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NHL offseason tracker: Analyzing the moves in a busy offseason

  • July 27, 2021

This NHL offseason is shaping up to be one of the busiest in years.

Ten days after the Tampa Bay Lightning clinched a repeat of the Stanley Cup championship, every team except the Vegas Golden Knights submitted a protected and available list for the expansion draft. The Seattle Kraken built their inaugural team from that list on July 21.

The NHL draft was held July 23-24, with the Buffalo Sabres choosing Owen Power first and the Kraken making Matthew Beniers the franchise’s first pick. Seth Jones, Oliver Ekman-Larsson and Jakub Voracek were among the big names traded during draft weekend.

Free agency will begin on July 28 amid a flat salary cap.

Tracking the big offseason news:

break Wayne Gretzky’s goal-scoring record (894). The Capitals, who traded defenseman Brenden Dillon for draft picks on Monday, still need to sign goalie Ilya Samsonov.

July 27: More buyouts

The following players were put on waivers for purposes of buying out their contracts: Vancouver Canucks goalie Braden Holtby, San Jose Sharks’ Martin Jones and Edmonton Oilers’ James Neal. Holtby struggled in his first season in Vancouver and the net is ready to go to Thatcher Demko. The Canucks will need to find a backup goal in free agency. San Jose had acquired goalie Adin Hill before the expansion draft and Jones’ play had dropped off the past two seasons. Neal’s buyout will clear space for the Oilers’ expected signing of Zach Hyman.

July 26: Free agency approaching

Teams are getting their rosters in shape with free agency two days away:

-The Winnipeg Jets re-sign center Paul Stastny. He took a pay cut to $3.75 million in his one-year deal. Stastny’s return ensures that the Jets remains deep down the middle. Winnipeg also addressed its blue line by sending two second-round picks to the Washington Capitals for Brenden Dillon, a 6-4, 225-pound defenseman.  

-The Florida Panthers re-sign Sam Bennett. He had an impressive debut in Florida after arriving near the trade deadline. He agreed to a four-year, $17.6 million contract. The Panthers also need to re-sign restricted free agent Sam Reinhart, who was acquired during the second day of the draft.

-Qualifying offers: Among players not qualified by Monday’s deadline, making them unrestricted free agents: Boston Bruins’ Nick Ritchie (15 goals), Chicago Blackhawks’ Pius Suter (14 goals) and Edmonton Oilers’ Dominik Kahun and Jujhar Khaira. The Seattle Kraken, as expected, qualified all of the restricted free agents they took in the expansion draft.

-Jake Virtanen clears waivers. The Vancouver Canucks will buy out the forward, who was placed on leave in May after being accused in a lawsuit that he sexually assaulted a woman in 2017.

other transactions also drew attention. The Buffalo Sabres dealt leading scorer Sam Reinhart to the Florida Panthers for a 2022 first-round pick (it could move to 2023 if it ends up in the top 10) and young goalie Devon Levi, who helped Canada win a silver medal at the world junior championship. Jakub Voracek returned to the Columbus Blue Jackets as the Philadelphia Flyers traded for Cam Atkinson. Colorado Avalanche defenseman Cale Makar got a six-year, $54 million contract, just short of the $9.5 million average agreed to by Seth Jones after his trade to the Chicago Blackhawks.

July 23: Busy draft

University of Michigan defenseman Owen Power was the No. 1 pick as expected, but he had to share the spotlight with a handful of high-profile trades. Moving to new teams were Seth Jones, Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Pavel Buchnevich and Rasmus Ristolainen. There also was some controversy with the 31st-overall pick.

FIRST-ROUND PICKS:Scouting reports of the players selected on Friday

July 23: NHL draft tonight

The Buffalo Sabres are on the clock with the No. 1 overall pick in Friday’s first round, which begins at 8 ET. There already have been trades. Click on the links for our live draft blog, our draft primer and our mock draft.

July 22: NHL releases schedule

The NHL regular-season schedule is out, though it could change. The league built in a break from Feb 7-22 in case a deal is reached to send players to the 2022 Olympics. If talks fall through, a revised schedule will be released.

The season starts Oct. 12 and ends April 29. The New York Islanders have to open with 13 games on the road before their home opener at UBS Arena.

NHL SCHEDULE:Day-by-day schedule

NHL SCHEDULE:Highlights of the 2021-22 regular season

July 22: Transactions resume

The expansion draft roster freeze lifted at 1 p.m. ET and there quickly was activity, including the first trade by the Seattle Kraken.

They sent forward Tyler Pitlick, who was picked up from the Arizona Coyotes, to the Calgary Flames for a fourth-round 2022 pick.

The Philadelphia Flyers, in a cap-clearing move, sent defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere to the Coyotes. They had to include a couple draft picks in the deal to get Arizona to take him. The money saved will give the Flyers room to re-sign Carter Hart and Travis Sanheim.

The New York Rangers signed recently acquired forward Barclay Goodrow to a six-year, $21.9 million deal.

The surprising move was the Carolina Hurricanes trading goalie Alex Nedelkjovic to the Detroit Red Wings. The Calder Trophy finalist was a restricted free agent and he agreed to a two-year, $6 million deal with Detroit, his agent tweeted.

The Red Wings get a 25-year-old goalie who led the league in goals-against average and save percentage. The Hurricanes got the rights to goalie Jonathan Bernier and a third-round pick. At this moment, Carolina has no goaltenders under contract. 

July 22: Weber out for the season

Montreal Canadiens general manager Marc Bergevin confirmed that defenseman Shea Weber will miss the season and his career could be over.

“He suffered many different injuries over the last few years, including injuries to his ankle, knee and thumb,” Bergevin told reporters. “He’s in a lot of pain. It even takes him a long time to prepare for practice.”

The news is a blow to the Stanley Cup finalists. They’ll be able to put Weber on long-term injured reserve, which will help their cap situation, but the defenseman was the team captain and second in ice time.

“We’ll try our best, but I know deep down that you can never replace Shea Weber,” Bergevin said.

July 21: Seattle Kraken expansion draft

The entire roster was figured out by reporters before the Seattle Kraken officially announced the members of the NHL’s newest team.

But general manager Ron Francis assembled a team that’s deep on defense, has flexibility on offense and includes rising goaltenders. He avoided big-name, big-contract players and might need to pursue more goal scoring with his approximately $29 million in cap space. 

EXPANSION DRAFT:All 30 picks that the Seattle Kraken made

WINNERS AND LOSERS:Who made out best, worst in Seattle Kraken expansion draft

primer for the expansion draft announcement. In the meantime, names submitted at the 10 a.m. ET deadline are being leaked out, including Flames defenseman Mark Giordano, Panthers goalie Chris Driedger and Oilers defenseman Adam Larsson.

picking the Seattle Kraken roster.

July 18: The expansion draft lists are out

The NHL released the list of players who are protected and players who are available to be taken by the Kraken in the expansion draft. 

Some surprises on the available list: Montreal Canadiens goalie Carey Price, fresh off a trip to the Stanley Cup Final; Calgary Flames captain Mark Giordano, and St. Louis forward Vladimir Tarasenko, who has requested a trade and could bring the Blues assets if dealt. But all make significant money, which could deter the Kraken from taking them.

The defending champion Tampa Bay Lightning chose to protect four defensemen, so forwards Alex Killorn, Yanni Gourde and Tyler Johnson are among those available. Gourde is likely to be the one to be picked, though the Lightning might try to work a side deal for them to take Washington State native Johnson instead.

The Nashville Predators protected five defensemen.

July 17: Flurry of moves made before NHL roster freeze

The NHL roster freeze ahead of the Seattle Kraken expansion draft went into effect Saturday. It was a busy afternoon before the transaction pause, as teams made moves as they finalized their protection lists, which were due Saturday and will be revealed Sunday.  

The biggest move of the day was the Philadelphia Flyers’ acquisition of veteran defenseman Ryan Ellis from the Nashville Predators. In return, Nashville received defenseman Philippe Myers and forward Nolan Patrick, who the Preds flipped to Vegas for forward Cody Glass. Ellis should be a huge boon on defense for the Flyers, who were never quite able to replace the retired Matt Niskanen and finished last in the NHL in goals against in 2021. — Jace Evans

Other moves made Saturday: 

  • The Dallas Stars inked cornerstone defenseman Miro Heiskanen to an eight-year, $67.6 million deal.
  • The Stars also traded forward Jason Dickinson to the Vancouver Canucks for a third-round pick. 
  • The Arizona Coyotes traded goalie Adin Hill to the San Jose Sharks for fellow goalie Josef Korenar and a 2022 second-round pick. 
  • The Coyotes also acquired forward Andrew Ladd, a second-round pick and conditional picks in the 2022 and 2023 NHL drafts from the New York Islanders, who received nothing in return as they sought to dump Ladd’s contract. 
  • The Pittsburgh Penguins traded forward Jared McCann to the Toronto Maple Leafs for Filip Hallander and a 2023 seventh-round pick. 
  • The Tampa Bay Lightning moved a member of their back-to-back championship squads, shipping pending free agent Barclay Goodrow to the New York Rangers for a 2022 seventh-round pick. 

July 16: Red Wings acquire veteran defenseman from Islanders

The Detroit Red Wings landed veteran defenseman Nick Leddy from the New York Islanders on Friday in exchange for forward Richard Panik and a 2021 second-round pick that originally belonged to Edmonton. The 30-year-old Leddy, who spent the last seven seasons on the Islanders after breaking into the league – and winning a Stanley Cup – with the Chicago Blackhawks, has one more year on his deal with a cap hit of $5.5 million. Panik, who the Red Wings acquired from the Washington Capitals in the Anthony Mantha-Jakub Vrana trade, has two more years left on his deal. Detroit is reportedly retaining 50% of Panik’s salary in the deal. Leddy figures to be a work-horse for a Detroit team with a bunch of question marks on defense. As for the Islanders, Leddy could have been a player they lost in the expansion draft. — Jace Evans 

July 15: Panthers buy out Keith Yandle

Yandle, 34, another casualty of the flat cap, becomes a free agent after five seasons with the Panthers. The defenseman, who had 27 points last season and averaged more than 17 minutes a game, will want to find a new team quickly because he’s 43 games away from breaking Doug Jarvis’ record ironman streak of 964 games. Florida also re-sign defenseman Gustav Forsling and forward Anthony Duclair to three-year deals on Thursday.

July 15: Avalanche trade Ryan Graves

The Colorado Avalanche shipped 26-year-old defenseman Ryan Graves to the New Jersey Devils for forward Mikhail Maltsev and a second-round pick in the 2021 NHL draft. Graves, who led the NHL with a plus-40 rating in 2019-20, was a potential candidate to be selected by the Seattle Kraken in the expansion draft with the Avs likely to protect Norris Trophy runner-up Cale Makar, Samuel Girard and Devon Toews on defense. Instead of risk losing him for nothing, Avs GM Joe Sakic ensured a small return for the blue-line regular.  — Jace Evans  

July 14: NHL draft order released

The league released the order for all seven rounds of the July 23-24 entry draft. The draft will be conducted virtually for the second consecutive year. The Buffalo Sabres are drafting No. 1 overall.

July 14: Skinner waives no-movement clause

The Sabres got Jeff Skinner to waive his no-movement clause, The Athletic reported. Skinner, who scored seven goals last season and has a $9 million cap, won’t be taken, but it frees up Buffalo to protect another player in the expansion draft.

BRUINS: Brandon Carlo gets lengthy deal. Kevan Miller retires.

July 13: Wild buy out Parise and Suter

Zach Parise and Ryan Suter signed front-loaded 13-year, $98 million contracts with much fanfare in July 2012, but the Wild are building around younger players. The buyouts will save money in the short run, but cost the team in cap recapture penalties for the three seasons after next one. Each becomes a free agent and should find a role on another team.

CANADIENS:Dominique Ducharme named head coach after playoff run

July 13: Pekka Rinne retires

He had an award-winning career with the Nashville Predators, earning a Vezina Trophy, a King Clancy Trophy and a trip to the Stanley Cup Final. Plus he scored a goal. The Predators need to re-sign restricted free agent Juuse Saros, who had supplanted Rinne as No. 1, and will need to find a backup goalie.

July 12: Duncan Keith traded to Oilers

Edmonton gets 16-year veteran Keith and minor league forward Tim Soderlund and the Chicago Blackhawks get back defenseman Caleb Jones and a conditional third-round draft pick that can become a second depending on how the Oilers and Keith fare in the playoffs. Keith, who played his entire career with the Blackhawks, wanted to be closer to his family in western Canada. Keith, who will be 38 next season, is no longer the player who won three Stanley Cups, two Olympic gold medals and two Norris trophies, but he plays more than 23 minutes a game and has championship experience. Jones is the younger brother of Seth Jones. Does that give the Blackhawks a leg up in acquiring the Blue Jackets defenseman? The money works after the Keith trade.

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