The Toronto Maple Leafs are your winners of the 2016 NHL Draft Lottery, meaning that they have the first overall pick, to be held in Buffalo on June 24-25. The likely first pick, will be Auston Matthews, who last applied his trade, for the Zurich HSC Lions. The Winnipeg Jets won the number #2 slot, with the Columbus Blue Jackets, holding #3. Edmonton fell to #4, after winning last year’s lottery.
So what does this mean for the draft?
First things first, this will fast track Toronto’s re-build in the forward sense by adding Matthews. He could slot into the Leafs’ top 6-9 in the C slot, meaning it could very well be the end of Tyler Bozak in the Air Canada Centre. Also, obtaining Matthews, as well as re-signing Nazem Kadri, could lead to Brendan Shanahan, not pursuing pending UFA Steven Stamkos on July 1, and instead using the cap to fill other needs on the roster.
But what if the Leafs trade the pick?
Well, it’s an option. Especially considering that Matthews is from Arizona. The Coyotes could try and move up from their current position (7) in the draft, to #1, allowing them to draft their hometown boy, and still leave the Leafs with two first round picks, thanks to the Phil Kessel trade and the Penguins making the playoffs. The Oilers (4) and the Flames (6), are also rumoured to be shopping their top picks, and a possible trade with the Leafs could happen, with both the Oilers and Flames having assets on their roster, that Toronto would love to have on their re-building roster.
If the Leafs draft Auston Matthews, will this mean that Steven Stamkos plays in the Blue and White next season?
Well.. With Matthews, Kadri, and Bozak, the Leafs have the middle sorted, and with Stamkos’ displeasure of playing wing, either one of the three Centres move out wide, or move out of Toronto, with Bozak being the most likely. If Bozak does move, they may have to move a Joffrey Lupul-type contract as well, in order to fit the asking price that Stamkos will ask, into the cap. A core of Stamkos, Kadri and Matthews, does sound better, and it takes the pressure off Matthews when he debuts. But, whether the Leafs decide to invest in the best Free Agent on the market, who just happens to be from Toronto, remains to be seen.
Does Toronto even need Stamkos?
No. They don’t need him. Sure, every franchise would love Steven Stamkos on their roster. But do the Leafs need him? At this point of their program, where the focus is on re-building and squad structure, then the answer is no. Stamkos is entering the prime of his NHL career, and could potentially be wasted on the Leafs, whilst the young squad around him builds for the 2-3 years it will take before they reach their prime. Also, if they throw all their cap in the Stamkos basket, then their more important needs of defense and goaltending, go neglected again. Unless Stamkos can play in net. I mean, he is that good as a player, but as a Goalie?
What will the Leafs do?
They will draft Auston Matthews with the first overall pick in the draft. If they do trade a pick, it will be the pick that they received from Pittsburgh. Matthews is on Jack Eichel levels of ability, and will instantly inject something into the Leafs’ lineup, that they haven’t seen in the franchise in a long time. As for Stamkos, well, as fate could have it, Pavel Datsyuk is verging on retiring and returning to Russia, leaving the Detroit Red Wings with a massive hole to fill in at Centre. Brad Richards probably won’t be re-signed, especially at the $3 million he signed for this season, and Darren Helm could be on the way out also. Even though the Wings will have to re-sign Petr Mrazek, as fate could have it, Steven Stamkos could sign for the franchise, in which his current GM, Lightning General Manager Steve Yzerman, captained to three Stanley Cups.