LOS ANGELES, Calif. – The NHL draft wrapped up with the final six rounds Saturday during a weekend with plenty of trade speculation, but few completed deals.
Minnesota State centre Tyler Pitlick was the first pick of the second round by the Edmonton Oilers, who took Taylor Hall with the No. 1 overall selection on Friday night.
The final pick in the first draft held in California was Zach Trotman, a Lake Superior State defenceman taken 210th by the Boston Bruins. The draft included 99 Canadians and 59 Americans, according to the NHL.
Despite plenty of the trade speculation accompanying every draft, the biggest deal was completed Friday when Vancouver acquired defenceman Keith Ballard from Florida in a four-player swap including one draft pick.
Pittsburgh acquired defenceman Dan Hamhuis’ rights from Philadelphia for a third-round pick on Friday night, yet even Penguins general manager Ray Shero wasn’t surprised to see so few deals of significance.
“I’m not sure the exact reason, but it’s all salary cap-based,” Shero said. “A lot of teams didn’t want to give up their first-round picks to make a deal happen.”
Shero doesn’t know whether he can sign Hamhuis before free agency begins on July 1. Nashville traded the veteran defenceman’s rights to the Flyers last week, but Philly couldn’t make a deal.
“I expect I’ll talk to (Hamhuis) today,” said Shero, who was with the Predators when they drafted the defenceman. “We’ll say hello and see whether there’s a fit there. It was worth the risk, and if it’s not a fit, it’s not a fit. I don’t have reason to be optimistic or pessimistic, and that’s OK.”
Shero denied the Penguins had made the deal to lessen the damage of possibly losing star defenceman Sergei Gonchar, who also can be an unrestricted free agent next week.
“I talked to Sergei today, just to let him know where we stand,” Shero said. “If that doesn’t work, we’re on to Option Two and Three.”
Other news trickled out during the weekend, some in the form of rumours. Both San Jose GM Doug Wilson and Philadelphia GM Paul Holmgren wouldn’t confirm or deny talks about trading the rights to longtime Sharks goalie Evgeni Nabokov, who won’t be re-signed by San Jose.
Rangers president and GM Glen Sather acknowledged there’s a big gap in negotiations between the club and defenceman Marc Staal on a contract extension, while the Ottawa Senators said they couldn’t find a taker for disgruntled centre Jason Spezza, who will make US$33 million over the next five years.
Chicago dangled right wing Kris Versteeg, and Toronto listened to multiple offers for defenceman Tomas Kaberle, but neither club found a deal it liked.
Ballard’s departure from the Canucks was just the start of new Florida GM Dale Tallon’s aggressive makeover of the woeful Panthers.
The architect of the Stanley Cup champion Blackhawks added 13 players in the Panthers’ draft, headlined by Erik Gudbranson, the hard-hitting defenceman from Kingston taken third overall. Florida’s dealmaking resulted in three first-round picks, choosing American centre Nick Bjugstad with the 19th pick after a trade with the Los Angeles Kings, and adding Moose Jaw centre Quinton Howden with the 25th pick acquired from Vancouver.
In the sixth round, Philadelphia drafted defenceman Nick Luukko, the son of their chief operating officer, Peter Luukko.
“I really wasn’t sure that I was going to get drafted at all,” said Nick Luukko, who was watching the U.S. World Cup match on his computer when he saw his name on the NHL’s website. “To get drafted by the Flyers was a huge shocker to me, especially when my dad told me that they wouldn’t draft me.”
Sweden produced 20 NHL draftees, while Russia had eight and Finland had seven. After the New York Islanders selected Nino Niederreiter fifth overall, fellow Swiss prospect Mauro Jorg was drafted 199 picks later in the seventh round by the New Jersey Devils.