Sports·THE BUZZER

Where Canadian NHL teams stand after the draft

CBC Sports' daily newsletter takes stock of where the Canadian teams stand after a busy NHL draft.

Habs, Sens make splash; Flames face key free agents; Oilers, Leafs need goalies

The Habs' choice of Slafkovsky at No. 1 kicked off a wild NHL draft. (Graham Hughes/The Canadian Press)

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The NHL draft often disappoints. League-altering trades and shocking picks are promised, but overly cautious general managers rarely deliver.

Not this year, though. The draft provided plenty of drama in front of a raucous Bell Centre crowd in Montreal — and much of it involved Canadian teams. With free agency opening on Wednesday, here's where each one stands:

Montreal Canadiens

The intrigue began with the first pick, where the Habs were expected to choose between Canadian centre Shane Wright, long considered the top prospect, and Slovakian winger Juraj Slafkovsky, who won Olympic MVP with seven goals in seven games. After Montreal surprised its home fans by taking Slafkovsky, Wright fell all the way to No. 4, where he was scooped up by Seattle. The Habs' decision — as well as the Devils' at No. 2 (d-man Simon Nemec) and Coyotes' at No. 3 (centre Logan Cooley) — already appears to be one that will be debated for a while.

Montreal then went and added more potential scoring punch by landing Chicago forward Kirby Dach through a series of trades that saw defenceman Alex Romanov land with the Islanders and more draft picks head back to Chicago. Dach, the No. 3 pick in the 2019 draft, has 19 goals in 152 NHL games. The Habs also took Slafkovsky's Slovakian teammate Filip Mesar with the 26th pick.

Tight against the salary cap and with no major free agents, the Canadiens — outside of possible trades — may be mostly quiet for the rest of the off-season. Read more about the first round of the draft here.

WATCH | Habs tap Juraj Slafkovsky with top pick of 2022 NHL draft:

Montreal Canadiens select Juraj Slafkovsky with 1st overall pick in NHL draft

5 months ago
Duration 3:57
Juraj Slafkovsky becomes the first ever Slovakian born player to be selected first overall in NHL draft.

Ottawa Senators

Until the hours leading into the draft, the Sens were the only other Canadian team with a top-10 selection. Instead, Ottawa also dipped into Chicago's coffers, acquiring 40-goal man Alex DeBrincat for the seventh and 39th picks this year, in addition to a future second rounder. The 24-year-old forward is under contract for two more seasons, and should pair nicely next to Tim Stützle, Brady Tkachuk and the rest of the Senators' young core.

Armed with $20 million US in cap space, the Senators are also positioned to be major players in the free-agent market, and were reported to have interest in Ontario native Claude Giroux as the team searches for its first playoff berth since a surprising run to the conference final run in 2017.

Calgary Flames

Calgary, which didn't have a first-round pick, is stuck in a holding pattern with a pair of 100-point scorers headed to free agency in Johnny Gaudreau and Matthew Tkachuk.

Both forwards are expected to command huge contracts on the heels of career years that propelled the Flames to the top of the Pacific Division. The loss of either would be a massive blow, but Gaudreau is the bigger flight risk as an unrestricted free agent who's been linked to teams near his hometown of Salem County, N.J., like Philadelphia and New Jersey. Since Tkachuk is restricted, the Flames can match any contract he may sign with another team.

Edmonton Oilers and Toronto Maple Leafs

Both made awfully similar moves last night by trading their first-round picks to move down in the draft while dumping unwanted contracts in Oilers forward Zack Kassian and Leafs goalie Petr Mrazek to Arizona and Chicago, respectively.

The idea for both is to clear space to pursue a netminder in free agency, but the market is moving quickly after Marc-Andre Fleury re-signed with the Wild while the Blues dealt youngster Ville Husso to the Red Wings. Read more about the goalie carousel here.

The top available options are now incumbent Toronto starter Jack Campbell and Darcy Kuemper, who started each game of the Stanley Cup final for the Avalanche. But the options — especially for two teams with championship aspirations — significantly drop off from there.

The Oilers also face the free agency of Evander Kane, who scored 13 goals in 15 playoff games, while the team is reportedly headed to a mutual split with forward Jesse Puljujarvi. Defenceman Duncan Keith also reportedly retired today, taking his $5.54M cap hit off the books with him.

The Maple Leafs' forward depth could be tested in free agency with the likes of Ilya Mikheyev (unrestricted) and Pierre Engvall (restricted) hitting the open market.

Vancouver Canucks and Winnipeg Jets

The quietest Canadian clubs just went about their business as the Jets grabbed U.S. forward Rutger McGroarty at No. 14 while the Canucks snagged Swedish forward Jonathan Lekkerimaki one slot later.

The Canucks can bring the band back together, though forward J.T. Miller, with one year left on his contract, has been mentioned as a possible trade candidate as Vancouver looks to restock some of its prospect base.

Likewise, Winnipeg is somewhat stuck with a middling roster and high cap charges for declining forwards Blake Wheeler and Mark Scheifele. Centre Pierre-Luc Dubois, 24, is a restricted free agent.

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