Now that the Stanley Cup has been awarded, NHL general managers quickly turn their attention to team improvement. The Final ended on Monday, the draft takes place on Friday and Saturday and free agency opens on Monday next week.

Utah Hockey Club has been hard at work since the regular season ended, getting situated in Utah and securing talent along the way.

In addition to extending six of their minor-league players to two-way contracts, they also hired Chris Armstrong as president of hockey operations. Armstrong has no relation to the team’s general manager, Bill Armstrong.

The team announced on Wednesday that it signed forward Liam O’Brien — “Spicy Tuna,” as he refers to himself — to a three-year, $3 million deal. That’s one of many dominos that needed to fall before Utah could suit up this season.

Utah Hockey Club will be busy this offseason.

Utah Hockey Club will be busy this offseason. Photo credit: Quintin Soloviev & Wikimedia Commons

In this weekend’s draft, Utah has 13 picks — more than anyone else. When free agency opens on Monday, they’re sure to be active as they currently have zero NHL defensemen and only nine forwards. They also have the most cap space of any team and, for the first time in decades, an owner who’s willing to spend to the limit.

Here’s a preview of how the next week might look for Utah.

Potential draft picks

“With the sixth selection in the 2024 NHL Draft, Utah Hockey Club is proud to select …”

Anton Silayev

Perhaps the most likely option would be Anton Silayev, a 6’7” defenseman from Russia. His stature resembles that of the bulk of Utah’s prospects, and he was the highest-scoring 17-year-old in KHL history.

Let’s be clear: He’s not merely the highest-scoring 17-year-old defenseman — he’s the highest-scoring 17-year-old at any position, and he happened to do it from the blue line. He tops the likes of Vladimir Tarasenko, Kirill Kaprizov, Evgeny Kuznetsov, Nikita Kucherov and Artemi Panarin.

Analysts and scouts have compared Silayev to Victor Hedman, a sure-fire Hall-of-Famer once he retires.

Zayne Parekh

Recently crowned Memorial Cup Champion, Zayne Parekh is compared to Erik Karlsson as an elite offensive defenseman. Last season, he scored more goals than any other rookie defenseman in OHL history. This year, he finished eleventh all-time in goals by an OHL defenseman.

Some have questioned Parekh’s defensive play. While there may be better defensive defensemen available with the sixth-overall pick, it’s unlikely to find someone as complete as Parekh.

Sam Dickinson

On the losing side of the Memorial Cup championship game was Sam Dickinson. Dickinson might accurately be referred to as a lite version of Silayev. He’s big — 6’3” — but not as big as the 6’7” Silayev. He scores a lot, but he’s not breaking records like Silayev. He’s defensively aware, but Silayev is better in his own end.

Aron Kiviharju

At the start of the year, Finnish defenseman Aron Kiviharju was seen as a top-five prospect in this draft. After knee surgery put him out for the majority of the season, his draft stock fell. Teams want to track their top prospects’ progression as much as possible.

If anyone knows Kiviharju, though, it’s Utah. Kiviharju’s father, Jani Kiviharju, works for the team as a scout. That being said, the team excludes Jani from every meeting where Aron is discussed to avoid bias.

At any rate, Utah will not make decisions based on what others expect them to do. Last year, again with the sixth-overall pick, they took Dmitry Simashev, whom many thought would be a mid-to-late pick in the first round.

Potential free-agent signings

Bill Armstrong has stated publicly that he doesn’t intend to sign many long-term deals at this time. He still believes his team is a few years away from being a Stanley Cup contender, so he doesn’t want contracts that will help them now but hurt them five years down the road.

That being said, he did say he’s willing to consider such contracts in the right circumstances. With that in mind, here’s a look at who they might consider bringing in.

Brett Pesce

If Utah is to sign a long-term deal or two, Brett Pesce could be one of the recipients.

Pesce, a top-four defenseman, has sought to divorce himself from the Carolina Hurricanes for some time now. There’s no question he’ll walk in free agency. The only question is whether he’ll go to Utah or somewhere else.

Utah has been rumored to have an interest in Pesce for some time now. It would likely take a seven-year deal, though, and he might become the highest-paid player on the team.

Mark Giordano

The Toronto Star reported last week that 40-year-old defenseman Mark Giordano is not done yet.

“Mark has made the decision that he’s playing for a few more years,” said his agent, Rich Winter. “He feels very confident. He’s been talking to a lot of people who tell him, ‘Don’t quit until they make you.’”

Mark Giordano could be a good fit for Utah Hockey Club.

Mark Giordano could be a good fit for Utah Hockey Club. Photo credit: Jenn G & Wikimedia Commons

Giordano spent the last two and a half seasons in a depth role with the Toronto Maple Leafs. Previous to that, he captained the Seattle Kraken until the trade deadline of their inaugural season. He also played 15 seasons with the Calgary Flames, eight of them as captain.

A league-minimum deal is likely for Giordano. Being a father of two young children and looking for somewhere he can play every game, Utah might be high on Giordano’s priority list.

And who knows? Maybe Giordano could become the fourth player to captain three different NHL teams.

Trevor Lewis

Utah has the chance to sign every active Utah-born NHL player. Here’s the list: Trevor Lewis. That’s it.

Lewis, a two-time Stanley Cup champion, is entering what could be his last season in the NHL. The chance to come home might entice him enough to sign with the club.

Trevor Lewis, a Utah native, might look to sign with Utah Hockey Club this summer.

Trevor Lewis, a Utah native, might look to sign with Utah Hockey Club this summer. Photo credit: mark6mauno & Wikimedia Commons

During the NHL lockout in 2012-13, Lewis played half a dozen games for the ECHL’s Utah Grizzlies, recording three goals and nine points in that stretch.

Tanner Pearson

Versatility is the name of Tanner Pearson’s game. The veteran left-winger has played up and down the lineup at each of his NHL stops. He won the Stanley Cup as a rookie in 2014, which teams typically value highly.

Pearson’s counting stats were unimpressive last season, but on a short-term, leagueminimum contract, he’d bring leadership to one of the youngest teams in the NHL.