OTTAWA – The Ottawa Senators hosted the NHL’s entry draft but it was three other Canadian teams that stole the show Friday.
The Calgary Flames, Toronto Maple Leafs and Montreal Canadiens were busy on the trade front.
The Flames made a pair of significant trades, acquiring winger Mike Cammalleri from the Los Angeles Kings and also shipping winger Alex Tanguay to the Canadiens.
“It’s very simple – if Alex is going out, you have to be able to cover that coming back the other way and you’re probably not going to be able to do it through free agency so we had to find a way in the first round to do it,” said Flames GM Darryl Sutter.
The Habs made bigger news for a player they still don’t have. The Maple Leafs created quite a stir when they gave the Canadiens the green light to speak with Mats Sundin, who is set to become an unrestricted free agent on July 1.
“We have given Montreal the exclusive rights to talk to him up until 12 noon on July 1 when he becomes a free agent,” said Leafs GM Cliff Fletcher. “I have nothing to say about it at all. That’s the only thing I’ll say. It’s not in my best interest to say anything else, it’s not in Montreal’s best interest and not in Mats’ best interest.”
Fletcher also offered Sundin, 37, a one-year contract worth around US$7 million, a deal that includes a no-movement clause. So until July 1, Sundin has two choices, sign with the Habs or sign with the Leafs.
“At this point Mats still hasn’t decided if he wants to play, let alone where,” said J.P. Barry of CAA Sports, Sundin’s agent. “But obviously the Leafs are trying to facilitate a decision.”
The Habs hope they can convince Sundin they’re the team for him.
“He would have been on our list on July 1,” said Montreal GM Bob Gainey. “So it was a query made by us. We were able to work out an agreement with Toronto that gives us access to Mats. From our point of view, we’ll try to show him why Montreal would be a good place for him.”
The Leafs, a day after acquiring Jamal Mayers from St. Louis, also made another move – trading up to the fifth overall spot to take highly touted defenceman Luke Schenn. The New York Islanders got Toronto’s seventh overall pick in exchange – which they later dealt to Nashville – plus two other lower picks.
The Florida Panthers finally traded star centre Olli Jokinen, shipping him off to the Phoenix Coyotes for defencemen Nick Boynton and Keith Ballard and a second-round draft pick on Friday. Jokinen wanted out and the Panthers were happy to accommodate him. He will earn $5.25 million next season and $5.5 million in 2009-10.
Ballard, 25, had six goals and 15 assists in 82 games for the Coyotes last season. He’s in the final year of a deal that will pay him $2.5 million.
Boynton, 29, scored three goals and added nine assists and 125 penalty minutes in 79 games. He’ll make $2.95 million in 2008-09, the final year of his deal.
The Columbus Blue Jackets got into the act as well, acquiring winger R.J. Umberger and a fourth-round pick from the Philadelphia Flyers for the 19th overall pick – used to select Lethbridge Hurricanes defenceman Luca Sbisa – and a third-round pick. The Flyers likely needed to create salary cap room to re-sign forward Jeff Carter. Umberger is a restricted free agent July 1.
The host Senators did get into the dealing, trading up to get the 15th pick and sending Nashville the 18th pick and a third-round pick in 2009. The Senators used the pick to select Swedish defenceman Erik Karlsson. The Predators took Tri-City Americans goaltender Chet Pickard with the No. 18 pick.
The Senators also signed centre Chris Kelly to an $8.5-million, four-year contract extension.
Calgary’s deal with Cammalleri involved three teams. The Flames sent their first-round pick, 17th overall, to the Los Angeles Kings for Cammalleri. Then the Kings then sent the 17th and 28th overall picks to Anaheim for the Ducks’ 12th overall selection. The Ducks turned around and swapped the No. 28 pick to Phoenix for a pair of second-round picks.
Los Angeles took Kelowna Rockets defenceman Tyler Myers with the 12th pick, while the Ducks snagged American blue-liner Jake Gardiner 17th overall and Phoenix selected Russian forward Viktor Tikhonov with the No. 28 pick.
Cammalleri, who turned 26 last week, had 19 goals and 28 assists in 63 games last season.
“I am thrilled to becoming to Calgary,” Cammalleri told Rogers Sportsnet. “I have always wanted to play in Canada. Now I get to live it.
“I look forward to playing in the Saddledome (in front of) the Flames fans. I know some of the players on the Flames and look forward to working with them to bring the Cup to Calgary.”
The Flames dealt Tanguay to the Canadiens, along with their fifth-round pick in this year’s draft, for Montreal’s first-round selection, 25th overall, and a second-round pick in the 2009 draft. Calgary used the pick to select towering Windsor Spitfires centre Greg Nemisz.
Tanguay, 28, had 18 goals and 40 assists in 78 games last season but apparently wasn’t happy playing for head coach Mike Keenan. He has one year left on his deal next season at $5.375 million.
“Alex is a great guy,” said Sutter. “Him and I had a great relationship. But sometimes guys don’t fit in some situations. He handled himself very well and put up good numbers for us. He didn’t have as great a year this year as he’d liked, but he’s a guy who’s capable of putting up 100 points so that’s why we had to get that first-round pick for him.”
The Habs were more than happy to give up the pick in exchange for a player of Tanguay’s calibre.
“We have some young players that have gained experience and we add a player with experience that should play with us for a number of years,” said Gainey, hinting that he’d like to sign Tanguay to an extension.
“It’s time for our team to make these kinds of moves. We want to be able to play with the best.”
Also Friday, the Nashville Predators shipped goaltender Chris Mason to the St. Louis Blues for a fourth-round pick. Mason, 32, played in a career-high 51 games for the Predators last season, posting a 2.90 goals-against average and a .898 save percentage.
The Senators made some news earlier Friday, putting Ray Emery on waivers in what is the first step towards cutting ties with the controversial goalie.
“I’ve attempted to trade him,” said Senators GM Bryan Murray. “Like I said at the end of the season, it’s an opportunity for us to move on and him to move on. By not being able to trade him I put him on waivers with the purpose of buying him out.
“You never like to do that, it’s really a shame,” added Murray. “Ray Emery is a good goaltender. I think starting over again and getting his career going again, and he’ll be fine.”
Meanwhile, the Anaheim Ducks informed star defenceman Scott Niedermayer that he could wait until Monday before deciding his playing future. Niedermayer’s family celebrated the arrival of their fourth child Friday, the day the Ducks had hoped to find out whether he will return and honour the final year of a contract that pays him $6.75 million.
“His wife was due today and it seems crazy to insist on a Friday deadline when he’s got more important things to worry about,” said Ducks GM Brian Burke. “So I told him Monday is fine.”