While Smythe was building Maple Leaf Gardens, several other teams were facing financial difficulty. At the end of the 1929–30 season, the Pittsburgh Pirates were $400,000 in debt and relocated to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania to become the Philadelphia Quakers. The Quakers lasted only one season before suspending operations in 1931, along with the Ottawa Senators. The Quakers never returned, but Ottawa resumed operations in 1932–33. The Senators continued to struggle, and despite a promise by Calder in 1934 that the Senators would never leave "hockey's birthplace of Canada", the team was nonetheless transferred south to become the St. Louis Eagles. The Eagles played only one year in St. Louis before asking for permission to suspend operations. The league refused, and instead bought and dissolved the team. The Eagles' players were dispersed amongst the remaining teams. It was announced that the NHL would be an eight-team league in 1935–36.
That summer, the Canadiens' franchise was for sale, after posting losses of $60,000 over the previous two seasons. Over forty thousand families and 150,000 individuals were receiving social assistance in Montreal. Owners Leo Dandurand and Joseph Cattarinich held negotiations with A. C. Sutphin to sell the club and move it to Cleveland. Just before the season, a syndicate of local Montreal businessmen, led by Maurice Forget and Ernest Savard, stepped forward to buy the club and prevent the transfer.