The day is finally upon us…
If you’re a frequent reader of this blog, you should know by now how excited I am for the draft to get underway at 7pm EST tonight. The Wings hold the 24th pick in the draft, and every eligible player in the room holds the hope of hearing their name called at some point tonight.
A lifetime of hard work, sacrifice and dedication has built them up to this point, where they are nearly ready to begin their journey as professional hockey players.
But the draft isn’t the only thing brewing this evening. Kicked off by a frenzied day of trading by the Flyers, and a couple of other teams attempting to make deals, today should be chock full of excitement. Follow after the jump while I analyze what went down yesterday, and what we could see happen today.
The Calgary Flames and Buffalo Sabres held the NHL spotlight yesterday…for all of about 10 minutes. The Flames asked veteran blueliner Robyn Regehr to waive his no movement clause and accept a trade to the Sabres. The Flames have been in the process of dramatically making over their blueline in the past few years, with little success. They acquired Jay Bouwmeester, then dealt away Dion Phaneuf. They’ve moved some pieces around in the bottom part of their order, including letting go of Staffan Kronwall and Steve Staois. The emergence of Mark Giordano as a legitimate top pairing guy has made Regehr and his $4+M cap hit expendable. Regehr has not said whether or not he will waive his clause, and has not given a time line on when he will decide. One would think that the deal would involve Calgary receiving picks back, so Calgary has to be hoping to have his answer by tonight.
Paul Holmgren, not to be outdone, made sure that the Philadelphia Flyers were the talk of the league yesterday, and will likely continue to be tonight.
Holmgren made a huge shakeup of team chemistry, despite the Flyers reaching the Stanley Cup Finals just a year ago. He dealt assistant captain and potential 40 goal, 80 point man Jeff Carter to the Blue Jackets. He then dealt captain Mike Richards to the Los Angeles Kings.
Holmgren made the deals so that about an hour later he could sign goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov to a 9 year, $51M contract. He had acquired Bryzgalov’s negotiating rights from Phoenix a few weeks ago, and Bryzgalov would have become a UFA in another week had they not been able to agree to terms.
The rest of the NHL should have been well aware that Philadelphia was straight-jacketed by the salary cap, and were forced to shed salary. Somehow, Holmgren was able to make out like a bandit, robbing both trading partners blind.
From Columbus, he acquired the 8th overall pick in this years draft (which is virtually certain to produce a stud), Columbus’ third round pick this year, as well as budding young power forward Jakub Voracek’s rights (he is an RFA on July 1).
From the Kings, in perhaps an even better deal, Philadelphia acquired Wayne Simmonds, an excellent special teamer capable of putting up 30-40 points, the Kings second round pick, as well as star-in-the-making Brayden Schenn. Schenn was drafted 5th overall just two years ago.
In all, the Flyers lost two of their best forwards, but set themselves up beautifully for the future by finally inking a franchise goaltender, adding three young forwards capable of contributing right away, and three early picks this year. Unreal haul by Holmgren, especially considering everyone knew he had to shed salary.
Today may not produce quite the same blockbuster deals that yesterday saw, but I’m certain we haven’t seen the last wheeling and dealing this week.
I wrote a week ago that the Minnesota Wild were having a sale, and everyone was invited.
One player whom I speculated would be available was defenseman Brent Burns. Yesterday, in their draft preview show, TSN named Burns as one of 5 players who could be on the move at some point before or during the draft (the others included Regehr, Vancouver backup Cory Schneider, Edmonton winger Ales Hemsky, and LA forward Ryan Smyth).
The Regehr/Hemsky/Smyth rumors are all interconnected due to the fact that Smyth has told the Los Angeles management team that he wants to finish his contract out playing in Alberta, where he enjoyed the best years of his career and was known as Captain Canada.
Calgary needs to clear some space out in order to acquire Smyth, while Edmonton could easily fit him in under the cap without losing Hemsky. However, they’ve been trying to deal Hemsky for a while now, and if they are going to be adding a top 6 winger anyway, they might as well see what they can get for him.
Another important bit of news yesterday was the official announcement of the salary cap for the 2011-2012 season. The upper limit is set at $64.3M, while the floor is $48.3M. The second number is the most important one right now, as every team must commit to at least that much in salary, and as it stands there are several teams who must add a hefty chunk of it before the season starts.
Florida leads the way in terms of cap space, as they are a full $30M short of the floor. I can’t even fathom how bad their team is right now, to be that far short of the salary cap. Good thing they got a whole bunch of prospects and picks when they traded away all of their warm bodies at the trade deadline.
The Hurricanes, Coyotes and Avalanche are next, and then comes an interesting team. The Winnipeg franchise (whose team name is expected to be announced today before they make their pick at 7th overall) has to spend at least $12M to get to the floor. They also have a new ownership group and a GM who certainly want to put their own stamp on the team, and show the fans in Winnipeg that they were right to invest in all those seasons tickets. Winnipeg needs help down the middle desperately, so don’t be shocked if they get in on the bidding for Brad Richards, or, failing that hooking up in a deal with a team like Minnesota (who needs to dump salary), or Washington (who needs an identity makeover).
Tune in at 7pm for the draft tonight, which I will be live-tweeting for DSN. You can follow me by clicking the DSN Twitter account by clicking here, and you can follow my personal Twitter account here.
Also, stay tuned as myself and another fellow draft nerd will be providing our take on a mock draft of tonight’s first round sometime this afternoon!