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NHL Notebook: A look at how some NHL coaches navigate the looming trade deadline

The league’s trade deadline is set for Monday at 3 p.m. ET
Vancouver Canucks head coach Bruce Boudreau, back right, talks to Elias Pettersson, from left to right, Brock Boeser, Bo Horvat and J.T. Miller during a timeout in the third period of an NHL hockey game against the Columbus Blue Jackets in Vancouver, on Dec. 14, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

Bruce Boudreau was running a recent practice when one of his players skated over for a chat.

The Vancouver Canucks head coach assumed winger Conor Garland was going to ask him about trade speculation.

It is, after all, that period in every NHL season when chatter runs rampant as teams look to either load up or rebuild ahead of the looming deadline.

“I thought, ‘Uh oh, he’s gonna ask me about rumours,’” Boudreau recalled. “He didn’t, we talked about a hockey play. There’s been nothing said.

“They’re either keeping it all bottled up or it’s not bothering them.”

General managers are working the phones with the league’s trade deadline set for Monday at 3 p.m. ET, but coaches also have a job to do navigating emotions, players potentially on edge, and getting their current rosters ready for games as the clock ticks down.

“The media thinks every Canuck player’s getting traded,” Boudreau added. “Honest to God’s truth we haven’t had one word said by me about it, and not one player’s come up to me.”

And while Vancouver is on the playoff bubble and could conceivably go either way at the deadline, teams further the standings are in a different position.

The expansion Seattle Kraken, for example, will no doubt be hoping to deal from their pool of veterans, including captain and defenceman Mark Giordano, as the club tries to accumulate more assets.

“We have to be very careful to speculate,” Kraken head coach Dave Hakstol said of how he tackles trade season. “For me, it’s just a simple, honest approach. A couple of quiet conversations individually along the way, and really just everybody remaining focused on the job at hand together until things change.

“It’s that balance of the long-range planning or thoughts that you might have combined with the importance of today.”

Toronto head coach Sheldon Keefe, whose team is in the market to add a defenceman as it challenges for first place in the Atlantic Division, said he doesn’t address the deadline with his roster players.

But like Seattle, the Arizona Coyotes are expected to be sellers at the deadline, and already made a deal last month that saw defenceman Ilya Lyubushkin shipped to the Leafs.

Head coach Andre Tourigny could sense a tension in his group after the trade was announced, due in large part to a long list of expiring contracts and rumours surrounding the future of Coyotes star defenceman Jakob Chychrun.

“We addressed it as a team,” Tourigny said of the deadline. “For the first time this year we felt, ‘Uh oh, there’s a little bit of soul-searching.’ The guys were thinking a little bit. Our mental skills coach talked about focusing on what you can control right now.

“Let’s live in the present. Make sure your brother in the room has that image of you. Don’t be focusing on your situation.”

Boudreau said that while his Canucks haven’t spoken to him about deadline rumours, it’s certainly happened during other stops in his coaching career.

“They’ll come up and say, ‘Listen, any truth to this? What’s going on?’ I give them the answer,” he said. “It’s a fun time of year for the media to speculate who’s going where and why and everything else.

“And then come March 21 they go, ‘Geez, I was wrong on that one, I was wrong on that one.’”

Tourigny conceded it’s probably easier said than done to block things out as a player when your name dots numerous public lists of potential trade targets.

But he added those same veterans, at least on his team, accept that whatever comes is out of their hands.

“They have a calm demeanour,” Tournigny said. “That helped a lot for the young guys and for everybody to say, ‘OK, nothing we can do about that other than making sure we do the best with our day, we win the day.’”

—Joshua Clipperton, The Canadian Press