NHL teams get jump on deadline with flurry of early trades

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              New Jersey Devils center Blake Coleman (20) blocks as Detroit Red Wings defenseman Filip Hronek (17) tries to flip the puck to a teammate during the second period of an NHL hockey game, Thursday, Feb. 13, 2020, in Newark, N.J. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)
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Tom Fitzgerald changed teams twice at the NHL trade deadline as a player and knows how it feels.

As interim general manager of the New Jersey Devils, he didn’t wait until deadline day to trade captain Andy Greene or forward Blake Coleman. Beating the buzzer by more than a week, Fitzgerald recalled his own rough experiences of getting dealt late.

“I wish I was traded a week and a half before so I could get adjusted a little bit quicker,” he said.

Greene and Coleman are among more than a half-dozen players who are already adjusting to a new team because of an early trading flurry. The deadline isn’t until Monday, but some major moves are already done thanks to a clear definition between buyers and sellers, contenders interested in the same possibilities, and reasonable prices around the league.

“Over (last) weekend, a lot of things started to pick up,” said Los Angeles Kings GM Rob Blake, who has already made three trades and could still be active. “It seems after the All-Star break, a lot of teams start finding their direction on where they’re going, what’s available and prices.”

Los Angeles got things going by dealing goaltender Jack Campbell and versatile forward Kyle Clifford to Toronto in early February, and this week traded winger Tyler Toffoli to Vancouver and defenseman Alec Martinez to Vegas. On Tuesday, Pacific Division rival San Jose traded defenseman Brenden Dillon to Washington, and the Winnipeg Jets got blue liner Dylan DeMelo from Ottawa.

A couple of days earlier, the Devils traded Greene to the New York Islanders and Coleman to the Tampa Bay Lightning within hours of each other.

It isn’t taking much time to close the book on some big trades.

“I think there’s probably five or six teams talking to the same teams about the same players,” Capitals GM Brian MacLellan said. “And it sorts itself out for each team and then it happens quickly because then you’ve got to react to what happens with your other conversations.”

MacLellan didn’t rule out the Capitals making another move. But by getting Dillon early, he could be in the lineup for three extra games — which is significant given how tight the standings are.

It helps Dillon get acclimated, too. The 29-year-old who was considered the top pending free agent defenseman available didn’t have to sit around and wonder when San Jose would trade him.

“I’m sure you guys can read the papers just as much as we are, or social media,” Dillon said. “It was definitely nice just from the mental side of things to get that done with.”

The NHL several years ago moved the trade deadline from March to February to give teams more time to benefit from acquiring players. Fitzgerald was traded in March each time and played 11 and 15 regular-season games, respectively, after getting moved.

Times have changed.

“A lot of teams like to get to things early,” Fitzgerald said. “(Teams) want you to mesh with the team quicker rather than later. … A little bit longer runway is useful.”

DEADLINE DAY

All the early trades does not mean Monday might be quiet. The New York Rangers could wait until the last minute to trade forward Chris Kreider or one of their goaltenders. The Devils, Kings and Senators still have assets, too.

A few days after Montreal traded defenseman Marco Scandella to the St. Louis Blues, speculation continues to swirl around the Canadiens. Coach Claude Julien said, “I don’t know that the noise is done,” and players involved in rumors are trying to block it out.

“Anything can happen, obviously,” winger Tomas Tatar said. “I’m not too worried now. It’s just part of the business.”

WHO’S GONE

— Campbell and Clifford traded from Kings to Maple Leafs for Trevor Moore, 2020 third-round pick and conditional 2021 third-round pick

Jason Zucker traded from Wild to Penguins for Alex Galchenyuk, Calen Addison and conditional 2020 first-round pick

— Greene traded from Devils to Islanders for David Quenneville and 2021 second-round pick

— Coleman traded from Devils to Lightning for Nolan Foote and 2020 first-round pick

— Toffoli traded from Kings to Canucks for Tim Schaller, Tyler Madden, 2020 second-round pick and conditional 2022 fourth-round pick

— DeMelo traded from Senators to Jets for 2020 third-round pick

— Dillon traded from Sharks to Capitals for 2020 second-round pick and conditional 2021 third-round pick

— Scandella traded from Canadiens to Blues for 2020 second-round pick and conditional 2021 fourth-round pick

— Martinez traded from Kings to Golden Knights for 2020 second-round pick and 2021 second-round pick

WHO’S LEFT

— Rangers: F Chris Kreider, G Alexandar Georgiev, F Jesper Fast

— Kings: F Trevor Lewis

— Devils: F Wayne Simmonds, D Sami Vatanen, G Louis Domingue

— Senators: F Jean-Gabriel Pageau, F Vladislav Namestnikov

Red Wings: F Andreas Athanasiou, D Mike Green, D Trevor Daley

— Canadiens: F Ilya Kovalchuk

— Sharks: F Patrick Marleau, F Joe Thornton

— Jets: D Dustin Byfuglien

WHO COULD STAY

— Rangers: G Henrik Lundqvist

— Devils: F Travis Zajac

— Senators: F Anthony Duclair

— Canadiens: F Tomas Tatar, D Jeff Petry

— Sabres: D Zach Bogosian

— Wild: D Jonas Brodin