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Consider yesterday’s flurry of NHL news: Former Norris Trophy winners Zdeno Chara and PK Subban retire; Nathan MacKinnon becomes the highest-paid player in the league: his wake-up call: hockey season is upon us. With the official end of summer today and training camps opening this week, here’s a quick rundown of how the seven Canadian teams spent their offseasons:
Calgary Flames: For better or worse, no one had a more interesting summer than the Flames. It started with their two best players, 40-goal men Johnny Gaudreau and Matthew Tkachuk, deciding they wanted to leave the Pacific Division champions. General manager Brad Treliving would have been forgiven for diving into rebuilding mode, but instead he went on the attack, acquiring NHL assists leader Jonathan Huberdeau from Florida in the forced trade for Tkachuk and signing two-way center Nazem Kadri in free agency. Whether this top-up works or not, you have to respect the hustle.
Edmonton Oilers: Buoyed by an incredible postseason run for Connor McDavid (33 points in 16 games) and Leon Draisaitl (32 points), Edmonton advanced to the third round for the first time in the McDavid era. They were blown out of the water there by eventual champion Colorado, but the hope is that new goaltender Jack Campbell (five years, $25 million) will provide some much-needed stability. General manager Ken Holland also made a big bet on Evander Kane, handing the notoriously volatile forward a four-year, $20.5 million contract after he scored 13 goals in 15 playoff games.
Montreal Canadians: After finishing last in the league last season, the Habs won the draft lottery and took Juraj Slafkovsky with the first pick. The great Czech striker looks pretty ready for the NHL after playing adult men in the Finnish league last season and earning Olympic MVP honors as a 17-year-old in Beijing. But an even brighter prize awaits in this year’s draft in WHL forward Connor Bedard, who is being touted as a generational talent. Montreal looks like a prime candidate to win the lottery again, as Carey Price’s future remains unclear and the team basically does nothing to improve its bland roster over the summer.
Ottawa Senators: They’ve missed the playoffs five years in a row, but the Sens’ days might be numbered. General manager Pierre Dorion marked a bold new direction on draft day when he sent three picks, including No. 7 overall, to Chicago for Alex DeBrincat, a 24-year-old with a pair of 40-goal seasons under his belt. Dorion also signed former 100-point man Claude Giroux and secured young forwards Josh Norris (35 goals last season) and Tim Stützle (22 goals, and he’s still only 20) on eight-year contracts for more than $60. millions each.
The Toronto Maple Leaves: Other The first round exit was a tough pill to swallow. But general manager Kyle Dubas wisely resisted knee-jerk calls to blow up a talented team after their narrow playoff loss to the near-dynastic Tampa Bay Lightning. Dubas checked the goal from him, saying goodbye to Jack Campbell and Petr Mrazek and bringing in Matt Murray and Ilya Samsonov, a pair of darts for a team desperate for someone who can actually steal a series. A fun novelty for the Leafs this season is that they have the reigning NHL MVP for the first time since the ’50s on a 60-goal scorer. auston matthews.
Vancouver Canucks: Aside from the pandemic-shortened 2019-20 season, Vancouver hasn’t won a playoff series since its trigger riots loss to Boston in Game 7 of the 2011 Cup Final. Time was finally up for general manager Jim Benning and coach Travis Green when they were fired last December. Surprisingly, Patrik Allvin (the first Swedish general manager in NHL history) and president Jim Rutherford did little to remake the team in their own image this summer. But hey, maybe a full season under coach Bruce Boudreau is enough to earn a playoff spot in the rickety Pacific.
Winnipeg Planes: A team plagued by a lack of strong leadership heads into this season without a captain. The Jets announced last week that veteran Blake Wheeler has been stripped of the C and his duties will be filled by a group of TBD alternates. Not the most promising start for new head coach Rick Bowness, a 67-year-old veteran who was behind the Winnipeg bench in the ’80s. Despite missing the playoffs last season, the Jets aren’t trying anything new with either. your template. The “plan” seems to be to cross your fingers and hope the same guys can do better this time.