Puck Daddy Bag of Mail: NHL Draft intrigue!

Ryan Lambert
Much centers around <a class="link rapid-noclick-resp" href="/nhl/players/4491/" data-ylk="slk:Erik Karlsson">Erik Karlsson</a>. (Getty)
Much centers around Erik Karlsson. (Getty)

Big week already, and that was before the NHL’s annual awards were given out last night, and two full days before the draft gets going.

Because the cap is going up so much, and because of who’s picking high, there’s so much intrigue around what’s going to happen in the next few days. People want to know everything that’s going on — despite my warnings that it is NOT a good idea! — even if these things are unknowable. So y’know what, because I’m such a nice guy, I have time to answer just a few questions.

Let’s get it going:

Megan asks: “What panic move will Peter Chiarelli make, and how will it rank with his other panic moves?”

The problem is that he kinda has to make a move, and because it’s Chiarelli you can make a pretty good guess that it is indeed going to be a bad one. The long-rumored trade he may or may not be looking to make — and wouldn’t you know it, but it seems pretty ill-advised — is trading Oscar Klefbom, who had a seemingly brutal season thanks to a terrible PDO (just 97.6).

I don’t know what Chiarelli would be able to trade him for, because the team clearly needs help on defense and you probably can’t get an upgrade unless you throw in, say, the No. 10 pick. And even then, is anyone gonna be available? Justin Faulk was a rumored target for Chicago, if I’m not mistaken, and maybe Carolina would be enticed by replacing him with a good, young, signed-for-awhile defenseman and the No. 10 pick. But that seems like a move that would be unwise even by Chiarelli standards.

But again, Chiarelli basically has to do something, probably before July 1, so that kind of desperation and necessity only lends itself to problems.

Matt asks: “Where is Oliver Walhstrom actually gonna play next year? College?”

All indications are that he’s going to play at Boston College after de-committing from Harvard a while back.

From everything I’ve been able to gather, that’s unlikely to change unless the team that drafts him also signs him, which I guess is possible but I would consider unlikely.

It’s worth remembering, I guess, that another elite young player — Eeli Tolvanen — was committed to Boston College last summer and ended up not going there, but that was more due to problems with credits transferring so he could be ready for college. Tolvanen ended up having maybe the best U20 season, let alone rookie season, of any KHL player ever.

Can Wahlstrom make a similar impact at BC? It’ll certainly be interesting to monitor, but expect him to play for the Eagles in October.

Paul asks: “Should Zadina be falling as much as he is, or Kotkaniemi be rising that much?”

Probably not, on both fronts. Zadina really seems like a player: He really torched the QMJHL this season, finishing tops among draft-eligibles in points per game, and second among all U19s.

Koktaniemi is, of course, coming from a men’s league where he understandably didn’t do much scoring and his numbers look pretty good in limited action against both U18 and U20 competition. One imagines that this increase in rumored interest from the Canadiens is because Koktaniemi is a center and they need a center, and Zadina is a left wing and they do not need one of those. (Okay, they kinda need one of those.)

I said it in the PDPR yesterday but teams talking themselves into this kind of thing isn’t a good idea. Nor is drafting for positional need. But hey, when you’re not a well-run organization, that’s the kind of thing that makes you not-well-run.

Ian asks via email: “The Flyers have $17 million in cap space for next year. I recognize with their goalie situation that they are unlikely to be cup contenders this upcoming year, but if the Flyers were to offer Karlsson a max contract of $15 million for one year, do you think he would bite on it or do you think he is only going to sign a multi year contract?”

Karlsson is signed for next season so that’s not a thing the Flyers could do. They would need to trade for him. But the idea that a team could make a big one-year signing on a high-value guy they really want is starting to gain a little more traction around the league.

Obviously the genesis of all this is Leafs fans daydreaming about tricking John Tavares into being on the team, essentially wringing an eighth or maybe even ninth year out of an agreement and effectively front-loading that deal significantly. If that’s one of Toronto’s “creative proposals” then so be it, but it’s something other teams — those unconstrained by cap concerns — might want to try for just because they can, and if they want to spend the money.

I’m not necessarily sure there are too many guys I’d want to try for like that; as noted before I’m not a big John Carlson guy. But if you want to kickstart that conversation (and maybe that power play) then I guess why not? You don’t get a bonus for not-using your cap space.

Floppy asks: “What should Ottawa do, give up this season’s first, next season’s first, or try to offer Colorado a trade and keep both picks?”

It’s an interesting question because it looks like they’re only going to get worse next year and the odds that they’d be picking fourth again if they finish in 30th or 31st are not that high.

With that in mind, maybe you say Colorado can pick fourth this year and roll the dice next season. But to go through all the stuff this team has in recent weeks and months and then also say, “By the way, we’re not picking fourth, see ya next season,” would probably result in effigies being burned from the #MelnykOut crowd.

I’m really not sure what Ottawa could offer to get that pick back. Again, this is the No. 4 pick and Zadina seems like to be there. Why would Colorado give that, or a probable top-two pick next year, back for something other than, say, Karlsson or Stone. And the Sens would probably have to take a salary dump, too, because they’re already perilously close to being under the cap floor.

This is gonna shock you, but I kinda feel like there’s no good answer where this team is concerned. For anything, at this point.

Simon asks via email: “Has any player ever improved their advanced stats with training? Other than rookie players maturing?

I say this a lot, I think, but this is not something players should be concerned with.

A guy should never be worried about improving his corsi or whatever, at least not directly. Players definitely have improved with training. (See: The famous story of Sidney Crosby shooting a million pucks every day all summer and then winning the Rocket Richard the next season.) I’m not sure there’s a way to improve, however, that would specifically improve a player’s underlying numbers.

Changing your approach to the game? Absolutely can help, but it’s not easy. Going to a coach and saying, “I wanna get that CF% up,” doesn’t seem possible or, like, wise.

Telfo asks: “Is Vegas trading for Karlsson a good idea? What would a smart trade package for him look like? Trusting McPhee to make a big trade seems like a bad idea maybe!”

Is trading for one of the best players on the planet and an all-time great at his position a good idea? Hmm, maybe.

In all seriousness, if you’re Vegas why would you not do this? Apparently it didn’t go through in February because McPhee was reticent to give up Cody Glass, which is really dumb on his part. You can argue it cost the team the Cup, in fact.

If you’re Vegas and you’re also taking Bobby Ryan, you can probably give up, say, next year’s first-round pick, Cody Glass, maybe another couple of picks or prospects and a few semi-useful salary dumps of some kind. That seems like a pretty good package.

Again, if you have the cap space and the need (and every team in the league has a need for Karlsson), I don’t see why you don’t do it.

Jarrod asks: “Would Brady Tkachuk be a consensus Top-5 pick if his name were “Brady Smith”? What is the genesis for all the hype around the kid?”

The hype comes from the fact that he’s really good and plays basically the same type of game as his brother, who is also a very good NHLer.

As I’ve said repeatedly, I don’t think he’s a top-five talent. His brother wasn’t. But he’s big, he’s got that pedigree (which doesn’t hurt in terms of either genetics or What It Takes To Make It In The NHL), and if his numbers seem underwhelming this year, his low on-ice shooting percentage probably has something to do with it.

I think he’s real good, but is he a top-four talent? Probably wouldn’t go that far.

Ryan Lambert is a Puck Daddy columnist. His email is here and his Twitter is here.

All stats via Corsica unless noted otherwise. Some questions in the mailbag are edited for clarity or to remove swear words, which are illegal to use.

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