At around 3 p.m. this afternoon, the Colorado Avalanche will make the first choice in the 2013 NHL Entry Draft in Newark, N.J.. They’re likely to take Nathan McKinnon from Halifax of the QMJHL first overall; the Avs’ new management team of Joe Sakic and Patrick Roy has said for a few weeks now that Colorado is not likely to take defenseman Seth Jones off the top.
We’ll find out shortly.
For the first time since 2006, the draft will be conducted in its entirety in one day. With the NHL’s salary cap declining by about $6 million per team, with a handful of players gaining free agent status because of compliance buyouts and with one of the deepest drafts of recent vintage, there could be a lot of wheeling and dealing going on here on the floor of the Prudential Center.
The top tier of players available in the 2013 draft is said to be the best in several years, and perhaps the best since 2003. While this year’s crop doesn’t appear to be as deep as that stellar 2003 group, the first half of the first round offers some intriguing opportunities. With that being the case, expect a number of teams to look into moving up into that area.
Carolina is reported to be one of the teams willing to drop down; the Canes hold the fifth overall pick. Calgary, Columbus, Buffalo and Dallas all have multiple first-rounders and the Flames, Sabres and Stars all own picks inside the top 10. Logic would dictate that if you’re interested in climbing into the top 10, those teams are a good place to start.
Montreal is reported to be one of the teams interested in moving up. The Habs’ first choice is currently No. 25 in the first round.
From the sound of things, virtually half the league is interested in at least having a conversation with newly bought out center Vincent Lecavalier, now an unrestricted free agent. Lecavalier can’t sign until July 5, but he can talk to teams now. I’d expect that Washington would kick Lecavalier’s tires as an option if it is unable to come to terms with soon-to-be UFA Mike Ribeiro.
According to ESPN.com’s Pierre LeBrun, the Capitals met with Lecavalier on Saturday. Lecavalier is expected to have many suitors, and many options for his next address. His decision may hinge on factors aside from money, as he will already be paid handsomely for many years per the terms of his buyout from the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Caps coach Adam Oates is a former Lightning assistant who is familiar with Lecavalier as a person and a player. That familiarity may help Washington, but many other factors will be in play from both Washington’s and from Lecavalier’s standpoint.
The first player chosen in the 1998 draft, the 33-year-old Lecavalier has spent his entire career with the Lightning. He’s certainly on the back nine, but should have some good years left. With so many teams needing a boost up the middle and on the top six, he’ll likely be able to write his own ticket. Lecavalier averaged .82 points per game last season, right in line with his .84 career figure. Expect some spirited bidding.
Seemingly unable to generate a market for goaltender Roberto Luongo, the Vancouver Canucks are now reportedly willing to move netminder Cory Schneider and keep Luongo as their main man between the pipes. Several teams are either without a clear No. 1 netminder for the upcoming season, have an incumbent goalie that will be UFA this summer or are in need of an upgrade. Those teams may include Pittsburgh, the New York Islanders, Florida, Columbus and as always, Philadelphia.
There are also rumblings that the Canucks would move blueliner Alexander Edler in the right deal.
Moving east just a bit – but still north of the border – there are rumors that Winnipeg would entertain offers for Evander Kane. He is under contract for four more years at a cap hit of $5.25 million. If the Jets are shopping Kane, several teams should have interest.
Boston will part ways with right wing Nathan Horton and defenseman Andrew Ference, both of whom will explore the free agent market. The Bruins are also said to be fielding offers for young forward Tyler Seguin, the No. 2 overall pick in 2010 who has fallen from favor in Beantown. Seguin’s big ticket deal (five more years at an annual cap hit of $5.75 million) and flat-lining potential will limit the number of teams interested, but he’s still just 21 and could be an intriguing project for the right coach and team.
Horton’s pending departure may temper Boston’s urge to move Seguin, however.
Buffalo moved out some veteran players at the trade deadline, swapping captain Jason Pominville and defensemen Jordan Leopold and Robyn Regehr. But the Sabres’ purge might not be over yet. With picks No. 8 and 16 in the first round, there is noise that they may move out longtime netminder Ryan Miller and top line winger Thomas Vanek and basically start from scratch. Both players have spent their entire NHL careers in Buffalo.
The Capitals would like to upgrade the left side of their defense, and they could be in the market for a top six forward if they can’t come to an agreement on a contract extension for Ribeiro. There is a lot of demand for top four defensemen and for top six forwards throughout the league, as always. There aren’t many blueliners to be had, but there are some forwards on the market.
If the Caps are able to find a match, they might try to move up and tap one of the elite players in the 2013 draft. That failing, they’ll hang back and wait. Washington likes a dozen or so of the players slated to go in the first round, making it unlikely that one of those players would slip to No. 23. Moving down and out of the first round for an extra pick or two is a possibility if the Caps don’t like what’s on the board at No. 23.
Washington general manager George McPhee has made a significant splash in the trade market at each of the last two drafts, acquiring Troy Brouwer from Chicago in 2011 and Ribeiro from Dallas last summer. Don’t be surprised if McPhee makes another draft day deal today.