By STEPHEN WHYNO, AP Hockey Writer
MONTREAL (AP) — Colorado, Chicago and Pittsburgh all made key moves Thursday ahead of the NHL draft, with the Stanley Cup champion Avalanche making a deal to shore up their goaltending situation and the Penguins ensuring a long-time defenseman was sticking around.
The Avalanche acquired goaltender Alexandar Georgiev from the New York Rangers for three draft picks, and the Pittsburgh Penguins also signed veteran defenseman Kris Letang to a $36.6 million, six-year contract that carries a $6.1 million annual salary cap hit. Before the draft began, the Blackhawks began their much-anticipated dismantling process by trading Alex DeBrincat to the Ottawa Senators for the seventh pick and more, and the Minnesota Wild re-signed goalie Marc-Andre Fleury to a $7 million, two-year contract .
The Blackhawks weren’t done dealing by trading third-year center Kirby Dach to Montreal during the draft to acquire two more picks. Chicago acquired the No. 13 and 66th selection for Dach, who had a career-best nine goals and 26 points in 82 games last season.
Montreal spurred the move by acquiring the No. 13 pick in trading defenseman Alexander Romanov and the 98th pick to the Islanders.
Colorado gave up third- and fifth-round picks this year and a third-rounder next year for Georgiev. The move seems to spell the end of playoff starting goalie Darcy Kuemper’s time with the Avalanche.
The Avalanche can now pair Georgiev, who needs a new contract as a restricted free agent, with Pavel Francouz as they try to defend their third title in franchise history.
The Pittsburgh Penguins, who won it all back to back in 2016 and ’17, re-signed veteran defenseman Kris Letang to a $36.6 million, six-year contract that carries a $6.1 million annual salary cap hit.
Pittsburgh may not be able to keep the entire band together, given center Evgeni Malkin is also set to be an unrestricted free agent, but general manager Ron Hextall prioritized locking up the 36-year-old Letang long term.
“The role he plays on our team is irreplaceable, he is a leader in our locker room and has made countless contributions to the organization over the last 15-plus years,” Hextall said in a statement.
DeBrincat, 24, who set career highs with 41 goals, 37 assists and 78 points, goes to Ottawa to join a team on the rise and could soon sign a new deal to keep him there long term.
“Alex’s acquisition brings immediate and additional firepower to our forward group,” Senators general manager Pierre Dorion said. “He’s a dynamic forward who’s a scoring threat to the opponent when in the attacking zone. He maintains great vision, has exceptional skill and a quality shot which helps him score from virtually any part of the ice. He’s a consistent performer and an underrated playmaker.”
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