Sharks' Division Rivals Keep Busy During Draft Weekend

While word got out during the NHL Draft that the Sharks would meet this week with the summer's best available free agent, their division rivals were busy reshaping their own rosters. 

Their biggest rivals, the Los Angeles Kings, made arguably the biggest one. The Kings agreed to a three-year, $18.75 million contract with Russian winger Ilya Kovalchuk, who will return to the NHL after spending the last five years in the KHL. Kovalchuk nearly signed with the Kings eight years ago, opting to sign a 15-year, $101 million deal with the New Jersey Devils (after an arbitrator voided a 17-year, $102 million deal that same offseason) instead. The Sharks were linked to Kovalchuk before he ultimately made his decision, as it would have reunited him with former Devils head coach Peter DeBoer, but his top choice was always to play in Los Angeles, according to The Athletic's Pierre LeBrun

It's something of a question how well Kovalchuk, now 35, will reintegrate in the NHL. He was, however, one of the league's most dynamic players before his Russian homecoming, and was over a point-per-game player in the second-best league in the world. If his return to the NHL is successful, San Jose will doubtlessly be reminded of what it's missing (at least) four times a year. 

The Vegas Golden Knights and Anaheim Ducks, the other two Pacific Division teams that qualified for the postseason in 2017-18, largely stayed quiet. Meanwhile, two teams that didn't make the playoffs, the Calgary Flames and Arizona Coyotes, tried to ensure that wouldn't happen again. 

Calgary made the biggest trade of any team at the draft, shipping out defenseman Dougie Hamilton, forward Michael Ferland, and prospect Adam Fox to the Carolina Hurricanes in exchange for blueliner Noah Hanifin and forward Elias Lindholm. Flames general manager Brad Treliving alluded that Hamilton wasn't happy in Calgary, while the Hurricanes were reportedly at an impasse in negotiations with Hanifin and Lindholm. 

Hanifin is a great young defenseman, while Lindholm is one of the better forwards in terms of driving play. Hamilton, however, is one of the league's elite defensemen.

Since entering the league during the lockout-shortened 2013 season, 182 defensemen have played 3000 five-on-five minutes. Only three have posted a better corsi-for percentage (54.72 percent), and just 24 have a better expected-goals pecentage (53.14 percent). Last season, he and Mark Giordano were the league's best pairing (min. 500 minutes) by the former metric, and fifth-best by the latter. The Sharks won't welcome seeing a Girodano-Troy Bodie reunion, but should enjoy only having to play Hamilton twice a year now. 

Arizona made the biggest pre-draft splash in acquiring Alex Galchenyuk in exchange for Max Domi, and reportedly fortified its blueline. The Coyotes reportedly agreed to a two-year extension with Swedish defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson on Saturday, which comes two weeks after reportedly agreeing to an extension with their other Swedish blueliner, captain Oliver Ekman-Larsson. 

Hjalmarsson, who once signed an offer sheet with San Jose in 2010, missed significant time last season, and Arizona suffered in his absence. No regular Coyotes defenseman had a higher five-on-five expected-goals percentage (51.1 percent).

After he returned on Jan. 12, the Coyotes went 19-14-6, and had much better underlying numbers five-on-five (49.3 percent corsi-for, 48 percent expected goals). Reportedly locking him up, as well as Ekman-Larsson, is a nice start to their offseason, and they may yet surprise the Sharks and the rest of the Pacific Division. 

Of course, there's still plenty of offseason left. 

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