Another year, another draft. 210 players have taken the next step in their hockey journey, by being selected by a National Hockey League franchise, with dreams of one day playing in the NHL.
However, this year’s draft, not only gave us it’s fair share of surprises in regards to whom gets drafted where, but it also turned into a mini trade-deadline, with a number of goaltenders especially, changing teams and suring up the net’s of several teams.
The Edmonton Oilers did exactly what everyone expected and drafted Connor McDavid (Erie – OHL) first overall. McDavid joins Taylor Hall, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Jordan Eberle and Nail Yakupov, in what should be a dynamic top 6. That wasn’t all the Oilers action during the draft. They also sent picks 16 (Matthew Barzal, Seattle – WHL) and 33 (Mitchell Stephens, Saginaw – OHL) to the New York Islanders, for young defensemen Griffin Reinhart, as well as trading for Eric Gryba, from the Ottawa Senators, for pick 106 (Christian Wolanin, Muskegon – USHL). These two defensemen are joined by former New York Rangers backup goaltender, Cam Talbot, who was acquired in a trade. This helps the Oilers address some problems they had last season. Their defensive core looks a lot stronger, with Reinhart and Gryba, joining Ference, Oskar Klefblom and Darnell Nurse, with Cam Talbot competing for the starting goalie job, with Ben Scrivens.
Does this mean the Oilers are a playoff contender next season? Well, if Talbot shows his might as a starter, if the defense can stand up and if Connor McDavid proves to be the next big thing, then the Oilers could just surprise.
Dallas gave Kari Lehtonen some much needed help in net, by acquiring the rights to upcoming UFA, Antti Niemi, from the San Jose Sharks, for a 7th Round pick. If he signs, Niemi and Lehtonen become a potential one-two punch in net for the Stars. Lehtonen isn’t the kind of ‘tender who starts 65-70 games and with 2 quality goaltenders sharing the load, it takes the pressure off the other and hopefully adds those 10-15 wins that Lehtonen/backups didn’t have last season. Which only helps the Stars, if Lehtonen’s groin decides to play up again.
Ottawa has an excess of goalies, due to the late season form of Andrew Hammond and Buffalo needed a goaltender to play behind Jack Eichel and Evander Kane. Enter Robin Lehner. Lehner, along with David Legwand, were traded to the Sabres, for pick 21. The Sabres had two picks on the first round, with pick 2 being used to draft Eichel, and the second moved to grab themselves their starter for the near future. Along with Lehner, Ryan O’Reilly and Jamie McGinn were acquired from Colorado for Nikita Zadorov, Mikhail Grigorenko, J.T. Compher and Pick 31. Colorado dump a contract they didn’t really want on their books in O’Reilly and Buffalo’s top 6 becomes that much better and younger. O’Reilly, 24, joins Evander Kane, 23, Eichel, Tyler Ennis, 25 and Matt Moulson, 31, in a forward core that could become a very potent top end for years to come.
New York compensated for trading away Cam Talbot, by acquiring Antti Raanta from Chicago. Raanta was the third string behind Corey Crawford and Scott Darling and received forward Ryan Haggerty in exchange. Eddie Lack became the new backup to Cam Ward in Carolina, after moving from Vancouver for a 2015 3rd and 2016 7th, leaving Anton Khudobin to join Anaheim’s goaltending core of Frederik Andersen and John Gibson. The Ducks only giving up spare defensemen James Wisniewski in return.
So what do these trades mean? Well, Devan Dubynk got signed by the Minnesota Wild at a cap hit of $4,333,333 a season for six years, it leaves the best UFA Goalie as Karri Ramo, with Braden Holtby (Washington), Jake Allen (St. Louis) and Jonathan Bernier (Toronto) as the best RFAs, and for a franchise like the San Jose Sharks, this doesn’t leave many options. After trading away the rights to Antti Niemi, this only leaves them with Alex Stalock as a possible starter, with Troy Grosenick as backup. Will this mean, that they make a big money offer at an RFA, or do they make a trade for someone like a John Gibson at Anaheim, who looks like becoming the number three? Only time will tell.