This year's NHL Entry Draft has the potential to be one of the most dynamic drafts in recent memory.
There is lots of speculation that many teams will be looking to not only draft some young talented prospects, but acquire a few impact players and save some of that hard earned salary cap cash to sign those chosen few restricted free agents from their rosters.
Boston, Tampa Bay, Atlanta, Carolina, and Ottawa are five teams that will be looking to make a big splash when the annual Entry Draft gets underway Friday night in Los Angeles.
These teams all have unique situations.
Some of these teams are better than the 2009-10 regular season records would indicate—Tampa Bay and Carolina.
Carolina's rough start and key injuries cost them a chance at getting, at least, to the dance in 2009-10. They have a good core of players with key decisions needing to be made about some veteran players. GM Jim Rutherford traded away some of those vets and depth this past trade deadline and he is looking to fill those spots with youth.
Tampa Bay has a new lease on life, a new outlook and a smart fellow named Steve Yzerman running the ship. Time will tell if "Stevie Y is the guy", but this draft, his first as GM, will be an excellent opportunity to strengthen the Lightning for the future.
While Atlanta and Ottawa are in need of re-tooling there clubs both through free agency (Atlanta) and through trades (Ottawa). Atlanta has options of building through the draft, starting Friday or making some serious trade offers as they have salary cap space. Atlanta is no where near the cap floor limit of $41.7M.
The Boston Bruins who are sitting pretty with the second and 15th overall picks is the one team that went farther in the post season than any of these teams, can look to forward to this draft as a way to improve the current roster and add some youth.
The Bruins hold the second overall selection thanks in part for the Phil Kessel trade with Toronto. They also created their own pick at No.15. Having traded their third-round (Buffalo) and fourth-round (Carolina) picks, the Bruins next select at No.134, No.165 and No.195.
With the Bruins having their claws on the second overall selection, it's hard to think that they will want to trade up, I mean either way you look at it they are poised to select a top prospect who could contribute for years to come in either Taylor Hall or Tyler Seguin.
Funnier things have happened before...
The Bruins made a wise move this week in trading Dennis Wideman, no.15 overall selection and a 2011 draft pick to the Florida Panthers in a deal that landed them Nathan Horton and Gregory Campbell.
This addressed a need for Boston as they have parted ways with Michael Ryder and had been coveting a scoring winger. Horton has averaged 20 or more goals over the last five NHL seasons.
Having no selections again until the fifth round and in light of their recent trade with Florida, the Bruins could be working out a deal with the Oilers to allow them to select the one player they may feel best suits this club.
There are very good chances that either Taylor Hall or Tyler Seguin can play right now. If the Bruins select Seguin, which could be the case, they may look to move out another center to fill in Dennis Wideman's shoes...
Just as it seems clearer... stay tuned.
Steve Yzerman and his crew have the sixth overall section and with their next pick at No. 63, could very well make a move to keep up with the division rivals —the draft pick loaded Hurricanes or the new look Florida Panthers.
Either way, the Lightning also have no. 66, no.72, no. 96, no. 118, no. 156 and the ever popular no. 186.
Eight draft picks in all is a good start for new GM Steve Yzerman and Co., but also having five possible selections in the top 100 picks might allow him to bundle up a player or two with these picks to move up the in the draft and not wait until their second pick at No. 63.
Getting some of this talent earlier might allow for the Lightning to regroup quicker and potentially obtain a player to two right now.
One thing is for sure, Mr. Yzerman has been around the Detroit Red Wings front office enough to know that there are some good players available at No. 63, No. 66 and even No. 72, but he might find a player with a better fit in the top 45.
The Lightning only have six forwards under contract for next season and a handful of others considering their qualifying offers could allow them to make a move up by dealing another prospect or two.
Hopefully Stevie Y can make a move up and tap into some of these players which could prove to have a long lasting effect on the franchise moving forward.
By far, the Atlanta Thrashers control their own destiny.
Having nine picks and two selections in the first round, the Thrash are sitting in a nice spot. They have needs everywhere, so if you see GM Rick Dudley on TV Friday night saying "we are going to pick the best player available," he's probably not lying to you.
Dudley who has been around the game for a long time, was one of the builders, along with new Florida GM Dale Tallon of the Chicago Blackhawks.
Dudley will certainly put his fingerprints all over this team before September training camp even begins as the Thrash are very close to naming a new head coach.
So why not start it at the draft?
Having the No. 8, No. 24, No. 54, No. 87, No. 101, No. 128, No. 150, No. 158 and No. 188—the Atlanta squad has a good "mix of picks" to make a move up the board.
There is a feeling that Dudley will consider moving both first round picks in order to move up and retain the services of a top six forward and a top four defender and still have a pick in the top 35. It might be a tall order, but his three former clubs—the Blackhawks, Calgary Flames and Toronto Maple Leafs all have some cap issues.
The Atlanta Thrashers have 12 players signed and a cap commitment between $27-29M. As many as seven roster players are expected to "test" the free agency market as UFAs including Pavel Kubina, Colby Armstrong and Maxim Afinogenov.
With the Montreal Canadiens coming terms with UFA Tomas Plekanec, a player Dudley was keen on, Atlanta may have to use some draft picks in combination with the few players he does have under contract to upgrade his club.
John Forslund is one of my favorite play by play announcers. To use one of his lines...
"Hey, Hey... what ya say!"
Look out for the Carolina Hurricanes...
Rock you like a hurricane is just what GM Jim Rutherford wants to do come this Friday night.
With 11 draft selections and four of them before the Toronto Maple Leafs select (If Leafs GM Brian Burke hasn't weaved a little magic), the 'Canes are poised to select a heap of talented players in the 2010 NHL Entry Draft.
However, the Hurricanes have needs...
Joni Pitkanen, Tim Gleason, Jamie McBain and Jay Harrison look to secure a tone of playing minutes next season for the 'Canes as they are the only defensemen signed for next season.
Eric Staal and Cam Ward are signed through the 2016-17 season.
The Carolina squad have a bulk of those draft choices between No. 37 and No. 105, but nothing after they select No. 7 overall until that No. 37 slot.
With a few teams like Toronto, Calgary and Philadelphia on the outside looking in, the 'Canes may be able to add some depth right now and still find a prospect or two out of this draft.
In my opinion, moving down in this draft within the first 75 picks is okay, provided your return is a roster player who can have an impact now and your confident in your scouting staff.
For the 'Canes, they have a lot of flexibility and should be able to work something out to add to their roster.
Look for teams like St. Louis, Montreal and Chicago to make a deal and move up while the 'Canes could even move their No. 7 selection to Columbus or the New York Islanders.
With sixteen players signed and a estimated cap hit of between $49-53M, the Ottawa Senators select No. 16 overall in this years Entry Draft.
With likely more questions than answers, the Sens could very well be looking to "wheel and deal" here to not only move up, but move up in a big way.
Jason Spezza, the eight million dollar man for the next billion years has a no-trade clause that will come into effect July 1st.
The Sens are getting thin on cash could be looking to teams ahead of them in the draft as dance partners to move Spezza. Chris Phillips who has one year remaining on his contract and quite possibly Alex Kovalev who is injured and in the same boat as Phillips.
The best bet here is that Spezza, who is under contract to the Sens until the 2014-15 season, could find a new home address, save some cash and get some more support.
A number of teams could be interested in the services of Spezza, but a lofty price tag could scare a few off.
Atlanta, Columbus, NY Rangers, Florida and Dallas are rumoured to be interested in the Sens smooth skating forward. All of these teams draft ahead of the Sens who would love to "tap into" one of these good young defensemen in the 2010 Entry Draft.
Along with Kovalev and Phillips, Pascal Leclaire is entering the last year of his deal which plays him $4.8M for the 2010-11 season and might be an option to move out of Ottawa. Any deals involving these players would add high risk to the teams interested and in the end the options are limited for Ottawa to move up.
My gut feeling is that Ottawa, along with Toronto will move towards acquiring Columbus' fourth overall selection. We shall see. Maybe they can work out a three-way deal...
With rumours that players like Sergei Gonchar could be moved here before July 1st, for the purpose of working out a contract, the Sens really need to open up some cap space.