Roundtable: Expanding the NHL playoff format; Penguins’ woes

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1. The Pittsburgh Penguins are near the bottom of the Eastern Conference standings and things don’t appear to be getting better. Is there cause for concern or can this be chalked up to of an early-season slump?

SEAN: The Penguins can’t just say ‘Oh, well, we’ve done this before’ and expect to rally themselves into a playoff spot. They play in a competitive conference and a tough division, so digging themselves out of their current hole will not be easy. It helps when you have the talent on board that they do, but injuries and sub-par goaltending had led them to their current predicament.

What we likely will see is another trade or two by Jim Rutherford, a GM who’s known for being aggressive well before the NHL trade deadline. This is a team that he constructed, with many pieces owners of two Stanley Cup rings. His patience is already run thin and further struggling will only see more faces shipped out of Pittsburgh in hopes of bringing in new blood.

JAMES: Look, when you’re about a quarter through a season and in last place, it’s cause for some concern.  

But there’s a difference between being concerned and panicking, and the Penguins don’t need to panic. Consider that the Penguins had 41 points in 40 games by Jan. 1, 2018, ranking them 22nd in the NHL. They waded through that wilderness, and they’ve done it before. Dan Bylsma won a Stanley Cup taking over a floundering group in-season, and Mike Sullivan did the same. Pittsburgh has experience fighting through lousy starts.  

That said, you can only beat the odds so many times, and the Penguins’ core is only getting older. They’re eventually going to fail at walking that tightrope, but I think they can bounce back, and it’s heartening to see some projections fall in line with such inklings.

ADAM: I think there is definitely cause for concern. I know they have overcome slow starts in the past, but this slow start is a heck of a loss worse than a lot of the ones they overcame. I mentioned this the other night, but the year they fired Mike Johnston they were 15-10-3 the day they made the coaching change. That was considered unacceptable and a season that was headed toward being a waste. Unless they go something like 8-1 over their next nine games they will not even reach that record. The rest of the league has caught up to them speed-wise, they look a little older, a little slower, not as deep, they have questions on defense and I’m not sure what they are going to do in net because neither Matt Murray or Casey DeSmith inspires much confidence right now. There is not really a quick and easy fix here. What they really need is another mid-season overhaul of the roster like they had in 2015-16, but that is going to be easier said than done. They can not trade the core players (Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Phil Kessel, Kris Letang) because those players are the franchise, and the rest of the team is either a bad contract or a player that does not have a ton of trade value. 

JOEY: There should be some concern because they haven’t. been this bad as a team in quite some time, but I honestly can’t imagine Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Phil Kessel and company missing the playoffs. They’ll struggle to get in, but in the end, they’ll be able to get it done by going on a crazy run at some point during the second half of the season. We’ve already seen GM Jim Rutherford make one trade, and I don’t think he’ll be shy about pulling the trigger again if he feels it’s necessary.

The biggest issue for the Penguins right now is the goaltending. Casey DeSmith has played well at times, but it’s time for Matt Murray to get his season back on the rails. Even with all the superstars on the roster, they still need a goalie to come up with saves at some point. I don’t think Murray will be able to be as solid as he was during those two Stanley Cup runs, but he has to be better than he is right now. The 24-year-old has a 4-5-1 record with a 4.08 goals-against-average and a .877 save percentage this season. If he can’t get the job done, Rutherford will find someone who can.

SCOTT: The Penguins have too much talent to count them out just yet. Sure, I know about the U.S. Thanksgiving curse, but not every bad team around this time of the year has a Crosby and a Malkin. 

That said, there’s more than just a slump here. There are some growing concerns. Matt Murray’s save percentage has gone from a .930 to a .923 to a .907 to .877 over the past four seasons. You don’t win with his current numbers. 

As a team, the Pens’ 5-on-5 save percentage is abysmal and they’ve allowed the second most shorthanded goals against at four. Perhaps bad luck on the last one, but breakdowns and implosions seem to be happening with greater frequency in Pittsburgh this season. 

Pittsburgh has the talent to still make the playoffs. The question now is, can they find it before it’s too late?

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2. We’re at the quarter mark of the season. Which pre-season prediction are you currently regretting?

SEAN: While I can tout the Blues missing the playoffs or Mikko Rantanen as most underrated prediction, if I could go back and change one now it would be putting the Wild in the postseason. I thought Bruce Boudreau’s regular season magic would run out but his team is delivering balanced scoring and getting solid goaltending from Devan Dubnyk and Alex Stalock. That’s all led to a second place start in the Western Conference.

JAMES: Just one? While I wonder if I was right to discount the Avalanche’s chances of backing up last season, picking the Penguins to win the Metro isn’t looking so hot right now. Like I said before, I think they have a chance of making the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs, yet the most logical path would be to grab the third spot in the division, or see the Atlantic teams settle down and grab a wild-card spot.

ADAM: There are a couple, but two really stand out for me. I thought Montreal would be horrible because I hated their offseason moves. Those offseason moves, so far, are working out, especially the Max Domi addition. Did not see that performance coming at all. I was also a believer in Vegas not being a fluke, mostly because I loved the Paul Stastny and Max Pacioretty additions and thought that Marc-Andre Fleury would at least be decent again. Maybe not the best hockey of his career that he played a year ago, but still pretty good. Maybe in time they will still work, especially once they get Stastny back and get Pacioretty going again, but for right now those are not looking great. 

JOEY: I said the Vegas Golden Knights were among the under appreciated teams in the NHL, and that simply hasn’t panned out to this point. Sure, they didn’t have Nate Schmidt in their lineup for the first 20 games of the season because of a suspension, and Paul Stastny’s been out with an injury, but the magic that surrounded the Golden Knights last year seems to be gone. General manager George McPhee did his best to upgrade the roster over the summer, but the Max Pacioretty acquisition hasn’t worked out well so far.

It’s still early enough that they can work themselves back into playoff contention, but teams on the outside of the playoffs at this point of the season typically don’t get in. There are some exceptions to rule, but I’m just worried that they won’t be able to recreate that “us against the other teams that let us go” mentality from last year.

I could be wrong, but it’s not looking good for this team.

SCOTT: I thought Vegas wouldn’t regress. That’s all they’ve done. I feel shame. 

3. Would you like to see the NHL expand the playoff format as was discussed on Hockey Night in Canada earlier this month?

SEAN: Why do we want to add bad teams to the playoff mix? This isn’t like the play-in games in the NCAA basketball tournament where there are so many teams in Division I that some smaller school who have good seasons may get overlooked. We don’t need 88-point teams playing a mini series to see who will get swept by the conference’s No. 1 seed.

JAMES: The NHL needs as many dramatic, made-for-TV events as it can get, so an March Madness/MLB-style wild card play-in would be GOLD, Jerry, GOLD.  Just don’t drag it out much longer than a few extra days, because the playoffs basically last longer than our natural lives at this point.

ADAM: My answer to this is always the same whenever it gets mentioned: No. Even with a 32-team league once Seattle enters you are still at half of the league making the playoffs. That is fine. That is more than enough, and you had 82-games to put yourself in a playoff position. If you are not in one by the end of the season you should not get an extra play-in game to get yourself in. The only thing I would change is the format to go back to the 1 vs. 8 matchup and then re-seed in each round instead of the divisional format we have now. 

JOEY: I don’t like it. If you’re not among the top eight teams in your conference after 82 games, you don’t deserve to have a spot in the playoffs. When it comes to adding playoff teams, my worry is always that it will diminish the value and importance of the regular season. Sure, you’ll always have playoff races, but how many teams is too many.

Let’s take a look at the Eastern Conference standings from last year. The Florida Panthers missed the playoffs by a single point, which is heartbreaking for a team in a market that could have used a postseason jolt. But the gap between Florida and the 10th place team in the East (Carolina) was 13 points. Can you imagine if the Hurricanes were to get into the playoffs with 83 points, and they end up advancing because they won a short series or a one-off game in the opening round? It doesn’t make any sense. I know this is an extreme example that doesn’t happen every year, but it happened as recently as last year, which means it could happen again in the near future.

I don’t want to live in a world where a team with 83 points potentially gets a chance to play in the postseason. No way.

SCOTT: More playoff games? More seven-game series? Sign me up. 

I’m not one of those people who bemoans how long the playoffs last. If hockey was on year-round, I would watch it. Playoff hockey is the best hockey so more of it can never be a wrong move.

MORE: Your 2018-19 NHL on NBC TV schedule

Lightning return home, lift Stanley Cup in front of fans

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Defenseman Ryan McDonagh was preparing to answer one last question regarding the Tampa Bay Lightning’s Stanley Cup championship when teammates Nikita Kucherov and Alex Killorn crashed the room, putting an abrupt and celebratory end to the news conference.

“Who’s next? Next question,” Kucherov said, looking into the camera.

With McDonagh stopping in mid-sentence, Killorn stepped behind the podium and said, “We’re not staying here all night, man.”

The wait for the Lightning — and the NHL — was long enough after Tampa Bay clinched the Cup with a 2-0 win in Game 6 against Dallas on Monday night in Edmonton, Alberta.

The Lightning raised the Cup 363 days after the first puck was dropped on the 2019-20 season, and some 6 1/2 months after hockey was put on pause due to the coronavirus pandemic.

“We knew what we were capable of with our whole roster, and we were pretty thankful to get the opportunity to come back and play,” McDonagh said.

The Lightning’s title, their second after winning in 2004, was historic.

In becoming the first team to win the Cup after the month of June, the Lightning also became the first to win 18 playoff games, including two in a preliminary round seeding series, as opposed to the standard 16. And they did so while spending 65 days in the NHL bubble, starting in Toronto before relocating to Edmonton for the conference finals.

“Obviously, we can go back and look at what’s going on in the world now,” said Maroon, who won the Cup last year with St. Louis. “I think a lot of us are going to sit back and talk about this one a lot, because this one was a special one, and a hard one to win.”

The Lightning returned home later Tuesday, greeted by family members and hundreds of fans on an airstrip near Tampa International Airport.

The crowd cheered team members exiting the plane. Defenseman Victor Hedman, holding his Conn Smythe Trophy, and team captain Steven Stamkos, hoisting the Stanley Cup, were the last to leave the airplane.

“To finally be here and enjoy it, it’s awesome,” Killorn said. “It’s kind of surreal right now to be honest.”

Once reunited with their families, the team members were taken to Amalie Arena for a private on-ice celebration that included their wives, girlfriends, children, arena staff workers and team sponsors.

Team owner Jeff Vinik said the Lightning have been one of the most successful teams in the NHL, but were missing one thing.

“Over the past six years we’ve been to four conference finals and played for the Stanley Cup,” Vinik said. “This time we won it.”

Stamkos thanked the families for their patience as the players spent more than 60 days in the NHL’s bubble in Toronto and Edmonton.

“This was probably the toughest Stanley Cup to win under the circumstances.,” Stamkos said. “It’s amazing the sacrifices the families went through just to allow us to chase our dreams.”

A fan rally and boat parade along the Hillsborough River is set for Wednesday, followed by a public celebration at Raymond James Stadium where 16,000 fans are expected to attend.

While the Lightning celebrate, the NHL turns its attention to next week, when the two-day draft — to be conducted remotely — opens on Oct. 6, followed by the start of free agency three days later.

It remains unclear when the 2020-21 season will open, either in December or early January, though the plan is to squeeze in a full 82-game schedule.

The experienced and deep Lightning made Stars coach Rick Bowness’ pre-series comments prescient. Bowness, a former Tampa Bay assistant, noted how the Lightning “weren’t quite ready to win” in 2015 in losing the final to Chicago in six games.

This year’s team proved far more battle-tested, with much of the same core still in place, and all too familiar with playoff setbacks. The Lightning lost Eastern Conference final appearances — both in Game 7 — in 2016 and 2018. Then there was the unshakable memory of last year, when Tampa Bay ran away with the regular-season title only to be swept by Columbus in the first round.

It was only fitting, McDonagh said, that Columbus was the Lightning’s first-round opponent this year. Tampa Bay not only won the series in five games, but showed perseverance in opening the series needing five overtimes to pull out a 3-2 win in the fourth-longest game in NHL history.

They did it with Stamkos limited to playing just two minutes and 47 seconds while missing the rest of the playoffs with a core muscle injury. And they overcame leading goal-scorer Brayden Point missing two games (both losses) with an undisclosed injury.

The Lightning never lost two straight, and enjoyed a few blowout victories, including 8-2 and 7-1 routs over Boston and the Islanders. More important, Tampa Bay was 12-3 in games decided by one goal.

General manager Julien BriseBois earned credit for adding grit and playoff experience. Maroon and defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk were among the team’s offseason free-agent additions. BriseBois didn’t stop there, trading first-round draft picks to acquire Barclay Goodrow from San Jose and Blake Coleman from New Jersey in February.

The Lightning, who finished second in the Atlantic Division with a 43-21-6 record, capped a season in which they enjoyed a franchise-record 11-0 run from Jan. 29 to Feb. 17 following a 14-11 start.

Shattenkirk credited coach Jon Cooper for not over-reacting to the early stumbles.

“I think his patience was probably the best characteristic,” Shattenkirk said earlier this month. “He showed throughout the whole way in believing in our team and believing in the guys we had in the locker room.”

Dallas Stars’ Rick Bowness still has ‘passion’ to coach

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Dallas Stars goaltender Anton Khudobin felt empty. Jamie Benn, their longtime captain, was almost speechless.

Like head coach Rick Bowness, who likely soon will shed the interim tag, they were disappointed and drained after more than two months inside the NHL bubble, where this most unusual season ended with a loss in Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Final.

”Go through a lot with that group,” Benn said before going silent for more than a full minute, even when asked another question. ”It was a good run … it’s tough here, you’re two games away from the Stanley Cup.”

It was a group that overcame miserable stretches to start and finish the regular season, and an unexpected coaching change in between. A group not really expected to be one of the last two teams playing in a season that wrapped up nearly a full year after it began, especially as the injures mounted.

Now the focus turns to the future of the 65-year-old Bowness, the interim head coach who has been behind NHL benches in parts of five different decades.

After Dallas wrapped up the Western Conference final two weeks ago, general manager Jim Nill said Bowness had ”definitely” earned the right to come back as coach. Team owner Tom Gaglardi has indicated the same.

Bowness was hired by Dallas before the 2018-19 season as an assistant for first-year coach Jim Montgomery, who made the jump from the college ranks. Bowness became the interim head coach when Montgomery was fired for off-ice issues last December.

Nill and Bowness agreed then that the interim tag would hold through the season, and they would discuss things after that. No one could have known that would be nearly 10 months later – after a 4 1/2-month pause to the NHL season because of the pandemic, and then the team’s first Stanley Cup Final since 2000.

After repeatedly deflecting questions about his future all postseason, Bowness gave some indication of his thoughts after the season-ending 2-0 loss to Tampa Bay.

”What I learned is that I still have the passion to compete, I still have the passion to coach,” Bowness said. ”I know I’m getting up there, and there’s a lot more behind me than ahead of me. But I still have the passion. That’s the most important thing. … I’m just going to keep pushing.”

FREE DOBBY

Khudobin, with his fifth different team over 11 NHL seasons, had never started a playoff game before Ben Bishop was declared unfit to play for pretty much the entire time in Edmonton. Khudobin went 14-10 with a 2.69 goals-against average and .917 save percentage this postseason.

After two years as Bishop’s primary backup, and an impressive playoff run, the 34-year-old Khudobin is an unrestricted free agent. Bishop just finished the third season of his $29.5 million, six-year contract.

TIME TO RECOVER

Dallas ended the season with several injured regulars, including Bishop, who last played Aug. 31, and forwards Radek Faksa, Blake Comeau and Roope Hintz. Everybody else had plenty of bumps, bruises and assorted ailments; Tyler Seguin talked about waiting in line to get in into the trainer’s room.

”We left everything on the ice,” Bowness said. ”We pushed this team as far as it could get.”

PAVS AND PERRY

Joe Pavelski and Corey Perry combined to score the Stars’ last six goals in the Stanley Cup Final. The veteran forwards were the primary additions in free agency last summer, along with veteran defender Andrej Sekera.

The 13 goals by Pavelski, who still has two seasons left on his deal, were more in a single postseason than any other player 36 or older and only one fewer than his 14 during the regular season. His 61 career playoff goals are now the most for an American-born skater.

Perry, 35, and Sekera, 34, are free agents again. Center Mattias Janmark, an effective penalty killer with the Stars since his NHL debut in 2015-16, is headed into free agency for the first time at the age of 27.

YOUNG STARS

Miro Heiskanen, who got a taste of the playoffs as a 19-year-old rookie last season, produced on both ends of the ice this postseason. He finished with six goals and 20 assists inside the bubble.

Rookie forward Denis Gurianov, who led the team with 20 goals during the regular season, had four goals and an assist in the Game 6 clincher over Calgary in the first round. The second round ended when Joel Kiviranta, who had one goal in 11 regular-season games, finished off a hat trick with his overtime goal in Game 7 against Colorado.

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

Rangers buy out final year of Henrik Lundqvist’s contract

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The New York Rangers have announced that they have bought out the final year of Henrik Lundqvist‘s contract.

“Few players have been as important to the Rangers franchise as Henrik Lundqvist, and we are incredibly grateful for all he has done for our organization,” said Rangers owners James Dolan. “Over his 15-year tenure, he not only established himself as one of the best goaltenders to ever play the game, he has also been one of hockey’s fiercest competitors and most effective ambassadors. He will always be a part of the Rangers family.”

“We would like to thank Henrik for his immeasurable contributions to the New York Rangers,” said Rangers President John Davidson. “From the time I met Henrik when he first came to New York in 2005, he has been the consummate professional. His tireless work ethic, passion for the game, and love of the Rangers and New York City enabled him to become one of the greatest goaltenders in hockey and one of the best players in the history of our franchise. We all wish Henrik and his family the best going forward.”

An expected end to a great tenure in New York

This move was expected after the NHL’s first buyout window opened at the conclusion of the Stanley Cup Final. The emergence of Igor Shesterkin, and with Alexandar Georgiev also fighting for time, it was clear Lundqvist’s time in New York would be ending.

Per CapFriendly, the move will charge the Rangers with $5.5M of cap space for the 2020-21 season and $1.5M for 2021-22. Lundqvist will join Kevin Shattenkirk ($6.08M), Dan Girardi ($1.11M), and Ryan Spooner (300K) as dead money on their cap for next season.

Lundqvist, the 2012 Vezina Trophy winner, finishes his Rangers career with a .927 even strength save percentage, 459 wins, 64 shutouts, and over 50 franchise records. He also helped New York make the playoffs 12 times and reach the 2014 Stanley Cup Final.

We’ll see if he wants to join another NHL team, play home in Sweden, or hang up his skates after a Hall of Fame career. The only certainty is that his No. 30 will be hanging from the Madison Square Garden rafters someday.

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.