The 2009 NHL entry draft takes place tomorrow evening so lets talk draft and trade rumours. The first thing that everyone needs to know is that not all players drafted tomorrow night in the first round will become NHL star players, or even good NHL players. The truth is the majority of those drafted in the first round tomorrow will go down in history as ‘draft flops’. That is unfortunate because most of them aren’t flops, they are just subject to the laws of reality and the reality is that it is simply not possible for every top 18 year old hockey player to make the NHL and excel. There just aren’t enough NHL roster spots for that to occur.
Toronto media and fans love to talk trash about the Leafs drafting ability over the past decade or two but it is really unfounded. Many call Nik Antropov a bit of a failure because while he is a good player, he didn’t turn out to be a star as one would expect from a 10th overall pick. Let me toss out 10 names for you: Jocelyn Thibault, Nolan Baumgartner, Radek Dvorak, Lance Ward, Brad Ference, Bransilav Menzei, Mikhail Yakubov, Dan Blackburn, Eric Nystrom, and Andrei Kostitsyn. Those names represent the 10th overall draft picks in the five years before Nik Antropov was drafted in 1998 and the five years after. Dvorak has had a pretty decent career as a second line player. He’s played 976 games, scored 194 goals and racked up 502 points. Kostitsyn is a skilled player that looks to have a promising career probably not unlike Dvorak’s though possibly a bit better. He currently has 52 goals and 108 points in 186 games played. Jocelyn Thibault had a pretty decent career has a second tier starter or solid backup. The rest didn’t really turn out to be much of anything. So is Antropov, who currently sits at 527 games played with 132 goals and 304 points, a bust. Not even close. Rather, he seems more like the upper end of the scale of what you can expect with the #10 pick. Yes, there will be the odd truly star player taken 10th overall like Teemu Selanne in 1988 but they are rare.
For more discussion on draft picks and the likelihood that they will become NHL regulars you can take a look at my Draft Schmaft post from a few years ago. Scott Cullen over at TSN.ca has a similar analysis and you can also find an interesting draft analysis over at Pension Plan Puppets.
There has been a lot of talk about Brian Burke’s public statements that he would love to trade up in the draft and select John Tavares. This task just became more difficult when it seems that Oren Koules has won the power struggle over Len Barrie. Koules it seems is more interested in cutting salary to levels very close to the salary cap floor ($40 million). If this is ones goal it probably means that you want young players on your roster so they are more likely to keep the pick and are less likely to be interested in someone like Kaberle who, outside of Luke Schenn (who is unlikely to be traded), is their most valued asset. It seems more likely that Burke could trade up with Atlanta to get the #4 pick where he could select Evander Kane or Luke’s Schenn’s brother Brayden. My gut tells me that if Burke can’t trade up to get into the top 5 and one of the top 5 for some reason doesn’t fall to #7 he’ll seriously consider looking at trading down and picking up an extra pick or two in the process, not unlike what the Islanders did last year when they traded the 5th overall pick to Toronto for Toronto’s 7th overall pick and a 3rd round pick and a 2nd round pick in this years draft and then flipped the 7th overall pick to Nashville for the 9th overall pick and a second round pick. So the Islanders dropped from 5th to 9th and picked up two second round picks and a third round pick in the process. Burke may try to do something along those lines to help fill out the Leafs prospect pool.
Another Leaf rumour going around is that the Leafs are interested in Wade Redden. This has shocked many because most people see Redden as a flop and at his salary and contract length is a waste of time. There is some truth to this. His game has fallen off a bit the last couple of seasons and he is over paid at $6.5 million but he is still a good player capable of playing big minutes (he was 23 in time on ice per game for defensemen at 23:24) and in the right trade, it could make sense. First off, acquiring Redden would make it easier to trade one or both of Kaberle and Kubina which should land Burke with more prospects or draft picks which would amount to cheap players being on the team to offset Redden’s expensive contract. Second, it may be possible for the Leafs to rid themselves of a big contract in the process by, for example, including Jason Blake in the deal. It may also be the case that the Rangers, who have cap issues, may be looking to get rid of Redden at any cost and may be willing to include a draft pick and/or a prospect in the deal just to make it happen. Burke is looking long term and he desperately wants to stock up on prospects to make that happen and if he can flip Kaberle and Kubina (and their $9.25 million in contracts for the upcoming season) for prospects and pick up Redden to offset that loss and maybe pick up a draft pick or prospect or dump a big salary of his own as well it may very well make sense to make that move and it should not be dismissed as a mistake in the process.
The Senators are desperately attempting to get something close to fair value for Dany Heatley but it seems unlikely. The Kings might have the best to offer in Alexander Frolov and possibly Jack Johnson but Frolov is a UFA after the 2009-10 and rumours are Jack Johnson is seeking $5 million per year on a new contract which is just plain ridiculous. Jarett Stoll is another possibility to be included in the deal. Minnesota is another possibility and maybe the Senators could get Pierre-Marc Bouchard and Marek Zidlicky bur Bouchard makes $4 million which seems like a lot for a 60 point guy (though maybe he would produce more in a more offensive oriented system) and Zidlicky is a UFA after this season. Heatley for an expensive Bouchard and one year of Zidlickly probably wouldn’t appease many Senators fans. It’ll be interesting to see how this unfolds.
It seems as likely as ever that Vincent Lecavalier will be traded (with Koules apparently getting control of the team) and the likely destinations are Montreal and Los Angeles. Los Angeles seems the more likely destination with the 5th overall pick in the draft as well as several other young (and more importantly cheap) assets that they could deal to Tampa for Lecavalier. The Kings could make quite the splash tomorrow if somehow they could land both Lecavalier and Heatley. Mix those two guys in with Anze Kopitar and Dustin Brown along with Drew Doughty, Thomas Hickey and maybe Jack Johnson on defence and Jonathan Bernier in goal and you have the makings of an awfully good team.
We don’t yet know what the salary cap will be for next season (we should know very soon) but the Philadelphia Flyers could already be in serious cap trouble. As we sit right now the Flyers have close to $55 million in cap space allocated but if the NHLPA chooses not to apply the 5% escalator it is quite likely that next years cap will fall closer to $54 million meaning the Flyers are already over the cap and they only have one goalie (Ray Emery) signed. There is talk that they are interested in Jay Bouwmeester but that seems like a pipe dream unless they can rid themselves of both Hartnell and Lupul but losing them would be a serious hit to their forward depth (which may also lose Mike Knuble as a UFA). The Flyers will be the team hardest hit by a drop in the salary cap and it’ll be interesting to see what moves they make to ease the situation.
The Boston Bruins are another team with cap issues as they currently sit at about $50.5 million spent with Phil Kessel to sign as well as another defenseman or two. One option would be to simply trade Kessel, and they would likely be a lot of interested buyers, but they would probably prefer to find a taker for Marco Sturm ($3.5 million cap hit) or Chuck Kobasew ($2.33 million). This is where Brian Burke, who has some cap space to play with, may once again step in and offer to take one of those guys off the Bruins hands if they would be willing to toss an extra draft pick or two his way.
San Jose has some cap issues as well. They have allocated close to $47 million in cap space but have Ryan Clowe, Marcel Goc, and Torrey Mitchel as RFA’s and Rob Blake, Mike Grier and trade deadline pickup Travis Moen as UFAs. They may have to say goodbye to Mike Grier but they can probably make it work.