Thursday's NHL: Avalanche send Graves to Devils with eye on expansion draft

Associated Press

Denver — The Colorado Avalanche sent veteran defenseman Ryan Graves to the New Jersey Devils on Thursday night in a move made with an eye on the upcoming expansion draft of the Seattle Kraken.

In exchange, the Avalanche acquired forward Mikhail Maltsev and a second-round selection this year from New Jersey.

FILE - The Avalanche sent Graves to the New Jersey Devils in a move made with an eye on the upcoming expansion draft of the Seattle Kraken. In exchange, the Avalanche acquired forward Mikhail Maltsev and a second-round selection in the 2021 draft from New Jersey.

By trading Graves, along with Avalanche defenseman Erik Johnson agreeing to waive his no-movement clause, the team can protect defensemen Devon Toews, Cale Makar and Samuel Girard. The Devils have plenty of room to protect Graves.

Protected lists are due Saturday, and the expansion draft is Wednesday.

The 26-year-old Graves had two goals and 13 assists over 54 games with the Avalanche last season. He led the team in blocked shots with 91 and was second in hits with 77.

He was dependable on the blue line for Colorado since he was acquired Feb. 26, 2018, from the New York Rangers. His plus-40 rating in 2019-20 led the league, the first time an Avalanche player accomplished the feat since Milan Hejduk and Peter Forsberg (plus-52) in 2002-03.

Graves will bolster a Devils defense that was so-so last season. The main cogs are Ty Smith, Damon Severson and P.K. Subban. Will Butcher spent much of the year in the doghouse.

"Ryan brings physicality, size, an ability to defend in tough situations and a fearless compete level that makes him tough to play against,” Devils general manager Tom Fitzgerald said in a statement. “His assertive style of play and ability to play with young defensemen are characteristics that fit into what we are building with our group.”

Colorado picks up another scoring threat to join the likes of Nathan MacKinnon and Mikko Rantanen. The 23-year-old Maltsev had nine points and three assists in 33 contests during his rookie season. He appeared in his first NHL game on Jan. 31, 2021, at Buffalo.

The 6-foot-3, 198-pound Maltsev was a fourth-round pick of the Devils in 2016. He also played in Russia, where he had a goal and seven assists in 35 career Kontinental Hockey League games with SKA St. Petersburg.

Colorado has quite a few big players who are free agents, including captain Gabriel Landeskog and goaltender Philipp Grubauer. There's also forwards Brandon Saad, Matt Calvert, Pierre-Edouard Bellemare and Carl Soderberg, goaltender Devan Dubnyk and defenseman Patrik Nemeth.

More of Thursday's NHL

► Goalie Ben Bishop to be available in Seattle expansion draft

Dallas Stars goaltender Ben Bishop has waived his no-movement clause to be exposed in the Seattle expansion draft next week after approaching his team with the idea.

The move, which the team confirmed Thursday, allows Dallas to protect veteran goalie Anton Khudobin from the Kraken. Jake Oettinger, the 22-year old who is considered the Stars' goalie of the future, is exempt from the expansion draft because he is still on his entry-level contract.

Any player with a no-movement clause must be protected from the expansion draft unless he waives it. Buffalo's Jeff Skinner is among the players who have agreed to waive that clause and be exposed to Seattle, while Minnesota bought out Ryan Suter and Zach Parise and Florida bought out Keith Yandle — all players with no-movement protection in their contracts.

Each team's protected list — seven skaters, three defensemen and a goalie or eight skaters at any position plus a goalie — is due Saturday. The NHL is expected to release them to the Kraken, other teams and the public sometime this weekend.

Bishop, 34, will not be on Dallas' list and gives Seattle general manager Ron Francis something to think about when considering his options in net. Vancouver's Braden Holtby, who won the Vezina Trophy as the league's best goalie in 2016 and backstopped Washington to the Stanley Cup in 2018, is also expected to be among those available.

Taking Holtby from the soon-to-be-rival Canucks could give the Kraken a recognizable face of the franchise like Vegas had with three-time Cup-winning goalie Marc-Andre Fleury. Bishop, an American from Denver with a impressive resume, also fits that bill.

Bishop is signed for two more seasons at an annual salary cap hit of $4.9 million. He missed last season recovering from right knee surgery.

For the previous three seasons, Bishop was Dallas' No. 1 goaltender and one of the best in hockey. His 2.33 goals-against average ranks second and his .923 save percentage third among NHL goaltenders during that stretch.

Bishop helped Tampa Bay reach the 2015 Cup Final before going down with an injury, and his health could scare off Francis. But he has also only played three games since March 2020 and could be fresh in the fall after another brief NHL offseason.

► Panthers buy out Yandle, re-sign Forsling and Duclair

If Keith Yandle breaks the NHL consecutive games played record, he will almost certainly not reach that mark in a Florida Panthers uniform.

The Panthers bought out the remainder of Yandle's contract Thursday, giving the veteran defenseman a chance at a fresh start and providing the team some extra salary cap space and protection in the Seattle expansion draft.

Yandle was signed for two more seasons at a cap hit of $6.35 million. The buyout saves Florida $4 million against the cap next season, just under $1 million in 2022-23 and costs an extra $1.2 million in 2023-24 and 2024-25.

The 34-year-old holds the longest active ironman streak in the NHL at 922 consecutive regular-season games played — 42 short of Doug Jarvis' record. The Panthers made Yandle a healthy scratch for half of their first-round playoff series, but that does not affect his streak.

Yandle immediately becomes an unrestricted free agent. Like Minnesota's Ryan Suter and Zach Parise, he did not need to go on buyout waivers because Yandle had a no-movement clause in his contract. He can sign with another team when free agency opens July 28.

“We would like to extend a sincere thank you to Keith for all that he’s contributed to the Florida Panthers organization and to the South Florida community over the past five seasons,” general manager Bill Zito said. “While a decision of this kind is never an easy one to make, we believe that this shift is necessary as we look towards the 2021-22 season and our club’s future.”

Buying out Yandle allows the Panthers to protect another player in the Seattle expansion draft next week. Protected lists are due Saturday.

The Boston native has skated in 1,032 regular-season and 58 playoff games for the Coyotes, Rangers and Panthers since making his NHL debut in 2006. Yandle joins Suter among the experienced left-handed-shooting defensemen available this summer.

Using part of the buyout savings, the Panthers re-signed 25-year-old defenseman Gustav Forsling for $8 million and forward Anthony Duclair $9 million on respective three-year contracts.

Zito said the Panthers are looking forward to watching Forsling develop after setting career highs with five goals, 12 assists and 17 points in 43 games last season. Forsling played all six playoff games, unlike Yandle.

Duclair finally gets some stability with his sixth NHL team after playing each of the past four seasons on one-year deals. Duclair put up 32 points in 43 games last season with Florida.

“Anthony brought great speed and skill to our club this season,” Zito said. “We look forward to seeing him continue to be a creative playmaker for us on the ice and a valuable member of our community. We are thrilled to have him as a part of the Panthers family for years to come.”