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Eastern Conference GMs revealed: Who trades with whom?

Being an NHL general manager is more complicated than NHL 15 might make it seem. It takes people skills to get a trade done, and personal relationships can play a big part in which teams make deals together. Based on trade history, here's a breakdown of each Eastern Conference GM's trading habits.
The Hockey News

The Hockey News

Fantasy hockey makes it easy to lose sight of the fact that the real NHL is a people business, and personal relationships can influence how a team’s GM shapes his roster. Some guys have favourite trade partners, others hate trading within their conference and a few guys simply don’t like each other.

So who are the big traders in the NHL, and who are their favourite trade partners?

This list seeks to answer that question by crunching the numbers on every current general manager in the league to see who trades with whom, and how often they do it.

Whether it’s dealing a superstar for a boatload of prospects or swapping AHL fourth-liners, it takes a level of cooperation and trust to get an NHL trade done. Sure, a blockbuster deal takes more cooperation than an AHL swap, but don’t underestimate the little deals. That’s where guys do favours for each other, and that’s where you can spot how comfortable GMs are with each other.

This list only addresses executives who hold the current title of general manager in the NHL, even though it’s become a nebulous title in some cities where team presidents and VPs of hockey ops do more of the real player personnel work. It’s also easy to get lost down the rabbit hole chasing every front office connection and former GM, so we’ll draw the line at current GMs and leave it at that.

Today’s list covers Eastern Conference general managers, but don't miss yesterday's full breakdown of Western Conference GMs.

Here’s how the general managers in the Eastern Conference like to operate.

Peter Chiarelli, Boston Bruins (Since May 26, 2006)

Previous GM for: Nobody

Previous player for: Nobody

Average trades per season: 8

Peter Chiarelli spent seven years in the Ottawa Senators organization before landing a GM gig with the Boston Bruins in 2006 – a gig he would parlay into a Stanley Cup championship just five years later.

His 60 deals in eight seasons show him to be an average but unspectacular trader, with most of his big additions coming via free agency or the draft (thank you, Phil Kessel deal).

Chiarelli’s favourite trading partner among current GMs has been Garth Snow, with whom he’s made five separate deals. The latest was the swap that sent Johnny Boychuk to Long Island for three picks, but Snow also took Tim Thomas’ contract off Chiarelli’s hands two seasons ago.

Though Chiarelli has had lots of repeat business with Snow, the Bruins GM doesn’t seem to play favourites among the current group of his peers. He’s dealt with Dale Tallon four times, Chuck Fletcher and Bob Murray twice and has made at least one deal with 10 other current GMs.

However, it’s interesting to note that he’s never made a trade with Lou Lamoriello’s New Jersey Devils or Doug Wilson’s San Jose Sharks, despite those GMs being in their positions throughout Chiarelli’s tenure.

Tim Murray, Buffalo Sabres (Since Jan. 9, 2014)

Previous GM for: Nobody

Previous player for: Nobody

Average trades per season: N/A

There’s no point in calculating Tim Murray’s average trades per year. He's still pretty new to the GM’s chair, though he did learn under his uncle Bryan in Ottawa for quite some time.

Tim Murray may not be the most charismatic guy (remember his no-nonsense approach at the draft last June?) but he hasn’t been shy to jump into the trading game. He’s made six deals with six different teams so far, and every one of those deals involved a draft pick going one way or the other. It’s also worth noting that none of those deals have been with his old team in Ottawa.

It’s tough to nail down any tendencies in Murray at this point, but it’s clear he understands draft picks are the currency he must trade in to rebuild his roster.

Ron Francis, Carolina Hurricanes (Since April 28, 2014)

Previous GM for: Nobody

Previous player for: Hartford Whalers/Carolina Hurricanes, Pittsburgh Penguins, Toronto Maple Leafs

Average trades per season: N/A

Ron Francis bleeds, um, Carolina Hurricanes red?

The guy had a Stanley Cup-winning stint with the Pittsburgh Penguins and retired as a Toronto Maple Leaf, but he’s been a member of the Hartford Whalers/Carolina Hurricanes franchise for most of his life.

Francis joined the Hurricanes management staff in 2011 and apprenticed under long-time general manager Jim Rutherford before taking the reins last spring.

Rutherford now runs one of Francis’ old teams in Pittsburgh, so don’t be surprised to see that relationship produce some of Francis’ first trades in the next few years.

Jarmo Kekalainen, Columbus Blue Jackets (Since Feb. 13, 2013)

Previous GM for: Nobody

Previous player for: Boston Bruins, Ottawa Senators

Average trades per season: 10

Fun fact: Europeans don’t believe in unlucky number 13, but the first European GM in NHL history (hired on the 13th day of February, 2013) has had nothing but bad luck with injuries this season.

It’s tough to blame the guy, especially after his team made the playoffs last year. He certainly hasn’t been sitting on his hands, with 16 deals in parts of three seasons.

Kekalainen was a highly-prized scout and assistant GM under John Davidson when the latter was running St. Louis a few years ago, and that relationship helped Kekalainen land the GM job when Davidson took over in Columbus. Kekalainen was running Jokerit in the Finish League before that.

Davidson remains heavily involved in the player personnel side of the team, but it’s Kekalainen’s GM title and we’re not going to sell him short here by giving his boss all the credit.

Kekalainen’s primary trading partner has been Steve Yzerman in Tampa, though the two have yet to make an impact deal. The Finnish-born executive has also made two trades with Craig MacTavish’s Edmonton Oilers, and one swap each with Toronto’s Dave Nonis, L.A.’s Dean Lombardi, Boston’s Peter Chiarelli and Winnipeg’s Kevin Cheveldayoff.

Oh, and one with New York Rangers GM Glen Sather. You may remember it: Marion Gaborik, Blake Parlett and Steven Delisle to Columbus for Derick Brassard, Derek Dorsett, John Moore and a sixth-round pick.

Ken Holland, Detroit Red Wings (Since July 18, 1997)

Previous GM for: Nobody

Previous player for: Hartford Whalers, Detroit Red Wings

Average trades per season: 3

One of the NHL’s longest-tenured general managers is also its least active. Ken Holland has made 48 deals in more than 15 seasons in the league – a number some have eclipsed in half that time or less.

Holland is a man who prefers to build slowly through the draft and add through free agency. He’s not the type to make waves with a blockbuster swap.

He’s made four deals with Nashville GM David Poile and three each with Dean Lombardi (two while he was in San Jose, one with L.A.) and Steve Yzerman, his former protégé.

Holland has quite a few former employees in high places around the league, including Yzerman in Tampa, Brendan Shanahan in Toronto and Jim Nill in Dallas. He also worked with Bryan Murray in Detroit in the 1990s.

Holland’s not much of a trader, but it’s curious to note that of all the other GMs in the league with at least 10 seasons of experience, Lou Lamoriello is the only one Holland has never traded with.

Dale Tallon, Florida Panthers (Since May 17, 2010)

Previous GM for: Chicago Blackhawks (2005-09)

Previous player for: Vancouver Canucks, Chicago Blackhawks, Pittsburgh Penguins

Average trades per season: 12

Dale Tallon has made 100 career trades in rebuilding two teams: his old squad in Chicago and his new one in Florida.

All those trades make it pretty easy to see how well Tallon plays in the sandbox with the other GMs.

Tallon has a clearly-defined list of guys he’s comfortable dealing with, but he doesn’t confine himself exclusive to that list.

Now-Penguins GM Jim Rutherford is Tallon’s most frequent trading partner, though the two haven’t completed any monster trades in seven separate dealings (three with Florida, four with Chicago).

Stan Bowman in Chicago is Tallon’s second-most common trading partner, though if you average it out over years, he’s done more work with Bowman in four years than with Rutherford in twice that time.

As mentioned in the Western Conference breakdown, Tallon and Bowman have a mutually beneficial relationship. Tallon takes Bowman’s cap headaches, and in exchange he gets prospects, draft picks and players he’s familiar with from his time in Chicago, such as Brian Campbell and Tomas Kopecky.

Bowman has also made five deals with Peter Chiarelli in Boston and four deals with each of Glen Sather in New York and David Poile in Nashville.

Marc Bergevin, Montreal Canadiens (Since May 2, 2012)

Previous GM for: Nobody

Previous player for: Chicago Blackhawks, New York Islanders, Hartford Whalers, Tampa Bay Lightning, Detroit Red Wings, St. Louis Blues, Pittsburgh Penguins, Vancouver Canucks

Averages trades per season: 8

The suave and affable Marc Bergevin played on eight different teams and met a ton of people during his NHL career, and his legendary antics made him a hard person to forget. Nowadays he’s one of the more well-known GMs in the NHL as boss of the Montreal Canadiens.

Bergevin has made 17 deals with 12 different teams since he took over in Montreal, and while it’s still early to judge, his most frequent trading partner has been Dale Tallon in Florida. Bergevin has made three deals with Tallon, two with Dean Lombardi in L.A. and two with Anaheim Ducks GM Bob Murray.

The small sample size makes it tough to determine Bergevin’s favourite trading partners, so it’s worth remembering that he cut his teeth as an executive in the Chicago Blackhawks organization, where he worked alongside now-GMs Kevin Cheveldayoff and Stan Bowman, and under Dale Tallon.

Lou Lamoriello, New Jersey Devils (Since Sept. 10, 1987)

Previous GM for: Nobody

Previous player for: Nobody

Average trades per season: 6

No general manager in the league has been with his team longer than Lou Lamoriello, and the guy is as old-school as they come. He’s built his team through wise drafting and shrewd free agent signings, and you can count on one hand the number of big splashes he’s made in the trade market in the 26 seasons he’s been at the helm of the Devils.

Lamoriello doesn’t appear to have any preferred trading partners because he doesn’t trade all that much. He’s made four trades with Dean Lombardi, three with Doug Wilson and three with Jim Rutherford.

Glen Sather used to be one of his more frequent trade partners while Slats was in Edmonton. But as soon as Sather took over the rival New York Rangers, you can bet Lamoriello burned his phone number.

Lamoriello doesn’t trade a whole lot, but he does show a tendency to involve draft picks when he does make a move. Draft picks help him build his roster, and he uses them as currency when he’s buying and selling players.

Garth Snow, New York Islanders (Since July 18, 2006)

Previous GM for: Nobody

Previous player for: New York Islanders, Quebec Nordiques, Philadelphia Flyers, Pittsburgh Penguins, Vancouver Canucks

Average trades per season: 7

Garth Snow has been one of the more conservative traders since he went from backup goalie to Islanders GM in 2006. That said, when he makes a move, it’s usually a meaningful one.

Snow isn’t the sort to swap minor-leaguers. He makes deals that count. Just look back at his list of trades and you’ll see plenty of NHL-level names on the move, either going to or from the Island for picks. At least one player in 10 of his last 11 deals (Since June 2012) has been an NHL regular.

Snow’s most frequent trade partner is Peter Chiarelli in Boston, from whom he acquired Johnny Boychuk earlier this year in the fifth trade the two have made together.

Snow made four trades with Dale Tallon while Tallon was in Chicago, and has made three swaps with Anaheim GM Bob Murray.

But Snow appears to get along with many of the GMs in the league, as he’s made at least one deal with 16 current general managers.

Glen Sather, New York Rangers (Since June 1, 2000)

Previous GM for: Edmonton Oilers (1980-2000)

Previous player for: Boston Bruins, Pittsburgh Penguins, New York Rangers, St. Louis Blues, Montreal Canadiens, Minnesota North Stars, Edmonton Oilers (WHA)

Average trades per season: 9

If you read my Western Conference GM breakdown and have been following along up to this point, you know other general managers love to trade with Glen Sather.

Slats has been managing hockey teams longer than anyone else in the league, and he’s probably the most well-connected guy in the current circle of GMs. He had a 20-year run with the Edmonton Oilers and he’s three-quarters of the way to another 20-year run with the New York Rangers. He pretty much knows everyone there is to know and has mentored a number of front office staff currently running other teams.

Sather leads the league with 303 career trades in 33 NHL seasons. He’s also got more Stanley Cup wins (five) than any other GM, and it’s pretty tough to picture the league without him in it.

You can question his (lack of) results in New York, but the guy has more experience than anyone else in the business.

Nashville Predators GM David Poile is the next-longest tenured manager in the league after Sather, and the two have come together to complete 16 separate trades – more than any other pairing in the NHL.

Doug Wilson in San Jose is Sather’s next-most frequent trading partner. The two have made eight deals together, though they haven't done anything hugely impactful since 2003. That’s when Sather dealt Mark Messier’s rights to the Sharks for a fourth-round pick in 2004 (Ryan Callahan).

Bryan Murray, Ottawa Senators (Since June 18, 2007)

Previous GM for: Anaheim Ducks (2002-04), Florida Panthers (1994-2000), Detroit Red Wings (1990-94)

Previous player for: Nobody

Average trades per season: 7

Bryan Murray has an incredible network of people in the game, as we all saw recently with the outpouring of league support after he revealed he had colon cancer. He’s been coaching and managing in the NHL for 24 years, and he’s made a ton of connections during that tenure.

Murray is the only general manager in the league right now to run four different teams in three different decades, dating all the way back to his first gig with Detroit in 1990. He’s a hockey lifer, and reviewing his trade record is a real history lesson.

He’s never won a Stanley Cup, but he built teams in Florida and Anaheim that made the Stanley Cup finals, and he coached the Ottawa Senators to the fourth round in 2007. Unfortunately, he had to suffer through seeing his old Ducks team hoist the Cup without him that year.

Murray’s career has a number of gaps between teams, but he should still be numbered among the longest-serving GMs in the league.

His primary trading partner is another of those long-serving GMs in David Poile, with whom Murray has traded eight different times – once in Detroit, twice each in Florida and Ottawa and three times while in Anaheim. Murray has also traded four times with Bob Murray and the Anaheim Ducks since taking over in Ottawa.

Ron Hextall, Philadelphia Flyers (Since May 7, 2014)

Previous GM for: Nobody

Previous player for: Philadelphia Flyers, Quebec Nordiques, New York Islanders

Average trades per season: N/A

Ron Hextall was a fiery guy on the ice and he’s been a fiery, trashcan-kicking guy off the ice, too. Unfortunately, that fire doesn’t tell us a whole lot about his long-term approach as a GM, and he hasn’t made enough moves yet to truly evaluate his tendencies.

Hextall probably hasn’t been with the Philadelphia Flyers long enough for his health benefits to kick in, so it’s impossible to judge him based on a minor trade with San Jose and the Scott Hartnell-R.J. Umberger swap with Columbus.

Instead, best keep an eye on his ties to Los Angeles, where he worked under Dean Lombardi before jumping ship for Philadelphia.

Jim Rutherford, Pittsburgh Penguins (Since June 6, 2014)

Previous GM for: Carolina Hurricanes/Hartford Whalers (1994-2014)

Previous player for: Detroit Red Wings, Pittsburgh Penguins, Toronto Maple Leafs, Los Angeles Kings

Average trades per season: 10

Jim Rutherford’s history shows he often makes deals between January and March, and relationships play a big role in who he works with. He’s made seven deals with Dale Tallon and seven with David Poile, the latest being the James Neal-Patric Hornqvist swap with Nashville.

Rutherford made three minor deals with Tallon’s Panthers between 2011 and 2012, but their biggest swap came while Tallon was running the Blackhawks. That’s when Rutherford traded Andrew Ladd to Chicago for Tuomo Ruutu.

The Poile trades have been fairly tame, outside the Neal-Hornqvist deal.

Glen Sather, Doug Wilson and Dean Lombardi are in the next tier of Rutherford trade partners. Rutherford has dealt with each of them on four occasions.

Rutherford has traded some solid pieces to Lombardi in Justin Williams and Jack Johnson, but he’s never quite gotten an equal return.

His Doug Wilson trades have been minor, with Derek Joslin and Ian White being the biggest names to leave Carolina for San Jose. Two of the trades involved future considerations (one going to Carolina, one to San Jose).

The Sather trades didn’t amount to much.

Ironically, the most impactful trade Rutherford has made in recent memory was the Jordan Staal deal he made with Ray Shero while Shero was running Pittsburgh. Oddly enough, Rutherford is now reaping the rewards of that deal from the other end, while his old team struggles.

Steve Yzerman, Tampa Bay Lightning (Since May 25, 2010)

Previous GM for: Nobody

Previous player for: Detroit Red Wings

Average trades per season: 9

Steve Yzerman may have learned how to manage a team under Detroit Red Wings GM Ken Holland, but Yzerman’s trading habits are nothing like his former mentor’s.

Yzerman has made some aggressive moves in his first four years in Tampa, making trades left, right and center to plug the holes in his roster.

For instance, Yzerman traded for four different goaltenders before he landed Ben Bishop to start in net for the Bolts. Dwayne Roloson, Cedric Desjardins, Anders Lindback and Curtis McElhinney all had brief stints with the Lightning organization under Yzerman’s watch, yet he never hesitated to look for another solution once they showed him they couldn’t get the job done.

Yzerman's top trading partner has been Ducks GM Bob Murray, but the four trades they've made have amounted to very little overall.

Yzerman has made three minor transactions with Columbus GM Jarmo Kekalainen, and has closed two deals each with Don Maloney in Arizona, Bryan Murray in Ottawa, Dale Tallon in Florida, Doug Armstrong in St. Louis, Peter Chiarelli in Boston, Garth Snow in New York and Ken Holland in Detroit.

That’s a lot of repeat business in a four-year span, which shows that Yzerman is good at establishing relationships with other GMs.

Dave Nonis, Toronto Maple Leafs (Since January 9, 2013)

Previous GM for: Vancouver Canucks (2004-08)

Previous player for: Nobody

Average trades per season: 8

Dave Nonis was shouldering a lot of the GM responsibilities in Toronto even before he officially succeeded Brian Burke. We’ll stick to the trades that Nonis made as the official GM, but know that Brian Burke’s shadow looms large over Nonis’ career.

Nonis became the youngest GM in NHL history when he succeeded Burke in the Vancouver Canucks organization in 2004 – a position he held until he was fired 2008.

Nonis went to work for Burke in Anaheim after the firing, then followed him to Toronto less than a year later. And, when the Rogers-Bell ownership took over the Leafs and fired Burke, Nonis again succeeded him to become team GM.

If and when Nonis eventually leaves the Leafs organization, would anyone be surprised to see him pop up in Calgary one day?

But Brian Burke aside, Nonis has built his own set of relationships around the league. Dean Lombardi, for instance, is his most frequent trade partner. Nonis made two deals with Lombardi while managing the Canucks, and has made two more since taking over the Leafs.

One of those trades was the acquisition of Jonathan Bernier, who has stabilized the Toronto net considerably.

It’s not the only big-time goalie acquisition Nonis deserves credit for. He also snagged Roberto Luongo from the Florida Panthers back when he was running the Canucks.

Nonis’ trade record is curious in that he appears to be one of the GMs who likes to trade outside his conference. His Toronto record shows 14 trades so far, but only three of those trades were with Eastern Conference teams.

Brian MacLellan, Washington Capitals (Since May 26, 2014)

Previous GM for: Nobody

Previous player for: Los Angeles Kings, New York Rangers, Minnesota North Stars, Calgary Flames, Detroit Red Wings

Average trades per season: N/A

Brian MacLellan is the new face at the head of the Washington Capitals organization, but he’s been in the background there for quite some time.

MacLellan started with the Caps 13 seasons ago as a pro scout, and worked his way up to assistant general manager. He held that position under GM George McPhee for seven years before McPhee was fired last summer.

There’s really not much else to say about MacLellan. His lone trade last summer was sending Eddie Pasquale and a sixth-round pick to Kevin Cheveldayoff’s Winnipeg Jets, in exchange for a sixth-rounder and two seventh-rounders.

The important thing to know is that he probably would not have traded Filip Forsberg to acquire Martin Erat.


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