NEWARK, N.J. – Having been around the block once or twice in his 25 seasons as the New Jersey Devils’ general manager, not much surprises Lou Lamoriello. That includes being able to acquire goaltender Cory Schneider from the Vancouver Canucks at the NHL draft.
What surprised a lot of his colleagues was that not much trade action followed that deal. There was plenty of chatter, but not a whole of moves got made.
“My initial thought is that you generally default to no deal rather than a bad deal,” said Edmonton Oilers general manager Craig MacTavish, who had numerous conversations with the Philadelphia Flyers’ Paul Holmgren. “I know there’s going to be more deals now that you can take back a little bit of salary. We’re hopeful that we can get some things done but maybe not as optimistic.”
Sunday’s draft was expected to include a flurry of activity due in part to the salary cap dropping and teams wanting to make a variety of changes. The Stanley Cup-champion Chicago Blackhawks were the busiest team, sending right-winger Michael Frolik to the Winnipeg Jets and centre David Bolland to the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Tyler Kennedy went from the Pittsburgh Penguins to the San Jose Sharks, Cal Clutterbuck went from the Minnesota Wild to the New York Islanders for Nino Niederreiter, and Jamie McBain went from the Carolina Hurricanes to the Buffalo Sabres for Andrej Sekera.
That’s not a quiet day, but it hardly counts as a flurry. MacTavish joked that he and his colleagues were being “somewhat unreasonable.”
Forget even about established players. Only four first-round picks changed hands.
“As happens very often, and in particular the first round, if you have a decent position you’re very reluctant to give that position up,” Ottawa Senators GM Bryan Murray said. “The price was quite substantial. I had a couple offers to move down as the draft was going on. We felt there was a player there that we didn’t want to pass on, so we didn’t move backwards. It’s totally understood it’s tough to move.”
With three first-rounders at his disposal, Calgary Flames GM Jay Feaster was involved in plenty of talks. It wasn’t in his best interest to make a major trade, and he wasn’t alone.
“There were a lot of deals that could’ve been done,” Feaster said. “There were players in play. There were a lot of things that we had been in on and discussions that we had, and so we knew what was happening around us.”
Not much happened until commissioner Gary Bettman announced that the Devils had sent the No. 9 pick to the Canucks for Schneider. But that move was a long time coming.
“For the last year we’ve explored every option that we could possibly have, and things were heating up this week and we just felt we couldn’t go any longer with the situation we were in,” Canucks GM Mike Gillis said. “For our organization and for our fans and for all of our sponsors we had to do something to get this situation resolved, and this is the best opportunity we had.”
It seemed to be the opportunity everyone around the league had been waiting for. But 11 of the 16 trades included just picks.
The Jets inquired about Bolland, who was traded less than a week after he scored the Cup-winning goal, but the Leafs addressed a need down the middle. Toronto GM Dave Nonis insisted he wouldn’t make change for the sake of it and held to that.
But that doesn’t mean Nonis or his fellow general managers expect a semi-quiet draft day to set the trend for the summer as there are more needs that need to be filled.
“It’s a start,” he said. “We think there’s some more things that we hope to do. Whether we can accomplish those between now and September remains to be seen, but we’re going to try to remain active and see if there’s more changes we can make.”