Deep Thoughts with Mark Seidel: Rating the performance of Canadian NHL teams in the draft, trades, free agency

Saginaw Spirit centre Cole Perfetti drives the puck wide on Owen Sound Attack defender Mark Woolley as the Attack host the Spirit inside the Harry Lumley Bayshore Community Centre Saturday. Greg Cowan/The Sun Times/Postmedia Network

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There has been a lot of activity upon the conclusion of the Stanley Cup Final with the NHL Entry Draft, free agency and trades. I have got some Deep Thoughts about the past four weeks and I have decided to give the Canadian teams grades on both the draft and other acquisitions they have made as we wait to start the 2020-21 NHL season.


Calgary Flames

Draft grade: A

Draft comments: Todd Button and his scouts had a very good few days. Connor Zary can play any way you want, Yan Kuznetsov is a big kid who played against 25-year-old men in the NCAA and did well, while the super-skilled Jeremie Poirier might have been the biggest steal of the weekend. Furthermore, they got Ryan Francis and Rory Kerins late, which were excellent value. Although I do not think any of their picks will become superstars, it was a very solid performance that should yield key components to a winning team down the road.

Acquisitions through trades, signings grade: B

Acquisitions comments: I liked the roster of the Calgary Flames at the end of last year, so I didn’t expect a lot of change, but they did get the hottest goalie on the market, Jacob Markstrom, for six years. They also stole the quietly effective Chris Tanev from the Vancouver Canucks and he will help replace TJ Brodie.


Edmonton Oilers

Draft grade: B-

Draft comments: When a staff has only one pick in the top 100 and two picks in the top 125, it makes it incredibly hard. Dylan Holloway will play down the road, but I do not see him being a star. Ty Tullio was a brilliant pick at 126, because his combination of skill and grit is hard to find in the fifth round. The skilled Carter Savoie will go play at the University of Denver for a few years to round out his game but not selecting a single defenceman throughout the draft was perplexing.

Acquisitions through trades and signings grade: C

Acquisitions comments: The Oilers have two Hart Trophy winners in Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl, so you would think players would be chomping at the bit to sign in Edmonton, but it has not happened yet. They did sign Tyson Barrie, who is coming off a disappointing season in Toronto, and they brought in Kyle Turris to help up front. I fully expect Jesse Puljujarvi to return from Finland and show why he was a top-five pick in 2016, but I have to admit that I’m disappointed they chose to stick with the aging Mike Smith and Mikko Koskinen in net with so many quality goalies on the market. Ken Holland is a legend, but this off-season has been underwhelming thus far.


Montreal Canadiens

Draft grade: A

Draft comments: I liked the Canadiens’ draft overall. They chose Kaiden Guhle in the first round, and he will make them harder to play against down the road. I thought they got really good value in the second and fourth rounds with the picks of Alex Tuch’s brother, Luke, the late rising Jan Mysak, Sean Farrell and Blake Biondi. They also took a flyer on the massive re-entry goaltender Jakub Dobes. My only concern is they took only one defenceman throughout the draft, which can affect organizational balance. I thought Trevor Timmins and his crew did a very well adding to an improving prospect base.

Acquisitions through trades and signings grade: A+

Acquisitions comments: The Habs have brought in Jake Allen to provide a solid back-up, traded for heavy defenceman Joel Edmundson, acquired power forward Josh Anderson and signed proven scorer Tyler Toffoli. I am a fan of Max Domi, but it was time to move on and they maximized their return. It is really difficult to not be impressed by the work that Marc Bergevin and his staff have done over the past month.


Ottawa Senators

Draft grade: A+

Draft comments: When you have six picks in the top 61 in a very strong draft, you had better come away with a haul and Trent Mann and his staff did just that. Stutzle is a lock and Sanderson will become a key part of this team, while Ridley Greig is a feisty kid that will find a way to contribute. They certainly got some major size with Jarventie, Kleven and Sokolov and each brings a different aspect to the team. Jarventie is an up-and-down winger, Kleven is a physical beast and Sokolov has tremendous goal-scoring ability. They took some swings late, but a number of those first six players will become a part of a winning Ottawa Senators team.

Acquisitions through trades and signings grade: A

Acquisitions comments: The Sens have gotten much harder to play against with the acquisition of defencemen Erik Gudbranson, Josh Brown and the gritty Austin Watson. They also finally solidified their goaltending position with the trade for Matt Murray and signed the under-appreciated Evgenii Dadanov from the Florida Panthers. Letting go of a perennial headache in Anthony Duclair may have been addition by subtraction. Pierre Dorion did a good job, but fans should not lose sight of the fact that the Sens’ winning days are still a year away when their young prospects can step in.


Toronto Maple Leafs

Draft grade: B

Draft comments: If I were grading the draft on which team acquired the most skill, the Leafs would win in a landslide. Almost every player that John Lilley and his staff took has very good skill, but at some point, I think you must mix it up with some different elements. Individually, it is hard to argue with several their picks, and I particularly liked the Amirov, Niemela, Miettinen and Rindell picks, but how many small, skilled forwards and slick offensive defencemen can you dress every night? I know that there were not any picks that were going to add grit and sandpaper to this Leafs team in the next two years, but what about in five years? The Dubas Plan has been to draft skill and acquire grit and sandpaper, so they are certainly sticking to that plan.

Acquisitions through trades and signings grade: A

Acquisitions comments: As everyone knows, the Leafs were tight to the salary cap, so Kyle Dubas had to be very creative in his overhaul of the roster. It is no secret they were not happy with their playoff performance, so out went Kasperi Kapanen, Cody Ceci, Tyson Barrie and Andreas Johnsson, all of whom underperformed in the bubble. In came TJ Brodie, Wayne Simmonds, Zach Bogosian and the legend Joe Thornton, all with exceptionally affordable contracts. Dubas admitted in an interview that he wanted to get more character and grit and those signings certainly accomplish that.


Vancouver Canucks

Draft grade: C

Draft comments: Like other teams, the Canucks traded away their first two picks, but I was not overly impressed with the guys they took when they did get to draft. Joni Jurmo is a big defenceman who has great feet, but I am not sure how much defence he wants to play. Jackson Kunz still has a year before he goes to North Dakota, so he will have time to get better. My favourite pick of the draft for Vancouver is Dmitri Zlodeyev. He is more than the sum of his parts and is incredibly competitive, which is a bonus in the sixth round. It turned out to be just an OK draft for this up-and-coming team.

Acquisitions through trades and signings grade: B-

Acquisitions comments: The off-season is generally about what a team brings in, but in the Canucks’ case, it has been more about who has left. They had a great year last year, but the losses of Jacob Markstrom, Chris Tanev, Troy Stecher and Tyler Toffoli really take a bite out of that squad. The Canucks were also close to acquiring Oliver Ekman Larsson from Arizona, but that fell apart at the last second. They have brought in Stanley Cup winner Braden Holtby to replace Markstrom and one of my favourite players in the NHL, Nate Schmidt, but the net result is that this exciting young team now has some holes to fill.


Winnipeg Jets

Draft grade: B

Draft comments: When you have only two picks in the first 132 picks and four in total, it is hard to markedly improve your prospect pool, but they did very well with their top two selections. Perfetti fell into their laps and once he gets stronger, he will really help them a lot. Torgersson is a prototypical power forward who will play heavy for them. Bauer adds some snarl on the back end, so I think Mark Hillier and his group did the best they could with so few picks.

Acquisitions through trades and signings grade: C

Acquisitions comments: The Jets have been very quiet since the end of the season, except for the trade to acquire Paul Stastny from the Vegas Golden Knights. He will help solidify their forward group, but the big issue has been the back end and they have not addressed it yet. I am a big fan of Dylan Demelo and they re-signed him, but they still have some holes back there that they must address.

Mark Seidel runs North American Central Scouting. He’s a longtime scout and executive in the OHL and other junior leagues and is active in minor hockey. Reach Seidel at or follow on Twitter @MarkSeidel.