Usually, by this point in July, activity around the NHL has cooled off considerably. But this isn’t a normal offseason and the festivities kicked off over the past seven days including a pair of drafts. Those are among the items covered in the key stories of the week.
Drafts: There were plenty of notable names available for Seattle in expansion. Some were expected, others not so much. However, GM Ron Francis avoided any possible temptation for taking on pricey deals, instead prioritizing salary cap flexibility. They signed a trio of unrestricted free agents in goaltender Chris Driedger plus defensemen Jamie Oleksiak and Adam Larsson. Up front, Jordan Eberle and Yanni Gourde were their richest acquisitions while blueliner Mark Giordano was their most expensive player taken; the full results can be found here. Only one player selected was flipped in Tyler Pitlick. Seattle will now enter free agency with enough room to make a splash or two if they so desire.
Meanwhile, the Entry Draft was also held on Friday and Saturday. As expected, Owen Power went first overall to Buffalo while Matthew Beniers went second to Seattle. In fact, four of the top five selections either played at Michigan or have a college commitment there for next season. A total of 223 players were selected with Carolina making the most picks with 13. The full draft results are here.
Vancouver Makes A Splash: The Canucks finished last in the North Division in 2020-21 but they believe they can win with that core and doubled down on that belief with the acquisition of defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson and winger Conor Garland from Arizona. Heading the other way were forwards Loui Eriksson, Jay Beagle, and Antoine Roussel as cap-clearing pieces plus a trio of draft picks including the ninth-overall pick (Dylan Guenther). Ekman-Larsson has six years remaining on his contract and even with the Coyotes paying down $990K per year, he’ll still be on their books for $7.26MM while Garland, who should help their top six, is a restricted free agent with arbitration rights. It’s a big win-now move for a team that struggled this past season but there’s enough talent on Vancouver to turn things around quickly.
Jones To Chicago: When Seth Jones informed the Blue Jackets that he wasn’t interested in signing a contract extension with them, it forced their hand into trying to find a suitable trade fairly quickly. Columbus was able to do that, moving Jones along with the 32nd pick (Nolan Allan) and a 2022 sixth-rounder to Chicago for defenseman Adam Boqvist, the 12th pick (Cole Sillinger), the 44th pick (Aleksi Heimosalmi), and a 2022 first-round pick (top-two protected). As part of the move, the Blackhawks have agreed to an eight-year, $76MM contract extension although that can’t be officially announced until Wednesday when the calendar flips to the 2021-22 season. Jones gives Chicago a prominent blueliner to build around while with these young pieces going the other way, Blue Jackets GM Jarmo Kekalainen has added to the foundation of their ongoing rebuild.
Flyers Dealings: The Flyers were busy on the defensive front. In a cap-clearing move, they sent Shayne Gostisbehere along with second and seventh-round picks in 2022 to Arizona for no return. Those savings were then applied to Rasmus Ristolainen who was acquired from Buffalo before the draft in exchange for the 14th pick in the draft (Isac Rosen), a 2023 second-rounder, and blueliner Robert Hagg. Factoring in their big splash a week ago with the acquisition of Ryan Ellis, their back end will look a lot different next season. GM Chuck Fletcher wasn’t done there, however, as he flipped Jakub Voracek to the Blue Jackets on the second day of the draft in exchange for Cam Atkinson in a swap that freed up nearly $2.4MM in cap room.
Re-Signings: On top of the big trades, there were also some notable re-signings. Taylor Hall didn’t hide his desire to make his stay in Boston a longer one and that wish came to fruition as he agreed to a four-year, $24MM contract. After scoring just twice with Buffalo, he scored eight times for the Bruins who brought him in at the trade deadline and he should help bolster their scoring beyond the top line. Meanwhile, Miro Heiskanen’s record of having the highest AAV for a defenseman coming off his entry-level contract lasted all of a week. The new mark has been set by Cale Makar of the Avalanche as the rearguard inked a six-year, $54MM contract. The 22-year-old has 94 points in 101 career games and was the runner-up for the Norris Trophy this past season. Even at that $9MM price tag, if his production continues to improve, this could wind up being a team-friendly deal by its conclusion.
Reinhart To Florida: A week like this deserves an extra move to recap as the Panthers made a big move of their own, acquiring Sam Reinhart from Buffalo in exchange for their 2022 first-round pick plus goaltending prospect Devon Levi. Reinhart had expressed a hesitance in committing to Buffalo long term so they secure an extra first-rounder already plus an intriguing young netminder in Levi. Meanwhile, Florida adds an impact forward as they look to take another step forward after an impressive 2020-21 campaign. Worth noting, captain Aleksander Barkov is set to be an unrestricted free agent next summer so assuming they can get a long-term deal done with Reinhart (a pending RFA), he’ll represent some insurance if they can’t get Barkov extended. In the meantime, a long playoff run should help their chances of extending Barkov and the addition of Reinhart will certainly give them a better chance to get beyond the first round.
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