It's a bittersweet day for hockey fans everywhere.

Last night, the Stanley Cup was awarded, as the Tampa Bay Lightning beat the Montreal Canadiens to win their second Cup in as many seasons. The Lightning win closes the book on the 2020-21 NHL season, a memorable year for a myriad of reasons. The season started late due to last season's postseason bubble running into the fall, for one. The NHL announced a partnership with not one, but two new television stations for the next seven years. The regular season was shortened, the playoffs extended into July, the divisions realigned, all in an attempt to make it work. By and large, the NHL was successful, and should be commended for their efforts.

That said, for NHL general managers and front office staffers, the real work begins today. All three New York hockey teams have a number of important decisions on the horizon.

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First on the docket, is the Expansion Draft. With the Seattle Kraken set to begin play this fall, it's come time for the team to construct their roster. Each team will be asked to "expose" a certain group of their players from which the Kraken can pick. The Rangers are in fantastic shape, as young players such as Alexis Lafreniere, Kaapo Kaako, Adam Fox and goalie Igor Shesterkin are all ineligible for the draft, and cannot be taken. The Islanders are in a bit more trouble, with a veteran player like Jordan Eberle or Nick Leddy likely to be taken from them.

The Sabres...well, maybe losing a player from their current roster will be exactly what they need.

Once that draft is over, the NHL Entry Draft will begin soon after. The Buffalo Sabres have the first overall pick (again), and will likely choose defender Owen Power from the University of Michigan to join their franchise. Rumors have broken that Power will return to school for another season regardless of his draft selection, so Sabres fans will have to wait for him to sign. Out of the seven rounds in the draft, the Rangers have NINE draft picks, while the Islanders have six, and do not have a pick in the first round.

Then, comes free agency, and more decisions to be made. The Rangers have made it a priority to get tougher, and develop more of a team identity. Connections have been made between the team and power forward Zach Hyman, who would make a lot of sense on their team. The Islanders have their own players to deal with first, as a number of key contributors need new contract. The Sabres find themselves in a similar situation as the Islanders, just with MUCH more work to do for the long-term.

So, as one door closes, another door opens for NHL fans and teams. This new door, however, opens up to a world full of chaos and adventure.

Salary cap and contract information courtesy of CapFriendly.com.

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