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NHL PUCK DROPS: Busy weeks ahead for the NHL

['<p>NHL logo post</p>']
['<p>NHL logo post</p>']

As the Stanley Cup Final approaches a climatic Game 7 on Wednesday, the NHL off-season soon beckons.  
Once the on-ice action is concluded, the business of hockey continues throughout June.
The NHL Awards will be handed out on Wednesday, June 19, in Las Vegas. Several of the league's biggest stars are up for the league's noteworthy awards.
Pittsburgh Penguins captain Sidney Crosby, Edmonton Oilers captain Connor McDavid, and Tampa Bay Lightning right wing Nikita Kucherov are finalists for the Hart Memorial Trophy as most valuable player. Crosby is a two-time winner (2007, 2014) while McDavid took home the honour in 2017.
Andrei Vasilevskiy of the Lightning, Ben Bishop of the Dallas Stars and Robin Lehner of the New York Islanders are first-time finalists for the Vezina Trophy as top goaltender. Vasilevskiy's teammate Victor Hedman, Brent Burns of the San Jose Sharks and Mark Giordano of the Calgary Flames are contenders for the James Norris Memorial Trophy as the league's stop defenceman. Hedman (2018) and Burns (2017) are previous winners.
St. Louis Blues goaltender Jordan Binnington, Buffalo Sabres blueliner Rasmus Dahlin and Vancouver Canucks centre Elias Pettersson are nominated for the Calder Memorial Trophy as rookie of the year.
Boston Bruins centre Patrice Bergeron is in line for what would be his record-setting fifth Frank J. Selke Trophy as the top defensive forward. The Blues' Ryan O'Reilly and Mark Stone of the Vegas Golden Knights are also up for the award.  
The opening round of the 2019 NHL Draft in Vancouver follows two days later on June 21, with the remaining six rounds held the following day.
Centre Jack Hughes of the USA Hockey National Team Development Program and TPS Finland winger Kaapo Kakko are considered the top-two prospects. It's assumed Hughes could be selected first overall, but Kakko's outstanding performance at last month's World Championships could boost his stock.
The New Jersey Devils hold the first-overall selection while the New York Rangers own the second pick. Regardless of who the Devils take, both clubs are assured of landing a promising youngster with star potential.
Following the playoffs, expect the NHL trade market to ramp back into life. There's already been some notable movement, with the Philadelphia Flyers last week acquiring centre Kevin Hayes from the Winnipeg Jets.  
Several teams, including the Toronto Maple Leafs, Tampa Bay Lightning and Winnipeg Jets, have some key players to re-sign but limited salary-cap space. Those players, including Toronto's Mitch Marner, Tampa's Brayden Point and Winnipeg's Patrik Laine, could receive expensive offer sheets from rival clubs starting on July 1.
To avoid that threat, those cap-strapped teams could make cost-cutting deals to ensure sufficient payroll to re-sign those players. Those moves could occur in the days leading up to the draft weekend.
Teams squeezed for cap room could also avail themselves of the league's contract buyout period from June 15 to 30. Buyout candidates could include noteworthy veterans like Anaheim Ducks winger Corey Perry and LA Kings defenceman Dion Phaneuf.

Lyle Richardson is a freelance writer with the Sporting News and runs the website Spector’s Hockey. His column will appear in The Guardian throughout the NHL hockey season.

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