Next season starts now for Canadian NHL teams

Defencemen are going for a premium in the NHL with the Vancouver Canucks sending Jared McCann and two 2016 draft picks for Erik Gudbranson, a trade that was likely driven by the cap hit for the Florida Panthers.

The Cup has been awarded, and as a Canadian, let me speak for my countrymen and women when I say, thank goodness.

The National Hockey League’s playoffs are long enough. Without a single Canadian team among the 16 participants, the hockey is no worse off but the buy-in was difficult.

So let us count today as the first day of the 2017-18 season. A time when Flames fans can turn their attention back to who GM Brad Treliving will find to play goal next season. When Senators fans can get back to predicting how things will change under Guy Boucher, and Leafs fans can talk about what all those draft picks might be turned into over the next 11 days.

Honestly, the hockey was fabulous again this spring. Playoff hockey always is.

Starting with a St. Louis-Chicago series that went to a seventh game in Round 1, through Washington-Pittsburgh in Round 2, the Islanders run out East and the Sharks out West. But as the golf courses beckon and lake lots get opened, it’s the call of the local logo that presides over a Canadian spring.

Jets fan can tell his wife the lawn can wait another day when his beloved team is standing on the blue line, listening to O Canada. But when it’s Tampa vs. the Islanders, he’s out there searching for his jerry can and hoping the mower starts. It’s simple Canadiana.

But with Pittsburgh’s win on Sunday it’s over, and now we’ve entered the fortnight before the NHL draft — likely the most intriguing time on the NHL calendar for all 30 sets of fans.

Toronto counts the days until they can officially call Auston Matthews their own, but the Leafs also have two picks in each of the first four rounds — and a dozen draft picks in total. We can guarantee they won’t select 12 players in Buffalo, but more likely swap a couple of those picks to cap-strapped teams that need to give up players for draft picks.

Montreal had the best odds of any Canadian team to win the 2017 Stanley Cup, when Bodog released its predictions Monday. But what are the odds of P.K. Subban getting dealt in Buffalo? (We think nil.) And what are the chances the Oilers are in the mix on Subban, which could make big Pierre-Luc Dubois available for the Habs to draft with Edmonton’s No. 4 pick?

And what about Calgary, a team with neither a coach nor a goalie today? Marc-Andre Fleury is surely expendable in Pittsburgh, despite that pesky no-movement clause. But with an expansion draft looming, and a trend away from $5 million-plus netminders, can Treliving find stability in goal without relieving a Pittsburgh — or a Vancouver — of a hefty contract they’d be ecstatic to jettison?

This could take some ingenuity, of which Treliving has plenty.

Ottawa has a new start with Boucher, whose second chance was a long time coming. The Sens have lots of cap space with a few key re-signings on tap, but they’ve also got to find a way jazz up a lineup that may have been the best in Canada, but still ranked 19th league-wide.

A new coach isn’t enough for a Senators team that allowed the fifth-most goals in the entire NHL last season. Ownership needs to spend some cash, and on the right people.

Vancouver is another story. They just moved a top prospect in Jared McCann for a big, burly defenceman in Erik Gudbranson who will bulk up the Canucks blue line, but won’t have much effect on a club that couldn’t score on a lot of nights last season.

The succession plan from Daniel and Henrik Sedin that was supposed to begin a long time ago is still in its infancy. With the fifth pick overall — but no second- or fourth-rounder for the Canucks — it’s going to take some fancy footwork for GM Jim Benning to make strides in that direction this June.

All’s good in Winnipeg, with Patrik Laine on the way to Manitoba. But with the 2nd, 22nd and 36th picks in the hands of a smart drafting team, this could be a historic draft for the Jets. It could also be a week where the Jets find a way to help old, cash-strapped trading buddy Chicago, and maybe land Andrew Shaw in the process.

Then there’s Edmonton, where GM Peter Chiarelli has spent the past six months working deals that includes names like Taylor Hall, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Jordan Eberle — not to mention that fourth overall pick.

Who stays? Who goes?

The Cup has been awarded. Time to get on with business, Canada.

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