Trade action heats up at NHL draft ahead of free agency

Two Stanley Cup-winning players got traded, a few others got new contracts and almost 200 prospects got to – virtually – live out their dreams by having their names called on the second day of the NHL draft.

It took over seven hours to complete rounds 2-7 Wednesday at the draft held online from 31 teams’ draft rooms to the league’s central registry and a TV studio in New Jersey. The draft dragged on with no need for general managers, scouts and coaches to catch a flight home, but that didn’t tamper the excitement of young players finding out where they’re going or stop the movement of established NHL players with free agency looming Friday.

Some creativity was needed to manage the flat, $81.5 million salary cap, which is becoming the theme of the 2020 offseason.

”Making a trade as you can see is pretty easy: There’s a lot of them, a lot of jockeying up and down for position in each round and people trading up for maybe a guy they like,” said New York Rangers general manager Jeff Gorton, who traded 2017 seventh overall pick Lias Andersson to Los Angeles for a second-rounder. ”If you’re looking at some of the deals that are happening, money is almost a part of every deal here. You’re not seeing too many hockey deals straight up.”

Trade action started early with the Pittsburgh Penguins dealing goaltender Matt Murray to the Ottawa Senators and the Nashville Predators continuing to shed salary by sending center Nick Bonino to the Minnesota Wild.

”You just know on days like these if you get a phone call from your GM, it’s usually a trade,” Bonino said. ”We got a spam call that woke me up around 7 a.m. and it obviously wasn’t (Predators general manager) David Poile. My wife slept through it luckily and then we were up at 9:30 a.m. and got the call from David and knew right away. It’s weird how it works out.”

Murray and Bonino became the third and fourth members of Pittsburgh’s 2016 and 2017 back-to-back championship teams to be traded in the past few weeks. The Penguins previously traded winger Patric Hornqvist to Florida, and Chicago traded defenseman Olli Maatta to Los Angeles.

Vegas goalie Marc-Andre Fleury could make it five after the Golden Knights committed long term to Robin Lehner. Vegas is looking to trade the 35-year-old and even sweeten the deal with a pick but has to deal with an overflowing goalie market.

Several netminders will be available in free agency, including 2018 Cup champion Braden Holtby and longtime face of the New York Rangers Henrik Lundqvist. General manager Brian MacLellan said the Washington Capitals are a ”solid candidate” to sign Lundqvist, who at 38 is still trying to win the Cup for the first time.

Pittsburgh got a second-round pick and forward prospect Jonathan Gruden for Murray, who split time with Fleury on two Cup runs and was in net for each clincher. Murray, 26, helped the Penguins win the Cup in 2016 and 2017, but they committed to Tristan Jarry, signing him to a $10.5 million, three-year deal after his All-Star season.

The Penguins used the 52nd overall pick they got from Ottawa to select Finnish goalie Joel Blomqvist, one of hundreds of prospects who had to find out they were drafted by phone and do video interviews since they couldn’t walk on stage in Montreal.

”This wasn’t exactly what I dreamed of as a kid,” said Sam Colangelo, the Anaheim Ducks’ No. 36 pick out of Northeastern. ”I dreamed of walking up on stage and walking down to get my jersey from someone there. But doing it on Zoom was incredible.”

Colangelo and the others drafted in rounds 2-7 Wednesday had to wait, unlike No. 1 pick Alexis Lafreniere, who put on a blue Rangers jersey Tuesday night.

Bonino and new Predators forward Luke Kunin will be swapping jerseys after the trade that continues the Wild’s makeover. Minnesota got second- and third-round picks (37th and 70th overall) and sent a fourth (101st) to Nashville to take on the remainder of Bonino’s contract. He’s owed $4.1 million next season, while Kunin is a restricted free agent.

”Luke Kunin is a solid, young, up-and-coming player with a great future ahead of him,” Poile said. ”He is a (2016) first-round pick with good pedigree that can play both center and on the wing, and in all situations, including on the penalty kill and the power play.”

He will also come cheaper than Bonino, a big deal with many teams looking to clear money and space under the cap.

Nashville also put forward Kyle Turris and defenseman Steven Santini on buyout waivers. Turris had four years and $24 million left on his contract, so he’ll count $2 million against the Predators’ cap for the next eight seasons.

The Golden Knights re-signed a surprise key player, giving Chandler Stephenson $11 million over the next four seasons, according to a person with knowledge of the move. The person spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the deal had not been announced.

Columbus re-signed center Max Domi to a $10.6 million, two-year deal after acquiring him and a third-round pick from Montreal for winger Josh Anderson in the only trade of established NHL players made on Tuesday, the first day of the draft.

”Both us are going into a situation where we’re wanted,” Domi said, ”and all really a player can ask for is that.”

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    Stars sign 41-goal scorer Jason Robertson to 4-year, $31M deal

    Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports
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    FRISCO, Texas — Jason Robertson signed a four-year, $31 million contract with the Dallas Stars after the young 40-goal scorer missed the first two weeks of training camp.

    The Stars announced the deal after their exhibition game in Denver, only a week before the regular season opener Oct. 13 at Nashville.

    Robertson turned 23 soon after the end of last season, when the left wing had 41 goals and 38 assists for 79 points in his 74 games. His 13 power-play goals led the team. Robertson joined Hockey Hall of Famer Mike Modano, Jamie Benn, and Tyler Seguin as the only 40-goal scorers since the franchise moved to Dallas in 1993.

    “Jason is an integral part of the present and future of our team and we’re thrilled to have him for the next four years,” general manager Jim Nill said.

    A second-round draft pick (39th overall) by the Stars in 2017, Robertson has 125 points (58 goals, 67 assists) in his 128 NHL games. The 6-foot-3 California native had one goal and three assists in his first postseason action last season, when Dallas lost its first-round playoff series in seven games against Calgary.

    “Since he was drafted by our organization, he has worked tirelessly to become a better player every day. His knack for scoring goals and seeing plays develop on the ice are just some of the tremendous assets that he brings to our team,” Nill said. “He is one of the best young players in the NHL, and we look forward to seeing him continue to progress.”

    Robertson had the second-highest point total for a Stars rookie in 2020-21, when he had 45 points (17 goals, 28 assists) in his 51 games.

    Before the start of this season’s camp, new coach Pete DeBoer said he looked forward to coaching Robertson.

    “Listen, I laid awake at night with the excitement of coaching Jason Robertson, 40-plus goals, but he’s not here,” DeBoer said then. “So, you know, until he gets here, I can’t spend any energy on that.”

    Robertson will finally be there now.

    Coaching carousel leaves 10 NHL teams with new face on bench

    Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports
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    The coaching carousel spun a little faster than usual across the NHL, meaning nearly a third of the league will have someone new behind the bench this season. And not just bottom-feeders making changes.

    Ten teams go into the season next month with a new coach, from Presidents’ Trophy-winning Florida and perennial playoff-contending Boston to rebuilding Chicago and San Jose.

    John Tortorella will try to whip Philadelphia into shape, Bruce Cassidy is tasked with getting Vegas back to the playoffs and Derek Lalonde takes his two Stanley Cup rings as a Tampa Bay assistant to his new challenge with the Detroit Red Wings.

    TORTS REFORM

    Philadelphia players knew they were in for some changes when Tortorella was hired, so they asked Cam Atkinson, who spent six years playing for the no-nonsense coach in Columbus.

    “I keep telling them like he’s a guy that’s going to change the whole dynamic of this organization,” Atkinson said.

    Tortorella has not shied away from saying a culture change is needed after a last-place finish and a decade with one playoff series win. There is likely not much he and players can do this year about a Cup drought that dates to 1975, but they can start with maddeningly inconsistent stretches of games that have plagued the Flyers for years, no matter the roster.

    BIG MO

    The Panthers were the league’s best team in the regular season last year but struggled in the playoffs before losing in the second round to cross-state rival Tampa Bay in five games. That was enough for general manager Bill Zito to decide to move on from interim coach Andrew Brunette and hired seasoned veteran Paul Maurice.

    The expectation is to get back to the playoffs and compete for the Cup, and having Maurice at the helm was one of the factors that made power forward Matthew Tkachuk pick Florida as his trade-and-sign destination.

    “He’s got high hopes for our team,” Tkachuk said. “He sees us playing in a certain way that’s going to make us successful. And he’s done it. He’s been around the NHL a long time, been a very successful head coach and somebody that I’m really looking forward to working with.”

    PLAYOFF ROTATION

    Bruins GM Don Sweeney fired Cassidy after a seven-game loss to Carolina in the first round despite Boston’s sixth consecutive playoff appearance.

    Vegas had already fired Peter DeBoer, making him the scapegoat for an injury-riddled fall from the top of the Western Conference that ended with the team’s first playoff miss in five years of existence. The Golden Knights quickly turned to Cassidy, who like Maurice brings experience and gravitas to a franchise with championship aspirations.

    “I think we’re very fortunate as an organization to have him as our coach,” center Jack Eichel said. “Every single person I’ve spoke to about them, they said the same thing: that he’s got a really, really great knack for the game and to able to make adjustments and he understands things. Very, very competitive — wants to win, has won a lot of hockey games over the last few years.”

    The Bruins replaced Cassidy with Jim Montgomery, a hockey lifer getting a second chance after being fired by Dallas in December 2019 for inappropriate conduct. Montgomery sought and received help at a rehab facility and got a big endorsement from the staff with St. Louis, the team he was working for as an assistant.

    “He’s a winner,” Bruins goalie Jeremy Swayman said. “I think guys are going to thrive on that energy.”

    The Stars completed the circle by hiring DeBoer, who has coached two teams (New Jersey in 2012 and San Jose in 2016) to the final and is on his fifth stop around the league.

    “This is a tough league and it’s a tough one to coach in and you have to be able to handle situations,” GM Jim Nill said. “I know Pete can do it.”

    LAMBERT ISLAND

    Lane Lambert served as an assistant under Barry Trotz with Nashville, Washington – where they won the Cup together – and the Islanders. When Trotz was abruptly fired after New York missed the playoffs for the first time in his four seasons on the job, his right-hand man got the gig with his endorsement.

    Longtime executive Lou Lamoriello thought his team needed a new voice. But Lambert isn’t that new, and his familiarity with the Islanders keeps some continuity.

    “Barry was great for our team, and having Lane as an assistant, he had lots of say, as well,” forward Mathew Barzal said. “As a group, we all have a good relationship with him, so I think it’ll be an easy transition for our team.”

    MORE NEW VOICES

    The final coaching change of the offseason came in San Jose, with ownership and interim management firing Bob Boughner and his assistants before Mike Grier took over as GM. Grier hired David Quinn, who most recently coached the U.S. at the Beijing Olympics after spending three years with the Rangers.

    Rick Bowness, the Stars’ interim coach when Montgomery was fired who helped them reach the final in 2020 and was not brought back, joined Winnipeg. He immediately made an impact by stripping Blake Wheeler of the Jets captaincy.

    The other new coaches – Lalonde in Detroit and Luke Richardson in Chicago – are not expected to make such big waves.

    Richardson, who briefly was acting coach for Montreal during the 2021 final when Dominique Ducharme tested positive for the coronavirus, is overseeing the start of a long-term rebuild by the Blackhawks. Lalonde was Red Wings GM Steve Yzerman’s pick to help end the storied franchise’s playoff drought.

    “He believes in what he’s preaching, which I think is great walking into a new locker room,” captain Dylan Larkin said. “He’s made a great impression on the guys.”

    Islanders agree to terms with Mathew Barzal on 8-year extension

    Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports
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    Mathew Barzal has agreed to terms with the New York Islanders on an eight-year extension, a move that keeps the franchise’s top forward under contract for the balance of his prime.

    The deal is worth $73.2 million with an annual salary cap hit of $9.15 million, according to a person with knowledge of the contract. The person spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the team did not announce terms.

    Barzal has led the team in scoring, or been tied for the lead, every season since he became a full-time NHL player in 2017-18. He has 349 points in 411 regular-season and playoff games for the defensively stingy Islanders, who qualified for the postseason three consecutive times before an injury- and virus-altered last year.

    “We feel recharged,” Barzal said recently. “We feel like everybody had good summers and worked hard, and we got that excitement back.”

    Barzal, now 25, is coming off putting up 59 points in 75 games. The offensive star will now be asked to round out his game.

    “I’m a fan because Mat has the ability to raise his game and to be a special player,” general manager Lou Lamoriello told reporters at the team’s practice facility on Long Island. “And now, with this contract and our faith in him, (it) puts that responsibility on him. We’re trusting that. It’s up to him to respond to that.”

    Senators goaltender Cam Talbot out 5-7 weeks with injury

    Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports
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    OTTAWA, Ontario — Ottawa Senators goaltender Cam Talbot is expected to be out five to seven weeks with what the team called an upper-body injury.

    The Senators initially called Talbot day to day with what they hoped was a minor injury. Instead he’s now expected to miss at least the first month of the NHL season.

    Ottawa claimed goalie Magnus Hellberg off waivers from the Seattle Kraken upon announcing Talbot’s expected absence. Hellberg, who played for Sweden at the Beijing Olympics could split time with countryman Anton Forsberg while Talbot is out.

    The Senators acquired Talbot from Minnesota during the offseason to make him their starter after the Wild opted against bringing him back along with Marc-Andre Fleury. Talbot, 35, had a 2.76 goals-against average and .911 save percentage this season.

    Losing Talbot is a blow to the Senators, who also acquired winger Alex DeBrincat from Chicago and signed longtime Philadelphia Flyers captain Claude Giroux as part of a move toward contending and ending their playoff drought.