The salinity changes in the subpolar gyre (SPG) in response to the North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO) are studied in idealized numerical experiments. In the eastern SPG, anomalies of similar amplitude as those observed during the 1995–1996 shift of the NAO are mainly driven by the local response to the wind stress, through the set-up of an anticyclonic “intergyre” anomaly. In positive NAO, this anomalous circulation advects altogether (i) fresh, cold water from the western to the eastern SPG, contributing there to the formation of negative salinity anomalies, and (ii) warm, saline subtropical water to the south of Newfoundland, forming positive anomalies there. The latter are subsequently transported with the North Atlantic Current to the eastern SPG where they could act to weaken the low-salinity signal. The occurrence of this signal is concomitant with the acceleration of the gyre but, in contrast to earlier findings, is not subject to it.