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Six NHL rookies that are flying under the radar this season

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The NHL’s rookie class for the 2017-18 season is an impressive one with what is sure to be a tightly contested Calder Trophy race at the top.

Forwards Mathew Barzal (New York Islanders), Brock Boeser (Vancouver Canucks), and Clayton Keller (Arizona Coyotes), as well as defensemen Charlie McAvoy (Boston Bruins) and Mikhail Sergachev (Tampa Bay Lightning) are all making tremendous impacts for their teams this season and are clearly the cream of the crop when it comes to first-year players around the league.

One of them (most likely Barzal or Boeser) is going to take home the Calder Trophy this season.

But they are not the only rookies that are standing out this season.

Let’s take a look at five more whose performances have slid under the radar. None of these players will end up winning the rookie of the year award this season, but they have been key contributors to their teams so far and deserve some credit for it.

Danton Heinen, Boston Bruins

The Bruins are a really intriguing team in the East. They have three of the best forwards in the league at the top of their lineup, a goalie that is capable of carrying the team when he gets hot, and they have rebuilt their defense over the past couple of years. They are also getting a ton of contributions from rookies. McAvoy has already blossomed into a top-pairing defenseman, and Jake DeBrusk, a 2015 first-round pick, is currently on a 20-goal pace.

They also have Heinen, a 22-year-old forward that is getting his first full-time look in the NHL.

Currently he is fourth among all NHL rookies in scoring with 38 points, while his 0.82 point per game average is third behind only Barzal and Boeser.

He has been especially good on a line with veteran forward David Backes. When Backes and Heinen are on the ice together during 5-on-5 play the Bruins are controlling 60 percent of the shot attempts and outscoring teams by a 14-10 margin (via NaturalStatTrick).

Alexander Kerfoot, Colorado Avalanche

After choosing to not sign with the team that drafted him, the New Jersey Devils, Kerfoot became an unrestricted free agent this past summer and ended up landing an opportunity with the Colorado Avalanche. It has paid off immediately for everyone.

The Avalanche are in surprising contention for a playoff spot this season, even after trading Matt Duchene, thanks in large part to the breakout year from Nathan MacKinnon.

Another key contributor this season has been the 23-year-old Kerfoot.

In his debut season he’s already recorded 30 points in 40 games and has been one of the team’s top point producers.

The Avalanche have been a disaster on the ice in recent seasons, but they are exceeding expectations this season and their top-four scorers (MacKinnon, Mikko Rantanen, Gabriel Landeskog and Kerfoot) are all age 25 or younger. Landeskog is the only one of that quartet that is over the age 23. And they also still have 19-year-old Tyson Jost.

There is still a pretty good young core here to build around.

Yanni Gourde, Tampa Bay Lightning

The Lightning are looking absolutely terrifying this season — and for future seasons given their contract situations — with a bunch of superstars at the top of the lineup and a bunch of young, talented, cheap players sprinkled around them. We mentioned Sergachev up above as one of the Calder Trophy leaders, and they also have second-year forward Brayden Point lighting up the scoreboard (Point, by the way, is the third-leading scorer on the team).

Then there’s Yanni Gourde.

Gourde barely makes the rookie cut this season because he turned 26 in December and had played in 20 games a season ago, but by NHL rules he does still qualify as a rookie.

The Lightning have excelled in recent seasons by building around talented, undersized forwards that are capable of putting the puck in the net and Gourde is just the latest example. Listed at only 5-9, 172 pounds, Gourde is one of the smallest players in the league. Before getting his first real shot in the NHL he had been a productive player at pretty much every level of hockey that he played at.

He earned a regular spot with the Lightning this season and has proven to be a valuable addition. Along with his offensive production (14 goals, 16 assists in 44 games) he has also been a key contributor to their penalty kill.

Tristan Jarry, Pittsburgh Penguins

The Penguins weren’t expecting to need Jarry this season, but when the Antti Niemi experiment proved to be a failure their plans had to change a little. So far, he has been excellent as Matt Murray‘s backup and has filled in admirably for him while Murray has been away from the team dealing with a personal family matter. With Murray again away from the team following his father’s passing this week Jarry is going to get even more opportunities to play in the immediate future.

So far this season Jarry is 9-3-2 in his 15 appearances and has a .923 save percentage that is tops among rookie goaltenders (minimum 15 games played).

Kyle Connor, Winnipeg Jets

The Jets have become one of the NHL’s most dynamic offenses with Blake Wheeler, Mark Scheifele, Patrik Laine, and Nikolaj Ehlers are all shining at the top of the lineup.

They also have 2015 first-round pick Kyle Connor starting to make an impact.

Connor is currently third among all rookie forwards in goals scored, but is second only to Boeser when it comes to goals per game.

He is currently on what would be a 30-goal pace over 82 games.

The Jets’ rebuild has been slow — painfully slow, and probably slower than it needed to be — but their patience and desire to build almost entirely from within is finally starting to be rewarded with this group of forwards.

If they can keep getting solid goaltending they are going to be a tough team to knock out of the playoffs.

Jesper Bratt, New Jersey Devils

The Devils are another team that is getting significant contributions from rookies this season.

Currently the Devils are in a playoff position in the Metropolitan Division and are looking to return to the postseason for the first time since 2011-12. Leading the way is a trio of rookies that are all among the team’s top-four scorers. Included in that group are No. 1 overall pick Nico Hischier and free agent signing Will Butcher.

It should not be much of a surprise that Hischier has played well and made an immediate impact. That is what you hope — and expect — from a No. 1 overall pick. Butcher has been outstanding and is currently the team’s top possession player.

The biggest surprise out of the group, though, might be 19-year-old Jesper Bratt, a sixth-round pick by the Devils in 2016.

Through the Devils’ first 42 games, Bratt is second on the team in scoring, is seventh among all rookies, and is playing close to two minutes on the penalty kill per night … as a 19-year-old rookie.

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

Breaking down this offseason’s crowded goalie market

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Need a goalie? You’re in luck, because this offseason’s NHL free agent and trade market is overflowing with options as several prominent goaltenders are set to become available over the coming days and weeks.

Let’s take a look at some of the most notable options, ranging from the safest and best bets, to the riskiest and most volatile.

Also just for laughs, one completely bonkers option that does not even seem realistic.

FREE AGENTS

Sign this goalie

Robin Lehner (Vegas Golden Knights — pending UFA). Word is the Golden Knights want to re-sign him, and there was even a report during the playoffs that an agreement had been reached (Lehner denied it). But until pen is put to paper and deal is official we are working under the assumption that he could still be available, and if he is, he would be the best available player at the position. Of the 70 goalies that have appeared in at least 50 games over the past four years, Lehner ranks seventh in all situations save percentage (.919) and 15th in even-strength save percentage (.924) while also posting outstanding postseason numbers. He has played on one-year deals the past two years in shared net situations. He has more than earned a long-term deal and starting job, whether it comes in Vegas or somewhere else.

Jacob Markstrom (Vancouver Canucks — pending UFA). Markstrom was a huge part of the Canucks taking a big step forward this season. He is not one of the league’s elite goalies, but he has been a durable starter for the past three years and consistently provided above average play behind what was — at times — a very porous defensive team. It took him a while to establish himself as a starter, but now that he has, he is an excellent one.

Anton Khudobin (Dallas Stars — pending UFA). How much money did he make for himself this postseason? The risk here is that he is 34 years old and never been a full-time starter in the NHL. The argument for him is that he has been outstanding for three years now, and even though he certainly played his way into a bigger contract he still shouldn’t break the bank. The ideal outcome for him is to re-sign in Dallas where he and Ben Bishop form an outstanding duo.

Thomas Greiss (New York Islanders — pending UFA). Like Khudobin, Greiss is probably most valuable in a platoon role. Not one of the biggest names available, but In four of the past five years he has played in at least 30 games and finished with a save percentage of .912 or better. Some team is going to spend a lot more money on a lesser goalie this offseason.

NHL Free Agency
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Proceed with caution

Corey Crawford (Chicago Blackhawks — pending UFA). Crawford was the most underrated part of the Blackhawks’ mini-dynasty and one of their most important players. I still think he can be (and is) an excellent player when healthy. And that is the big “if” here. He turns 36 in December and has had some significant injury issues the past few years.

Henrik Lundqvist (Bought out — currently UFA). The two obvious questions here are: 1) which goalie-needy contender does he signs with to chase that elusive Stanley Cup (Colorado? Carolina?) and, 2) how much does he have left in the tank as a starter to help that contender win the Stanley Cup? He is 38 years old and has a .906 save percentage over the past two years. He’s a far cry from the goalie he used to be, but in the right situation I think there is still something here.

Braden Holtby (Washington Capitals — pending UFA). Just have a bad feeling about this for some team. At one time one of the best goalies in hockey, but he has been ordinary (to even bad) for three years now. Getting some strong Sergei Bobrovsky-in-Florida vibes with this next contract.

The Trade Market

Likely trade candidates

Marc-Andre Fleury (Vegas Golden Knights). Fleury has said he will not ask for a trade, but if Vegas is successful in re-signing Lehner a deal here seems to be inevitable. There is not enough room under the cap for those two contracts, and there probably isn’t enough room in the crease for two No. 1 goalies. Seems like an ideal fit for Colorado given their trade assets and salary cap space, but why would Vegas want to improve what might be its top Western Conference contender?

Matt Murray (Pittsburgh Penguins). Here’s the problem with Murray: We just don’t know how good he is at this point. Sometimes he looks like the goalie that was a two-time Stanley Cup champion in his first two years and sometimes he looks … decidedly average. It seems to be a matter of when, and not if, the Penguins move him, but given the saturated goalie market and Murray’s inconsistency the past three years the return he could be way smaller than expected.

Long-shot trade candidates

Darcy Kuemper (Arizona Coyotes). Kuemper’s name surfaced in trade rumors shortly after the Coyotes were eliminated, but it really doesn’t seem like a good idea. They have a good thing going with him and Antti Raanta for this season, and given Raanta’s ongoing injury concerns keeping Kuemper seems like it should be a priority. Not likely to get an upgrade at a cheaper price.

Devan Dubnyk (Minnesota Wild). Bill Guerin seems determined to shake things up, Dubnyk only has one year left on his deal, he is coming off his worst season in Minnesota, and with the available options there could be an upgrade to be made here.

The nuclear option

Tuukka Rask (Boston Bruins). Am only including Rask because TSN’s Frank Seravalli mentioned on Thursday that Bruins GM Don Sweeney has “initiated conversations with teams about Rask’s market value over the last number of weeks.” That doesn’t necessarily mean he is looking to trade him, but that is still interesting. Also a little insane. The Bruins have everything it takes to win a Stanley Cup and even though Rask only has one year left on his contract he is still better than any goalie they could realistically acquire to replace him. Let’s not overthink this, folks.

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

Countdown on for debut of Seattle Kraken

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SEATTLE (AP) — Standing on the recently poured concrete that will be the club level floor inside Climate Pledge Arena, Tod Leiweke nodded and pointed toward a corner of the upper deck.

That’s where Leiweke envisions sitting sometime in the fall of 2021 when the Seattle Kraken skate out from the dressing room three floors below, hoping to be in front of a packed building waiting to welcome the NHL’s newest member.

”We’ve gotten a lot done, but now we look up and we say, hey, 12 months out, maybe less, and counting,” Leiweke said. ”This is going to get real.”

Time seems to defy definition right now thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic and all the ways it has changed schedules and plans. But after Tampa Bay raised the Stanley Cup on Monday night, the countdown is truly on.

In about a year, the Kraken will gather for their first training camp in a $90 million practice facility that is the anchor of a massive retail redevelopment. Sometime in late summer or early fall 2021, the arena being built under the iconic roof that’s been part of the Seattle skyline for more than 50 years will be finished.

Eventually, the Kraken will play their first game and officially become the league’s 32nd team.

When the puck will actually drop remains unknown. The NHL may be headed toward a January 2021 start for the upcoming season and the league would still like to play a full 82-game schedule that would likely drag into the summer. But the NHL is still hoping to start Seattle’s first season on time next fall, especially since it’s planning to send players to the 2022 Beijing Olympics.

Seattle will be ready regardless, largely because of what it was able to accomplish during the pandemic, highlighted by the launch of the team’s nickname and subsequent merchandise buying frenzy. While the name remains polarizing – most fans love it or hate it – the positive reaction to the slithering ”S” as the main logo, the secondary mark that incorporates the Space Needle and the success in sales can’t be denied. In the days following the name announcement, the Kraken were the top-selling team across all sports on Fanatics.com.

”It’s a mark that is the symbol of our brand. But really a brand is made up of 1,000 different pieces that all come together to create a team brand and a feeling of purpose and a soul, and the mark was really important,” Leiweke said. ”I walked into that morning believing that people were going to like it. But I think that the reaction of the public exceeded my expectations.”

Seattle also landed Amazon as its naming rights partner for its arena. The Kraken hired Everett Fitzhugh as the first Black team broadcaster in NHL history and continued to build out their hockey operations and scouting staff.

It’s allowed Leiweke to start thinking about the actual hockey product and the day next year when the foundation of the first team will be established through the expansion draft.

”There’s a terrific amount of work in front of us, but in fact we’re on track, and we’re on plan,” Leiweke said. ”To feel that, given everything else that’s going on, is pretty amazing.”

Everyone involved expects the arena to be ready in time, especially if the start of the 2021 season is delayed. The roof that had to remain because of its historical landmark status no longer rests on temporary supports. Permanent support structures are in place, while a completely new arena is constructed underneath.

The framework of the seating sections is completed in most areas of the arena, with the exception of one corner still being used to haul materials in and out.

”By far the biggest tests are behind us,” said Ken Johnsen, construction executive overseeing the arena.

The timeline for construction was impacted by the early stages of the virus outbreak, but Johnsen said any lag and supply chain issues have been resolved.

Leiweke said dealing with construction issues is just another example of a challenge his organization needed to work through during the pandemic, and thus far been successful at navigating.

”Not to say this project wasn’t already filled with lots of ambition before all of this, but this has made it certainly more challenging and I think people have risen to the challenge,” Leiweke said. ”That’s going to be a great story of this whole thing is how people rose up to meet this challenge.”

2020 NHL Draft: Date, time, order of picks for all 31 teams

2020 NHL Draft
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The 2020 NHL Draft will be held virtually with Round 1 taking place on Tuesday, Oct. 6 beginning at 7 p.m. ET on NBCSN. Rounds 2-7 will be held Wednesday, Oct. 7 beginning at 11:30 a.m. ET on NHL Network.

The Rangers won Phase 2 of the 2020 NHL Draft lottery in August and will select first overall. Rimouski Oceanic (QMJHL) winger Alexis Lafreniere is expected to go No. 1.

After that? It could go a lot of different ways. Quinton Byfield (Sudbury – C- OHL), Tim Stutzle (Adler Mannheim – C/LW – DEL), Lucas Raymond (Frolunda – LW/C – SHL), Jamie Drysdale (Erie – D – OHL), Marco Rossi (Ottawa – C – OHL), Cole Perfetti (Saginaw – C – OHL), Jake Sanderson (D – USNTDP) are among the top prospects expected to be selected early.

[NHL Midseason Mock Draft: Lafreniere head of the 2020 prospect class]

Here is the full 2020 NHL Draft order.

2020 NHL Draft order

Round 1

1. New York Rangers
2. Los Angeles Kings
3. Ottawa Senators (from SJS)
4. Detroit Red Wings
5. Ottawa Senators
6. Anaheim Ducks
7. New Jersey Devils
8. Buffalo Sabres
9. Minnesota Wild
10. Winnipeg Jets
11. Nashville Predators
12. Florida Panthers
13. Carolina Hurricanes (from TOR)
14. Edmonton Oilers
15. Toronto Maple Leafs (from PIT)
16. Montreal Canadiens
17. Chicago Blackhawks
18. New Jersey Devils (from ARZ)
19. Calgary Flames
20. New Jersey Devils (from VAN via TB)
21. Columbus Blue Jackets
22. New York Rangers (from CAR)
23. Philadelphia Flyers
24. Washington Capitals
25. Colorado Avalanche
26. St. Louis Blues
27. Anaheim Ducks (from BOS)
28. Ottawa Senators (from NYI)
29. Vegas Golden Knights
30. Dallas Stars
31. San Jose Sharks (from TB)

Round 2

32. Detroit Red Wings
33. Ottawa Senators
34. San Jose Sharks
35. Los Angeles Kings
36. Anaheim Ducks
37. Nashville Predators (from NJ)
38. Buffalo Sabres
39. Minnesota Wild
40. Winnipeg Jets
41. Carolina Hurricanes (from NYR)
42. Nashville Predators
43. Florida Panthers
44. Toronto Maple Leafs
45. Detroit Red Wings (from EDM)
46. Chicago Blackhawks (from PIT via VGK)
47. Montreal Canadiens
48. Montreal Canadiens (from CHI)
49. No selection (Originally Arizona Coyotes*)
50. Calgary Flames
51. Los Angeles Kings (from VAN)
52. Ottawa Senators (from CBJ)
53. Carolina Hurricanes
54. Philadelphia Flyers
55. Detroit Red Wings (from WSH)
56. San Jose Sharks (from COL via WSH)
57. Montreal Canadiens (from STL)
58. Boston Bruins
59. Ottawa Senators (from NYI)
60. Los Angeles Kings (from VGK)
61. Ottawa Senators (from DAL via VGK)
62. Tampa Bay Lightning

*Coyotes forfeit pick No. 49 due to punishment for violating NHL pre-combine testing rules.

Round 3

63. Detroit Red Wings
64. Ottawa Senators
65. Detroit Red Wings (from SJ)
66. Los Angeles Kings
67. Anaheim Ducks
68. Vegas Golden Knights (from NJ)
69. Carolina Hurricanes (from BUF)
70. Nashville Predators (from MIN)
71. Ottawa Senators (from WPG)
72. New York Rangers
73. Nashville Predators
74. Florida Panthers
75. Colorado Avalanche (from TOR)
76. Edmonton Oilers++
77. Pittsburgh Penguins
78. Montreal Canadiens
79. Chicago Blackhawks
80. Washington Capitals (from ARI via COL)
81. Calgary Flames+++
82. Vancouver Canucks
83. Los Angeles Kings (from CBJ via OTT via TOR)
84. New Jersey Devils (from CAR)
85. Tampa Bay Lightning (from PHI via SJ)
86. St. Louis Blues (from WSH via MTL)
87. Florida Panthers (from COL)
88. St. Louis Blues
89. Boston Bruins
90. New York Islanders
91. Vegas Golden Knights
92. New York Rangers (from DAL)
93. Tampa Bay Lightning

++ Oilers have yet to announce whether they will give their 2020 or 2021 third-round pick to the Flames as part of the James Neal trade. If they give up the 2020 choice, the Blackhawks will get No. 76 as part of the Erik Gustafsson treads. If they give up their 2021 pick, the Blackhawks will get the No. 81 pick from the Flames.

+++ If Calgary does not receive Edmonton’s 2020 third-round pick, they will send their own 2020 third-round pick to the Blackhawks.

Round 4

94. Tampa Bay Lightning (from DET)
95. Ottawa Senators
96. Calgary Flames (from SJ vis MTL via BUF)
97. Los Angeles Kings
98. Montreal Canadiens (from ANA)
99. New Jersey Devils
100. Buffalo Sabres
101. Minnesota Wild
102. Montreal Canadiens (from WPG)
103. New York Rangers
104. Anaheim Ducks (from NSH via PHI)
105. Florida Panthers
106. Toronto Maple Leafs
107. Detroit Red Wings (from EDM)
108. Pittsburgh Penguins
109. Montreal Canadiens
110. Chicago Blackhawks
111. Arizona Coyotes
112. Los Angeles Kings (from CGY)
113. Vancouver Canucks
114. Columbus Blue Jackets
115. Carolina Hurricanes
116. Philadelphia Flyers
117. Washington Capitals
118. Colorado Avalanche
119. St. Louis Blues
120. New Jersey Devils (from BOS)
121. New York Islanders
122. Toronto Maple Leafs (from VGK)
123. Dallas Stars
124. Tampa Bay Lightning

Round 5

125. Detroit Red Wings
126. San Jose Sharks (from OTT)
127. San Jose Sharks
128. Los Angeles Kings
129. Anaheim Ducks
130. New Jersey Devils
131. Buffalo Sabres
132. Minnesota Wild
133. Winnipeg Jets
134. New York Rangers
135. Nashville Predators
136. Montreal Canadiens (from FLA)
137. Florida Panthers (from TOR)
138. Edmonton Oilers
139. Pittsburgh Penguins
140. Carolina Hurricanes (from MTL)
141. Chicago Blackhawks
142. Arizona Coyotes
143. Calgary Flames
144. Vancouver Canucks
145. Columbus Blue Jackets
146. St. Louis Blues (from CAR)
147. Philadelphia Flyers
148. Washington Capitals
149. Colorado Avalanche
150. St. Louis Blues
151. Boston Bruins
152. New York Islanders
153. Toronto Maple Leafs (from VGK)
154. Dallas Stars
155. Ottawa Senators (from TB)

Round 6

156. Detroit Red Wings
157. Tampa Bay Lightning (from OTT)
158. Ottawa Senators (from SJ)
159. Los Angeles Kings
160. Anaheim Ducks
161. New Jersey Devils
162. Dallas Stars (from BUF via CAR via FLA)
163. Minnesota Wild
164. Winnipeg Jets
165. New York Rangers
166. Nashville Predators
167. Colorado Avalanche (from FLA)
168. Toronto Maple Leafs
169. Edmonton Oilers
170. Pittsburgh Penguins
171. Montreal Canadiens
172. Chicago Blackhawks
173. Arizona Coyotes
174. Calgary Flames
175. Vancouver Canucks
176. Columbus Blue Jackets
177. Toronto Maple Leafs (from CAR)
178. Philadelphia Flyers
179. Washington Capitals
180. Toronto Maple Leafs (from COL)
181. Ottawa Senators (from STL via EDM)
182. Boston Bruins
183. New York Islanders
184. Vegas Golden Knights
185. Dallas Stars
186. Tampa Bay Lightning

Round 7

187. Detroit Red Wings
188. Montreal Canadiens (from OTT)
189. Toronto Maple Leafs (from SJ)
190. Los Angeles Kings
191. Vancouver Canucks (from ANA)
192. New Jersey Devils
193. Buffalo Sabres
194. Minnesota Wild
195. Toronto Maple Leafs (from WPG via MIN)
196. New York Rangers
197. New York Rangers (from NSH)
198. Florida Panthers
199. Carolina Hurricanes (from TOR)
200. Edmonton Oilers
201. San Jose Sharks (from PIT)
202. Philadelphia Flyers (from MTL)
203. St. Louis Blues (from CHI via MTL)
204. Arizona Coyotes
205. Calgary Flames
206. New York Rangers (from VAN)
207. Columbus Blue Jackets
208. Carolina Hurricanes
209. Philadelphia Flyers
210. San Jose Sharks (from WSH)
211. Colorado Avalanche
212. Toronto Maple Leafs (from STL)
213. Boston Bruins
214. New York Islanders
215. Vegas Golden Knights
216. Buffalo Sabres (from DAL)
217. Tampa Bay Lightning

NHL Draft order procedure

Round 1
Picks 1-15: Determined by Phases 1 and 2 of 2020 NHL Draft Lottery
Picks 16-27: Teams eliminated in Rounds 1 and 2 of 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs, in inverse order of 2019-20 regular season points percentage
Picks 28-29: Teams eliminated in 2020 Conference Finals, in inverse order of 2019-20 regular season points percentage
Pick 30: Team eliminated in 2020 Stanley Cup Final
Pick 31: 2020 Stanley Cup champion

Rounds 2-7
Picks 1-7: Teams who did not participate in the Return To Play, in inverse order of 2019-20 regular season points percentage
Picks 8-15: Teams eliminated in 2020 Stanley Cup Qualifiers, in inverse order of 2019-20 regular season points percentage
Picks 16-27: Teams eliminated in Rounds 1 and 2 of 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs, in inverse order of 2019-20 regular season points percentage
Picks 28-29: Teams eliminated in 2020 Conference Finals, in inverse order of 2019-20 regular season points percentage
Pick 30: Team eliminated in 2020 Stanley Cup Final
Pick 31: 2020 Stanley Cup champion

Puck already dropped on NHL offseason that could be a frenzy

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Even before the Tampa Bay Lightning returned home to celebrate their Stanley Cup championship, Julien BriseBois was on the phone with other NHL general managers about what to do next.

He is certainly not alone in making calls.

”Although we ended the hockey season officially for the ’19-20 season (Monday) night, I can tell you we’re pretty busy here in Smashville getting ready for the draft, free agency and hopefully for a full season next year,” Nashville GM David Poile said.

There is no rest for weary runner-up Dallas, the Lightning or the 29 other teams because the NHL offseason is already under way and will proceed with at a furious pace. There have already been a handful of trades, two prominent buyouts, the two-day draft starts next Tuesday and free agency opens Oct. 9, little more than a week away.

”There’s going to be some quick moves here and some teams trying to take care of business right away,” Philadelphia GM Chuck Fletcher said. ”There might be other teams and players that might have to a little more patient for the right fit. Oct. 9, 10, 11, there might be quite a lot of free agent activity and then you might have a lull there for two months.”

Pittsburgh has already traded two-time Cup-winning winger Patric Hornqvist to Florida for defenseman Mike Matheson. Minnesota swapped forwards with Buffalo, sending Eric Staal there for Marcus Johansson. The New York Rangers traded Eric’s brother, Marc, and a draft pick to Detroit to shed salary.

The Rangers, who are expected to use the top pick in the draft on Alexis Lafreniere, continued their youth movement Wednesday by buying out franchise goaltender Henrik Lundqvist after the Ottawa Senators did the same last week with Masterton Trophy winner Bobby Ryan.

Add the 38-year-old Lundqvist and Ryan to an already deep free agent pool, which is complicated this year by a flat salary cap. It remains at $81.5 million because of money lost in the pandemic. Top free agents like St. Louis captain Alex Pietrangelo, fellow defenseman Torey Krug and 2018 MVP Taylor Hall might get a big payday, but there is no certainty what the market will look like given the cap and a lack of clarity about revenues next season.

”I wish I had the answer to that,” New York Islanders GM Lou Lamoriello said. ”Not only is this year the cap frozen, but I would anticipate that it will be likewise the next year.”

Lamoriello said he thinks there will be more free agents available in 2021, and he and Poile agree there might be more players left on the market in coming months after the initial frenzy ends.

Before that, though, things will be busy. Even Tampa Bay and Dallas have work to do after just wrapping up a season that began a long year ago this week.

To re-sign key restricted free agents Anthony Cirelli, Mikhail Sergachev and Erik Cernak, the Lightning need to clear some $10 million in cap space -, and that’s not accounting for unrestricted guys like back-to-back champion Pat Maroon and three defensemen who were key additions: Kevin Shattenkirk, Zach Bogosian and Luke Schenn.

The 2020-21 Lightning will look different than the group that celebrates this Cup victory.

”Teams change every year,” said veteran forward Alex Killorn, a potential trade candidate along with winger Tyler Johnson. ”That’s part of being in pro sports.”

Dallas has $15 million in cap space, according to CapFriendly, but the Stars need to squeeze in new contracts for restricted free agent forwards Mattias Janmark, Roope Hintz, Radek Faksa and Denis Gurianov, all of whom were influential in their deep playoff run.

They may have to say goodbye to 34-year-old goaltender Anton Khudobin, who is a free agent after taking the Stars to the final – unless they decide to make a surprising move like trading starter Ben Bishop, who missed most of the postseason with injury. GM Jim Nill faces a real challenge to make sure Dallas remains a Cup contender.

”With the new system, I really think the No. 1 goal – and this going to sound kind of maybe funny – but is to make the playoffs,” Nill said. ”And if you make the playoffs, you’ve got a chance to win the Stanley Cup. That’s how close the parity is.”