While the big roster shuffle will come next week as free agency opens up, it was still a very busy week around the NHL with the draft and some big trades among the key stories.
Draft Day Splashes: The Canadiens were hosting the draft, the first held in-person since 2019. GM Kent Hughes make a pair of notable decisions on the opening day of the festivities. First, he opted to take winger Juraj Slafkovsky with the first-overall pick, staying away from Shane Wright, long viewed as the consensus top pick who instead went fourth to Seattle.
Before Wright’s pick was announced, however, Montreal swung a pair of trades to find a new center. First, they traded defenseman Alexander Romanov along with a fourth-round pick to the Islanders for the 13th selection and then flipped that with a third-rounder to acquire Kirby Dach. Dach, the number three pick in 2019, has struggled so far in his career which led to Chicago dealing him away and taking Frank Nazar with the first-rounder but Montreal believes the 21-year-old still has top-six upside. Romanov, meanwhile, is a nice addition to New York’s back end and will certainly give them a boost in terms of physicality. Both Dach and Romanov are restricted free agents this summer.
Day Two Also Busy: Sometimes, the second day of the draft can come and go without much fanfare. This wasn’t one of them as Detroit swung a move to get a head start on their free agent shopping, acquiring the rights to Ville Husso from St. Louis for a third-round pick and then quickly signed him to a three-year, $14.25MM extension. It’s a nice raise for the 27-year-old who was on a league minimum contract the last two seasons but a well-earned one as he impressed in 40 games this past season. The Flyers then added to their back end, picking up Anthony DeAngelo from Carolina for a trio of draft picks, quickly agreeing to a two-year, $10MM contract after. The 26-year-old impressed in his only season with the Hurricanes, notching 51 points in 64 games, effectively pricing himself too high for what they can afford with several other notable free agents. Meanwhile, the Oilers could soon be adding some cap space as reports surfaced that veteran defenseman Duncan Keith is expected to retire this week after a 17-year career that featured two Norris Trophies and three Stanley Cups. The move will give Edmonton more than $5.5MM in cap space for next season while removing that amount from Chicago’s cap due to salary cap recapture penalties.
DeBrincat To Ottawa: Prior to the start of the draft, the Senators made a big splash on the trade front, acquiring winger Alex DeBrincat from Chicago in exchange for the seventh and 39th picks. The 24-year-old is coming off his second career 41-goal season and has one year left on his deal with a $6.4MM AAV. However, it’s worth noting that he’ll be owed a $9MM qualifying offer in 2023; GM Pierre Dorion indicated an intention to try to work on a long-term extension with DeBrincat in the coming weeks and it wouldn’t be surprising to see them try to push for a number that comes in a little below that amount. Meanwhile, Chicago used the picks on defenseman Kevin Korchinski and center Paul Ludwinski as they continue to sell off pieces as they embark on a full-scale rebuild.
Sharks Hire Grier: It took until just before the draft but the Sharks found their next general manager, appointing long-time NHL winger Mike Grier to the position. That makes him the first Black general manager in NHL history but not the first GM in his family as his brother Chris is currently the GM of the NFL’s Miami Dolphins. Grier spent three of his 14 NHL seasons in San Jose and will now be tasked with trying to shed some onerous contracts and bring in some extra young depth to the organization. His first move was to trade down from the 11th selection, swapping with Arizona for picks 27, 34, and 45.
Forsberg Sticks Around: While it took a lot longer than many expected, the Predators and winger Filip Forsberg were eventually able to work out a new eight-year, $68MM contract that carries a full no-move clause for the first six seasons. The 27-year-old has spent his entire ten-year NHL career with Nashville and has been a fixture on their front line for many of those. Forsberg is coming off a season that saw him hit new benchmarks in goals (42) and assists (42) despite missing 13 games which gave him plenty of leverage heading into discussions. He used it well as he gets a $2.5MM increase compared to the AAV of his previous deal and the maximum term of an agreement, ensuring he’ll remain the Predators for a long time to come.
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