Canadiens acquire young centre Kirby Dach from Chicago in draft-day deal

Moves are already happening around the NHL several hours before the draft begins, with the reigning Stanley Cup winners making a move to shore up their goaltending situation and a recent back-to-back champion ensuring a long-time defeneman was sticking around.

Leafs trade goalie Petr Mrazek to Chicago

Chicago's Kirby Dach (77) was traded to the Montreal Canadiens for the 13th and 66th overall pick. (THE CANADIAN PRESS)

Minutes after picking Juraj Slafkovsky first overall at the 2022 NHL draft, the Montreal Canadiens were right back at work.

The Canadiens acquired the 13th-overall pick from the New York Islanders for defenceman Alexander Romanov and the 98th pick, then packaged that pick with the first pick of round three (66th overall) and sent them to Chicago for centre Kirby Dach.

Dach, the third-overall pick of the 2019 draft, had nine goals and 17 assists in 70 games in 2021-22.

He showed promise over a small sample size the previous season with two goals and eight assists in 18 games.

Chicago are in the process of dismantling their roster for a rebuild.

Earlier Thursday, they traded star forward Alex DeBrincat to the Ottawa Senators for three picks, including the seventh-overall selection in the 2022 draft.

Leafs deal Mrazek

The Toronto Maple Leafs traded underperforming goaltender Petr Mrazek and the 25th pick in the 2022 NHL draft to Chicago for the 38th selection Thursday.

The move gives Toronto much-needed space on its salary cap with Mrazek's $3.8-million US ticket now off the books and free agency set to open next week.

The Leafs signed the Czech netminder to a three-year, $11.4-million contract last summer, but he never came close to living up to expectations in an injury-hit campaign.

The 30-year-old was 12-6-0 with a sub-par .888 save percentage and 3.34 goals-against average in his only season with Toronto.

The club could have an entirely new crease combination next season with No. 1 goaltender Jack Campbell poised to hit unrestricted free agency.

Oilers trade Kassian to Coyotes

The Edmonton Oilers have dealt bruising forward Zack Kassian to the Arizona Coyotes.

The deal also saw the Oilers send the No. 29 pick in Thursday's NHL entry draft to the Coyotes, as well as a 2024 third-round selection and 2025 second-round pick.

Edmonton acquired the No. 32 pick in this year's draft and shed Kassian's $3.5-million salary. There are two years left on his current contract.

Kassian, 31, played seven seasons with the Oilers and last year registered 19 points (six goals, 13 assists) and 63 penalty minutes in 58 regular-season games.

He added another four points (two goals, two assists) and 12 penalty minutes in 16 playoff appearances.

Edmonton finished the regular season second in the Pacific Division with a 49-27-6 record and went on to make a deep playoff run before being swept in the Western Conference semifinal by the Colorado Avalanche.

Plenty of moves made prior to NHL Draft

Colorado, Chicago and Pittsburgh all made key moves Thursday ahead of the NHL draft, with the Stanley Cup champion Avalanche making a deal to shore up their goaltending situation and the Penguins ensuring a long-time defenceman was sticking around.

The Avalanche acquired goaltender Alexandar Georgiev from the New York Rangers for three draft picks, and the Pittsburgh Penguins also signed veteran defenceman Kris Letang to a $36.6 million, six-year contract that carries a $6.1 million annual salary cap hit. Before the draft began, Chicago began their much-anticipated dismantling process by trading Alex DeBrincat to the Ottawa Senators for the seventh pick and more, and the Minnesota Wild re-signed goalie Marc-Andre Fleury to a $7 million, two-year contract.

Colorado gave up third- and fifth-round picks this year and a third-rounder next year for Georgiev. The move seems to spell the end of playoff starting goalie Darcy Kuemper's time with the Avalanche.

The Avalanche can now pair Georgiev, who needs a new contract as a restricted free agent, with Pavel Francouz as they try to defend their third title in franchise history.

The Pittsburgh Penguins, who won it all back to back in 2016 and '17, re-signed veteran defenceman Kris Letang to a $36.6 million, six-year contract that carries a $6.1 million annual salary cap hit.

Pittsburgh may not be able to keep the entire band together, given centre Evgeni Malkin is also set to be an unrestricted free agent, but general manager Ron Hextall prioritized locking up the 36-year-old Letang long term.

"The role he plays on our team is irreplaceable, he is a leader in our locker room and has made countless contributions to the organization over the last 15-plus years," Hextall said in a statement.

DeBrincat, 24, who set career highs with 41 goals, 37 assists and 78 points, goes to Ottawa to join a team on the rise and could soon sign a new deal to keep him there long term.

"Alex's acquisition brings immediate and additional firepower to our forward group," Senators general manager Pierre Dorion said. "He's a dynamic forward who's a scoring threat to the opponent when in the attacking zone. He maintains great vision, has exceptional skill and a quality shot which helps him score from virtually any part of the ice. He's a consistent performer and an underrated playmaker."

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