Any NHL general manager worth his salt will tell you that one of the quickest ways to shore up inadequacies on your roster is to make a quick trade. In NHL 12, making a smart trade was often tough thanks to strange AI quirks (teams would sometimes reject a proposal they just made to you), a lack of valuable feedback on trade offers from AI controlled teams, and an uncommonly even player value bar that made it tough to distinguish the true worth of different players. In NHL 13, a host of improvements make looking for that missing piece much more accommodating.
The revamped trade block lets teams fine-tune what they are willing to give up and be more specific about what kind of player they are looking for in return. Instead of vaguely requesting things like athleticism, AI controlled teams assess their current rosters and make a determinations of what kind of players they need, whether it be a first-line forward, a top-six forward, or a grinder. Teams are also more cognizant of where their organization stands within the league and make requests accordingly. For instance, a team in true Cup contention like the New York Rangers may be willing to trade away high draft picks or well regarded prospects to acquire a veteran player to fill out the roster, while rebuilding teams may part with their veterans to gather more draft picks and build for the future. Teams will constantly re-evaluate their standing throughout the year, so they are not locked into a specific philosophy. If the Columbus Blue Jackets somehow survive the Rick Nash exit and compete for a playoff spot, during the trade deadline they will actively try to improve instead of going into full rebuild mode.
Finding the exact kind of player you are looking for is also made easier thanks to a granular new system that lets you get very specific with different parameters. For instance, instead of just indicating that you need a scorer, you can let teams know you are looking for a top-six forward between the ages of 17 and 24 who has a prospect rating of four or higher. Upon entering your parameters, like FIFA 12 the game conducts a search for player matches. This gives you an opportunity to be aggressive rather than just posting this on your trading block and waiting for offers. You can also search based on the star level of six different skill groupings: skating, shooting, puck skills, physicality, hockey sense, and defense. If you’re looking for an aggressive blue liner who isn’t afraid to put people through the glass, searching for a player with four-star physicality and defending skills is much easier that drilling into the ratings of every single defender in the game to find an ideal candidate.
Once you propose a trade, if the opposing team doesn’t accept it will give you feedback about how closely your offer comes to being feasible. In my experience this could still use tweaking. Because Montreal was in the market for a top-six forward and was willing to give up its first round pick, I offered Pierre-Marc Bouchard for the pick (an admitted reach) to see how far off this proposal would be. The GM said that they were very interested but I had to sweeten the pot. I tried adding a sixth round pick, and that wasn't enough. I eventually worked my way up to offering Bouchard and a second rounder, and I was still receiving the same feedback even though it was apparent that my first offer was much further beneath their expectations than they originally let on since they were still rejecting my much more generous offer. Hopefully EA Canada has time to refine this feedback to be more specific.
The NHL development team also opened up about other changes its made since we saw the game a couple months ago. Based on early fan feedback on NHL 13’s direction, the development team decided to change the player ratings to create more of a gap between the star players and the average skaters in the league. Franchise players like Sidney Crosby are still rated in the 90s, but the average ratings of third-line defenders are in the mid-70s instead of the low-80s this year.
While talking GM Connected mode I also asked some questions about the planned companion app. EA is developing the app for the iOS platform only at this time, with no plans to bring it to Android. The app allows you to check out your league stats and standings, view player information, make trade offers, make claims for free agents, and send messages to the rest of your league. Though EA has looked into it, logistics prevent the app from supporting line editing, scouting, tweaking team strategy, and notifications at this time. The app offers no special functionality for commissioners; if you want to move the league forward or kick someone out, you need to do it from the console.
EA hopes to have the app ready by the time NHL 13 takes the ice on September 11. To read more about the game, check our our 22 Things We Know About NHL 13 and Everything We Know About GM Connected Mode previews.