PHILADELPHIA - The Vancouver Canucks were busy early on NHL draft day, sending star forward Ryan Kesler to Anaheim, and defenceman Jason Garrison to Tampa Bay as part of three trades hours before Florida chose Aaron Ekblad with the No. 1 selection Friday night.
While picks were involved in each deal, the Canucks—more importantly—cleared a bunch of salary-cap space as they head into the summer shopping season.
Vancouver's first move accommodated Kesler's trade request, as the centre was dealt to the Ducks along with a third-round pick in next year's draft for forward Nick Bonino, defenceman Luca Sbisa and the 24th selection on Friday—which the Canucks used to take centre Jared McCann from Sault Ste. Marie of the Ontario Hockey League.
"He just felt he needed a fresh start, and quite frankly we don't want somebody that doesn't want to be here," new Canucks general manager Jim Benning said about Kesler. "We're going to acquire high-quality people that are going to come in here and want to work hard for one another, so we didn't give it much thought.
"We would have liked to keep him, but his mind was made up, so we did the best we could in the situation."
The Canucks also received a third-round pick—No. 85 overall—from Anaheim and flipped that selection in their third trade of the day to the New York Rangers for grinding forward Derek Dorsett.
The Ducks were more than happy to step in to get Kesler, who will give them depth at centre with Ryan Getzlaf already in place.
"This is a huge move for our hockey team," Anaheim general manager Bob Murray said. "I think we're better today than we were yesterday. I know Ryan from years ago when I was with Vancouver, so that's a good thing, also."
Kesler waved his no-trade clause to allow this deal to be completed.
"Just the fact that he chose was very positive for us to be included in that, because not always have we been included in things like this," Murray said. "To me it means our organization is going the right direction."
In between, Vancouver acquired the 50th pick (2nd round) for defenceman Jason Garrison, the rights to forward Jeff Costello, and a seventh-round draft choice in 2015.
One partial surprise was the Panthers' decision to keep the top pick and grab Ekblad. Florida general manager Dale Tallon said four teams made legitimate offers to him, but he decided around noon on Friday to hold on to it.
The first deal during the draft was announced just before the Winnipeg Jets made the 10th selection of the night, but the trade didn't involve any picks.
NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman tried to quiet the Philadelphia Flyers-centric crowd that booed him all night long by saying he had a trade to announce. It didn't help much, especially when he said that the Pittsburgh Penguins—a top rival of the hometown Flyers—had sent James Neal to the Nashville Predators for fellow forwards Patric Hornqvist and Nick Spaling in an old-fashioned, straight-up hockey trade.
Quite the contrary a little while later when again Bettman attempted to stop the boos hurled at him with the tease of another trade. This one involved only picks. The Chicago Blackhawks acquired the No. 20 pick and choice No. 179 (6th round) from the San Jose Sharks for the 27th pick and 62nd selection (3rd round) in this weekend's draft.
The Blackhawks then stepped right up to the microphone and chose centre Nick Schmaltz from Green Bay of the United States Hockey League. San Jose grabbed Nikolay Goldobin, a Russian right wing from Sarnia of the OHL at No. 27.
In the final deal of the night the New York Islanders acquired the 28th choice from the Tampa Bay Lightning for picks No. 35 (2nd round) and No. 57 (3rd round) and chose Joshua Ho-Sang—a forward from Windsor of the OHL.
The Lightning had gotten pick No. 28 from the Rangers in the trade-deadline deal that sent Martin St. Louis to New York and moved Ryan Callahan to Tampa Bay.
Ho-Sang led Windsor with 85 points in 67 regular-season games, and tied for the team lead with 32 goals.