We’re hamstring-deep in the most intense NHL news storm of the year, and there is no “off” position on the crazy switch.
Hockey fans wiped the crust from their eyes after Wednesday’s night of trades, drafting and awards only to see Trevor van Riemsdyk, Jordan Eberle, Ryan Strome and David Schlemko all get traded before lunchtime.
So as the NHL — and its ever-orbiting rumours — shifts from Vegas to Chicago this weekend, we look at a dozen big questions facing the movers and shakers descending upon draft weekend.
How many more of its
14 13 12 defencemen will Vegas flip?
George McPhee’s wild and wacky week ain’t over yet, kids.
When the dust settled on Wednesday’s expansion draft, the Vegas Golden Knights stood less than a million bucks under the salary cap ceiling. Money and players were to be shed.
The GM woke up and traded Trevor van Riemsdyk to the Carolina Hurricanes mere hours after picking him off Chicago’s roster. There are more deals on deck.
McPhee is on record saying he loaded up on defencemen, in particular, in order to trade them for futures. Judging by his selections, it’s obvious McPhee will enter 2017-18 in tank mode.
If his horde of draft picks (three 2017 first-rounders already) pays off, the long view could pay off.
Mark Methot, a top-four defender whom we believe Ottawa should’ve protected, is better suited to a team in win-now mode, and there is no shortage of clubs looking for defencemen.
Vegas could hold on to Methot. Heck, they could knight him captain. But we think the trade offers will be too juicy to pass up.
Every Vegas D-man except for Methot ($4.9 million cap hit through 2019) is either on an expired contract or is scheduled to become a free agent next summer.
If not dealt this off-season, they could make for intriguing mid-season rental pieces.
“There’s definitely going to be some more moves,” Knights head coach Gerard Gallant told Hockey Central at Noon Thursday. “I’ll take whatever I got.”
Montreal, Dallas, Toronto, Edmonton, Calgary and Buffalo are among the teams looking to improve their back end through trade.
Now that the expansion pressure has lifted, do Minnesota and Anaheim sit tight with their D cores or still entertain offers?
How about Carolina? With a surplus of defencemen aged 25 and under plus extra second- and third-round draft picks, file Ron Francis and his need for scoring under the category of “He ain’t done dealing yet.”
Nolan vs. Nico: Who goes first overall?
As per late-June custom, much of the intrigue surrounding Round 1 Friday will be over which prized forward is selected first overall.
But unlike the Matthews-Laine and McDavid-Eichel drafts, there is a real feeling that Nico Hischier may have leaped ahead of Nolan Patrick in our imaginary depth chart. The expert mock drafts are inconclusive.
While Devils GM Ray Shero is open to trading the first-overall pick — Breaking news: Every GM is open to anything for the right price! — history suggests he’ll keep it. But to choose whom?
Will Dallas trade the third-overall pick?
A betting man would hedge that New Jersey and Philadelphia keep the top two picks, but Dallas Stars GM Jim Nill is more open to moving the third-overall selection for a defenceman he can plunk on his roster now.
Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman reported that Nill is interested in Methot. Is the No. 3 pick enough to do it?
Sidenote! Always look out of trades involving teams with extra first-round picks. Friday there are four of them: Dallas (picks 3 and 29), Arizona (7 and 23), Vegas (6, 13 and 15) and St. Louis (20 and 27).
What does Galchenyuk’s future hold?
Multiple trusted reporters have forward Alex Galchenyuk heading out Montreal’s door this summer. You wonder if Habs GM Marc Bergevin wouldn’t want to see if Galchenyuk and Jonathan Drouin can strike some offensive chemistry first, but Montreal is still looking to fill holes on its blue line and up the middle.
The Canadiens have already lost defencemen Nathan Beaulieu, Mikhail Sergachev and Emelin this off-season. Yes, they added David Schlemko via Vegas, but that’s not enough.
How’s that Maple Leafs’ defenceman hunt going?
McPhee and Leafs GM Lou Lamoriello were working on a trade that has yet to materialize.
The name that keeps popping up is Colin Miller, whom the Knights chose off the Bruins’ roster. Miller is a 24-year-old right shot who could develop into a top-four mainstay. He’s not that yet.
The Sault Ste. Marie, Ont., native scored 13 points in 61 games with Boston in 2016-17 while averaging 15:48 of ice time but saw his usage dip slightly in the post-season.
He’s good with the puck — retrieving it and transitioning it up-ice — so his 60.3 5-on-5 Corsi rating gets fans excited, especially when you consider that number ranks Miller second-highest on the Bruins after Patrice Bergeron.
There is promise here, and Miller has a bullet of a shot, but he’s far from perfect.
“His history shows a tendency to skate pucks into traps, second-guess himself when clear and rapid processing power is needed, and hammer shots into traffic or wide of the net,” writes Fluto Shinzawa of the Boston Globe.
Might Marcus Kruger stay in Chicago after all?
Multiple reports had Kruger to Vegas as a done deal.
Chicago needed to clear cap space, and Kruger could be a fine No. 3 centre on an expansion team. Now the Blackhawks may be losing Marian Hossa (LTIR pending) off the books, so does that change the situation?
“A league source said Kruger still could be dealt away — perhaps even to the Golden Knights for one of the surplus of defencemen they just drafted — but that the Hossa development complicates things, with free agency looming on July 1,” reports Mark Lazerus of the Chicago Sun-Times.
What will the unpredictable Florida Panthers do next?
So the Cats left a $750,000 30-goal scorer unprotected in the expansion draft, and he promptly got scooped because duh. Then they traded a presumed core forward in Reilly Smith to the Golden Knights. Then they hired Chris Pronger to their front office. Busy few hours in Sunrise.
GM Dale Tallon said dealing Smith was about salary cap flexibility and asserted he will be aggressive in free agency on July 1. Talks with impending UFA Jaromir Jagr were to resume once the expansion draft was over. Is there a better chance Jagr re-ups in Florida now that they’ve lost two capable right wings?
Rumours have also linked Florida to Galchenyuk, and the fact Tallon left right-shot Jason Demers exposed makes you wonder if he’d be available via trade too.
Arizona’s gotta do something big, right?
Young John Chayka has already traded away one his most expensive players (goalie Mike Smith) to Calgary and cut ties with a franchise icon (Shane Doan). He has more than $32 million in sweet, sweet salary cap space and extra draft picks in the first and third rounds.
He’s gotta be cooking up something beyond a Radim Vrbata re-signing, right?
Arizona is reportedly looking for centres, defencemen and a goaltender, because they can’t seriously start the year with a Chad Johnson–Louis Domingue tandem. Can they?
When will the Jets go hard after proven netminding?
Speaking of goaltending needs, Winnipeg was one of just a few teams who managed to keep Vegas away from its entire 2017-18 roster (McPhee took impending UFA Chris Thorburn).
Does Vegas look at moving one of its backups, Jean-Francois Berube or Calvin Pickard, in a trade? In our opinion, the Jets would be wiser to land a more experienced goaltender to complement Connor Hellebuyck.
Are the Flyers going to shake things up?
During a radio appearance Thursday (listen below), Sportsnet’s Nick Kypreos said the Philadelphia Flyers could rattle its roster significantly this summer after they missed out on the post-season.
Captain Claude Giroux, 29, had his name pop up in rumours during the season, but his contract is a beast ($8.275 million per year through 2022). Philly has 10 draft picks this weekend, which could be used as currency if Ron Hextall wants to make deals.
Will a big piece escape from New York?
The Rangers are open to dealing 27-year-old centre Derek Stepan ($6.5 million cap hit through 2021), but would prefer to land a top-four right shot defenceman in return.
In Eberle, Garth Snow secured the triggerman he hopes will make John Tavares happy, and only had to surrender Ryan Strome to do so. But the Islanders GM might not be done.
Newsday‘s Arthur Staple wonders if right-shot defencman Travis Hamonic, 26, could depart this summer. The Avalanche, Oilers and Canadiens could be among Hamonic’s suitors, according to Staple.
James Neal is a Golden Knight… but for how long?
Thursday’s flurry of defencemen trades has us wondering just how trigger-happy McPhee will be with his forwards on expiring deals.
Neal is one of the top impending UFAs of 2018 and would be an excellent rental piece for a playoff-ready club in search of scoring off the wing. Same goes for Marchessault and David Perron ($3.75 million cap hit). You’d have to imagine the end date of those contracts was front of mind when the Knights selected them.