The 2018 NHL draft is just a day away now, and the last few afternoons have been some of the most buzz-filled of the offseason so far.
Just when it seems like we know who all the major players will be in the trade market, we get something like Mike Hoffman being traded not once, but twice in less than three hours, making it evident just how topsy-turvy things could get this weekend.
The draft always has the potential to be bonkers, but the 2018 edition is shaping up to be marvelous for fans who love a little chaos and uncertainty with their hockey.
With the NHL Awards Show squarely behind us, all the focus is now on the upcoming draft weekend. And there are numerous storylines to keep up with as we near the big day.
Artemi Panarin Report Creates Shockwaves Ahead of NHL Draft
The handful of high-end players who are available via trade has more or less remained static over the last few weeks. Some have hard-and-fast rumors attached to their names, while others were easy to speculate about, but Artemi Panarin hasn't been a part of either group.
Until Tuesday afternoon, that is, when NHL insider Elliotte Friedman sent shockwaves through the hockey world with the following tweet.
And just like that, one of the most talented forwards in professional hockey became a staple in the rumor mill. Various fanbases immediately starting scheming about how their favorite team could get their hands on the dynamic 26-year-old wing, but Columbus Blue Jackets general manager Jarmo Kekalainen isn't going to make a knee-jerk move when it comes to Panarin.
"Artemi is an elite National Hockey League player," Kekalainen said in an official statement following Friedman's report, according to George Richards of the Columbus Post-Dispatch. "Our position has been that we want him to be a Blue Jacket for many years and that has not changed.
"He has one more year left on his contract, so there is plenty of time to work toward that end. Should anything change, we will address it at that time and any decision we make will be in the best interest of our club."
Still, when a player like Panarin isn't ready to re-sign, and he only has one year left on his contract before becoming a free agent, anything can happen. Including a draft-day trade that sends the wing elsewhere before the season even begins.
If someone knocks Kekalainen's socks off with an offer, we could see this situation resolved sooner rather than later.
Buffalo Sabres Aren't Shopping Ryan O'Reilly
Many pundits have assumed that Ryan O'Reilly could be traded this offseason because of comments he made during locker cleanout day. With the Buffalo Sabres nowhere near contending for a championship and the center hitting the cap for $7.5 million a season until 2023, the 27-year-old could have been viewed by ownership and management as an unnecessary luxury for a rebuilding team.
General manager Jason Botterill more or less nipped that chatter in the bud during a conversation with Mike Harrington of the Buffalo News, however.
"The Sabres aren't shopping O'Reilly or anybody else, for that matter. When you're a 62-point team, you're willing to do a lot of listening," wrote Harrington in his recent column.
"To be honest, the interest in Ryan is not surprising at all. Ryan is one of our better players," Botterill reportedly added. "He had another successful World Championship, even though Team Canada was disappointed that they didn't come away with the medal. But he played a very big role for Canada again."
No player is ever truly untradable, but it doesn't sound like the Sabres are actively trying to move their top center at this juncture.
Erik Karlsson Could be Next Ottawa Senator Traded
Hoffman is now off the books of the Ottawa Senators, and there's reason to believe that Erik Karlsson could be next.
That's according to Bob McKenzie, who recently appeared on Vancouver's TSN 1040 and spoke at length about a possible trade involving the defenseman going down at the draft this weekend (h/t to Chris Nichols of FRSHockey.com for the transcription):
" ... I agree with you, I think they're going to trade Karlsson. They've got to get the right offer. It's not a gun to their head where the deal has got to be done by the draft, but it would make sense to do it by the draft.
"And I know they had the pretense after the trade deadline of saying, 'Oh well, we were only listening. We weren't really trying to trade him.' Well, fair enough. But the reality is they're listening again, as well they should because I think the notion of getting Karlsson re-signed could be difficult at best. And they should be able to get a haul for Karlsson, still with a year left on his contract.
"So that's going to be something that's front and center. Obviously, the Hoffman trade has occurred. And they're got to keep going down the rebuilding road here."
Darren Dreger all but confirmed what Senators fans have felt this offseason, saying that team owner Eugene Melnyk "relishes the opportunity to get to the cap floor and just see how things go, there is no sense in spending and wasting money if you are not going to be a contending team."
While deals involving Panarin and O'Reilly aren't likely to occur over the next few days, it doesn't sound like the same can be said for Karlsson.