PITTSBURGH, Pa. – The Edmonton Oilers fielded more calls Thursday about their first overall pick in the NHL draft, while Columbus talked of sticking with the second selection or moving down.
Oilers GM Steve Tambellini’s socks had not been blown off by the time he met the media the day before Friday’s draft.
“It would have to be something significant … that makes sense for me to give up the No. 1 pick,” said Tambellini.
“Winning the lottery puts us in another spot for an incredible piece that will bring us forward. And I’m very comfortable, if it stays as is, we’re going to make our pick.”
The offers he had received were “obviously not good enough to make me really think about discussing with our staff,” he said.
“It may not come,” he added. “And I’m totally fine with that. We have an asset coming to this organization to join (Ryan) Nugent-Hopkins, (Taylor) Hall, (Jordan) Eberle, (Magnus) Paajarvi and (Jeff) Petry and some of the young D (defencemen) that are coming also. It’s an exciting time.”
Tambellini was cagey about whether the Oilers had decided on who that might be. All he would say is his scouting braintrust has been “very consistent with their direction.”
Friday’s draft is top-heavy in defencemen with Russian Nail Yakupov offering some flash among some promising European forwards available. There are also some intriguing goaltenders.
“It’s one of those years where you’re seeing European forwards jump to the front of the line,” said Dave Nonis, Toronto’s senior vice-president of hockey operations. “There are some pretty good Canadian defencemen there.”
Yakupov was one of several top prospects who met the media earlier in the day on a riverboat cruise.
“I think everyone wants to be first,” the 18-year-old Sarnia Sting winger said of being the No. 1 pick. “You want to be first too. … First is first.”
Not lacking in confidence, he declared he is ready to play in the NHL.
Montreal picks third Friday night, followed by the Islanders and Toronto. Winnipeg goes ninth, Calgary 14th, Ottawa 15th and Vancouver 26th.
While teams ponder which prospects to pick, several established names loom in the backdrop with the Columbus Blue Jackets looking to work out a deal for star forward Rick Nash and the Vancouver Canucks hoping to find a home for goalie Roberto Luongo with the rise of Cory Schneider.
“Mike (GM Mike Gillis) has entertained calls about both our goaltenders,” said Canucks assistant GM Laurence Gilman, who said retaining both goalies was not out of the question.
Columbus GM Scott Howson met with Nash’s agent, Joe Resnick, on Friday.
“It was a good meeting, lasted almost an hour and we exchanged a lot of ideas,” Howson said.
Pressed on whether anything was close, he said: “No.” But Howson did not rule out movement this weekend.
“A lot of things can happen between now and when the draft is over. I’m not counting on anything. Obviously our goal is to do what’s best for our hockey club and that’s how we’ll keep operating.”
He declined to speak about Nash’s list of preferred destinations.
Howson did say he is not interested in trying to get the No 1. pick.
“We’re going to stay at (No.) 2 or move back,” he said.
“There’s a few possibilities in terms of us moving back,” he added. “So we’re going to look at that and see if that’s something we want to do. If we stick at 2, we’re pretty confident in the player we’re going to take.”
Howson said the players his team has rated No. 1 and 2 are “pretty close. And we’d be delighted to get either one of them.”
Tambellini also predicted some teams drafting lower in the first round might move down to get multiple picks.
Picking 15th, Ottawa assistant GM Tim Murray said the Sens are “at the mercy of 14 other teams … You try to come up with two or three names you have a good chance to get.”
As for the Canucks, Gilman said his franchise has opted for the best player available in the opening rounds of recent drafts before turning to positional needs.
Nonis described the trade chatter as “very quiet” for his team.
“If we could move up at a reasonable price, it would be something to consider. But we think we’ll get a pretty good player at 5.”
He downplayed any concern in goal.
“Our goaltending position is no different than anything else. If we can upgrade it, we’re going to. If we can’t, we’re going to keep the goalies we have and we’ll continue to look for upgrades throughout the summer.”