On the morning of April 12, Erik Gudbranson was laying on his couch in Ottawa as his six-day-old son Benny napped on his chest. His Senators were set to face the Winnipeg Jets later that evening when Gudbranson got the call that he was headed to the Nashville Predators.
“I had to like whisper into Pierre Dorion and David Poile’s ear when they called me,” he said. “I didn’t want to wake the kid up…Benny was six days old and didn’t even have a passport, so I didn’t see him for a month after that. That was difficult.”
With the trade deadline coming up, fans and media often fixate on stats, rumours and trade boards. There is, however, a human element.
Gudbranson has been traded four times in the past six years. He has credited his partner Sarah for her support during those frantic moments of packing, loading the moving van, unpacking, and getting settled.
“I’ve had the easy route,” he said.
“I jump on a flight, pack a bag, and am playing hockey. She’s the one that has to pack the house, find storage lockers, and do all that stuff. From our experience, it’s been harder on my wife for sure to uproot everything and set up a new home…she’s done a great job with it.”
Blake Coleman, considered one of the best in-season acquisitions in recent memory when he went from New Jersey to Tampa Bay in 2020, is in the first of a six-year contract that has no-trade protection. Still, he empathizes with players who get stressed out during trade season.
“I had a crazy deadline experience with my wife being ten days out from giving birth,” he said.
“The first few weeks are typically pretty chaotic, getting set up and comfortable and meeting your new team…it can be a process, which is why I think teams try and make moves as early as possible now, because they want to get guys acclimated to the city and system.”
The first few weeks often involve either staying with a teammate (newly-acquired Calle Jarnkrok is crashing with his cousin, Elias Lindholm) or at a hotel, before figuring out more extended-stay living options.
“My trade to Nashville, I went straight to a hotel,” Gudbranson said.
“I was with a bunch of guys who were just called up. They were my rides. They were awesome. I was with Tanner Jeanot.”
Are there ever awkward moments if the new guy and a new teammate have a heated on-ice history?
“If the guy’s a little nervous, I just go head-on and say, ‘Hey man it’s just a game, I’m here now and wearing the same jersey as you,’” Gudbranson joked.
Jarnkrok’s transition to the Flames will likely be seamless. He grew up with Lindholm and Jacob Markstrom, and already knows several fellow Swedes on the roster.
“Lots of Swedes here, which is nice,” he said.
The Flames are a tight-knit group that spends a lot of time together off the ice, which makes assimilating a new player far easier.
“I would guess it would be a pretty easy room to come into,” defenceman Rasmus Andersson said. “We’re a good group in there. We have a lot fun on and off the ice…[Tyler Toffoli] knew eight or nine guys before, and [Jarnkrok] knows all of us Swedes, so I think it would be pretty easy for the two of them to come in and be a part of the team right away.”
Darryl Sutter has experienced close to 50 trade deadlines as a player, coach, and general manager. For him, the trade deadline is not personal - just business.
“You deal with it, and the player’s responsibility on gameday is when it’s gameday to be prepared and to play to the best of their ability,” he said.
“Players don’t get traded because they don’t like the player. Either they’re traded because they think they can take another step now or they can take a step next year or it’s salary-related.”
The all-day coverage and social media activity have made it harder on players.
“It’s not just another day,” Sutter said.
“You understand that now, with so much more hype from the media and that sort of thing, and to be quite honest, most of it’s bullshit, but players probably hear it too.”
Andersson freely admitted that he will be scrolling Twitter on Monday.
“It’s a big day for the media,” he joked.
“I don’t really live under a rock so to speak, so obviously I follow it…I’m probably going to sit on Twitter and see what’s going on, just because I’m curious, but it’s exciting times. It’s exciting for everyone.
It’s exciting for you guys. You guys have a lot of stuff to report, no? A lot of stories.”
As the hockey world’s go-to source for NHL Trade Deadline news and analysis, TSN provides comprehensive coverage of every deal with TRADECENTRE, Monday, March 21 beginning at 8 a.m. ET on TSN, TSN.ca, and the TSN app. Host James Duthie is joined by TSN’s all-star team of Hockey Insiders and experts to provide breaking trade updates, thorough analysis, and TRADECENTRE news throughout the day.