Several NHL teams make moves before expansion draft

There were several NHL transactions before the league’s trade-freeze came into effect just before the expansion draft is announced on June 21st. The biggest deal took place on June 15th when the Tampa Bay Lightning traded forward Jonathan Drouin and a sixth-round draft pick in 2018 to the Montreal Canadiens for defensive prospect Mikhail Sergachev and a second-round pick in the 2018 entry draft. The 22-year-old Drouin was then promptly signed to a six-year contract worth $33 million by the Habs.

Drouin, who was drafted third overall by Tampa in 2013, was scheduled to become a free agent on July 1st while the 18-year-old Sergachev was taken ninth overall by Montreal in 2016. Tampa Bay general manager Steve Yzerman said the teams will only swap the draft picks if Sergachev plays fewer than 40 regular and postseason games with Tampa next season. Tampa decided to trade Drouin rather than risk losing him for nothing to the Vegas Golden Knights in the upcoming expansion draft. Sergachev doesn’t need to be protected in the draft since he’s signed to an entry-level contract.

Sergachev is a big offensive defenceman at 6-feet-3-inches tall and posted 10 goals and 43 points in 50 games for the Windsor Spitfires of the Ontario Hockey League (OHL) this season. He also helped the team win this year’s Memorial Cup. Drouin, who can play both wing and centre, chipped in with 21 goals and 53 points for Tampa in 2016/17 and gives Montreal some insurance in case free agent forward Alexander Radulov signs elsewhere this summer.

Montreal made another move just two days later when they dealt defenceman Nathan Beaulieu to the Buffalo Sabres for a third-round pick in this summer’s entry draft, which will be the 68th selection overall. The 24-year-old Beaulieu was drafted 17th overall by Montreal in 2011 and was also scheduled to become a free agent on July 1st. The 6-foot-2-inch defenceman played 74 games with the Habs in 2016/17 and posted four goals and 28 points and added an assist in five playoff contests.

The Arizona Coyotes also made a move by trading veteran goaltender Mike Smith to the Calgary Flames for goaltender Chad Johnson, defensive prospect Brandon Hickey, and a third-round draft pick. Johnson is scheduled to become a free agent on July 1st as is Calgary’s other goaltender Brian Elliot. The 35-year-old Smith played 55 games with Arizona last season with a record of 19-26-9 with a save percentage of 91.4 and a goals-against average of 2.92.

Smith still has two years left on his current contract with an annual salary-cap hit of $5.67 million.  Johnson went 18-15-1 in 2016/17 with a 91.0 save percentage and a 2.59 goals-against average in 38 games. Elliot played 49 games with the Flames with a 26-18-3 mark along with a 91.0 save percentage and a 2.55 goals-against average. This move gives Calgary some goaltending insurance in case Elliot decides to leave town and sign with somebody else this summer.

Another move saw the New Jersey Devils make a trade with the San Jose Sharks as they picked up defenceman Mirco Mueller along with a fifth-round draft pick (143rd) this summer for a second (49th) and fourth-round (123rd) pick in June. The 22-year-old Mueller was chosen 18th overall by San Jose in 2013 and has spent his time since then between the AHL and NHL. He played just four games with the Sharks last season with a goal and assist to his name.

In addition, the Washington Capitals sent a fifth-round draft pick in 2018 to the Minnesota Wild for centre Tyler Graovac. The 24-year-old Graovac, who stands 6-feet-5-inches tall, scored seven goals and nine points in 57 career outings with the Wild. He was drafted 191st overall in the seventh round in the 2011 entry draft. Graovac also has 102 points in 202 career games in the AHL with Iowa on 49 goals and 53 assists.

There has also been a couple of coaching announcements since the Penguins hoisted the Stanley Cup. The Buffalo Sabres appointed Hall of Fame defenceman Phil Housley as their new head coach on June 15th. Housley spent the past four seasons with the Nashville Predators as an assistant coach and replaces Dan Bylsma behind the bench in Buffalo. Also, on June 12th, the Florida Panthers announced Bob Boughner as their new bench boss. Boughner is a former assistant coach with San Jose and he replaces Tom Rowe.