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Lightning and Capitals make significant trades on 2nd day of NHL draft

2024 Upper Deck NHL Draft - Rounds 2-7

LAS VEGAS, NEVADA - JUNE 29: (EDITORS NOTE: Image was created using a fish eye lens.) A general view is seen of the draft floor during the 2024 Upper Deck NHL Draft Rounds 2-7 at Sphere on June 29, 2024 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Dave Sandford/NHLI via Getty Images)

NHLI via Getty Images

It is retooling time around the NHL before the start of free agency, and a handful of teams in the Eastern Conference used the second day of the draft to shake up their roster for next season and beyond.

The Tampa Bay Lightning and Washington Capitals were the most active, each making two significant trades, while the Toronto Maple Leafs made one that might look minor on paper but could have a major impact on the next few chases for the Stanley Cup.

Tampa Bay sent two-time Stanley Cup-winning defenseman Mikhail Sergachev to Utah and depth forward Tanner Jeannot to Los Angeles in moves that cleared more than $11 million in salary cap space.

“We started the day with little cap space to improve our team,” said general manager Julien BriseBois, who added the money will not immediately go to Steven Stamkos as the captain and longtime face of the franchise is expected to test free agency. “We got younger, and we now have a war chest of cap space to go out and improve our team in free agency.”

The Lightning got 24-year-old defenseman J.J. Moser, along with forward prospect Conor Geekie and two draft picks for Sergachev, who was signed through 2031 making $8.5 million annually. A 2025 second-rounder and a fourth this year allows Tampa Bay to restock its prospect pool after making eight consecutive playoff appearances, winning two titles and reaching the final three times.

That contending window remains wide open, and general manage Julien BriseBois now has flexibility to retool on the fly with free agency opening Monday. The Lightning now have the opportunity to pursue one or more of the top wingers available, a group that includes Jake Guentzel, Patrick Kane and Jonathan Marchessault.

“The hope is that this newfound cap space, our favorable taxation situation, the opportunity to be on a competitive team and to play with some great players should make us an appealing destination when free agents have to make decisions on where to sign come July 1,” BriseBois said.

The Capitals already did their big-name hunting last week by acquiring highly paid center Pierre-Luc Dubois from the Kings for goaltender Darcy Kuemper. On Saturday, they filled that void in net by acquiring Logan Thompson from host Vegas for a pair of third-round picks.

GM Brian MacLellan called it “an opportunity to get a good goalie with some upside.” Thompson figures to split time with Charlie Lindgren in a tandem costing less than $2 million total next season, with a year left on each goalie’s contract.

“It’s below the (league) minimum, even,” MacLellan said, referring to Thompson’s $767,000 salary. “There’s value there just from the contract - and given the skill he has to play.”

Thompson, 27, was an All-Star and played 37 games for the Golden Knights during their 2022-23 championship run before getting injured before the playoffs.

“I got a lot more that I can prove in this league and I’m hoping that I get that opportunity with Washington,” said Thompson, who was in bed when he was informed of the trade and hurried to the Sphere for a previously scheduled autograph signing. “Actually, it was a good alarm clock. I woke up to that and then obviously get ready and come down, and I knew it was going to be an interesting day.”

Long before getting his name engraved on the Stanley Cup, Thompson got his first foray into the NHL Capitals development camp in the summer of 2018. He played for Washington at back-to-back prospect showcases, went to training camp with the American Hockey League’s Hershey Bears in 2019, starred for the ECHL’s South Carolina and earned his first contract as a result.

“I’m thankful for the Washington goalie department every day,” Thompson told The Associated Press at 2023 All-Star Weekend. “They’re the reason why I’m here. They’re the only team that gave me a chance three years ago. If it wasn’t for them, I wouldn’t be here today.”

Washington also traded fourth-line winger Beck Malenstyn to Buffalo for the 43rd pick and traded up in the third round to select Ilya Protas, the younger brother of Capitals forward Aliaksei Protas. Malenstyn, 26, is a restricted free agent with arbitration rights who had 21 points in 81 games during his first full NHL season and gives the Sabres Buffalo valuable forward depth as they try to end the league’s longest playoff drought.

Looking to end the longest Stanley Cup drought, the Toronto Maple Leafs took a step toward upgrading their defense by acquiring the rights to pending free agent Chris Tanev from Dallas for a 2026 seventh-round pick. The trade gives Toronto the first crack at signing the valuable 34-year-old top-four defenseman.

“We wanted to jump the queue here as best we could and get to him before free agency started, so that’s what we’re going to do,” GM Brad Treliving said. “We’ll get to work on it now, at least excited to have an opportunity to speak directly with him and see if we can put something together.”

Treliving, who signed Tanev as a free agent when he was running the Calgary Flames, called the shot-blocking fiend “an elite defensive player” and “an absolute warrior.”

Vegas moved quickly to replenish goalie depth by acquiring Akira Schmid from New Jersey along with young forward Alexander Holtz in a trade that sent Paul Cotter and a third-rounder to the Devils.

Among the other moves, St. Louis traded Kevin Hayes and a ’25 second-rounder to Pittsburgh for future considerations to shed the remainder of the his contract, and Boston sent Jakob Lauko to Minnesota for Vinni Lettieri in a swap of centers that also involved draft picks.

The Sabres after getting Malenstyn began the process of buying out the contract of forward Jeff Skinner, GM Kevyn Adams confirmed at the conclusion of the draft. The buyout saves Buffalo $7.5 million next season while spreading out money owed to Skinner against the cap through 2030.


AP Hockey Writer John Wawrow and freelance writer W.G. Ramirez in Las Vegas contributed.