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NHL PUCK DROPS: Winners and losers of early days of off-season

Left-winger Taylor Hall signed with the Buffalo Sabres on Sunday.
Left-winger Taylor Hall signed with the Buffalo Sabres on Sunday. - Postmedia photo

CHARLOTTETOWN, P.E.I. — The 2020 NHL Draft is history and the league’s free-agent period is underway. Here’s a look at the off-season’s biggest winners and losers entering Monday.


Winner

Buffalo Sabres: The ever-retooling Sabres pulled off the most surprising move of free agency, signing Taylor Hall (the best forward on the free-agent market) to a one-year, $8-million contract.

Loser

Vancouver Canucks: General manager Jim Benning entered the off-season with goaltender Jacob Markstrom, winger Tyler Toffoli and defenceman Chris Tanev slated to become unrestricted free agents. He lost all three to the open market, finding only a suitable replacement for Markstrom by signing Braden Holtby.

Winner

Jacob Markstrom: The former Canucks’ netminder inked a six-year deal worth $6 million annually with the Calgary Flames. Because of the flattened salary cap, he was among a handful of free agents to sign a lucrative, long-term contract. 

Loser

Edmonton Oilers: Seeking a reliable starting goalie, the Oilers were among the suitors for Markstrom but lost out to Calgary. They wound up keeping last season’s struggling tandem by bringing back aging Mike Smith to pair once again with Mikko Koskinen. 

Winner

Torey Krug: Unable to reach agreement on a new deal with the Boston Bruins, Krug signed a seven-year, $45.5-million contract with the St. Louis Blues. Not only did the 29-year-old defenceman get a long, expensive new contract but he also landed with one of the top teams in the Western Conference. 

Loser

Toronto Maple Leafs: They signed a decent right-shot defenceman in T.J. Brodie to a four-year contract. However, their limited salary-cap space kept them from bidding for a true blue-line stud like Alex Pietrangelo via free agency.

Winner

New York Rangers: Surprise winners of the 2020 draft lottery, the Rangers selected Alexis Lafrenière of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League’s Rimouski Oceanic with the first overall pick. The 19-year-old left-winger is considered a can’t-miss NHL star. 

Loser

Arizona Coyotes: Their previous general manager traded away this year’s first-round pick last December for Hall, who departed via free agency on Friday. They also forfeited next year’s first-round pick over scouting combine violations. 

Winner

Quinton Byfield: The 18-year-old Byfield was picked second overall by the Los Angeles Kings, becoming the highest-selected Black player in NHL history. The six-foot-four, 215-pound Sudbury Wolves’ centre has a good shot at cracking the Kings’ roster next season.  

Loser

Slovakia: NBC Sports’ Sean Leahy observed just two Slovakians were selected in this year’s draft and only one last year. That’s quite a decline for a country once ranked among the world's best hockey nations. 

Winner

Ottawa Senators: The rebuilding Senators selected two great young prospects in centre Tim Stuetzle and defenceman Jake Sanderson with the third and fifth overall picks, respectively, and promising centre Ridley Greig with the 28th pick. They also acquired goaltender Matt Murray from the Pittsburgh Penguins. 

Have a safe and happy remainder of 2020, folks. See you (hopefully) whenever the NHL’s 2020-21 season begins. 

Lyle Richardson is a freelance writer with the Sporting News and runs the website Spector’s Hockey. His column will appear in The Guardian throughout the NHL hockey season.

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