13 NHL Draft takeaways: Rumours, trades, signings, surprises

First overall draft pick Nico Hischier joins Tara Slone to talk about being selected by the New Jersey Devils.

Think of the children.

But pay even more attention to the adults.

The NHL’s draft weekend is about the hopes and dreams and untapped potential of 18-year-olds. Yet increasingly — and especially in a low-tide year after the back-to-back generational tsunamis of Connor McDavid and Auston Matthews — the draft is about juggling and firming up rosters of established players.

In our cap world, the NHL’s free agency market is losing some of its juice. In March, the term “trade dudline” was coined. So, alas, the draft acts as the league’s great trade (and rumour) convention. And 2017’s edition in Chicago was no exception.

Here are 13 things we took away from the year’s busiest 48 hours of NHL news.


Calgary Flames defence ain’t nothin’ to mess with
Adding highly coveted right-shot defenceman Travis Hamonic, 26, from Garth Snow’s bold-moves New York Islanders Saturday thrusts the Flames top-four D core into the “best in the NHL” conversation. (We see you, Nashville.)

The Manitoba-born Hamonic, who has patiently awaited a trade West since 2015 for family matters, joins Mark Giordano, T.J. Brodie and Dougie Hamilton in a fantastic top four.

Expect Mike Smith’s save percentage to go up.

Also expect Michael Stone and Dennis Wideman to hit the open market as a free agents on July 1.

With Deryk Engelland off to Vegas, Calgary’s D is getting younger, cheaper, more mobile and more top-heavy.

Snow’s original ask for Hamonic was two first-rounders. That price was too steep for suitors Calgary, Toronto, Dallas and Tampa.

The Flames gave up a first-rounder and two second-round picks to the Isles and also recouped a fourth-rounder. A high fee, no doubt, but one that may be worth it.

Matt Duchene will still be traded, right?
The Colorado centre is the most talented obvious trade piece left standing after a busy week of player movement.

Avalanche GM Joe Sakic told reporters he still doesn’t like the offers he’s getting for Duchene, who had a down year production-wise. The 26-year-old’s 18 goals and 23 assists were both four-year lows. His minus-34 rating was a career worst.

Sakic threatened to start the season with Duchene if offers don’t improve. The Predators, Islanders and Canadiens are a few teams said to be interested.

Not-so-bold prediction: Sakic eventually drops his price and Duchene starts 2017-18 in a fresh sweater.

Blackhawks down? Host city shakes with blockbusters
There is no subtle way to trade away the guy who beat out Connor McDavid for the 2016 Calder Trophy.

By dealing away dynamic scorer Artemi Panarin to Columbus, the Blackhawks subtracted a two-time 30-goal scorer and a 25-year-old who produces nearly a point per game.

When Panarin’s two-year, $12-million bridge deal expires in 2019, GM Stan Bowman believed he wouldn’t be able to give the Bread Man his bread, man. Such is the cost of paying two forwards, Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews, $10.5 million a year through 2023.

The Blackhawks welcome the return of Cup winner Brandon Saad, who had great chemistry with Toews on the wing.

Chicago also dealt top-three defenceman Niklas Hjalmarsson to Arizona Friday afternoon.

When Joel Quenneville learned of the moves, he abruptly left a coaches meeting and did not stick around the United Center for draft night.

Quenneville returned Saturday and spoke to the media.

“My motivation is I want to be better and I want to try to win. But I think Stan’s motivation is a longer-term look to it,” Quenneville said.

Bowman, who acquired younger D-man Connor Murphy and forward Laurent Dauphin from Arizona, said he was thinking big picture and not just reacting to Chicago’s first-round sweep by the Predators.

Factor in the news that Marian Hossa will be sidelined all of next season due to an allergic reaction and some of the other departures (Scott Darling, Trevor van Riemsdyk), and Chicago appears to be trending down.

“These moves were not based just on one playoff round,” Bowman said. “It’s more about looking ahead to the future.”

The GM smartly brightened the home crowd by bringing out Toews and Patrick Kane to announce the Hawks’ first-rounder.

“Everyone’s kind of shocked,” Toews said of the trades.

“I could sit here and go on and on about Hammer and Hoss, and just the character and personality they brought to our team. What they’ve proven in the hockey world. But what matters most is what they’ve proven to their teammates.

“To see Bread Man go hurts as well. Even though there’s a language barrier there, he wanted to learn. It’s tough to see a guy like that go after only two seasons with him.”

Columbus is going for it
On the heels of the greatest season in franchise history, the Columbus Blue Jackets will enter what should be a vicious 2017-18 Metropolitan Division race with aggression.

Not only have they added Panarin, who instantly becomes their highest-paid skater, but the Jackets paid a price to Vegas to keep their core intact and have been rumoured as a front-runner to land KHLer Ilya Kovalchuk, Panarin’s former SKA teammate.

Radulov is the best UFA forward standing
As per hockey’s trend, three more coveted impending free agents were locked up this weekend in advance of July 1, weakening the UFA market for forwards especially.

Washington handed T.J. Oshie a juicy eight-year, $46-million extension on the heels of a career season, highlighted by an unsustainable shooting percentage.

Heckuva player, but as with most UFA deals, the Capitals may regret the steep cap hit in the second half of Oshie’s term.

The Anaheim Ducks wisely committed to UFA Patrick Eaves at a reasonable $3.15 million cap hit over three years. Eaves fit nicely on captain Ryan Getzlaf’s wing, and was treated to a fun surprise by fans Saturday morning:

This leaves Montreal’s Alexander Radulov as the best forward set to hit UFA status. Considering the addition of top-line winger Jonathan Drouin and the gap in negotiations, Radulov may not be returning.

On the UFA back end, the Edmonton Oilers also committed four years and $16 million to defenceman Kris Russell, who would’ve had more suitors on July 1.

Coyotes accelerate rebuild… to sell?
A popular theory on the dramatic goings-on with Glendale’s hockey team this week: Andrew Barroway, now the Coyotes’ sole owner, is shaping up the team to sell.

In a matter of days, Mike Smith, Shane Doan, Connor Murphy, the seventh-overall pick and Dave Tippett were all wiped away. The nagging arena issue won’t disappear.

Play-now guys like centre Derek Stepan, goaltender Antti Raanta and Hjalmarsson have been added, and there is a sense GM John Chayka and his $25.2 million in cap space will be looking to add more.

Thumbs up for this move, though:

Nico trumps Nolan
Nico Hischier rode a late surge in the mock polls all the way to a No. 1 overall selection by the New Jersey Devils, making history as Switzerland’s highest-drafted player.

Hischier is the first non–North American chosen No. 1 since Nail Yakupov in 2012.

But anyone who caught a glimpse of this photograph from Hischier’s childhood knew his fate had already been written…

Any Original Six team will do
The draft’s Freudian Slip Award goes to Canadiens Round 1 pick Ryan Poehling, who couldn’t be more overjoyed to be heading to Toron— uh, Montreal.

Finland, Finland, Finland!
A record six Finnish-born players were selected in Round 1: Miro Heiskanen (No. 3, Dallas), Juuso Valimaki (No. 16, Calgary), Urho Vaakanainen (No. 18, Boston), Kristian Vesalainen (No. 24, Winnipeg), Henri Jokiharju (No. 29, Chicago) and Eeli Tolvanen (No. 30, Nashville).

Breakdown of first-round selections by birthplace: Canada (11), Finland (6), United States (6), Sweden (4), Czech Republic (2), Russia (1) and Switzerland (1).

Methot won’t go anywhere in Canada… unless it’s back to Ottawa
Top-four blueliner Marc Methot, who was plucked off the Senators at the expansion draft, was offered a trade to the Canadiens and politely declined.

All of the Canadian clubs (Toronto and Edmonton are also hunting for D) save Ottawa are on Methot’s no-trade list.

In theory, Methot could be dealt back to the Senators as early as Jan. 1, but Vegas will surely hear from U.S. teams, such as Dallas, who missed out on Hamonic.

“We have a few more contracts than we need,” Vegas GM George McPhee said. “There’s lots of interest. We have to make the right decisions and create some space for the kids that we’ve drafted.”

As if losing Methot isn’t enough, Sens GM Pierre Dorion is still entertaining offers for Dion Phaneuf.

Crosby now has one of the league’s best bodyguards
We learned that fourth-liner Ryan Reaves is worth a first-round pick.

The Pittsburgh Penguins acquired Reaves — one of the NHL’s most respected enforcers and “dressing room guys” — from the St. Louis Blues for the 31st pick, trading down to give Sidney Crosby some muscle and grab Oskar Sundqvist.

To the surprise of some, the Blues protected Reaves in the expansion draft. Well, the Blues — who also chased and landed Brayden Schenn from Philly — spun a fourth-liner into Klim Kostin, Central Scouting’s No. 1-ranked European skater.

Maple Leafs draft for need
After loading up on elite forwards in the past three drafts, Toronto used its 17th pick to select a right-shot defenceman, Timothy Liljegren, out of Sweden.

“When he fell that far, it was a no-brainer,” Leafs assistant GM Mark Hunter said.

The Leafs then used their second pick on another right-shot D-man, Eemeli Rasanen. At six-foot-seven, Rasanen is the tallest prospect in the entire draft class.

Toronto scooped four defencemen in total and will look to trade or sign more.

“If we can set ourselves up to improve in that area, we will,” coach Mike Babock said.

“Calgary got Hamonic. As you can see, it’s expensive to get marquee D in our league. It’s better if you draft them and develop them, and then you have them coming.”

The Flames won Best Name of the Draft when they selected D’Artagnan Joly…. The Oilers obtained the smallest talent in the draft, five-foot-seven, 148-pound Kailer Yamamoto… Avalanche second-rounder Connor Timmins has two different coloured eyes, like Max Scherzer…. Love the irony of Steve Yzerman being excited to draft Adam Foote’s son, Cal…. The Flyers went hard after Guelph Storm wing Isaac Ratcliffe, trading three picks to Arizona in order to grab him at No. 35. Ratcliffe back story tells of resiliency; the kid bounced back from being hit by a car when he was five years old…. Sportsnet’s John Shannon reports that the 2018 draft will likely be held in Dallas, though it’s not a done deal yet.

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