NHL GMs preferring swap meets to free agency

A thin NHL free-agent market combined with a stagnant salary cap has New Jersey Devils’ Ray Shero and his fellow general managers leaning more on making trades to improve their teams.

It’s a growing trend that became apparent last summer, when the most high-profile moves came in the form of swaps rather than free-agent signings. And it was once again evident last week, when the league was buzzing after Nashville dealt defenseman Seth Jones to acquire center Ryan Johansen from Columbus.

“This has been building up for a long period of time,” Shero said, noting more teams are signing young stars to long-term deals well before they’re eligible to enter free agency.

“The trade market is more vibrant in trying to acquire players than just waiting for free agency and the uncertainty that comes with it,” Shero said.

There’s more certainty in making a trade because there’s no guarantee a team can land a free agent. And the bidding wars for free agents can leave teams paying a steep price at a time the salary cap has increased just $7.1 million since 2011-12.

The cap isn’t projected to grow much this offseason, especially after the Canadian dollar dipped below 70…

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