NHL Draft 2014: Burning Questions Ahead of This Year's Event
The 2014 Draft is scheduled for Friday and Saturday at Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, although the actual drafting of players is probably the least interesting part of the process.
With all 30 general managers under the same roof for two days, there's an increased likelihood of trades. Will the Ottawa Senators deal Jason Spezza? Will the Vancouver Canucks find a taker for Ryan Kesler? Will Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau agree to waive their no-movement clauses if the San Jose Sharks find a suitable trade partner?
It's also the final days before free agency, so players and teams could be feeling the pressure to get deals done.
And also there is Aaron Ekblad, the likely No. 1 pick. The Florida Panthers hold the top pick, but are looking to move it.
All these story lines and more will unfold starting Friday.
(All statistics via NHL.com)
Will the Florida Panthers Trade the No. 1 Pick?
The Florida Panthers have been very bad for a very long time and have benefited from a slew of high draft picks. Over the past five years, they have drafted second, 23rd (hooray, loser points), third, third and 14th and stockpiled young assets.
General manager Dale Tallon has the first pick this year and is open to the idea of trading it.
Tallon told Sportsnet's Fan 590 in May that he will be shopping the pick and has given no indications since that the plan has changed.
“I’m open for business,” Tallon said. “You have three options, you either take it, move back or trade it. So that’s what we’re looking at. What’s the best deal for our future, that’s the key.
“I definitely will (shop the pick), especially this year,” he explained. “We had a couple of nibbles the day after we won (the lottery). There were a couple guys calling to bust my chops, asking, 'What are you going to do?’ And that’s fine. It’s a good thing.”
Defenseman Aaron Ekblad is the likely No. 1 pick, but Tallon may feel his prospect pool is loaded enough and it's time Florida made a play for someone who can help right away.
Will the New York Islanders Trade the No. 5 Pick?
Much like the Panthers, the Islanders feel they can be a playoff contender now and would like to trade their first-round pick in an effort to improve right away.
The Islanders have the fifth pick in Friday's draft and, rather than going into draft weekend looking to add to their prospect pool as in years past, Islanders general manager Garth Snow is looking to trade that pick for NHL-ready talent after an unsuccessful season.
'We're open to trading the pick for someone we think can come in and help us right away,' Snow said recently."
The Islanders have already added goaltender Jaroslav Halak but Snow may have a hard time landing anyone of that caliber with the No. 5 pick, especially with the Panthers putting the No. 1 pick on the market.
How Many Draftees Can Make an Impact Next Season?
To answer the question, it sounds like not many.
Five of the top 10 picks in 2013 made major contributions right away—Nathan MacKinnon won the Calder Trophy, Aleksander Barkov had 24 points in 54 games before an injury ruined his season, Seth Jones had 25 points in 77 games and Valeri Nichushkin had 14 goals and 34 points in 79 games.
That likely won't be the case with this group, which is led by Aaron Ekblad, Sam Reinhart, Sam Bennett, Leon Draisaitl and Michael Dal Colle. From TSN's draft preview:
And where MacKinnon, Barkov and (Jonathan) Drouin were projected as first-line forwards and Jones was projected a likely No. 1 defenceman – destined for greatness -- this year's crop of forwards is projected more as second liners with defenceman Ekblad perhaps getting 'top pairing' billing though not necessarily a future dynamic No. 1. Good, maybe very good, but not necessarily great.
The draft is also about question marks and, according to the scouts, even the elite picks this year have a few. And once one gets outside the top five of this year's draft, question marks really abound.
That scouting report goes a long way toward explaining why the Panthers and Islanders are OK with trading out of their cushy spots.
Will the Vancouver Canucks Trade Ryan Kesler?
According to ESPN's Pierre LeBrun, the Anaheim Ducks and Chicago Blackhawks have emerged as front-runners for landing the services of Ryan Kesler, who no longer wishes to ply his trade in Vancouver.
With all 30 general managers in Philadelphia this week, the potential for deals is quite high.
Kesler would fill the role of No. 2 center for either the Ducks or Blackhawks, two teams that are among the favorites to win a Stanley Cup in 2015. It's just a matter of the Canucks receiving a fair offer for Kesler, who is signed for two more seasons.
The fate of Kesler is tied to another center who has asked to be dealt this offseason...
Will the Ottawa Senators Trade Jason Spezza?
…Jason Spezza wants out of Ottawa, and just like Kesler, he could be dealt at the draft.
From that same LeBrun story, the Senators could be waiting to see where Kesler is dealt before executing a move involving Spezza. Kesler is a much more attractive asset, as he is signed for two more years with a cap hit of $5 million while Spezza has one year at $7 million remaining on his contract.
Perhaps only one of the two will be traded this week, but Spezza's fate seems to be tied to what happens with Kesler.
Will the San Jose Sharks Trade Joe Thornton And/or Patrick Marleau?
If Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau are moved, it's unlikely, but not out of the question, that they are dealt during the draft.
General manager Doug Wilson spoke with reporters Tuesday and made it clear he is no rush to make a trade.
" 'When you're in the rebuild, there's no panic or rush," the general manager said in his annual pre-draft session with reporters. "You do things at the right time. If we didn't have picks this year I'd be rushing to maybe get some picks. But we have the full complement.'
Not that there haven't been plenty of trade possibilities brought up in the past two weeks.
ESPN hockey reporter Pierre LeBrun said the Detroit Red Wings have contacted Wilson to discuss Thornton. The Toronto Maple Leafs, according to a Toronto Sun report, are one of six teams calling the Sharks about their captain. There even has been speculation that Thornton would be a good fit on the New York Rangers, and at one point there was talk -- later shot down -- of a trade back to the Boston Bruins."
As for Marleau, he told reporters in Las Vegas during the NHL Awards: “We’re looking forward to next year. It’s going to suck having to go through all the 82 games to get back into the playoffs to get to that point to actually do something about it.”
Asked if he and Thornton expected to be back, Marleau said: “Yeah. As of right now, yeah.”
Trades can happen slowly or out of nowhere. Maybe Marleau and Thornton will be convinced to waive their no-movement clauses this week.
Will Paul Stastny Re-Sign with the Colorado Avalanche?
When the draft ends, free agency begins. The Colorado Avalanche want to keep Paul Stastny and perhaps the deal will be finalized, if not signed, during the draft.
Coach Patrick Roy expressed optimism that the club will be able to bring back Stastny.
"They both are very important players to our team," Roy said. "I'm certainly very confident things will go well."
Stastny is now free to speak with other teams during the NHL's courting process window that began at midnight Wednesday. It's possible that after seeing what's out there, Stastny will make his decision during the draft.