With nearly three decades as an NHL general manager -- first for 15 years with the Washington Capitals and then with the Nashville Predators since they came into the League for the 1998-99 season -- David Poile is surpassed in tenure by only four men: Jack Adams, Art Ross, Glen Sather and Conn Smythe.
Poile's contract was extended by the Predators earlier this week through the 2014-15 season, at which point he will have passed Ross and Smythe and moved into third place on the all-time list in years of service as a GM.
As such, Poile is a veteran of many a trade deadline and as this season's big date approaches -- all deals must be completed by 3 p.m. ET on Monday -- he understands exactly what his brethren around the League are going through. He shared his thoughts Thursday night on the "NHL Hour With Commissioner Gary Bettman."
"This is a real nervous time for managers. We all know that this is the last shot, if you will, to improve your club, and that a team that can make a real good deal at the trading deadline could be the difference of getting into the playoffs and, of course, winning rounds in the playoffs," he said.
"So it's an important time of year -- and again, things have changed. Like for example, just a couple specifics: Calgary, a couple weeks ago, people were saying, 'Are you a buyer or a seller?' They make a trade for Mike Cammalleri and they're clearly now a buyer and their hopes are to try to make the playoffs. Phoenix, about seven or eight games ago, maybe at the All-Star break, they were below the line. Now they've won like nine of the last 10 games, they made a trade yesterday to get (Antoine) Vermette. So they're clearly a buyer."
With the Predators third in the Central Division and fifth in the Western Conference as Thursday night's action began, Poile is without doubt a buyer as well. He made his first purchase ahead of the trade deadline, acquiring big defenseman Hal Gill from the Canadiens last week.
Poile said that with increased parity in the game these days it's getting more difficult to talk trades because GMs don't want to insult their fellow partners by assuming they might be sellers when they're one winning streak away from being back in the playoff race. That said, keeping in contact and talking in hypotheticals can be vital in swinging a deal like the one for Gill.
"In any event I just called Pierre (Gauthier) to say, 'If you were going to make some changes, I'm looking for a defenseman.' I really like our defense but we're a little small on the back end, and we kind of coveted a big player like Hal Gill," Poile said. "So regular contact, and I think what happens a lot in our position, it works a little bit like dominoes. There were no trades, and then the one night Philadelphia and Dallas made a trade for one defenseman (Nicklas Grossman), and then I think before the game Tampa Bay made a trade (sending) Dominic Moore to San Jose, and that night Pierre and I talked and said maybe this is the right time to start to move -- and the next morning we made the trade."
With big names like Rick Nash and Jeff Carter of Columbus still on the market and lots of teams looking to add role players either to solidify their playoff positioning or make a late push to crack the top eight in their conference, Poile expects a flurry of activity over the weekend and down to the wire on Monday.
"I guess my instincts tell me and past history certainly shows there'll be a number of trades Sunday and Monday," he said.
Whether the Predators are finished adding pieces yet remains to be seen, but Poile believes the team and the League in general are in good shape heading down the stretch and into the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
"I think the hockey is fabulous right now," he said. "We sort of get a little tunnel vision with our own team, but our games have been really exciting for our home fans ... nobody's leaving before the game is over. It's like the best movie you ever saw -- you just don't know how it's going to come out. Every game is by one goal. I mean I like to win, but if we ever won by three or four goals I don't know what I'd do.
"I think everything is going good. I mean, you can always touch up the game and you're going to have your critics or what have you, but the players are playing hard every night and I wouldn't know who to pick to make the playoffs or win the Stanley Cup. I think it's wide open, and I tell my players every chance I get, 'Let's get in the playoffs, and once you get in there you get a chance at the big prize. You just never know, this could be your year.'"