The Stanley Cup will be won by June 14, and within 48 hours of the on-ice celebration, both the Nashville Predators and Pittsburgh Penguins will have to start thinking about their offseason moves.
Here are important NHL happenings over the next four weeks:
1. Start of trading season: Usually teams wait until NHL draft week to make trades, but the June 21 Vegas Golden Knights expansion draft has prompted general managers to discuss trades earlier because they will impact their protected player lists. Talks are already ongoing. Vegas general manager George McPhee is busy.
Colorado Avalanche forward Matt Duchene is one of the big names who could move in the next few weeks. Defensemen Sami Vatanen (Anaheim Ducks) and Mathew Dumba (Minnesota) or Jonas Brodin (Minnesota), along with forwards Jonathan Drouin (Tampa Bay Lightning) and Jordan Eberle (Edmonton Oilers) are others featured in trade speculation.
In addition, the player buyout period will open June 15 or 48 hours after the Cup Final.
2. Submission of protected lists: Teams must submit their protected list by June 17 at 5 p.m. ET. Teams can choose to protect seven forwards, three defensemen and a goalie or eight skaters (defensemen and/or forwards), plus one goalie. Players with no-movement clauses have to be protected.
Several teams are in danger of losing key players, notably the Ducks and Wild. That’s why players such as Dumba and Brodin have been the subject of trade speculation.
3. Expansion draft: The new Golden Knights franchise must make their selections by June 20. The selections be will announced on June 21.
The Golden Knights also have a 72-hour window to signing pending free agents from June 18-21. They are expected to take advantage of that opportunity.
Each team can only lose one player in the process, including a free agent that signs with Vegas.
McPhee is expected to load up on draft picks and prospects in exchange for not taking certain players.
4. The regular draft: The NHL draft, scheduled for June 23-24, doesn’t boast the big name No. 1 pick like we have seen in the past two years with Connor McDavid and Auston Matthews.
This is considered a below average draft, but projected top two picks Nolan Patrick and Nico Hischier can be impact players.
Patrick, a Canadian, is a 6-3 center, and the Swiss-born Hischier is a center or wing who may be slightly more dynamic.
The New Jersey Devils have the No. 1 pick, and the Philadelphia Flyers are No. 2. The Golden Knights pick No. 6.
5. Free agent signing period: The frenzy begins July 1. Right wings Alexander Radulov and T.J. Oshie and defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk are the biggest names in the unrestricted free agent class.
But there also seems to be considerable interest in defensemen Brendan Smith and Karl Alzner.