Around the Circuit
A quick scan of the league on draft day morning:
Anaheim –– Ducks GM Brian Burke has given defenseman Scott Niedermayer until July 1 to decide whether he is playing another season or hanging up the skates. Ditto for winger Teemu Selanne. Holding the No. 12 pick in the draft, Burke has interest in moving into the top seven, and believes he could move down a few slots and still get a good player. He is likely to make the pick at 12.
Atlanta — Still no firm word on whether or not Calder Cup champion coach John Anderson is going to be the next coach of the Thrashers. Atlanta GM Don Waddell is virtually certain to grab either Zach Bogosian or Drew Doughty with the first of the team’s two first-round choices (third overall). Waddell may entertain offers for the second of those choices, the 29th pick in tonight’s first round.
Boston — The Bruins hold pick No. 16 in the first round. There is thought to be a drop-off in talent after the top 15 or so players, but it’s not hard to envision the Bruins getting a solid player at 16. Also, Boston will sign 22-year-old Blake Wheeler (Phoenix’s first pick, fifth overall in 2004) to a two-year entry level deal on July 1.
Buffalo — The Sabres have two first-rounders (Nos. 13 and 26) and three of the top 44 choices. Buffalo is believed to be willing to move one of its first-round picks.
Calgary — The Flames’ first choice is No. 17 overall and they have a total of seven picks in their 2008 arsenal. The Flames are hoping one of the many blue-chip blueliners might fall to them in the middle of the first round. Calgary also figures to be in on the Olli Jokinen trade sweepstakes.
Carolina — With Glen Wesley and Bret Hedican out of the picture, the Canes need to shore up their blueline. They took the first step yesterday when they signed defenseman Tim Gleason to a four-year, $11 million contract extension. Gleason was Ottawa’s first choice (23rd overall) in the 2001 NHL Entry Draft. Carolina also shipped a conditional fifth-rounder (either in 2009 or 2010) to Nashville in exchange for rugged winger Darcy Hordichuk. The Hurricanes pick 14th tonight, and may lean towards a defenseman.
Chicago — Hawks GM Dale Tallon wouldn’t mind a defenseman with the No. 11 overall pick. Most of Chicago’s organizational depth is up front, and recent high Chicago picks have been used to choose forwards so a blueliner would make more sense this year. Tallon has not ruled out moving up or down a few slots, either.
Colorado — The Avs shipped their first-rounder to Columbus in the Adam Foote trade deadline deal. Colorado’s first choice will be at No. 50, in the latter half of the second round.
Columbus — The Jackets have two first-rounders (Nos. 6 and 19) and a glaring need for a second line center. I’d be surprised if the Jackets didn’t trade one of those picks (likely the No. 6) for a package involving an established player, but it takes two to tango. It’s not hard to find a team willing to move to No. 6 this year, but it might be difficult to find a team willing to give the Jackets what they’re looking for in exchange for that pick.
Dallas — The Stars are another team without a first-rounder. Dallas goes to the podium for the first time at No. 59, one pick after Washington’s fourth choice in this draft. Dallas won the bidding war for Swedish League star Fabian Brunnstrom, so missing a first-rounder in 2008 is not a killer for the Stars.
Detroit –– The Cup-winning Wings will close out tonight’s first round with the 30th selection in the initial round. Detroit does not have a second- or fourth-round pick and has five choices overall. The Wings have not had a pick in the top half of the first round since 1991 when they chose Martin Lapointe with the 10th overall choice. Detroit has been able to sustain nearly two decades of consistent success by making astute picks in the latter rounds, and by going with under-the-radar European players.
Edmonton — The Oilers’ own first-rounder goes to Anaheim as compensation for the Dustin Penner offer sheet, but Edmonton has Anaheim’s first-round choice (22nd overall) that it obtained in the Chris Pronger trade. As it stands right now, that pick is the only one the Oilers have in the first three rounds and one of just five Edmonton has this weekend. Edmonton is thought to have interest in Tri-City netminder Chet Pickard.
Florida –– Rumors of center Olli Jokinen’s impending departure from South Florida are swirling here in Ottawa. The Swamp Cats dealt away their first-rounder in the trade that brought goalie Tomas Vokoun from Nashville, and Jokinen has yet to lead the Panthers to the playoffs. It’s probably time the two parted ways. Columbus holds the sixth overall choice and could really use Jokinen up the middle. That said, Florida will have quite a hole of its own to fill at center if Jokinen is moved, although the pivot will almost certainly fetch more than just a first-rounder. As it stands on Friday morning, Florida’s first pick is No. 31, the first choice in the second round.
Los Angeles — The Kings hold the second overall pick and at least three teams have made reported offers to move into that slot. Los Angeles GM Dean Lombardi has been listening, but it will seemingly take a monster offer to pry the pick away. The Kings took step one toward a buyout of goaltender Dan Cloutier when they placed him on waivers today.
Minnesota — The Wild choose first at No. 24, and have only four picks overall. Minnesota is believed to be among the group of teams with interest in Jokinen.
Montreal — The Canadiens have five picks this weekend, the first of which is No. 25 in the first round. The Habs are believed to be willing to deal a second- or third-rounder to the Leafs for the rights to UFA center Mats Sundin.
Nashville — The Preds have two first-rounders (Nos. 9 and 15) for the first time in franchise history and have two more picks in the first half of the second round, giving them four of the draft’s top 46 picks. Nashville dealt Hordichuk to the Canes, getting a fifth-rounder in one of the next two drafts in return. Most importantly, the Preds re-signed UFA goaltender Dan Ellis to a two-year, $3.5 million contract extension. The Preds also shipped backup goalie Chris Mason to St. Louis for the Blues’ fourth-round choice (111th overall) in this weekend’s Entry Draft.
New Jersey — The Devils pick at No. 21 in the first round. New Jersey has a lot of needs, and it’s probably time for the Devils to start looking for the eventual successor to veteran goaltender and future Hall of Famer Martin Brodeur. Pickard would not be a reach at all with that 21st choice, if the Devils decide to go in that direction. Brodeur himself was the 20th overall pick in 1990. Devils GM Lou Lamoriello sounds like a guy who is more likely to move down than he is to move up in this draft.
NY Islanders — New York holds the fifth pick overall, and it will likely exercise the pick to get either a blue-chip blueliner or Russian scoring winger Nikita Filatov, with Filatov being the likely choice.
NY Rangers — The Rangers pick 20th in the first round, and the Blueshirts will likely be looking for some offensive help. Their forward corps is aging, and while they aren’t likely to get any immediate help that late in the first round, they could find a player who could be ready in a year or two. New York is one of many teams interested in moving up in this draft. The Rangers aren’t expected to offer contracts to UFA forwards Jaromir Jagr, Brendan Shanahan, Sean Avery and Martin Straka before July 1.
Ottawa — The host team often makes a splash at the draft by moving up for a top pick. The Sens are currently sitting at No. 18 and have a total of nine picks with which to work. Ottawa would like a defenseman, and the Sens are said to be high on Tyler Myers, but he won’t be around at No. 18. If Ottawa does want Myers, it will need to put together a package and move up. The Sens placed goaltender Ray Emery on waivers today, beginning the path toward a buyout of the final two years of Emery’s contract.
Philadelphia — The Flyers have five picks in this year’s draft with the first being No. 27 in the first round. Philly sent veteran forward Vaclav Prospal back to Tampa Bay for a seventh-rounder and a conditional pick. The Flyers are usually active wheelers and dealers on draft weekend, even if only picks are involved. Currently, Philly does not have a choice between 27 and 118 in the draft.
Phoenix — With the No. 8 pick, the Coyotes are hoping to nab one of the top defensemen available in the 2008 draft. Phoenix has four second-rounders, giving it five picks in the top 50.
Pittsburgh — The Penguins dealt their first- and second-round picks away on deadline day, moves that helped propel the Pens to the Stanley Cup finals. Pittsburgh does not have a pick until round four of the 2008 draft, the 120th choice overall. Rumors of Evgeni Malkin being moved are unfounded, but rumors of a Russian team trying to poach the talented center may not be.
San Jose — Once again, the Sharks don’t have a first-rounder going into tonight’s festivities. Once again, the Sharks are on the prowl to move into the first round. You can set your watch by San Jose GM Doug Wilson’s annual first-round forays; he has a history of moving in or moving up. We don’t expect this year to be any exception.
St. Louis — The Blues have the fourth choice overall in the first round and two early second-round picks. St. Louis would swap the No. 4 for an established player who could help jumpstart the team’s rebuild. The Blues shipped Jamal Mayers to Toronto for a third-rounder in this weekend’s draft, giving St. Louis 10 picks this weekend. The Mayers deal could lead to something a bit more substantive today or tomorrow.
Tampa Bay — The Lightning will choose franchise center Steven Stamkos with the top pick and the Bolts are reportedly close to inking center Vincent Lecavalier to what would amount to a “lifetime” contract. The Lightning’s sale has been approved by the league’s board of governors, and a head coach announcement is likely to be made within the next two weeks.
Toronto –– The Leafs traded a third-rounder for Jamal Mayers, which is a bit of a head-scratcher. Toronto picks seventh overall and should be able to get a blue-chip player in that spot; one of defensemen Luke Schenn or Nick Pietrangelo or Russian sniper Nikita Filatov. There are rumblings that Toronto defenseman Pavel Kubina could find his way to San Jose in a trade at some point this weekend.
Vancouver — The Canucks hold the 10th pick in the first round and five choices overall. Vancouver has no picks between 41st and 131st. The Canucks need offense and would be willing to move the No. 10 for a top six forward.
Washington — Caps draft preview piece.