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Florida Panthers Quiet on Eventful Opening Night at NHL Draft



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The Florida Panthers draft table — from left Paul Krepelka, Roberto Luongo, Brett Peterson and Gregory Campbell — before the start of the first round on Thursday night at the Bell Center in Montreal. // Photo @TheDanKingerski

The Florida Panthers did not have a first round pick after trading it to the Buffalo Sabres for Sam Reinhart last summer — which meant for a quiet first night at the NHL Draft for the team from Sunrise.

That does not mean things were quiet around Montreal as there were a number of trades.

The Panthers, a team looking to make some deals due to their salary cap crunch, were not involved as the lack of high draft picks kept Florida from getting in the game.

As the draft wore on, the Coyotes set the market for taking on a contract — something the Panthers would have liked to do, and still may — as they flipped first-round picks (No. 29 and 32) with Edmonton in exchange for the final two years of Zach Kassian.

For doing so, Arizona also got a future second and third round selection.

After the first round ended, general manager Bill Zito said it was an active day “on the phone.

The Panthers could be in the mix today when the second round starts at 11 a.m.

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Bruce Garrioch of the Ottawa Sun raised some eyebrows a few hours before the draft when he tweeted that the Senators were “kicking the tires” on Florida defenseman MacKenzie Weegar.

Weegar, a native of the Ottawa area, is entering the final year of the three-year contract he signed with the team in 2020 and will be due a substantial raise over the $3.25 million he makes annually.

The Panthers are not shopping Weegar — and are hoping to sign him to a long-term contract extension as early as next week.

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Zito said on Wednesday that he has had preliminary talks with the agents for both Weegar and Jonathan Huberdeau as both players can sign extensions this summer.

As for the draft, there were a few surprises up top — which stole some of the headlines from the deals made for players already in the NHL.

Ottawa was involved in the biggest deal, snaring Alex DeBrincat from the blow-it-up Blackhawks for the seventh-overall pick as well as a second and third round selection.

And that was all the Sens gave up.

Chicago was not done trading away players, sending Kirby Dach — whom they picked third in 2019 — to Montreal for the 13th overall pick.

The Canadiens had acquired that selection by trading Alexander Romanov and the 98th overall pick to the Islanders.

Toronto also traded goalie Petr Mrazek and the 25th overall pick to Chicago for a second round pick.

Chicago started the day without any first-round picks — and ended the day with three of them.

Other moves made on draft day included the Pittsburgh Penguins re-signing defenseman Kris Letang to a six-year deal as well as Minnesota signing goalie Marc-Andre Fleury for two years.

Montreal hosted the draft as it was in-person for the first time since 2019 — and the atmosphere was electric.

The Canadiens also held the top pick and there was a lot of mystery surrounding who they would take: Shane Wright or Juraj Slafkovsky?

In the end, Montreal took Slafkovsky with the first overall selection — with Wright dropping from the supposed top spot down to No. 4 when he was taken by Seattle.

It was sort of reminiscent of 2013 when Seth Jones was considered to be the top pick but dropped to the very happy Nashville Predators after Colorado took Nathan MacKinnon, the Panthers took Sasha Barkov at No. 2 and Tampa Bay went with Jonathan Drouin.

As for the Panthers, they do not currently hold a second round selection either as that was traded to Calgary last year for Sam Bennett.

Florida is not scheduled to make its first pick of this draft until the third round — or sometime Friday afternoon.

Zito, meanwhile, finished fifth in voting for the Jim Gregory NHL GM of the Year Award with Colorado’s Joe Sakic winning it in a landslide. Zito got two first-place votes — Sakic got 16.

That award is voted on by the NHL’s general managers and is compiled after the second round of the playoffs.

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Bell Center, Montreal


Rounds 2-7: 11 a.m. (NHL Network, ESPN+, WQAM 560-AM)


First Round: Traded to Buffalo (Sam Reinhart)

Second Round: Traded to Calgary (Sam Bennett) — Now belongs to Seattle

Third Round: No. 93

Fourth Round: No. 125

Fifth Round: No. 157

Sixth Round: No. 186 (From Columbus); No. 189

Seventh Round: No. 221

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