The NHL Draft is always an interesting moment for General Managers around the league and this year was no different. Trades, picks, jousting for position, GMs took advantage of their proximity with their peers to pursue their plan for the upcoming NHL season.
PENTICTON, BC. – The morning started with a bang with numerous trades and the day went on from there. Some teams seem to be clear winners, most are in a similar position and one team raised the ire of its fan base with some questionable moves.
A total of 17 trades have been agreed upon since June 25th and while some of them have been picks for picks, 14 involved NHL players. Seven goaltenders will be wearing a new uniform after those trades were completed. Ottawa sent Robin Lehner along with David Legwand to Buffalo for the 21st overall pick; Los Angeles shipped Martin Jones, the 13th overall pick and defenseman Colin Miller to the Boston Bruins for Milan Lucic; Vancouver sent Eddie Lack packing to Carolina for a couple of late picks; To make room for him, the Canes sent Anton Khudobin to Anaheim and got James Wisniewski; The Sharks sent the rights to Antti Niemi to Dallas for a late pick; The Oilers got Cam Talbot from the Rangers, who then traded for Chicago’s Antti Raanta.
The most active teams have been Toronto, Boston, Anaheim and the New York Rangers with three trades each. Colorado, Buffalo, Edmonton, Philadelphia, Carolina and the New York Islanders all completed two transactions so far.
There are three teams who have significantly improved this weekend and they should be fun to watch this upcoming season. They’ve accomplished that by trading in a position of strength and filling some holes in their line-up.
1. Buffalo Sabres
As if picking second overall and getting young Phenom Jack Eichel wasn’t enough, Tim Murray showed that the Sabres don’t intend of taking the route of the Edmonton Oilers to rebuild by staying in the basement for multiple seasons. First, he addressed a concern in goal by acquiring Robin Lehner from the Ottawa Senators. He also received some forward veteran depth in David Legwand in that trade. He followed that up with an even bigger trade, when he acquired 24 year old Ryan O’Reilly and rugged forward Jamie McGinn from the Colorado Avalanche for picks and prospects. Add to that Evander Kane from last year’s trade who has yet to play a game for the team and you have a very solid group of forwards in Buffalo, and Sam Reinhart is also expecting to make the team as a rookie.
2. Edmonton Oilers
For the first time in years, the Oilers seem to have a sense of direction, a plan to finally bringing the team over the ump and not being the laughing stock of the NHL. The hiring of former Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli has a lot to do with it and drafting Connor McDavid should help any team. Chiarelli however has recognized that the team needs help in goal and on defense and he’s worked to fill those needs. First, he acquired blue chip prospect defenseman Griffin Reinhart from the New York Islanders in exchange for a couple of draft picks. The 21 year old Reinhart is ready to make the step to the NHL and he is familiar with the City of Edmonton, having played junior for the Oil Kings. Add to that the fact that Darnell Nurse should make the Oilers next year, it’s an improved (although inexperienced) defense. The Oilers also hope to have found a solution to their problem in goal when they acquired Cam Talbot from the New York Rangers. The team already counts a lot of young offensive talent up front and the potential of adding Leon Draisaitl to their line-up, everyone expects Chiarelli to sacrifice some offensive youth for a quality defenseman.
3. Calgary Flames
The Flames only completed one trade, but it is one of huge significance. In a very unexpected move, they somehow convinced the Boston Bruins to trade pending RFA Dougie Hamilton to them for three draft picks. The 22 year old defenseman was first on the Bruins on offense with 10 goals and 42 points and while they had to sacrifice a few potentially good picks, the Flames didn’t give up a roster player and they got a young stud at their blue line to add to a defensive core which includes the likes of Mark Giordano, Dennis Wideman, T.J. Brodie, Kris Russell and Deryk Engelland. Jack Adams Trophy winner Bob Hartley should be pleased of being able to count on what seems to be one of the best defense in the entire NHL.
While he has been there in other roles in the past, it was newly appointed GM Don Sweeney’s first kick at the can as the main guy at this year’s draft and he tried to make a statement. Unfortunately for him, that statement has been one of surprise from everyone around the league and of fury by its own fan base. With his team tight against the cap, he didn’t start badly though when he traded the rights to centre Carl Soderberg to the Avalanche for a late pick.
Things when downhill in a hurry from then on however. In a shocking move, Sweeney then traded 22 year old Dougie Hamilton, thought to be the future of the team on defense, for the 15th overall pick and two second round picks. As if trading Hamilton wasn’t surprising enough, not getting a good young roster player in return was astonishing to say the least. He followed that up by trading fan favourite Milan Lucic to the LA Kings in exchange for their backup goalie Martin Jones, defenseman Colin Miller and the 13th overall pick.
If we look at his weekend, Sweeney traded the third, fourth and sixth best points getters of the team and got some picks, a defenseman and a backup goalie to show for. Many thought that he’d try to package some draft picks for help on offense but he did not succeed in doing that and for a team who struggled to score goals, it just got worse.
Marc Bergevin has been spotted talking on the phone quite a bit this weekend but no trade have yet to be consumed by the Canadiens’ GM. This doesn’t mean that none will be completed by July however, as teams are still very looking to make moves. The Chicago Blackhawks are still wanting to unload some cap space, the Edmonton Oilers are said to be looking for help on defense by sacrificing some offensive talent, and there are free agents who will become available come July 1st.
An interesting quote by Trevor Timmins this weekend, in case you missed it, talking about the team’s second pick Lukas Vejdemo: “Our Swedish scout was never so excited about a pick like this since Lidstrom….he was scouting in Detroit then.” Let’s not get carried away with this quote, as he makes it to the NHL, a prospect is just that, a prospect. But here’s hoping that this Swedish scout is right.
Reading Twitter this weekend was fun though during the last few days. It was interesting to read Habs’ fans’ frustration at the fact that they only had five picks in this draft, just like it was interesting to read that some felt like Bergevin missed the boat at last year’s trade deadline by not trading prospects and picks to get offensive help. Damned if you do, damned if you don’t, I guess. Personally, I preach patience. Bergevin is building a team along the lines of the Chicago Blackhawks, a competitive team who will have a chance to win the Cup year after year. He isn’t willing to gamble everything for a year or two, the way the Pittsburgh Penguins have done.
Go Habs Go!!!