The questions don't always get answered at the draft
OTTAWA -- The road between the draft and the 2009 playoffs is long and filled with unknowns, but each of the 30 NHL teams hopes -- nay, believes -- it has started that journey on the right foot today.Along the way, that belief will be shattered for many teams. In some cases it will be rewarded beyond the wildest expectations.
Here's a look at the steps -- and missteps -- taken by some of those teams.Going big
Every year there are a handful of NHL teams that seem to say, "We're going for it and darn the consequences." So far, it appears the Montreal Canadiens are that team. T he Habs have received permission from the Toronto Maple Leafs to initiate discussions with Toronto captain Mats Sundin's agent, J.P. Barry, about signing a deal. Sundin's intentions aren't known, but by making the pitch, the Canadiens are sending a clear signal to Sundin and other potential free agents that they are intent on taking the next step after finishing first in the East last season.
Going boldly forward
If the pressure is on the Coyotes to continue to improve to keep an uncertain fan base interested in the game in the desert, then there is even more pressure on the woeful Florida Panthers to show a pulse after making the playoffs just once since 1996. Was Jokinen the bad seed that was hampering development? Can Ballard, gritty and all-character, instill some urgency to the Panthers' dressing room? Rookie GM Jacques Martin had better hope so. Martin still has his work cut out for him. He must re-sign restricted free agent Jay Bouwmeester. If he does, the Panthers' defense, which ranked a respectable 14th in goals-against average, should be even more solid. If he can't, Martin will have to make sure he finds top-level talent in return for Bouwmeester's services. And then he's got to hope young forwards Stephen Weiss and Nathan Horton can fill the void created by Jokinen's departure. Back in the hunt
A year ago, the Calgary Flames looked to be a team that was ready to get back into the Stanley Cup contention game, but turned out to be the same maddeningly inconsistent team they have been since the end of the lockout. The Flames ranked 14th in scoring, and in an effort to change the dynamic, shipped Tanguay to Montreal and brought in Mike Cammalleri from Los Angeles. Cammalleri is two years removed from a 34-goal, 80-point campaign, but look for him to get back to those levels centering a line with Calgary captain Jarome Iginla.
Speaking of the Los Angeles Kings, they added another young gem in defenseman Drew Doughty with the second pick. He'll join a young roster that includes Jack Johnson, Dustin Brown, Anze Kopitar and Patrick O'Sullivan. Kings GM Dean Lombardi had been looking to move Cammalleri for some time and said Saturday it was simply because he didn't think he could keep him beyond next season, when Cammalleri will become an unrestricted free agent. The Kings put Dan Cloutier on waivers this weekend before buying out the veteran goaltender, and that position remains a major weak spot for a team that would desperately like to get back in the playoff chase. The Kings haven't been to the postseason since 2002. But if Lombardi has his way -- and having drafted three straight defensemen in Doughty, Colten Teubert with the 13th pick and then Vjateslav Voinov with the 32nd pick -- he will have stockpiled as deep a young defensive contingent as anyone in the league. "I like our chances. We now have a chance to have something down the road," he said. Jury's still out, Part 2
The Tampa Bay Lightning surprised no one by selecting the stylish Steve Stamkos with the No. 1 pick in the draft. While it's always unwise to expect too much of an 18-year-old, no matter how talented, there will be a nice cushion playing behind another former No. 1 draft pick: Vincent Lecavalier.Ideally, Stamkos would be playing behind Lecavalier and Jeff Halpern but Halpern won't be ready for the start of the season after injuring his knee at the World Championships. Still, the real issue for the Lightning, under new ownership, will be getting Lecavalier to sign a long-term extension. Rumors suggest such a deal could be signed in the coming week. If that's the case, that will take a potentially destructive distraction out of the equation for the Lightning, who haven't won a playoff round since winning the Cup in 2004. They finished 30th a year ago but aren't all that far removed from being a playoff team once again, and having Lecavalier around for the long haul is a major key to that rebound.
Scott Burnside is the NHL writer for ESPN.com.
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