The past week in the NHL has been dominated by big trades, free agent signings, the 2021 NHL Expansion Draft presented by Upper Deck and the selection of more than 200 players in the 2021 NHL Draft.
Several high-profile players changed teams, including defensemen Oliver Ekman-Larsson, traded to the Vancouver Canucks by the Arizona Coyotes, and Seth Jones, traded to the Chicago Blackhawks by the Columbus Blue Jackets.
With so many transactions taking place recently, we asked six NHL.com staff writers and editors to choose what they think was the biggest move since the expansion draft Wednesday.
Here are their answers:
Taylor made for Boston
When Taylor Hall was traded to the Boston Bruins by the Buffalo Sabres on April 12, it seemed the perfect fit for the perfect team 11 years after the 2010 NHL Draft, when Hall went No. 1 to the Edmonton Oilers instead of No. 2 to the Bruins. Now the forward, who took to Boston, the Bruins and their second line immediately after the trade, will stay after signing a four-year, $24 million contract (average annual value $6 million) Friday, five days before he could have become an unrestricted free agent. Hall could help extend the Bruins window to win the Stanley Cup with their aging core; they have a solid nucleus, and four dangerous players — Hall, center Patrice Bergeron and forwards Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak — who combine for a reasonable NHL salary cap charge of $25.667 million. Impressive. — Amalie Benjamin, staff writer
Red Wings land young goalie
The Detroit Red Wings didn’t make the biggest move of the past few days, but they made the best one by acquiring Alex Nedeljkovic in a trade from the Carolina Hurricanes on Thursday and agreeing with the goalie on a two-year contract. The price was low: a third-round pick (No. 94) in the 2021 NHL Draft and goalie Jonathan Bernier, who can become an unrestricted free agent Wednesday. The risk was low: a two-year commitment. The upside is huge. The 25-year-old has a limited sample size in the NHL; 17-7-4 with a 2.01 goals-against average and .928 save percentage in 29 games (27 starts) the past four seasons. But general manager Steve Yzerman said Nedeljkovic has the potential to be Detroit’s goalie for years. — Nicholas J. Cotsonika, columnist
Avalanche lock up Norris Trophy finalist
The Colorado Avalanche made the best move of a busy weekend by signing defenseman Cale Makar to a six-year, $54 million contract (average annual value $9 million). The 22-year-old, who could have become a restricted free agent Wednesday, scored 44 points (eight goals, 36 assists) in 44 games this season. He was a finalist for the Norris Trophy voted as the top defenseman in the NHL, and it’s not hard to imagine he could win that award multiple times in his career. Though not a bargain, the contract keeps Makar in Colorado for the next six seasons, where he will be a key player for the Avalanche as they try to win the Stanley Cup. — Tim Campbell, staff writer
Panthers acquire another scorer
The Florida Panthers further strengthened their offense by acquiring forward Sam Reinhart in a trade with the Sabres on Saturday. Though Florida gave up goalie prospect Devon Levi and a first-round pick in the 2022 NHL Draft, it sacrificed nothing from its current roster to add a 25-year-old who led Buffalo in scoring with 40 points (25 goals, 15 assists) in 54 games this season. Reinhart can become a restricted free agent Wednesday, but should be able to reach another level playing alongside skilled forwards such as Aleksander Barkov, Jonathan Huberdeau, Anthony Duclair and Frank Vatrano at even strength and on the power play. — Tom Gulitti, staff writer
I agree with Tom. The Panthers upgraded their center depth in a meaningful way by acquiring Reinhart, who will play behind Barkov. That deployment should allow Sam Bennett to either move to the wing or center on the third line, improving Florida’s top-nine forward group. Reinhart was the No. 2 pick in the 2014 NHL Draft, giving the Panthers three of the top four picks in that draft, including defenseman Aaron Ekblad (No. 1) and Bennett (No. 4). Florida qualified for the 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs and learned valuable lessons losing in the first round to the Tampa Bay Lightning. They’re in win-now mode and Reinhart gives them a better chance to do that. — Dan Rosen, senior writer
Power surge for Sabres
The highlight of a busy weekend for Buffalo was the selection of defenseman Owen Power with the No. 1 pick in the 2021 NHL Draft. There is nothing quite like the promise of a potential franchise defenseman to accelerate a rebuild, which is what Kevyn Adams has been working at since becoming general manager last season. The selection of Power, who is considering returning to the University of Michigan for his sophomore season, made it easier for the Sabres to trade defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen to the Philadelphia Flyers on Friday for defenseman Robert Hagg, the No. 14 pick in the 2021 NHL Draft and a second-round pick in the 2023 draft. When he arrives in Buffalo, Power is projected to have the tools necessary to join the established Rasmus Dahlin as a top-pair defenseman and help continue the Sabres’ push to respectability. — Shawn P. Roarke, Senior Director of Editorial