The 2021 NHL draft is in the books, with 223 total picks Friday and Saturday from University of Michigan defenseman Owen Power to winger Niko Huuhtanen of the Finnish junior league.
But the weekend was also dominated by major trades as teams tried to get their rosters in shape for the July 28 start of the unrestricted free agency signing period amid a flat salary cap.
Seth Jones, Sam Reinhart, Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Pavel Buchnevich, Conor Garland, Jakub Voracek, Cam Atkinson and Rasmus Ristolainen are among the players who changed teams.
Here are the winners and losers from the draft weekend:
University of Michigan: The first round could serve as a recruiting pitch for the Big Ten school. Power went first overall to the Buffalo Sabres, teammate Matthew Beniers went next to the Seattle Kraken and fellow center Kent Johnson went fifth overall to the Columbus Blue Jackets. No. 4 pick Luke Hughes is committed to playing in Michigan next season, as is No. 24 pick Matthew Samoskevich.
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Buffalo Sabres: The Sabres were a mess last season and likely will be again next season. But Power, who is debating returning to Michigan next season, gives them promise for the future. They also got first-round picks for unhappy players Ristolainen (2021, which they used on playmaking winger Isak Rosen) and Reinhart (2022).
Seth Jones: The Blackhawks’ calculated move to land the coveted defenseman paid off. First, they cleared salary cap earlier by dealing Duncan Keith to the Edmonton Oilers. They got Caleb Jones in the return. Not only is Seth joining his brother in Chicago, the Blackhawks didn’t have to give up one of their top players in the deal. And Jones is receiving a significant raise with his eight-year, $76 million extension.
Hockey families: The Jones brothers weren’t the only family moment. Luke Hughes joined brother Jack on the New Jersey Devils. Former NHLers Brian Boucher (Tyler) and Mike Sillinger (Cole) saw their sons go back-to-back in the first round. Cory Stillman’s son, Chase, went later in the round. The Arizona Coyotes selected chief hockey development officer and former captain Shane Doan’s son, Josh, in the second round. The Blackhawks drafted Kirby Dach’s brother, Colton, later in the round. The Colorado Avalanche, who signed Cale Makar to a six-year, $54 million deal on Saturday, drafted his brother, Taylor, in the seventh round. But the most special moment was the Minnesota Wild inviting the children of late assistant general manager Tom Kurvers to announce the team’s draft picks.
Montreal Canadiens: They angered fans by picking Logan Mailloux in the first round, even though he had asked to be excluded from the draft. The defenseman was fined in Sweden last year for taking and sharing an explicit photo of a woman without her consent. The move had very bad optics.
Untraded players: Two of Jack Eichel’s Sabres teammates were traded. He’s still waiting. So is the St. Louis Blues’ Vladimir Tarasenko.
New York Rangers: The Rangers couldn’t afford to re-sign Buchnevich long term, but the trade return (Sammy Blais and a second-round pick) seemed unimpressive for the team’s No. 4 scorer. Blais plays a physical game, but his career high is 15 points and he has had injury issues. General manager Chris Drury drafted physical winger Brennan Othmann in the first round when the team needs more centers in the organization.
Columbus Blue Jackets: They got a good return for Jones and drafted well, but the underlying question remains whether than they can hold on to their top players. Jones indicated he wanted to test the free agent market next summer and was moved. Artemi Panarin, Sergei Bobrovsky and Matt Duchene left as free agents in 2019. Pierre-Luc Dubois and pending free agents Nick Foligno and David Savard were moved this past season. “We’re trying to build a Stanley Cup winner and we haven’t been able to do that, so sometimes, you have to make hard changes, even in your core, and keep building,” general manager Jarmo Kekalainen said.