No Blue Light Specials on Blueliners

Things are fairly quiet here in Ottawa, for the time being anyway. Round 1 of the 2008 NHL Entry Draft takes place here tomorrow, with rounds 2-7 following on Friday. Talent-wise, it’s one of the deepest drafts of recent vintage. It’s a banner year for defensemen and for smallish but skilled forwards. As a result, plenty of teams are at least intrigued by the possibility of trying to move up for a better shot at one of the elite players.

“I think it’s going to be active,” said Chicago Blackhawks general manager Dale Tallon in today’s Suburban Chicago Daily Herald. “A lot of teams are looking to move.”

For every team that wants to move up, there needs to be a team that’s willing to move down. And then the two clubs must agree on a price. To my way of thinking, that price could be much higher this year than it has been in recent years.

With two picks (sixth and 19th) in the first round, the Columbus Blue Jackets are mentioned as a team that might be willing to drop back. So are the St. Louis Blues, who hold the fourth, 33rd and 34th picks. But both the Blues and the Blue Jackets are likely to want another pick somewhere in the top 30-35, and an NHL player. So teams wanting to move into the top 10 for a crack at an elite prospect will likely need enough depth that they can part with an NHL regular to make it happen.

With so many top defensemen in this year’s draft (as many as 14-16 blueliners could be drafted in the first round alone), there will be a lot of interest in moving up for a crack at the likes of defensemen Drew Doughty, Zack Bogosian, Luke Schenn, Nick Pietrangelo, Tyler Myers and perhaps a few others.

My thinking is that it’s pretty hard to make a trade for an established NHL defenseman. And it’s usually costly to sign an established top four defenseman in the summer free agency market. So it would seem like drafting and developing defensemen on your own would be the best and most economical way to go about it in this salary cap era. 

Carolina Hurricanes general manager Jim Rutherford has a bit of a different view. As my friend Luke DeCock writes in today’s Raleigh News Observer, Rutherford’s position a few months ago was that the Canes were unlikely to try to make a deal to move up or a crack at one of the aforementioned defensemen because the GM believed that by the time a kid defenseman has developed into a legit NHL blueliner, he’s ready to bolt via free agency.

There is some truth to that view. It takes longer for defensemen to develop as a rule, and few are able to play right away without some minor league seasoning. Rutherford is not looking to move up because of the high cost of doing so, but he seemingly has warmed to the possibility of taking a defenseman with the NO. 14 overall choice.

When the draft commences tomorrow night, the Caps will hold the 23rd choice in the first round, and will also have picks 54, 57 and 58 in the second round. Washington could package a player and the 23rd pick to move up, or could package a player and a couple of those second-rounders to obtain an additional first-round choice. It’s also entirely possible that the Caps will make their first pick at No. 23. Several good defensemen and forwards figure to be available in that slot at that time.

One player who may not be available at No. 23 is goaltender Chet Pickard, widely considered the top goaltending prospect in this draft. There are those who believe that if Pickard is on the board at 23, Washington should grab him, even though the Caps picked two goaltenders (Simeon Varlamov and Michal Neuvirth) in the top 34 of the 2006 NHL Entry Draft.

For what it’s worth, I talked with one veteran NHL scout yesterday who believes that Pickard is better than his former teammate with the Tri-City Americans, Montreal’s Carey Price.

Finally, some rumors are floating about regarding a possible blockbuster swap that would have the Pens dealing Evgeni Malkin to Los Angeles for the No. 2 overall pick, center Mike Cammalleri and more. I don’t know how much truth there is to those rumors, but I will say that I believe Pens GM Ray Shero is as bold and bright a thinker as there is in the game. I will guarantee that Shero has looked at his salary cap situation from every angle and will do whatever is necessary to keep as much of his roster together as he can.

Moving Malkin might seem silly on the surface, but if it frees up enough money to re-sign Marian Hossa and maybe Ryan Malone, AND it brings in Nikita Filatov (with the No. 2 pick), Cammalleri and another spare part or pick or two, it may actually make the Pens better. And isn’t that the idea behind making trades? 

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7 Comments on “No Blue Light Specials on Blueliners”

  1. TG Says:

    If I’m the Kings, I make that trade in a heartbeat. In fact, I’m begging Pittsburgh not to hang up the phone as I write up the documents and fax it back to them. How can LA NOT make that trade?

  2. DMG Says:

    While I don’t think it’s all that likely, I’d love to see the Capitals trade up and take one of the “Big Four” defensemen: a defensive core of Green, Alzner, Morrisonn and one of those guys looks pretty good to me.

  3. Gozling Says:

    Yeah that looks awfully good for the Pens if they do trade Malkin. They can’t possibly pay all those young guys and still have a viable team in a few years. Just look at the Lightning, they have all their money tied up in a couple of guys and haven’t looked good since. Trade him while you can and get good value (especially the #2 pick (cheap entry level contract probably to play right away) and a NHL center not to mention whatever other picks you can get from LA) before you sign him to a long term high priced contract and can’t get out from under it.

  4. Mike L Says:

    The good news is the Caps don’t need to add any more defensemen at this point, and in fact they are in a position to draft a player who doesn’t have to play right away. There is a core of young defensemen on the team now: Green, Morrisonn, Schultz, Alzner, Lepisto who all may be here for awhile. When the Caps pick comes up at #23 (if they don’t move up), they can pick the best player available, regardless of position.

    I have full confidence in the scouting organization in that they will get the right players here to DC.

  5. Mike L Says:

    The way the NHL is shaping up, it may end up being like the NBA with the salary cap and how you have slots for the various players on the team. First you have the superstar slot (Ovechkin, Crosby, etc.) and then you have your stars, then depth guys and finally the fringe players.

    The problem with Malkin in LA isn’t that Malkin won’t help LA, he’d help any of the teams in the league a lot. The issue is that LA has their own superstar in Anze Kopitar. He’s not better than Malkin, but it would put the Kings in a position where they have to sign two players to top dollar contracts (much like the position the Pens are in now). Koptiar is one of the 10 best players in the league under the age of 25 and no one knows about him because he plays on a bad team in a city where hockey is an afterhought…

    Sounds sort of familar from about a year ago….hmmm…

  6. Jeremy Says:

    Breaking News! The Caps sign Oskar Osala to a three-year entry-level contract!

  7. Dan, Jr. Says:

    On the subject of Malkin’s future is reporting Russian teams want him back home.

    According to a report in the Toronto Star, the Russian teams are prepared to offer the Russian-born Malkin a contract that would make him the highest-paid hockey player in the world. The multi-year contract would be worth at least $12.5 million tax free per season, or the equivalent of $15 million per year in the NHL.

    I doubt he wants to leave the NHL, but who knows?

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