The Toronto Maple Leafs winning the 2016 NHL Draft Lottery generated considerable excitement among their long-suffering fans. It's also sparked speculation over what the Leafs might do with that pick.
It's assumed the Leafs will retain it and select American center Auston Matthews first overall at next month's draft. TSN's Frank Seravalli doesn't expect the Leafs will shop the pick in hopes of landing a return than can accelerate their rebuilding process. He does anticipate some teams might at least inquire into the possibility.
Throughout this season, some in the media floated the notion of the Arizona Coyotes pursuing the top pick if they didn't win the draft lottery in order to select local boy Mattews. Coyotes CEO Anthony LeBlanc last month dismissed talk of his club offering up top defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson in an effort to land that pick.
The Coyotes hold the seventh-overall pick. Seravalli wonders if the Leafs would be tempted if the Coyotes offered up top prospect (and Mississauga native) Dylan Strome, both of their first-round selections in this year's draft (they also have the New York Rangers' pick) and another asset.
The Leafs could listen to offers, but in all likelihood they'll retain that pick. In recent years, teams with the first-overall selection retains them.
The last time a top pick got traded was in 2003, when the Florida Panthers dealt it and a third-rounder to the Pittsburgh Penguins for the third-overall selection, a second-rounder and Mikael Samuelsson. The Penguins selected franchise goalie Marc-Andre Fleury, who backstopped them to a Stanley Cup in 2009. The Panthers selected Nathan Horton, who went on to bigger things with the Boston Bruins.
Seravalli and colleague Bob McKenzie believe the Leafs winning the draft lottery won't affect their efforts to pursue Tampa Bay Lightning center Steven Stamkos if he hits the open market on July 1.
The Edmonton Oilers, meanwhile, dropped to fourth overall in the order. It's assumed they'll shop that pick next month at the draft. David Staples of the Edmonton Journals cites Oilers GM Peter Chiarelli telling CHED radio's Reid Wilkins there's “a real, legitimate chance” he'll deal it to improve the team. Given the Oilers' weakness on the blueline, it doesn't take a clairvoyant to figure out what he'll seek in return.
Staples' colleague Jonathan Willis suggests the rebuilding Carolina Hurricanes could be a trade partner, as they're carrying four defensemen with right-handed shots. He notes CHED's Bob Stauffer brought up Hurricanes rearguard Justin Faulk as a possible target.
Unlike the Oilers, the Hurricanes have depth on defense but lack scoring punch at forward. While they could move one of their blueliners for a scoring forward, they wont part with Faulk. He's among the league's best defenders and carries a very affordable salary-cap hit of $4.833-million annually through 2019-20. That's an absolute bargain for the now cost-conscious 'Canes.
The Edmonton Sun's Terry Jones believes losing out on the top pick increases the likelihood Chiarelli will move a young core forward like Taylor Hall or Jordan Eberle to land a top-pairing defenseman. Seravalli wonders if the New York Islanders might be interested in Edmonton's fourth pick in exchange for defenseman Travis Hamonic, who requested a trade to a Western-Canadian team last summer for family reasons.
The idea of an Eberle-for-Hamonic swap was floated several times in the rumor mill, especially with Isles right winger Kyle Okposo likely to depart this summer via free agency. Islanders GM Garth Snow, however, said he wants a comparable defenseman in exchange for Hamonic. A high draft pick probably won't tempt him unless it's packaged with a good blueliner. Unlike previous years, Snow is no longer building for the long term. He wants returns that can have an immediate effect upon his roster.
Rumor Roundup appears regularly only on thehockeynews.com. Lyle Richardson has been an NHL commentator since 1998 on his website, spectorshockey.net, and is a contributing writer for Eishockey News and The Guardian (P.E.I.).
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