Pittsburgh Penguins general manager Jim Rutherford is preparing for the possibility that he won't be able to make deals with other clubs as easily as he usually does.
Rutherford still plans to be proactive on the trade market if and when plans for the 2020-21 season are finalized, but he acknowledged transactions could be more complicated given travel restrictions amid the pandemic.
"If there are trades this season," Rutherford told The Athletic's Rob Rossi. "I don't know."
The longtime executive believes the NHL could become similar to the NFL in the upcoming season in terms of having fewer in-season swaps.
"It's probably (going to be) more like football than ever," Rutherford said. "It's probably going to be more where you set your team and that's going to be your team."
He added that though it's possible the policies are relaxed as the campaign progresses, he's going to try to fine-tune his roster as much as he can before the puck drops for the season opener.
"It may mean as the season goes along these restrictions get eased off a bit, and maybe you can start to do stuff, but these are some of the things I've started to think about," Rutherford said. "Like, you better get as many guys in place as you can because it may not be easy for somebody when the season starts."
However, the 71-year-old cautioned that he doesn't know more than anyone else at this stage, adding that if he identifies any areas of need on his team, he'll try to address them immediately.
Rutherford is one of the NHL's most active GMs when it comes to trades, having made 53 since taking the Penguins job in June 2014, according to Rossi. He's orchestrated several significant deals while with Pittsburgh, acquiring the likes of Phil Kessel and Patric Hornqvist for the Penguins' back-to-back titles before trading them both away in separate deals about one year apart.
The three-time Stanley Cup-winning GM landed current Penguins forward Jason Zucker two weeks before the 2019-20 trade deadline. He also acquired winger Kasperi Kapanen - whom he originally sent to the Toronto Maple Leafs when he first nabbed Kessel in 2015 - and defenseman Mike Matheson in August and September, respectively.