Friday, June 19, 2009

Draft Weekend Fireworks?

1) A week from today will be the unofficial start of the 2009-2010 season. The 2008-2009 NHL Awards Night in Las Vegas is completed so now its time to get down to the business of next year. Of course next Friday is the NHL entry draft. The first step that clubs take to rebuild for the following season and beyond. However its not only the couple of hundred 17-18 year olds who are picked (most of whom will never see an NHL game), but the myriad or deals that usually accompanies the weekend festivities. The biggest excitement/intrigue for the draft day is almost always who will get traded and where? Sure this year we have the additional intrigue of Who will go 1st overall(Hedman or Tavares) , but for sure, pundents (us included) are FAR more interested in what players currently on NHL rosters will be wearing different sweaters when the dust clears Monday morning the 29th.

2) For the record we believe from what we have been hearing that the NY Islanders will BOTH retain the 1st overall pick AND choose The London Knight's John Tavares with the pick. No shocker there. It is also almost a forgone conclusion that Tampa Bay will then choose the Swedish monster, 6'6" Victor Hedman with the 2nd pick. However its NOT a foregone conclusion that either team won't be dealing next weekend. BOTH franchises are going to be involved in at least one, and in the case of the Lightning we're told they will be making more than one "significant trade" next week/weekend Friday.

3) In the case of the Islanders we have heard from several sources that they have let the other 29 GM's know that ANY asset they have (outside of this years 1st overall pick and Kyle Okposo) is available for the right price. Yes, that includes last year's top pick Josh Bailey as well as next year's top pick. We doubt either will go, but is does show us that Snow is willing to gamble to quickly improve his teams' long term chances. What we expect is they will use their second 1st rounder and one of their second round picks to move up 5-10 or so slots. One West coast scout told us he would NOT be shocked to see Snow grab one of the other top 5 picks with a few moves. "He's been all over the phones trying to make a splash". We have to assume a 'splash' would be not just picking Tavares, but to get another big name. Should be interesting at the Isles table.

4) Meanwhile in Tampa Bay they are trying to feverishly work out a deal to unload captain Vinny Lecavalier. We haven't heard any recent noise, but if the adage "where there is smoke, fire" has any validity Vinny will be soon moved. Originally Montreal seemed to be the only possible suitor. (We believe they still are the front runner) Bob Gainey has been coy (as he almost always is) about this. The Lightning are almost forced to make this move due to the fact that as of July 1st Lecavalier will not only get a raise to 10 mil/year for the next 7 years, but a no movement clause to boot. So its either now or never for the Bolts. There are now more than also inquired. Additionally the Lightning will be very accommodating to teams interested in obtaining Ryan Malone and his 6 more years at a cap hit of 4.5 mil. It might be a hard sell, but if they ask for a minimum return we could see a team or two willing to part with a 2nd rounder and a lesser salaried roster player for the Pittsburgh native.

5) In addition to those two teams other interesting story lines that will sure to be discussed next week:
  • Dany Heatley- If Ottawa is trying to accommodate their star winger and trade him they might be motivated to do it before July 1st when he will be due 4 million in bonus payment. Of course every other team knows this too so that might put the brakes on a deal until after 7/1. Ottawa would prefer to get back a veteran scorer so that would further reduce the possible trading partners. One rumour that might have teeth is the Marleau-Heatley swap.
  • Dion Pheneuf- Many of the usual rumour whores are throwing his name out there for no other reason we're told than to increase/retain readers. ALL our sources tell us there is ZERO chance we'll see Pheneuf dealt this summer. "Those rumours are total bullshit" is what one reliable source bluntly told us late last night.
  • Brian Burke- Never underestimate the new Toronto GM. He is the one who pulled off the draft day coup that brought BOTH Sedin's to Vancouver a decade ago. The rumbling from the NHL's biggest media market is that Burke will try to land Tavares. Fat chance of that happening, but we believe that at the very least he will do what it takes to get the 'other Schenn', Brayden to go along with last years top pick, Luke. He would be willing to deal virtually any other picks he has in addition to many current Leafs.

5) What appears for sure is that the twitching (gary-bettman) Napoleon will be booed every time he approaches the podium and we are almost certain to see several big deals that will possibly change the current landscape/balance of power within the league for a decade to come. Should be exciting folks. get the pop corn ready and lets watch the fire works commence!

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