Everyone came into the weekend expecting fireworks and plenty of them, but uncertainty over the NHL salary cap prevented any Friday trade of note apart from the Flyers moving back a few picks.
If you’re trying to make a trade and you have a range of like $1.5 million in cap space, it may not seem like much in the grand scheme of things, but that can be the difference between being over by half a million bucks on opening day, and can really screw you, even if you’ve got someone you’re going to put on LTIR the second you can.
The New Jersey Devils blew up all the concerns about a boring draft weekend by giving up next to nothing of note to acquire P.K. Subban from Nashville. The trade made sense for both sides, in theory, but in actual practice it looks like David Poile sold as low as humanly possible on a guy who finished third in Norris voting just a season earlier.
Let’s start with New Jersey, which was already making the No. 1 pick this weekend but improved even more in adding Subban. There’s no question Subban wasn’t good last season, but to go from a reliably 2-plus WAR player to being below replacement level in a single year is odd.
There are criticisms that he can’t skate anymore, that his long-time effectiveness moving the puck out of his own zone has escaped him due to age and injury. He doesn’t drive play anymore, at least not relative to his team. And if you want to give some of the blame for Nashville’s power-play problems last year to him, I think that’s fair.
But to get a three-time all-star for the cost of a replacement-level player in Steve Santini, a who-knows prospect in Jeremy Davies and a pair of second-round picks? That’s an unequivocal home run, and gives the Devils something they haven’t had in years: A star defender. Maybe a faded star, but he’s still better than, say, Sami Vatanen or Andy Greene.
The Devils still have a pile of cap space, as well, meaning they can add more talent in free agency if they so choose, and if you’re building around a core of Hall, Hischier, and now Jack Hughes and Subban, maybe you’re poised to take a step forward in what is, admittedly, a tough division. Which means they need to either get Cory Schneider going again or hope Mackenzie Blackwood is what he appeared to be in limited time last season.
Meanwhile, the Predators cleared cap space — a whopping $9 million of it for the next three years, in fact — but will almost certainly use most or all of it (plus a few dollars more) to try to overpay Matt Duchene.
Whether that gets them back to where they think they can be is tough to say. Never a bad thing to add good forwards to your group, and maybe if you think you’re a Duchene away from the Cup, then that’s a worthwhile move. They also might not be done wheeling and dealing even before taking a run at Duchene, with rumors that Kyle Turris — coming off a bummer season of his own — is also available.
But if all you got for Subban was a bottom-pair defender, three futures, and (most important) a ton of cap space, one struggles to see a huge return for a forward who only had four even-strength goals last year.
So the Devils probably took a step forward but one imagines they need more help, either from the current roster or an addition in the next couple weeks, to be competitive in 2019-20. The Predators definitely took a step back with the hope of taking a bigger one forward. Tough to know if that works out in the Central, even if it was in a down year.
Please note these grades aren’t just for the draft, but everything a team did this weekend. Thank you. Thanks.
Anaheim Ducks: Awesome fit for Trevor Zegras as the heir apparent to Ryan Getzlaf, though obviously you don’t want to bet on the fact that he too becomes a Hall of Famer. Maybe just settle for a star. The rest of the draft seemed a lot like the team playing it safe with guys who have higher floors but lower ceilings. Which is fine if you think you’re going to be picking high every year. B
Arizona Coyotes: Didn’t really get the Victor Soderstrom pick at 11, since they traded up to get him. He’s a good prospect but maybe not No. 11 good, you know? Anyway, they went almost exclusively with forwards for the rest of the draft and if you have the Coyotes roster, that’s probably a good idea. B
Boston Bruins: Bit of a reach on John Beecher. Didn’t understand it with Arthur Kaliyev, among others, still on the board and the Bruins picking 30th. Why not swing for the fences with a pick no one is really going to expect anything from since it was so late in the first round anyway? It’s the Trent Frederic pick all over again. They only had four other picks, only one other in the first four rounds, so that’s not great. C
Buffalo Sabres: I really like Dylan Cozens for the Sabres specifically. Gets Casey Mittelstadt out of the “No. 2 center of the future” conversation sooner than later and lets him become more of a “the kind of No. 3 center on good teams” type, which is what his game seems to need for now. The rest of their draft was meh, though, and the apparent inability to find a buyer for Rasmus Ristolainen was a bit disappointing. B-
Calgary Flames: Having a bit of trouble wrapping my head around Jakob Pelletier at 26. Not that he’s disappointing or anything, but there were better players available that seem to do a lot of the same stuff he does. On the other hand, I thought there was some pretty good value in Ilya Nikolaev at 88, so maybe it all comes out in the wash when you only have five picks total. C
Carolina Hurricanes: Nice choice with Ryan Suzuki in the first round, I’d say, and adding three more second-round picks after that season? That’s how you do a rebuild. Especially if you’re also going to weaponize your cap space to get a first-round pick out of Toronto. Shame they couldn’t move Justin Faulk at the draft, but we’ve got all week. A
Chicago Blackhawks: Kirby Dach and Alex Vlasic are two very good choices in the first 43 picks of the draft. The only other really intriguing thing they did on Saturday was take a 6-foot-6 goaltender out of a Connecticut high school. Don’t see that every day. B
Colorado Avalanche: In two years, that Avs blue line is going to be a meat grinder with Cale Makar, Sam Girard and Bowen Byram back there. And they get to play behind Nathan MacKinnon and Mikko Rantanen. Everything else they did this weekend could have been immaterial, but they also got Alex Newhook 16th, and yeah, that’ll work. A
Columbus Blue Jackets: Two picks in the fourth round and one in the seventh. That’s life! D
Dallas Stars: Okay, the Thomas Harley pick isn’t a bad one and he does have some room to grow as a player. But I didn’t realize the Stars only had four picks this year AND next. That’s not great. B-
Detroit Red Wings: Probably not a good thing that when you take a guy sixth overall, even his reaction is like, “Uhhh, that can’t be right.” Apart from a couple decent picks in the second and third rounds, this was a really underwhelming draft class, and it felt like the team was really going for quantity (11 picks) over quality (two of them being good). D
Edmonton Oilers: Not to be outdone, the Oilers took Philip Broberg eighth overall, but made up for it a bit with Raphael Lavoie in the second round. Stop me if you’ve heard this before, but Ken Holland kinda pooched it at the draft table. C-
Florida Panthers: Well, they’ve got their goalie now. Spencer Knight is likely to be a real good one, for a real long time. The rest of their draft was fine. That’s about it. B-
Los Angeles Kings: Took a Lowell guy. A+
Minnesota Wild: The quote below tells you all you need to know. C
Fenton on #mnwild draft: "The thing I liked is when guys came up to our table and they were way taller than me. We’ve had some smaller prospects, good hockey players, but every time somebody came up and they were much taller, you got a smile on a lot of our faces."
— Michael Russo (@RussoHockey) June 22, 2019
Montreal Canadiens: They got le petit but garçon and otherwise did quite well with most of their picks. Hard to dislike anything they did. A
Nashville Predators: While some of their picks were quite good gambles, others were a bit iffy and, of course, the most notable thing they did all weekend was trade a name-brand defender for very little. C-
New Jersey Devils: I’m on the record as preferring Kaapo Kakko to Hughes but you couldn’t really go wrong with either of them and the Devils needed a center more than a winger, I guess. The idea that they just made themselves a lot more interesting to watch shouldn’t be discounted for a team that often plays third fiddle in their own market. A
New York Islanders: Big risk taking a guy with an injury history at 23rd, but they really liked him higher than that, so I guess that’s what you go with. I also liked some of their other gambles but they only made five picks, so… C+
New York Rangers: Did you know that Kakko has Type-1 diabetes and celiac disease? Makes him even more impressive. Love the player. The rest of their draft was up-and-down but it doesn’t matter much. A
Ottawa Senators: As with Detroit taking a guy who barely thought he’d be a first-round pick sixth overall, taking a guy who figured there was little chance he’d be drafted on the first night isn’t that great. In fact, three picks in the first 37 slots should get you better players across the board than what they landed. But at least also picked a guy named Maxence. Fun. C-
Philadelphia Flyers: The Flyers love picking defenders and then putting old slow guys in their way when it comes to the main roster, so I’m excited to see how things go with Cam York, who looks like a serious player. (That said, should have taken Caufield.) I like the addition of Bobby Brink, too, especially because he’s a little guy who goes against the whole ‘Flyers Mentality.’ Liked this draft for them. B
Pittsburgh Penguins: Sam Poulin looks like he could be a player but I was interested to see them take four right wings and a defender in the draft. Obviously you don’t draft specifically for need but this team might want to develop some centers in the near future. C
San Jose Sharks: Only five picks, but two were in the second round, and they reached with one of them. Overall I think they did perfectly okay but that’s about it. C+
St. Louis Blues: I like Alexandrov and Washkurak and adding two goalies to the prospect pool isn’t the worst idea, given, y’know… B-
Tampa Bay Lightning: Thought the Nolan Foote pick was a reach and I didn’t like the J.T. Miller trade for their current situation but obviously I understood it. They also went against their tried-and-true method of drafting overlooked, undersized players: none of their picks were under 5-foot-10, but three were above 6-foot-3. C-
Toronto Maple Leafs: Thought they did pretty good with where they were picking, for the most part. And it’s nice to get out from under the Marleau deal even if you gotta give up a first to do it. The contracts for Johnsson and Kapanen (not signed yet, but agreed upon) are both perfectly good. Now about Mitch Marner…….. B-
Vancouver Canucks: This was a good weekend for the team, I thought. Getting Miller for relatively little really helps, say, Elias Pettersson, and both Podkolzin and Hoglander seem like good values. I know people were mad Benning traded a first-round pick when the team should still be rebuilding but he’s getting fired if they don’t make the playoffs anyway, so what does he care? B
Vegas Golden Knights: I don’t think they hit too many home runs but they didn’t swing and miss much either. Overall, a pretty solid draft, I thought. And apparently they locked up Wild Bill Karlsson on Sunday, too. You like to see that. B+
Washington Capitals: Only four picks. Connor McMichael is fine. Brett Leason might be as well. Interesting that three of the four guys they took were 6-foot-4 or above. C+
Winnipeg Jets: Also took a Lowell guy. A+
Gold Star Award
Pressure’s on for Ray Shero and the Devils now. Better hope that goaltending holds up.
Minus of the Weekend
It’s bananas that the league didn’t have a cap number figured out until Saturday. Just doesn’t make sense. Well, I guess it does since it’s the NHL, but c’mon.
Perfect HFBoards Trade Proposal of the Week
User “Alluckks” is on to something.
2020 2nd round pick
Hey what’s goin’ on on this side?
Ryan Lambert is a Yahoo! Sports hockey columnist. His email is email@example.com and his Twitter is @twolinepass.
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