The Pittsburgh Penguins have repeated as Stanley Cup champions, Sidney Crosby is the Conn Smythe winner again and the Nashville Predators carry the unenviable label of 2016-17 NHL runners-up.
So ends the National Hockey League season. Now the fun begins for everyone who doesn't own a Penguins jersey. Winnipeg Jets fans, for example.
As the league gets ready to stock the expansion Vegas Golden Knights' pantry with players, the first of what the NHL considers "critical dates" came and went Monday.
Teams had until 4 p.m. (CDT) to ask players with "no move" clauses (NMC) in their contracts to waive those rights. The 30 existing clubs will make their protected player lists public Sunday in advance of the expansion draft June 21, when each of them loses a player to the new Western Conference team.
News leaked early Monday that goalie Marc-Andre Fleury of the champion Penguins has agreed to waive his modified NMC, while the Ottawa Senators have asked defenceman Dion Phaneuf to do likewise and are awaiting his response.
Have the Jets asked that of veteran defencemen Toby Enstrom? The team said Monday the organization won’t disclose any details of its plans before the protected lists are revealed Sunday.
The 32-year-old Swedish-born defenceman has a year left on a contract signed prior to the 2013-14 season that pays him US$5.75 million annually.
Convincing the left-shooting blue-liner to waive his NMC would alleviate a lot of aggravation for general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff who, like the league's other GMs, has a choice to make: protect one goalie, three defencemen and seven forwards, or one goalie and eight skaters.
Getting a yes from Enstrom would allow the Jets to protect goalie Connor Hellebuyck, defencemen Dustin Byfuglien — who also has a NMC — Jacob Trouba and Tyler Myers and forwards Mark Scheifele, Blake Wheeler, Bryan Little, Adam Lowry, Mathieu Perreault, Andrew Copp and Joel Armia, presumably.
If Enstrom balks? Well, then things get convoluted for the Jets’ brass, who would have to protect him, along with Byfuglien and Trouba. If the Jets also wanted to shield Myers — who was hurt for most of last season but is a key contributor when he's healthy — he'd be the fourth defencemen, leaving the club with the troubling choice of which four forwards they would not be willing to gamble with.
Thus, all the banter lately about who’s more valuable to the squad moving forward, Perreault or Lowry?
Another possibility is Winnipeg swings a trade with Vegas involving draft choices and/or players, to avoid losing personnel it wants to keep.
Here are some key dates to keep in mind over the next two weeks. All times are CDT:
• Thursday: the deadline for teams to ask players with NMCs whether they want to be placed on waivers for purposes of buyouts prior to the expansion draft.
• Friday: the final day clubs can place a player on waivers prior to the expansion draft trade/waiver freeze. It’s also the last day — deadline is 4 p.m. — for players to agree to waive their NMCs.
• Saturday: the trade/waiver freeze kicks in for all NHL clubs (2 p.m.), except for Vegas GM George McPhee and his staff. It’s also deadline day for teams to simultaneously submit their protected lists to the league and the National Hockey League Players Association (4 p.m.).
• Sunday: the hockey world will finally see who’s available for the Golden Knights to select. The league distributes protected lists to all NHL clubs and the NHLPA by 9 a.m.). The free-agent interview period opens for Vegas from the moment the lists are distributed. This applies only to players who have been exposed.
• June 21: the Golden Knights submit the names — including any restricted or unrestricted free agents they’ve signed — by 9 a.m. The selections will be announced in the evening, during the NHL Awards in Las Vegas. (Jets right-winger Patrik Laine is a finalist for the Calder Trophy as the league’s top rookie. He won't win — Toronto centre Auston Matthews is a lock. But there's no shame in that, as the affable Finnish teen did everything and more the Jets wanted/needed last season.)
• June 22: the trade/waiver freeze is lifted, allowing all 31 teams to resume normal day-to-day business — just one day before the NHL Draft begins in Chicago.
• June 23-24: the NHL Draft at United Centre. The New Jersey Devils won the draft lottery and must decide whether to make star centre Nolan Patrick of the WHL's Brandon Wheat Kings the first-ever Winnipegger selected No. 1 overall, or go with Nico Hischier, a centre with the Halifax Mooseheads of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League. The Jets, meanwhile, own the 13th selection in the first round.