The two-day NHL Draft is typically business as usual -- with the second day's final rounds of picks usually mundane and breaking news a rarity -- but that was definitely not the case in the 2012 edition of the draft.
This year's draft will go down in history not just because of some of the key amateur talent that was selected, but perhaps more so due to the surprising trades that took place, including the dealing of one player on his wedding day -- and joining his brother on a new team, and ended with a blockbuster deal that many did not see coming after the two days of picks had concluded.
In between, the foundation for another big trade in the coming days may have been potentially laid, as well.
The biggest news Saturday was the late afternoon deal that sent Luke Schenn from the Toronto Maple Leafs to the Philadelphia Flyers for forward James van Riemsdyk. Although he's only 22, Schenn is potentially a replacement for Flyers' captain Chris Pronger, whose future remains uncertain due to post-concussion symptoms. If Pronger doesn't return for training camp, or goes so far as to retire, Schenn is a budding star that gives the Flyers insurance for both the present and future. Despite his youth, Schenn has been in the NHL for four years, having scored 14 goals and 61 assists -- numbers that should markedly increase with his new team.
As an added bonus, Schenn is reunited on the Flyers with younger brother Brayden Schenn.
"He's a young guy, he's a right-(handed) shot, he's a big defenseman that plays physical and gritty, and he can move the puck," Flyers general manager Paul Holmgren said of Schenn in a conference call. "To get guys like this, you've got to be picking high in the draft. It's an opportunity for us ... and obviously James was taken high in the draft, too. It's another reason I believe why it's a good trade for both teams."
Meanwhile, Van Riemsdyk, who is also 22, gives the Maple Leafs some potent offense, having scored 47 goals and 52 assists in three NHL seasons.
"We are really excited by the parts of the game that James will bring to the Leafs," Toronto GM Brian Burke said, also in a conference call. "He will provide speed, size and finesse to our top two lines, and we know that he fits those needs that we have wanted to address for some time."
In an ironic twist not typically seen in the NHL, the reuniting of the Schenn brothers marked the second time in less than 24 hours that a trade was consummated that ultimately reunited another set of brothers, namely Jordan Staal being sent from Pittsburgh to Carolina, where he'll share a locker room with older brother Eric. More on that in a moment.
As for the draft itself, several teams definitely improved themselves, but there were also a few that made questionable picks that didn't make sense to outside observers.
Among the draft's high points:
--The Pittsburgh Penguins probably did the most to improve their team with separate Round 1 trades of Jordan Staal and Zbynek Michalek, the acquisition of Brandon Sutter and three future prospects. But their first- and third-round picks -- Derrick Pouliot and Oskar Sundqvist -- were among the best selections of the overall draft. As an added bonus, the moves by general manager Ray Shero increased the Penguins' cap space from nearly $9 million to just under $15 million for additional talent acquisition during the off-season.
--While Shero hated to give up Staal, especially with the trade coming on Staal's wedding day, the deal will ultimately help not only the Penguins, but also Staal's new team, the Carolina Hurricanes. Staal gets to start a new life with his new bride in a new city and team, but at the same time being reunited with older brother Eric. As Shero put it when he announced the trade, the younger Staal will now be able to "spread his wings" with the 'Canes, something he couldn't do being stuck behind Pittsburgh's perennial all-stars, Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, since he was drafted six years ago.
--There must have been an even bigger celebration during Jordan Staal's wedding in Thunder Bay, Ontario on Friday once news of the trade broke. Still, it was one of the most regret-filled trades Shero has ever been involved in: "It's emotional to trade someone that you're attached to. But I know it's good for him, it's good for his family and it's good for the Penguins. If we didn't have a [good] deal, I was not trading Jordan Staal. We were going to come back and play with him. Make it clear: Jordan never, ever asked me for a trade." Hurricanes general manager Jim Rutherford didn't even have the younger Staal in his trade plans until Friday afternoon, when he decided to give Shero a call out of the blue. While Rutherford did not want to add Sutter to the deal to sweeten it, getting someone of Staal's caliber was something he simply couldn't pass up, especially with the tutoring Staal has received over the last six years from both Crosby and Malkin. "You name me two or three other players, center icemen, who are like Jordan Staal," Rutherford said. "You just can't find them."
--Staal was elated, but also a bit taken aback when he first learned he would be wearing a different jersey in the upcoming season. "Even though we knew it might be coming, it was still a shock," Staal told NHL.com. "It was very tough to kind of take it all in. It was a very emotional day, not only with the wedding but being traded. It was some very good news that I was moved on to a great place and I'm very excited about that." Staal had turned down a 10-year, $60 million contract offer from Pittsburgh on Thursday. He is expected to sign a contract extension with Carolina this summer.
--New York Islanders officials finally listened to fans who have complained about their team being weak on defense the last few years, taking coveted defenseman Griffin Reinhart with the No. 4 pick in the first round, as well as trading for veteran d-man Lubomir Visnovsky from the Anaheim Ducks. Although Visnovksy is now 36, he still has some gas left in the tank, particularly on the power play, and could be a strong inspiration to some of the Isles' younger players.
--Speaking of defense, eight of the first 10 picks in the opening round were defensemen, which not only was surprising in and of itself, but also shook up the deck for some teams not being able to get more offensive-minded players that they also coveted. That's why picks like Filip Forsberg (Washington Capitals), Mikhail Grigorenko (Buffalo Sabres) and Teuvo Teravainen (Chicago Blackhawks) not only did not get chosen until after the first 10 picks of the first round, they also wound up with teams that in some cases they didn't expect to be picked by. In summation, the story of this year's draft was simple: offense scores goals, but defense wins hockey games, and that was definitely the message sent in this year's draft.
--Perhaps the biggest trade that many expected -- yet it never materialized -- was the dealing of Columbus Blue Jackets' star Rick Nash. Although he was expecting to be sent packing, Nash remained a Blue Jacket -- at least into Saturday night.
--Another surprise was Bobby Ryan's name coming up in trade talks. The Ducks' star is not happy in Anaheim and has subtly been dropping hints that he'd like to move on. But the subtlety is over after Ryan told the Reading (Pa.) Courier-Post that being traded to Philadelphia would "be a very ideal and comfortable place for me." Even his father, Bob Ryan, chipped in, adding, "In my mind, the Flyers are the best that there is." The younger Ryan then really let it all hang out at a Friday charity golf tournament, telling the Courier-Post, "I take things personally. Anaheim to me has been a team over the past year that really has shown me nothing to prove that they want me here, unfortunately. Obviously, it's not the ideal situation. When you get drafted, you want to win championships with that team and every time they look to add a piece to the puzzle, I'm the piece going the other way. I gotta be honest with you. At this point, I don't care. Move me ... because it's just tough going to the rink every day knowing that if something goes wrong, you're going to be the guy moved." In a conference call later Friday, Ducks GM Bob Murray released his own salvos: "I understand you all have been reading comments from Bobby and his father. I would just like to say I'm disappointed at this time by these comments. I intend to talk to Bobby personally when we get back from the draft and clear the air a little bit. That is all I have to say at this present time."
If you think that's all that happened Saturday, you'd be wrong. There was much more:
TRADES WERE THE RIGHT(S) DEAL
--The second day of the NHL Draft on Saturday included two other trades early on in the day, highlighted by the Toronto Maple Leafs sending the rights to goalie Jonas Gustavsson to the Winnipeg Jets. The Gustavsson deal was one of seven made during round two through seven at the Consol Energy Center in Pittsburgh. Gustavsson, expected to be an unrestricted free agent July 1, was traded for a conditional pick in the seventh round of next year's draft. Gustavsson, 27, was 17-17 with a 2.92 goals-against average, a .902 save percentage and four shutouts this past season. "This is a guy who is a skinny guy and he put on 15 pounds of lean muscle mass and played for us, he saved our butts last season at times and played some really good hockey for us and it's time for us as an organization to move on and it's time for him to move on," Maple Leafs general manager Brian Burke told NHL.com. "Winnipeg approached us and said they would like to sign him as a backup goalie in return for conditional picks. I left Jonas a message and said thank you for your hard work and good luck; spoke to his girlfriend, so they know what's going on. Gustavsson has a 39-45 record with a 2.98 goals against average, a .900 save percentage and 15 shutouts in 104 career games.
--In another trade involving players, the Tampa Bay Lightning got the rights to Benoit Pouliot from the Boston Bruins in exchange for Michel Ouellet and the No. 131 pick. Pouliot had 16 goals and 16 assists for the Bruins last season. He must receive a qualifying offer from Tampa Bay by Monday as he is set to become a free agent on July 1. The former No. 4 overall pick has 53 goals and 104 assists in 257 career games. Ouellet had 16 goals and 15 assists in 55 games for the Norfolk Admirals of the American Hockey League, which won the Calder Cup.
WHEELING AND DEALING
Five other trades took place Saturday, each involved future picks:
--The New York Rangers sent a third-round pick (No. 89) to Nashville for a third-round pick in 2013.
--Chicago traded a fourth-round pick (No. 109) to San Jose for a seventh-round pick (No. 191) and a fourth-round pick in 2013.
--Nashville sent a fifth-round pick (No. 142) to the New York Rangers for a fifth-round pick in 2013.
--Los Angeles traded a seventh-round pick (No. 183) to Dallas for a seventh-round pick in 2013.
--Dallas sent a seventh-round pick (No. 194) to Florida for a seventh-round pick in 2013.
BERGEVIN'S FIRST DRAFT GOES WELL
Judging by his smile, Marc Bergevin was happy with his first draft as the new Montreal Canadiens general manager. Bergevin and amateur scouting director Trevor Timmins took six players in the final six rounds that they believe will add much-needed depth to their prospect pool. "I'm very excited," Bergevin said. "For my first draft, time will tell, but I feel really proud of the guys that we picked today." Montreal took two players who were rated higher by NHL Central Scouting than their actual selection: third-ranked European skater, right wing Sebastian Collberg, was taken at No. 33; defenseman Dalton Thrower, the 26th-rated North American skater, was chosen at No. 51.