You’ve been traded; now what?

Sometimes, the hard part is what comes after the deal is done

Mike Sillinger (Getty Images)

Each season at the NHL’s trade deadline several players, prospects and draft picks change teams.

Clubs make trades for a variety of reasons. Some are looking to load up for what is expected to be a long playoff run and push for the Stanley Cup, while others are looking to shed expiring contracts and stockpile draft picks and prospects for the future.

Forty-three players were involved in 24 trades prior to the deadline at 3 p.m. ET on  Monday.

Thirty general managers now feel like they made the best moves for their respective clubs moving forward.

But what about the player dealt?

Getting the Call

Last January, the New York Rangers dealt Michael Del Zotto to the Nashville Predators for Kevin Klein.

The 24-year-old, who was selected by the Rangers in the first round of the 2008 NHL Draft, had spent parts of five seasons in New York.

Del Zotto recalled finding out about the trade following a Rangers practice.

“I remember getting off the ice at practice and I had a voicemail from my agent so I knew something was up,” said Del Zotto. “I spoke to him. Then I went in and spoke to assistant GM Jim Schoenfeld and he kind of informed me what was going on.

“At the time, I knew something was going to happen so I wasn’t too shocked. But when it does happen, you’re shocked. You leave so many people behind. You make so many great friendships and relationships. It’s not easy.”

The ideal way for players to hear about the trade is from the general manager, but that’s not always the case these days, says agent Anton Thun of MFive Sports.

“If a GM is trading a player, the first person that hears it, or the first person who should be hearing it, is the player,” Thun said. “Unfortunately, in today’s world, with technology and media, sometimes the media hears it first, not the player, which is unfortunate.

“That’s not a good situation for the player, the club or anybody.”

No one knows that better than current Edmonton Oiler Derek Roy.

Roy was with the Dallas Stars when he was dealt to the Vancouver Canucks in April 2013.

“With social media nowadays … my brother texted me and said, ‘Hey, I think you got traded to Vancouver,’” recalled Roy. “I was like ‘What?’ I hadn’t gotten a call from the GM, and it was all over Twitter, so I’m like, ‘Oh, man.’ Maybe like 20 minutes later I got a call from the GM saying ‘yeah we traded you to Vancouver’. I was like, ‘I think I knew that.’ I said, ‘I saw it on Twitter.’”

The Move

Some players have to uproot a wife, kids and even pets and move across the continent. Others are caught in the middle of an extended road trip, nowhere near their home base and left with just one piece of luggage and enough clothes to last only a few days.

“Once the trade call with the league is done and both teams have obviously agreed to it, usually there’s a release time. They say, ‘This will be in the public domain at a certain time,’” said Toronto Maple Leafs Director of Hockey and Scouting Administration Reid Mitchell. “The process is simple in the fact we’ve got to find out where the incoming players are, if they’re at home or on the road with their current club.

“A lot of times, if they’re on the road, they may not have a bunch of luggage.”

Many players agree that it’s what they signed up for when becoming professional hockey players, accepting the notion that being traded is just “part of the business.”

However, deep down there’s a human element each player faces, an emotional side of being told, “You’ve been traded”.

“It’s not easy,” said Del Zotto, who is now with the Flyers. “For me, it was especially tough in New York. I lived with my brother and his fiancée so I think that was the toughest thing was leaving them.

“The biggest thing when you move from home is having family far away, and it’s tough to say goodbye.”

Del Zotto said it was difficult saying goodbye to the friends he’d made while in New York.

“I was in New York 4 1/2 years, you make so many friendships and relationships outside of the game and even people within the organization and teammates.” Del Zotto said. “It’s people you spend time with every single day, so you consider them family. I think that’s the toughest part.”

The defenseman said things were further complicated by the fact he was joining a team in the middle of a four-game, six-day road trip.

“I ended up having to pack and meet the team on the road in Vancouver for a week road trip, so that wasn’t easy,” Del Zotto said. “I just tried to pack as much as I could in one bag and then just had multiple shipments of stuff come later on. That sucked for sure.”

No one knows the hardships of being dealt better than retired NHLer, Mike Sillinger. The veteran of 1,049 NHL games was dealt an NHL-record nine times and played for a record 12 teams during his playing days.

“I always looked at it as a new opportunity,” said Sillinger from his family home in Regina, Saskatchewan. “A majority of my moving was based on contract status and fitting a role on a hockey club.”

Seven of the nine times he was dealt, Sillinger heard the news from his general manager.

So what’s the first move after that phone call?

“Your first move is telling your wife,” says Sillinger. “Whether she likes the destination you’re at or doesn’t like the destination you’re at, the biggest thing is you’ve got a family to provide for.

“That’s the first phone call. A lot of times it was sad times. A few times it was happy.”

Current Toronto Maple Leafs forward Peter Holland got the call that he was being dealt by the Anaheim Ducks in November 2013. Playing with the American Hockey League’s Norfolk Admirals, Holland was in the middle of a road trip when he was dealt.

“It was a little bit more complicated for me,” says Holland who has 10 goals and 20 points in 54 games with the Leafs this season. “It’s definitely a lot easier when you’re traded at home and you can kind of sort of sort out all your living arrangements and stuff like that.

“When I was traded I was on a five-day road trip so I was about three weeks there with one pair of jeans, a t-shirt and one suit.”

The Transition

Once a deal is made most NHL clubs have a team services representative in place to help smooth the move to the new city.

Mitchell is the man in charge of assisting players once a trade goes through in Toronto.

“I was living in Norfolk, Va., at the time, but the teams do a great job of making the transition easy for you so you can focus on hockey,” said Holland. “Reid Mitchell here with the Leafs did a great job helping me out with that setting me up with a moving company so that they can go in to my place, pack up all my stuff and then bring it.

“It was a little bit tougher coming from the States to Canada ’cause all my stuff had to go through immigration across the border, but the teams do a wonderful job of making it smooth.”

Sillinger who broke in to the league during the 1990-91 season and played through the 2008-09 season didn’t have the help teams offer now.

“We pretty much did it ourselves,” Sillinger recalled. “Pretty much my wife and I had to figure it out ourselves. We had some help in terms of them calling the movers and what not.

“For all my moves, my wife, she was the one organizing everything and getting it underway. Didn’t have too much help as far as having contact information, who to deal with, so we just kind of did it ourselves.”

Sillinger admitted things got more complicated if he was dealt in the middle of a road trip.

“A few times I was traded on the road. I had to fly back home, get my stuff and say, ‘Hey, we’ll organize this move and we’ll see you in a week or so’,” said Sillinger. “I was fortunate enough to have a wife that understood and a family that understood, it was totally a business and that the reason for Mike Sillinger being traded wasn’t whether I was playing good or bad. It was either a contract or I was going from a non-playoff team to a playoff team. It was something that we understood as a family that ‘hey it’s a new opportunity for Mike Sillinger’.”

Mitchell says the main objective is to get the player into the city and with the group as soon as possible. His primary job is to help take care of the off-ice distractions so the player can be focused on the ice.

“We provide the player, if he’s single or a married guy, with kind of a welcome to Toronto package,” said Mitchell. “In [the package] it would talk about everything from schools or minor hockey options or even how to get a health card or a driver’s license switched.

“It’s a little book of contact information. If you need help with this, you call this person, or this is the office that handles this, or if you want to enroll your kid in school, here’s the Toronto school board number, find the local school. If you need a real estate agent, here’s a few.”

Sillinger says once traded, despite the human element of the process, there’s no time to feel sorry for yourself.

“When you feel sorry for yourself, that’s when someone is going to come and take your job,” he said. “Everybody thinks that its glamorous and a great life and there’s lots of positives. The positives outweigh the negatives big time, it’s a great way to make a living and there’s nothing better than playing in the National Hockey League.

“There’s lots of destinations that my wife and I, we liked, and we’re like, ‘Aww, shit, we’ve got to pick up and move.’”

One of the issues when getting traded, especially to a team on the other side of the border, is immigration.

When the Predators acquired defenseman Cody Franson and forward Mike Santorelli from the Leafs in February, it was several days before either player was able to report to Nashville.

“Because we’re a league that has teams on both sides of the border and we cross the border, a team like us, every week pretty much. Immigration can be a challenge,” Mitchell said. “It’s becoming more and more of a challenge. It’s not an issue, but when Canadian born players are going to play in the States, they have to get their work permits approved ahead of time before they can cross and that’s where you see the [David] Clarkson, the Franson, Santorelli – they have to wait for a certain period in order for it to be approved by the U.S. government.”

Which players are the toughest to get immigration issues sorted out for?

“Not to lump them together, but Russians are harder to get [into Canada],” says Mitchell. “You have to get a visa put in your passport. These players, if we’re talking NHL deals, they’ll have some kind of visa to play road games in Canada if they worked for the Anaheim Ducks or something. To come in as a visiting team is different than coming in, living and working in Canada.  It’s a whole different visa that you need to come work here.

“The Eastern Europeans, the Kazakhs, the Ukrainians, the Belarusians – some of those can be a little more challenging. There’s a process to every player getting them and making sure we’re doing things the proper way.”

Joining the new club

Holland agreed being traded is like moving to a new school mid-year.

“Its tough. You go from having some friends and knowing people in the organization to going to a bunch of strangers for the most part,” he said. “But hockey is a pretty small world, too. Usually, it’s pretty typical that you run into a guy that you played with before, or against, so you have some common ground with a lot of guys.”

According to Roy, being dealt at the trade deadline isn’t the worst thing in the world.

“That’s a good thing, ’cause you’re going to a team that’s going to make the playoffs and is going to go for a playoff run so you get excited for that,” Roy said. “They think that you’re the missing ingredient to win a Stanley Cup or go deep in the playoffs. It’s a good feeling in that regard.”

As for the 43 players dealt on Monday, who are getting acclimated to new organizations, Sillinger says to make the most of the new opportunity.

“It’s a new opportunity for yourself to get that new contract, win a Stanley Cup, be on a winning team,” he said. “You can’t feel sorry for yourself because you’ve been traded. In the time that you feel sorry for yourself, someone is going to be there stomping at your door step, trying to take your job.”