Which teams stood out at NHL draft?
MONTREAL -- At the end of the day -- or two days, as is the case with the NHL's annual draft -- there might be a tendency to suggest that when all was said and done, all those rumors and all that speculation amounted to little more than a hill of pucks.
Yet never in the league's history has making a hockey deal been more difficult, given the ponderous contracts with which many teams are currently saddled and the uncertainty of where the salary cap may go in a year.
"I think there's going to be some hard lessons this summer," Canucks GM Michael Gillis said. "If Major League Baseball is any precursor to what we're facing, there were some guys that were left without a place to play for a long period of time. I'm not sure what will happen on July 1, but I do think that there's a limited pool of resources in the marketplace this year, and it's going to play out in some significant ways."
It is much like navigating a minefield.
Here's a look at how some teams managed that navigation at this weekend's draft and what lies ahead:
Smooth sailingAnaheim Ducks: Many GMs we spoke with marveled at the job Anaheim GM Bob Murray has done since taking over this past season after Brian Burke took the top job in Toronto.
Murray acquired what amounted to four first-round draft picks in his Chris Pronger deal with Philadelphia on Friday night in the form of former first-rounders Joffrey Lupul and Luca Sbisa and two first-round picks (2009 and a conditional pick in 2010). The Ducks sent veteran defenseman Pronger and a minor league forward to the Flyers.
Murray achieved the almost impossible task of getting younger, cheaper and more explosive offensively. Yes, the Ducks will miss Pronger, but with Sbisa looking to step into a full-time NHL role and Scott Niedermayer returning to act as a mentor, the Ducks have positioned themselves nicely for next season.
"We have some good, young assets now," Murray said. "As we go forward, if we need to move one of them, I feel like I have more bullets left in my gun. We were getting down to where there were no bullets left."
Look for Murray to try to move former playoff MVP Jean-Sebastien Giguere, although the pressure to do so has lessened with the Pronger deal.
Philadelphia Flyers: Speaking of the Flyers, GM Paul Holmgren acknowledged he gave up a lot for Pronger's services. He will attempt to re-sign the veteran in the coming days, as the former Hart and Norris Trophy winner has one year left on his contract at $6.25 million. With Pronger aboard and netminder Ray Emery locked up, it's almost certain that Martin Biron will be gone, and it's hard to imagine veteran forward Mike Knuble will be back unless he agrees to a steep hometown discount.
Holmgren has about three holes to fill in his lineup and about $6 million in cap space with which to complete the job, less if he wants to leave himself some cushion for the season. Still, it's not every day you can add a future Hall of Famer, and Holmgren did just that and drove up his team's Stanley Cup chances in the process.
Atlanta Thrashers: They will never be a salary-cap team, but that doesn't mean economics won't play a significant role in how they proceed, especially with star winger Ilya Kovalchuk set to become an unrestricted free agent next year. But the Thrashers continued on that slow road back to respectability, and perhaps even relevance, with what one rival GM described as "a terrific draft."
GM Don Waddell told ESPN.com on Saturday that their top three picks -- Evander Kane, Carl Klingberg and Jeremy Morin -- were all potential first-round picks in the Thrashers' draft mockup, and they got Klingberg at No. 34 and Morin at 45.
Kane, the fourth overall pick, is considered a keeper, and if he continues to add bulk (his father is a boxing/fitness trainer), Waddell said the talented center from the Vancouver Giants could be on the team's roster in the fall.
The Thrashers also likely will be interested in adding a top-four defenseman and no doubt will look at the availability of Toronto blueliner Tomas Kaberle.
Pittsburgh Penguins: With the core of his Stanley Cup team locked up long-term, Pittsburgh GM Ray Shero is all about adding bits and pieces, and he has spoken to Bill Guerin about returning for another season.
"I've talked to him about the parameters of the deal to come back," Shero said after the draft Saturday. "We'd like to have him back, and I think he wants to come back. So, likely Monday we'll turn our attention to Billy and try to finalize something for July 1 for him to come back."
Less certain is the situation regarding free agent Ruslan Fedotenko, whose play picked up down the stretch and into the playoffs.
"We're a little bit away on that, I think. We'll wait and see and what happens," Shero said.
As for Rob Scuderi, who played so well throughout the playoffs, Shero expects the defenseman to wait until July 1 but hopes to bring him back as he did a year ago, when Brooks Orpik was a free-agent defenseman.
"Rob knows we want him back, but at the same time, Rob's never made a lot of money, so we'll see how it goes for him," Shero said.
Rough watersCalgary Flames: A bold move by Calgary GM Darryl Sutter to acquire the rights to highly coveted defenseman Jay Bouwmeester from Florida for Jordan Leopold and a high draft pick. The assumption is the Flames will be able to bring Bouwmeester under contract before July 1, but what are the repercussions?
The Flames already are set to pay Jarome Iginla and Miikka Kiprusoff $7 million, Daymond Langkow $4.25 million, Dion Phaneuf $6.5 million, Robyn Regehr $3.5 million, Cory Sarich $3.7 million and Olli Jokinen $5.5 million. That's more than $37 million for seven players, and if you figure Bouwmeester will cost around Phaneuf numbers, then the Flames' payroll will jump to roughly $43 million for about a third of their roster.
For a team that had to play with a shortened lineup because of cap issues down the stretch this past season, Sutter has some work to do to shed salary and keep things on the rails. Sutter did perform a minor miracle, though, sending Jim Vandermeer and his $2.3 million salary to Phoenix on Saturday.
Ottawa Senators: They remain tied to disgruntled winger Dany Heatley, and the clock continues to tick inexorably toward July 1, when Heatley will be owed a $4 million bonus. GM Bryan Murray has insinuated he has no interest in trading Heatley after that point, given the club's significant investment. If that quasi-deadline passes, it will set up an interesting situation come training camp time in Ottawa.
"I think there will be a little further discussion," Murray said Saturday. "I don't know how much, but I guess we'll attempt to accommodate, if that's the right word. I think we'll have further discussions, and we'll see what happens."
The Rangers want an impact forward, and it's believed Heatley would agree to waive his no-trade clause to go to New York, but sources tell ESPN.com that Murray thus far has been reluctant to take back any, or much, in the way of salary to complete a deal. The Rangers, for instance, would like to unload Michal Rozsival, who has three more years on his contract with a $5 million cap hit.
How the Heatley mess resolves itself will impact how Murray moves forward come July 1.
"I said at the end of the hockey season I'd really like to get a top-six forward, whether that be through trade or through free agency," Murray said. "I hope to be able on July 1 to participate in some conversations with people and find out if Ottawa is a place."
Still waitingToronto Maple Leafs: They were expected to be movers and shakers at the draft but in the end weren't able to accomplish any of the goals they established beforehand. A rumored deal involving Boston's Phil Kessel and Kaberle turned out to be nothing, and Burke said he was not involved in trying to acquire Bouwmeester's rights.
"We were not involved in that," Burke said. "The notion of buying a ticket to get into the circus early and look at the acts, I'm not interested in that as a rule. Someday maybe, but not right now."
Burke declined to package top young defenseman Luke Schenn in any deal to move up in the draft, but he no doubt will continue to entertain offers for Kaberle. Come July 1, look for Burke to be in the thick of offers for Daniel and Henrik Sedin, assuming they don't re-sign in Vancouver.
Minnesota Wild: It was the first draft for new GM Chuck Fletcher, and the Wild were relatively quiet, even though they will look to add some firepower to their lineup. A number of rookie or first-time GMs were at the draft -- Greg Sherman of the Avs, Joe Nieuwendyk of the Stars, Panthers interim GM Randy Sexton and Brian Lawton of the Lightning. Watch for Fletcher to try to gather some offense for the Wild once free agency starts.
Montreal Canadiens: At one point Friday night, someone yelled down from the Bell Centre seats, "Make a trade, Bob!" But Montreal GM Bob Gainey was quiet, even though he has 10 unrestricted free agents to deal with and the prospect of a significant turnover in his lineup. Rumors of a potential draft weekend deal involving Vincent Lecavalier did not come to fruition.
Once July 1 hits, Gainey will be a busy man, and among the names being bandied about is Martin Havlat, who has yet to reach an agreement in Chicago. Marian Hossa, once coveted by the Habs, also could be on the market.
Los Angeles Kings: They continued to pile up prospects this weekend, drafting 10 players, including Brayden Schenn, the brother of Toronto's Luke Schenn. But GM Dean Lombardi still would like to add an impact forward to help his young Kings move forward next season. A player such as Ryan Smyth would add character and leadership, and of course, Heatley would provide instant offense. But, regardless, watch for Lombardi to make a splash when free agency opens.
Scott Burnside and Pierre LeBrun cover the NHL for ESPN.com.
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