Which of the heavily rumored names on the trade block did not move on day 1 of the draft? Should we expect any other activity Saturday?
BUFFALO – Night 1 of the 2016 NHL draft gave us a bit of everything, a blend of expectant nods and wide-eyed gasps.
We saw the predictable occur. Auston Matthews went first overall, Patrik Laine second. The Calgary Flames acquired a goaltender in Brian Elliott. The Chicago Blackhawks squeezed another forward out because of their salary-cap crunch in Andrew Shaw, dealt to the Montreal Canadiens. The Detroit Red Wings shipped Pavel Datsyuk’s $7.5-million cap hit to the one team we knew would take it: the Arizona Coyotes, striving for the salary floor.
We saw plenty of shocking moments, too. Pierre-Luc Dubois, the draft’s swing pick, usurped Jesse Puljujarvi, seemingly the consensus No. 3 overall selection. The Wings went off the board on Dennis Cholowski at No. 20 overall. We had him 37th in our 2016 Draft Preview, for what it’s worth.
But plenty of hyped storylines remain unresolved entering Day 2 of the draft. Let’s review a few.
1. MARC-ANDRE FLEURY AND BEN BISHOP HAVE NOT CHANGED ADDRESSES
It’s no secret the expansion draft has created urgency in the minds of GMs with that “good” problem of multiple starting-caliber NHL goaltenders. Validating that theory: the Anaheim Ducks shipped Frederik Andersen to the Toronto Maple Leafs during the week, and the Blues dealt Elliott to Calgary Friday. John Gibson and Jake Allen now get their shots to be bona fide NHL starters in net. Where does that leave Marc-Andre Fleury, pushed out of the crease by Matt Murray in Pittsburgh, and Ben Bishop, a year away from free agency with stud youngster Andrei Vasilevskiy behind him on the Tampa Bay depth chart?
There’s a strong case to make for Penguins GM Jim Rutherford and Lightning GM Steve Yzerman moving their veteran netminders. Yzerman spoke to reporters after the first round Friday and said no trade was close but acknowledged he’ll lose one of his goalies by the expansion draft if he doesn’t do something.
“I would prefer to get an asset than lose one of these guys for nothing,” Yzerman said.
The problem now is…where is the market, especially if we’re talking about Bishop, who has just one year left on his contract? The Leafs and Flames were the teams most obviously in need of goaltending help. They have their guys now. So who might pursue Bishop or Fleury?
We can’t count out the Dallas Stars just yet. General manager Jim Nill has to know Kari Lehtonen and Antti Niemi didn’t cut it as a tandem in 2015-16. The Stars are Stanley Cup contenders right now, so there’s cause to pursue a big-ticket veteran stopper. It would obviously mean sending one of Niemi or Lehtonen back the other way, though, and Nill would likely have to include one of his mid-round picks. It’s not an easy trade to pull off.
The more likely scenario at this point is the market dries up for blockbuster goalie trades until the 2017 deadline approaches.
2. THE EDMONTON OILERS HAVE NOT LANDED A VETERAN DEFENSEMAN
The P.K. Subban trade idea was far-fetched, and Montreal Canadiens GM Marc Bergevin made it clear he was not actively shopping his star blueliner, so it wasn’t a shock to see P.K. stay put Friday.
“Not once, not twice, but three times, I will not answer any more P.K. questions,” Bergevin said after the first round. “I think I made it pretty clear yesterday.”
The odds of Subban getting dealt remain slim. Still, when Puljujarvi slid into the Edmonton Oilers’ lap at fourth overall, how could we not speculate? Having the Puljujarvi draft slot upped Edmonton’s trade leverage in the moment, theoretically.
Alas, maybe Puljujarvi’s presence reversed Edmonton’s thinking. Maybe GM Peter Chiarelli realized Puljujarvi was too tempting to pass up. And this isn’t the NBA, where we see players like Andrew Wiggins drafted at the top of the first round and immediately flipped. So Puljujarvi should stay an Oiler.
Not that it means Chiarelli’s quest for veteran blueline help is over. Puljujarvi’s presence makes it more likely Edmonton shops one or even two players from the group including right wingers Jordan Eberle and Nail Yakupov and centers Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Leon Draisaitl. Taylor Hall is more of a long shot since the Oilers still need his ability on the left wing.
Might we see a deal on Saturday for one of the veteran blueliners widely believed to be available in a trade? Kevin Shattenkirk has been linked to the Oilers often, but he doesn’t make sense unless Chiarelli knows he can extend Shattenkirk, an unrestricted free agent in 2017, on a long-term deal.
What about Cam Fowler? The Anaheim Ducks have extended Sami Vatanen on a four-year deal, and restricted free agent Hampus Lindholm is a foundational piece on their blueline, so Fowler could be the odd man out. He has two seasons left at a largely stomachable $4-million cap hit. The Ducks want skill on their wings, albeit more so on the left side, but they’re a team to watch as a potential trade partner with the Oilers, not to mention the Buffalo Sabres, who passed on D-man Mikhail Sergachev to select a forward in Alexander Nylander eighth overall.
“There’s the shopping period now that will start tomorrow, so you get a sense of some free agents, and there’s some teams that want to move before the market starts,” Chiarelli said. “So you just continue your conversations, push it along with deals to see where maybe there’s more urgency on the other side. And if that’s the guy you want to get, you push that one.”
It’s a justifiably vague statement, but it makes sense. If teams like the Blues and Ducks want to free up some money in a hurry, maybe there’s more urgency to talk trades involving Shattenkirk or Fowler before the draft finishes.
3. SCOTT HARTNELL REMAINS A COLUMBUS BLUE JACKET
Fact: Jackets left winger Hartnell, under contract three more seasons at $4.75 million per, agreed to waive his no-trade clause earlier this month. Fact: GM Jarmo Kekalainen refused to discuss any nibbles he may or may not have received from any potential buyers Friday. He was positively prickly when asked about it. Still, maybe that’s a sign my question hit the right nerve. Hartnell remains a name to watch Saturday. At 34 and with a big price tag, he’s the type of player who could move for an early mid-round pick. Stay tuned.
Matt Larkin is a writer and editor at The Hockey News and a regular contributor to the thn.com Post-To-Post blog. For more great profiles, news and views from the world of hockey, subscribe to The Hockey News magazine. Follow Matt Larkin on Twitter at @THNMattLarkin