NHL Notes: Countdown to free ageny spurs trades and buyouts

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The Tampa Bay Lightning needed cap space so Julian BriseBois got out a sharp knife and his calculator.

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With Victor Hedman up for an extension and Steven Stamkos’s status murky as a looming free agent on Monday, the general manager saved $11.5 million US Saturday morning, though it meant defenceman Mikhail Sergachev was packaged to Utah, while Tanner Jeannot went further west to the Los Angeles Kings. No salary was retained on either player.

But BriseBois told media in Vegas after the draft that the extra money didn’t mean he could sweeten an offer to Stamkos, and the Associated Press reported agent Don Meehan acknowledged there is no change in negotiations. Stamkos knew he would not get $8.5 million US again as his deal ended and he reached his mid-30s, but the two-time Stanley Cup winner is apparently unimpressed by the pay cut the team is offering.

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“My responsibility is to see what’s best for the Lightning organization, and Steven has to do what’s best for him, his career and his family,” BriseBois said. “So, unless something changes between now and July 1 — and it doesn’t look like it will — we will get to (UFA status).”

Sergachev, with six years still to go on his contract with its $8.5 million AAV this season, fetched defenceman J.J. Moser and forward Conor Geekie in return, as well as a seventh-round pick Saturday and a second-rounder in 2025.

In mixed success of late since he was acquired from Montreal and helped the Bolts win two Cups, Sergachev was held to 19 points in 34 regular-season games this year with a knee injury, making a late playoff appearance.

Jeannot, acquired from Nashville a couple of years ago, wasn’t able to make as much of a playoff difference as hoped and saw his remaining year at $2.665 million go to the West Coast. At this point, a Hedman extension appears to be the biggest thing on BriseBois’s plate.

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YOU ROCK, UTAH

They don’t have a nickname, but everybody’s talking ‘bout the new kids in town.

The Utah Hockey Club made a splash on the first day of the draft choosing Tij Iginla and continued making news Saturday as part of two trades. It gained Sergachev and picked up John Marino from the New Jersey Devils to further build their blueline, determined not to be the doormats of their final years in Arizona. 

“I woke up this morning and said, ‘Let’s shock the world’,” GM Bill Armstrong told the NHL Network. “It’s your job as GM to sort of plant seeds about six months out and you never know what can happen. Julian and I have a good relationship and in private conversations it worked out.”

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Sergachev and Marino give Utah a new left-right pairing.

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“Sergachev, I watched (as a junior) in Windsor, Marino in Walpole (a Boston high school),” Armstrong said. “We can score, but we have to defend. We took a lot of pain every night in losing and we’re getting to the next step of getting out. We ended up moving and getting a new owner at the right time.

Given this apparent change in fortune after all the turmoil in Arizona, Armstrong could say in jest, “it’s worked out — just as we drew it up.”

FATHERS AND SONS

Iginla’s selection was the first of many father-son combinations joined at the draft hip this weekend.

After Jarome’s offspring, Max Plante, a second-round pick of Detroit, joined Derek, a former NHLer and now Chicago’s assistant coach.

In the same round, defenceman Lukas Fischer went to the Blues. Jiri played six seasons with the Wings, now their associate director of player personnel. A similar connection saw university-bound forward Jack Pridham go to Chicago in the third round. He’s the son of Brandon, assistant GM and cap specialist with Toronto.

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But there were some waterworks in Finland when the Habs announced at No. 70 that Aatos Koivu had been taken, a chance to follow the footsteps of popular captain Saku, 31 years after his draft.

“We liked him as a player, regardless of his last name,” Canadiens amateur scouting co-director Nick Bobrov told reporters. Aatos was a seven-year-old at the Bell Centre for Saku’s retirement game in 2013.

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KEEPING STARS ALIGNED

Both Washington and Pittsburgh want to make their greying stars happy by re-tooling their rosters on the fly.

The Capitals, with Alex Ovechkin just one of their aging core as he pursues the 42 goals to catch Wayne Gretzky’s goal record, made a move in goal Saturday by acquiring Logan Thompson from the Vegas Golden Knights. To get a partner for Charlie Lindgren cost them a couple of third-round picks, on top of bringing in Pierre-Luc Dubois from the Kings and Calgary’s Andrew Mangiapane in recent moves.

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While Pittsburgh GM Kyle Dubas once more leaned towards small and skilled players in the draft, he picked up 6-foot-5 Kevin Hayes on Saturday to give the Pens some bite up front in a trade with St. Louis for a second rounder next year. Crosby is no doubt cross the Penguins haven’t been in the playoffs for two years, while Ovechkin’s club barely averted the same fate with a wildcard finish this year.

ICE CHIPS

While this was the last centralized draft for the foreseeable future as a majority of teams voted to start working from home offices, some clubs such as the Leafs decided to stay in Vegas for free agent Monday rather than risk being stranded by a busy holiday travel period … With the buyout window closing before July 1, the Sabres have officially moved to cash out Jeff Skinner. Held to 46 points in 76 games, they’re eating two-thirds of his $9 million cap hit over the next six years … Chris MacFarland, GM of the Colorado Avalanche, acknowledged it would be very hard for captain Gabriel Landeskog to come back after missing two full seasons, but told the NHL Network on Saturday he continues to make a recovery from cartilage transplant surgery after not playing since the Avs won the 2022 Stanley Cup … In a draft where everyone wanted right-hand shooting defencemen, the Penguins added four … Buoyed by the PWHL, USA Hockey predicts the number of female players registered in the country will exceed 100,000 next year.

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