded. I wanted to stay in Chicago and play there for the rest of my career. At the same time I know how it is in this business. I was fortunate to be there for 10 great years and you get everything out of the house and move down there (Arizona), I felt it right away that I am going to enjoy playing here with a great group of guys and a great place to live.”

Dylan DeMelo, Winnipeg Jets
• Traded to Ottawa from San Jose as part of the Erik Karlsson trade on Sept. 13, 2018
• He was also moved from Ottawa to the Winnipeg Jets on Tuesday, but is not discussing that deal here

“I came in at a good time, at the beginning of the season. The most difficult thing was just moving all my stuff and finding a place to live to be honest, because I was set up in San Jose. In Ottawa I didn’t want to stay in a hotel too long, I had my wife and dog with me, so just finding a place to live was a challenge (they ended up in the home of ex-Senators centre Kyle Turris).”

Brandon Sutter, Vancouver Canucks
• Traded from Carolina to Pittsburgh as part of a package for Jordan Staal on June 22, 2012
• Traded again from Pittsburgh to Vancouver for Nick Bonino and Adam Clendening on July 28, 2015

“The first time I was traded was just the weirdest feeling. You’re thinking: OK, all my stuff is in Carolina, all my friends are in Carolina. I’m going to a team where I don’t know one guy. I was shocked. I was 23. Yeah, it sucked. And I got traded before the lockout (in 2012), so I didn’t get to play a game with Pittsburgh until January. It was weird, too, because I got traded for Jordan Staal, and I was really good friends (in Carolina) with Eric Staal. And it was the day of Jordan’s wedding, and of course Eric was at the wedding.”

Eric Staal, Minnesota Wild
• Traded from Carolina to NY Rangers for two seconds and Aleksi Saarela on Feb. 28, 2016

“I had a full no-move (clause) in my contract, so that helped to facilitate certain things. At that time in my career, and with the direction the team was going, it was time to move on. I was going to be a free agent that summer. The opportunity to join the Rangers was presented, and I had another opportunity to play with one of my brothers (Marc). Not a lot of guys can do that in the NHL. That crossed something off my list. The hockey (success) I hoped for in New York didn’t happen, but I don’t regret it because I got to play with one of my brothers in the NHL. Who wouldn’t want to do that?”

Tanner Pearson, Vancouver Canucks
• Traded from LA to Pittsburgh for Carl Hagelin on Nov. 14, 2018
• Traded again from Pittsburgh to Vancouver for Erik Gudbranson on Feb. 25, 2019

“L.A. was not doing so well and I wasn’t having a good year by any means. The GM was trying to shake the team up. I figured it was going to happen at some point. I more or less just watched how those teams were doing after I got traded. I didn’t really look at or care who I got traded for. But I know both guys got traded again.”

Mats Zuccarello, Minnesota Wild
• Traded from NY Rangers to Dallas for two draft picks on Feb. 23, 2019

“I kind of expected it, but once it happened, I didn’t know how to feel. You’re sad to be leaving your friends, but you’re also excited to go to a new team. Once you get traded, you have to have the mindset they don’t want you anymore, so show them they made a mistake.

“I was at the same team a long time and I was scared (about going to Dallas). How am I going to fit in, what will the guys be like? But I came to Dallas and fit in from Day 1, and I had a great time there. It really wasn’t that hard.

“It was hard (being traded). I was almost crying, but I was trying to hold it in (because) the boys had a game to play and I didn’t want to make it even more than it was. But for me, it was emotional. You’re in the same place for eight years and then, boom, you get a phone call and in a couple of hours you’re on a flight with your bags and you’re done.”

Kyle Clifford, Toronto Maple Leafs
• Traded from Los Angeles to Toronto with Jack Campbell for Trevor Moore and a pick on Feb. 5, 2020

“You never know what’s gonna happen, right? You never know till the day the deadline’s over; it’s just unexpected. You get the call at 11 o’clock [at] night and in the [next] 12 hours are pretty crazy with the phone just blowin’ up. A lot of people reach out… my old teammates and old coaches. Just good to hear from them. And some guys you don’t really talk to on a regular basis.

Jack Campbell, Toronto Maple Leafs

“Man, it was like one of those moments, you kinda go dark for a second cuz it’s just special, and I don’t even remember exactly. I just remember how excited [my parents] were, and for sure they can make it to a couple more games now [because they live in Port Hope, Mich.].

“I honestly had no idea [I’d get traded]. I think I packed a pair of gym shorts and one pair of pants for the [Kings] road trip, so I had to do a little shopping, but just so excited to be here.

“My five-year-old son Brody, his favourite player is Jake Muzzin, so he’s ecstatic to get out here. He was wanting to get on the first plane. All my boys like hockey, so we’re in the hockey mecca of the world, so they’re going to have a good time.”

HOW DID YOU FIND OUT YOU’D BEEN TRADED?

Niklas Hjalmarsson “My agent called and said the Blackhawks wanted my 10-team trade list. And then the trade was made. I never talked to Stan (Bowman), just my agent.”

Dylan DeMelo (on his trade to Ottawa): “We were doing media day in San Jose and I was on my way out and they said to come back and talk to the coach. It was the beginning of the year, so I thought, this must be something good! Went in there and was told I’d been traded to Ottawa, thank you for your time and all that stuff. It was definitely a shock, I was just gearing up for the season and I didn’t see it coming at all.”

Eric Staal on his brother Jordan’s trade to Carolina. The news broke at Jordan’s wedding: “The trade happened just before the dinner. Wedding planning, you get the date picked and the venue picked, and it just happened to be at the same time as the draft. Jordan knew there were different scenarios that could occur. I was excited about it because we’d get to play together, but he had mixed emotions because he had friends in Pittsburgh and a lot of those guys were at the wedding. He went through a lot of emotions that day.”

DID YOU FOLLOW THE PLAYERS YOU HAD BEEN TRADED FOR AFTER THE DEAL?

Niklas Hjalmarsson: “Not really. I know who I got traded for. He (Connor Murphy) seems to be doing well in Chicago. It might have been a good thing for the both of us. Hopefully both organizations are happy with the move. I feel like we’ve been growing each year.”

Dylan DeMelo: “I mean, I am never going to be Erik Karlsson. I am not going to be the player he is, it wasn’t like it was a straight up deal. He is one of the top defencemen in the league when he is healthy and on his game. It’s hard to compare with him, but with the other assets on my side maybe we can make it close (laughs).”

Brandon Sutter: “At first, you’re paying attention to what the other guy is doing. But after a while, you move on. The second time I was traded felt a lot different. I was thrown for a loop the first time, and the second time I was more excited about something new.

“But it is different for guys getting traded mid-season. You’re traded and the next day you’re on a new team. The good thing about that is you’re playing again, you go on the road and get to know the guys. In the summer, you’re unfamiliar with everything. I don’t know what’s easier.”

Tyler Myers, Vancouver Canucks
• Traded from Buffalo to Winnipeg in a package for Evander Kane and Zach Bogosian

“I actually knew Bogo and Kaner a little bit, so I did follow them a little bit after the trade. I think it’s natural to follow your old team to see how they’re doing right after. It was more about seeing how the guys I knew (in Buffalo) were doing instead of watching the guys they got for me.”

With files from Iain MacIntyre, Wayne Scanlan, Luke Fox and Eric Engels

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