BOSTON - The Edmonton Oilers and Boston Bruins, who own the top two picks in this weekend's NHL draft, have done all they can to evaluate top prospects Taylor Hall and Tyler Seguin.
Now the teams have to figure each other out.
The Oilers aren't saying which way they are leaning, hoping to extract some concessions from the Bruins in a trade that would allow Edmonton to still draft the player it wants at No. 1 overall. The Bruins insist that they will be happy at No. 2 with whichever skater the Oilers don't choose.
"Right now, as of today, we have one guy over the other. But it's very close," Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli said Monday in a conference call with reporters. "Nothing is really imminent now. There's no pressure. There's really no need to talk in detail right now."
Chiarelli said he spoke again with Oilers counterpart Steve Tambellini over the weekend, but until the deadline of the draft looms larger the conversations don't seem to be zeroing in on a deal.
"We both don't want to play any cards to each other right now, if we have any to play," Chiarelli said. "I generally believe that Steve is of the same opinion of these player as me. I think we're both very noncommittal, and I know we are when we talk."
Hall and Seguin, who tied for the Ontario Hockey League scoring lead, are the consensus top two picks in the draft, but there's little to separate them. Seguin was the league MVP; Hall is the only player in the 92-year history of the Memorial Cup to win the tournament MVP in back-to-back years.
The Bruins are believed to covet Hall, a left wing who is represented by Boston legend Bobby Orr and would love to follow in his agent's footsteps. They would consider giving Edmonton something in exchange for allowing Hall to slip to second, but neither team will admit to a strong enough preference for them to agree on a price.
"Neither of us is really committed to moving forward on that type of discussion," Chiarelli said. "Right now, if the draft was tonight, I'd say there would be no deal."
That would be a shame, according to no less of an authority than Orr himself.
"You've got to take the best player," Orr said this month at a fundraiser for the New England Sports Museum. After a pause, he added: "Hall is the best player, although I do represent him. I would obviously love to see him in Boston, but I don't think that's going to happen. I don't think anybody knows yet what's going to happen. Edmonton's not saying. It would have to be a great deal."
Chiarelli spent some time this weekend with Hall's family, and he said he's also talked to GMs who've been in a similar spot. He came away from the discussions convinced that "we're in a good spot."
But that's what you'd expect him to say.
"We've been going through this with a fine-toothed comb," Chiarelli said. "There's differences in their game, there's subtle differences in their personality. But they're really close."
Chiarelli said the Bruins would not trade out of the No. 2 spot—unless it was to move up. But the Bruins also have the No. 15 selection and two second rounders, and those could be on the table.
"It also gives us the option to look at trades," he said. "We want to improve our team now, and we want to improve our team in the short term and the long term."