Seven things we learned from the NHL Scouting Combine in Buffalo, which ended this weekend.
LET’S MAKE A DEAL
With NHL general managers having spent almost as much time talking trade with each other as they did interviewing draft prospects, many of them predict the next four weeks could be as frenzied as we’ve ever seen in the modern day NHL in terms of transactions. The ingredients creating this perfect storm for wheeling and dealing:
- A salary cap that is expected to increase by no more than $2 million-$3 million for 2017-18, with the possibility still looming that it might just remain flat.
- A significant number of teams looking to move bloated contracts, especially with the aforementioned cap situation.
- The most liberal transaction rules that have ever been associated with an expansion draft.
- The jockeying by teams to have the incoming Vegas Golden Knights avoid taking certain players who don’t appear on a protected list.
- An entry draft that could be as wide open as we’ve seen since 2010, with very little consensus among the experts after the first few picks.
- The opening of free agency on July 1.
After confirming he doesn’t expect to move up or down from the No. 6 pick, Vegas GM George McPhee said that “our research has shown there hasn’t been a lot of trading in the top 10 within the past five or six years.”
If there is a deal to be made at the top end of the draft, look no further than the third overall pick which is held by Dallas. Already possessing another first round selection from the Patrick Eaves deal with Anaheim, Stars GM Jim Nill is open to swapping the No. 3 spot, preferably for an established defenceman. With Vancouver GM Jim Benning kicking tires on trading up, the question becomes: Is there a match between the Canucks and Stars?
Behind closed doors, GMs are frustrated at the depletion of potential blueline help on the trade market due in part to the long-term shoulder labrum injuries of Ducks’ defencemen Hampus Lindholm and Sami Vatanen, who both will be out a minimum five months. The Ducks, Nashville Predators and, to a lesser extent, Minnesota Wild were considered to be teams that had depth on the back end that could be moved, with the Stars and Toronto Maple Leafs among those who actively want to address the d-corps. Now, because of Anaheim’s banged-up blueline, the Ducks are not expected to be active on that front, evaporating the league-wide trade fodder at that position.
With the Buffalo Sabres and Florida Panthers still in the market for coaches, the intrigue surrounding Predators assistant Phil Housley continues to gain traction. With both teams wanting to have a bench boss in place by the NHL draft in Chicago June 23-24, they’ll have to act quickly once the Nashville-Pittsburgh Stanley Cup final is done. The buzz in Buffalo is that Housley’s ties with the Sabres dating back to his playing days in the Queen City might make it a preferred landing spot. Pens assistant Rick Tocchet is also a strong candidate, given his relationship with new GM Jason Botterill dating back to their days together in Pittsburgh.
SUBSTANCE OVER SIZZLE
For those who feel McPhee is looking to bring in splashy names just to sell tickets in Sin City, guess again.
“The face of our franchise will be our logo,” McPhee said. “That’s the way we’re going to try and do things, be team-centric. We’ll get as many good players as we can, but as we all know it’s about building the right team and the right chemistry and all those clichés, but it’s real.
“We don’t feel the need to go get names.”
McPhee says he could start making trades as early as Monday.
Holding the top overall selection, New Jersey Devils GM Ray Shero understands there isn’t a Connor McDavid or Auston Matthews in the 2017 draft. But in Nolan Patrick and Nico Hischier, Shero sees kids who can augment a core led by Taylor Hall.
As for the possibility of Ilya Kovalchuk returning to the NHL from the KHL, Shero says the next move belongs to the player and his camp. The Devils control his NHL rights until April 15, 2018, when he turns 35. If Kovalchuk wants to sign with another team before that, he would need approval from all 31 NHL teams. While that possibility is far fetched, Shero could sign Kovalchuk and then trade him to a team that had shown interest.
“I can't go out calling teams because that's a waste of my time,” Shero said. "He's going to tell (us) where he wants to play, and in the end, if that does work out and it's not the Devils, then I've got to see if that makes sense for us to do that.”
Shero also said he is not actively looking to move goalie Cory Schneider.
PUTTING 'D' IN 'DRAFT'
This was supposed to be a weak draft in terms of defence, but a number of blueliners have worked their way up the boards of various teams including the likes of Heiskanen, Cale Maker, Henri Jokiharju, Urho Vaakanainen, Robin Salo and Juuso Valimaki.
“(There is) a lot of variety and a lot of versatility. It depends on what type of player you're looking for,” NHL director of Central Scouting Dan Marr said of the cache of defenceman available.
Source : http://www.lfpress.com/2017/06/04/stage-is-set-for-nhl-trade-frenzy-following-stanley-cup-final