<
>

Day 1: Draft and trade analysis

6/27/2009 - NHL

MONTREAL -- Trades … draft trivia … the Bell Centre crowd … here's all you need to know from Day 1 of the NHL draft:

Post-draft: Murray makes tough call to part with Pronger

Pierre LeBrun: What a day for Bob Murray. The Anaheim Ducks GM first found out that future Hall of Fame blueliner Scott Niedermayer will return for another season. Then Murray traded away another future Hall of Famer in Chris Pronger in a blockbuster deal that stole the spotlight Friday night at the NHL draft.

"You don't trade Hall of Famers every day. It's not that much fun, to be honest with you," Murray told a group of us late Friday night.

Let me say this: Murray did very, very well. He recouped a ton in the deal, and he believed that kind of value wasn't going to be there forever for Pronger, who has one year left on his deal. The time was now.

"The offers we were getting, where we were going as an organization, if we let it go too much further we probably would not have had the chance to recoup some of those young things," Murray said. "We couldn't get by Detroit [in the second round] because we didn't have enough top-six forwards. Now, we got a top-six forward in Joffrey Lupul.

"We got a young defenseman that I love in [Luca] Sbisa and the first-round picks. Sure, we took a bit of a step back here … but at some point in time in Anaheim, we were going to play without Chris Pronger and Scott Niedermayer. That's a fact. It's not a fun day to look forward to, but it's a fact."

That Niedermayer phoned him and told Murray he was coming back was the not the clincher we all thought it was in terms of a Pronger deal.

"It made it easier, but it was going to go down one way or another," Murray said.

Murray didn't like my question (and I can't blame him) when I asked him about the future of Jean-Sebastien Giguere. As I reported Thursday, the veteran goalie, who has a no-trade clause, has given Murray a short list of teams that he would be willing to moved to, including Toronto.

"I have great goaltending at the moment. Does anybody care to question that?" Murray said.

When I pressed, he said: "I've got good goaltending and I expect to move forward with it this way, as of right now. But like any player on our team, I will listen."

My prediction: Giguere goes to Toronto some time this summer. The Leafs have the cap space for the $13 million and two years left on his deal.

10:25 p.m. ET: Disappointing first round for Maple Leafs

Scott Burnside: If you had to bet on one man making a splash at Friday's draft, it would have been Toronto GM Brian Burke. It didn't happen that way, despite his best efforts.

Although he had publicly announced his desire to move up in the draft, Burke said late Friday night he wanted to move up while keeping the team's seventh overall pick. He also declined to move last year's top pick, Luke Schenn.

"What we tried to do is move up and keep this pick," Burke said. "Could we have moved up? Easily. We could have done it easily. We could have done it on the floor. We could have done it two weeks ago if we put Luke Schenn in the deal. To me, that's a step backwards for our franchise. My ego's not that big.

"I think for the Toronto Maple Leafs, we made a prudent decision to keep the kid that I think will be our captain in a couple years. We added an asset that I think is going to be an important part of our team down the road," Burke added, referring to center Nazem Kadri, whom the Leafs drafted with the seventh pick.

As for Burke's treatment by the Bell Centre fans, a chorus of long, hearty boos came his way as he reached the podium. Burke was in fine form.

"I will tell you this -- the best hockey fans on the planet are not in Montreal, they're in Toronto," Burke said. "When we host this event in a couple years, this will seem like child's play for the booing they get in Toronto."

9:50 p.m. ET: No Heatley trade … for now

Full blog updates
Pierre LeBrun: Saturday morning is approaching and Dany Heatley remains a member of the Ottawa Senators.

"A couple of teams I've talked to, we're just beating around the bushes right now," Sens GM Bryan Murray told a group of media Friday night. "So we'll just certainly get through tonight without anything happening, I would assume."

I asked Murray if he was frustrated with the quality of offers, or lack thereof.

"I just watched one of the other trades take place [the Pronger deal] and, yes, I think there's a better offer needed, certainly," Murray said. "I've made a couple of requests and I think I've been quite fair really. I know I can't get a match for Dany Heatley, I know that for a fact, but I want to get some fair value."

A source told ESPN.com the New York Rangers remain in the mix for Heatley, but believe the Senators are asking for too much. As we reported earlier, there's a $4 million bonus to be paid to Heatley on July 1, and if there are teams waiting for that to pass before pouncing on Heatley, Murray had a message for them.

"Well, they'll have to somehow or other take some money on besides that," Murray said. "If we get to that stage [past July 1], then it will probably not happen."

The clock is ticking.

9:35 p.m. ET: Home crowd cheers on Gainey, Habs' first-round pick

Burnside: It might not have been the big move the Bell Centre fans were hoping for, but GM Bob Gainey did give the hometown crowd something to cheer about when the Canadiens selected Kirkland, Quebec, native Louis Leblanc with their first pick of the draft (18th overall).

The crowd exploded when the 6-foot, 178-pound forward was announced. Leblanc played for Omaha of the USHL last season, scoring 28 goals and recording 59 points in 60 games. It marked the first time the Canadiens had drafted a home-province player in 11 years; the last was Eric Chouinard in 1998 (16th overall).

9:10 p.m. ET: Joe Sakic has made his decision, but …

Full blog updates
Pierre LeBrun: We just had our first encounter with new Avs GM Greg Sherman and he gave us an update on the status of future Hall of Famer Joe Sakic.

"Joe and I have talked. He has made an indication of his intentions," Sherman told ESPN.com. "We will be addressing it in the upcoming weeks."

To which I said: "Well, is he coming back or not?"

Sherman replied: "We'll be addressing it in the coming weeks."

Fair enough.

Meanwhile, the rookie GM was pretty pumped about adding third overall pick Matt Duchene, and he should be. Some scouts believed he was the best player in the draft.

"We're real excited about getting a player of Matt Duchene's caliber," Sherman said. "It's another exciting piece for us."

8:05 p.m. ET: The Bell Centre crowd gets rowdy

Scott Burnside: When the Phoenix Coyotes were announced as the sixth pick in the draft a brief chant of "Hamilton, Hamilton, Hamilton" went up at one end of the Bell Centre. The Coyotes, of course, are in a life-and-death struggle to stay alive in Phoenix, while Canadian BlackBerry mogul Jim Balsillie is determined to move the team to Hamilton, Ontario.

The chant was interesting given that, in general, folks in Quebec are not all that enamored with their cousins across the Ontario border.

The yells continued a few minutes later before the Maple Leafs' first-round pick, when you heard the crowd chant "1967"! That was the last time Toronto won the Stanley Cup.

We also heard a voice from the crowd yell early in the draft, "Make a move, Bob." So far, nothing yet from Montreal GM Bob Gainey and the host Habs.

7:43 p.m. ET: Thrashers select Evander Kane

Burnside: The Atlanta Thrashers selected Vancouver Giants forward Evander Kane with the fourth overall selection. By the time he reached the podium, his uncle Leonard was already wearing a Thrashers jersey in the Bell Centre stands, having guessed correctly the team would take his nephew. He had purchased the jersey beforehand, but wouldn't tell Kane which jersey he had bought.

"Apparently, they must have talked to [Atlanta GM] Don Waddell before the draft," Kane joked.

7:13 p.m. ET: Ducks trade Chris Pronger to Flyers for Joffrey Lupul

TRADE DETAILS TRADE TRACKER
Scott Burnside's analysis: Rebuffed in their attempts to secure the signing rights to Florida Panthers defenseman Jay Bouwmeester, the Philadelphia Flyers went the veteran route Friday instead, making a bold move in landing veteran defenseman and former Hart Trophy and Norris Trophy winner Chris Pronger.

Pronger brings a rugged presence to the Flyers' blue line, along with better-than-average offensive skills and, in one swift move, makes Philly a force to be reckoned with in the Eastern Conference.

"It gives [the Flyers] a shot to win the Stanley Cup immediately; it's as simple as that," Ducks GM Bob Murray said. "Paul Holmgren is trying to win. We were there three years ago. … I admire him for taking a shot."

After losing to Pittsburgh in the 2008 Eastern Conference finals and this past postseason in the first round, the feeling was they needed to get more talented and physical along the blue line. They did just that Friday night, as Pronger will join Kimmo Timonen and Braydon Coburn as a solid top three.

"He brings a lot of things to any team that he's on," Flyers GM Paul Holmgren said. "First of all, he's a proven winner, and secondly the size, and he can pass the puck as well as anybody, and he brings a nice physical presence both in stature and the way he plays.

"I think he's an ideal fit on our team. I think he's going to make all of our other defensemen on our team better around him, and he'll be an excellent role model for all of our young players."

The Flyers made a significant pitch for Bouwmeester at the trade deadline, but could not come to a deal with the Panthers. Leading up to the draft, they were among the teams looking at acquiring the signing rights to Bouwmeester, but Bouwmeester made it clear he isn't interested in signing before the July 1 free-agency period, setting the stage for Friday's deal for Pronger.

On the other side of the equation, the Ducks reacquired forward Joffrey Lupul in the deal, making this the second time Lupul has been traded for Pronger in the last three seasons.

The Ducks initially sent Lupul to Edmonton after the 2006 season, when Pronger demanded out of Edmonton following the Oilers' run to the 2006 Stanley Cup finals.
While Pronger arrived in Anaheim and helped the Ducks to a Stanley Cup in 2007, Lupul didn't fit in Edmonton, scoring just 16 times before being sent to Philadelphia in a multiplayer deal that sent Joni Pitkanen to Alberta.

Lupul enjoyed some success in Philadelphia, scoring 45 goals over two seasons with the Flyers. He will bring some needed scoring to the Ducks, who were exposed during the second round of the playoffs against Detroit as being a one-line offensive unit. Lupul will add some scoring punch to a second line, possibly playing with Teemu Selanne.

The Ducks also acquired top defensive prospect Luca Sbisa, who was the 19th overall pick in 2008 and played 39 regular-season games and one playoff game for the Flyers this past season. Anaheim also received a 2009 first-round pick, 2010 first-round pick and a further conditional pick. The Flyers also picked up minor league forward Ryan Dingle.

"It's a lot to give up, absolutely," Holmgren acknowledged. "Ask me a year from now if it's worth it."

The Ducks were looking to shed salary. This week, netminder Jean-Sebastien Giguere provided GM Bob Murray with a list of teams for which he would waive his no-trade clause. The Pronger deal might lessen the urgency to move Giguere, although that might still be an option given that Jonas Hiller has taken over the starting job.

Pronger has one more year left on his contract at $6.25 million, and we expect the Flyers will seek a contract extension at some point in the near future. Lupul has four years left on his deal and is owed $4.25 million in each of those seasons.

With Pronger gone and Scott Niedermayer confirming Friday he would return for at least one more season (he still needs to sign a contract), the Ducks have revamped their defense corps from last season after adding Ryan Whitney and James Wisniewski at the trade deadline. It remains unknown whether Murray will try to keep Francois Beauchemin, who could become an unrestricted free agent July 1.

Pre-draft: Surprise!

Burnside: A nice gesture by the National Hockey League Players' Association to make a surprise appearance at Martin Brodeur's charity golf tournament near Montreal on Friday.

NHLPA executive members Paul Kelly, Glenn Healy and Pat Flatley arrived unannounced at the tournament to present Brodeur with a painting to commemorate his record-setting season with the New Jersey Devils. Brodeur became the winningest goalie of all time late in the regular season and the NHLPA commissioned a painting based on a childhood photo taken of Brodeur making a spectacular save. The artist, Tony Harris, was also on hand for the impromptu presentation.

"It was wonderful. Marty was really touched, and his dad was crying," NHLPA executive director Kelly told ESPN.com on Friday during the draft.

Scott Burnside and Pierre LeBrun cover the NHL for ESPN.com.