CHL Import Draft: Who is coming and who is staying home?

David-Pastrnak

The CHL Import Draft is complex. On the surface of course, it’s straight-forward: Every team from the Ontario, Western and Quebec League has the opportunity to select two European players, assuming they have two import slots open on their roster.

But if one of your Europeans went in the first round of the NHL draft, you can keep the rights to three, in case the first-rounder bounces between the pros and junior (it’s basically the Mikhail Grigorenko rule). And you’re not allowed to take goalies anymore, which is protectionist and ignores the fact American netminders have been “taking jobs” from Canadian kids as much as Europeans were.

Also, some folks will tell you it’s not quite a draft because some teams have unofficial deals with players beforehand – which led to last year’s awkward situation where Washington Capitals pick Andre Burakovsky thought he was going to Windsor, only see to Erie scoop up his rights first. After a lot of fuss, Burakovsky went to the Otters and helped Erie make a nice playoff run.

The 2014 installment of the Import Draft happened on Wednesday and as always, there was drama, beginning with the first pick. The OHL’s Sarnia Sting tabbed Czech power forward Pavel Zacha first overall, but the youngster’s agent, Allan Walsh, immediately took to Twitter to announce that Zacha, a potential top-10 NHL pick in 2015, has a contract with Liberec back home and that Sarnia just wasted the pick.

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Rumor Roundup: Latest big-name UFA buzz

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While the focus in recent days was upon potential trades leading up to the draft, a number of NHL teams are using the free agent interview period to reach out to potential unrestricted free agents.

Interest in Colorado Avalanche center Paul Stastny is growing. The 28-year-old could become the best player available in the upcoming UFA market if the Avalanche fail to re-sign him before July 1. ESPN.com’s Pierre LeBrun claims up to 15 teams have contacted Stastny’s agent.

LeBrun claims the Winnipeg Jets and Chicago Blackhawks are among “the long list of teams” that reached out to the Stastny camp. Jeremy Rutherford of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports the Blues have also expressed interest. Read more

Dominoes need to fall in order for draft action to heat up

Kesler

PHILADELPHIA – You talk to GMs here the day before the draft and you hear a common lament. “I’m trying like hell to get something done,” they say, “but right now it’s not happening.” This is not uncommon the day before the draft, particularly one with as many moving parts as the 2014 proceedings.

There has been a dearth of horsetrading and whether or not that’s the calm before the storm or a draft that has failed to live up to its hype when it comes to player movement essentially depends on three things. One of them is what Florida Panthers GM Dale Tallon does with the No. 1 overall pick. Tallon has made it clear he’s willing to deal the pick, but the price he’s asking is too steep at the moment. Read more

Rumor Roundup: UFA interviews begin…who’ll stay and who’ll go?

Stastny (Photo by Jeff Vinnick/NHLI via Getty Images)

The window for NHL clubs to interview free agents on rival teams opened on Wednesday. Though actual contract negotiations are prohibited, the interview period is a great opportunity for teams to woo prospective free agents before the unrestricted free agent market opens on July 1.

Sportsnet’s Mark Spector observes the Calgary Flames hope to re-sign left winger Michael Cammalleri while the Boston Bruins want to retain Jarome Iginla. However, this interview period provides players an opportunity to gauge interest from other clubs.

That’s why Colorado Avalanche center Paul Stastny is going to test the market, even though his agent claims he’s had good contract conversations with Avalanche management. The Denver Post’s Adrian Dater notes the Stastny camp intends to circle back to the Avalanche to give them an opportunity to retain him. Read more

The Maple Leafs must move heaven and earth to land a top center in the draft

Dion Phaneuf Jake Gardiner

There are many things the Maple Leafs have done of late that’s rankled their fan base. Retaining the services of head coach Randy Carlyle tops the list, but after Toronto’s stunning late-season collapse, the general sentiment surrounding the franchise is still one of uncertainty and frustration.

There’s one way the Leafs can change that in the next few days: trade up in the NHL entry draft and select a center to serve as a franchise cornerstone.

That’s easier said than done. Given the fact there’s no consensus on the No. 1 pick, there could be more teams than ever jostling to move up in the draft. The owners of that pick, the Florida Panthers, have made it abundantly clear they’re willing to trade it in return for players who can help them win immediately. The Edmonton Oilers have the third overall selection and they too are under all sorts of pressure to produce in the standings sooner than later. So the opportunity is there. Now it’s about what kind of offer it would take to push the Leafs up from their current No. 8 slot and into a place where they can acquire the type of dynamic prospect they’ve been lacking for most of the past five decades.

Some have linked captain Dion Phaneuf to any move up in the draft the Leafs might make – and he would improve the blueline of the Panthers and Oilers – but his seven-year, $49 million contract extension means Toronto would have to take back an onerous deal. To avoid that scenario, I’d be fine with dealing any other blueliner not named Morgan Rielly, in combination with a young NHL-caliber forward or two and/or a draft pick of note, to acquire a better pick. Read more

Rumor Roundup: Where will Ryan Kesler be traded?

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With the Vancouver Canucks having hired a new GM (Jim Benning) and coach (Willie Desjardins), the focus returns to center Ryan Kesler, who remains the target of recent trade speculation.

Earlier this month it was reported Kesler informed Benning he still prefers a trade. There’s been some recent confusion, however, over where the 29-year-old prefers to be dealt. The Ottawa Sun’s Bruce Garrioch claims the Chicago Blackhawks and Pittsburgh Penguins are Kesler’s only preferences, prompting The Globe & Mail’s Eric Duhatschek to note the difficulty that would create for the Canucks to move him.

The Blackhawks have limited cap space ($4.6 million) for 2014-15 and restricted free agents (Ben Smith, Jeremy Morin and Antti Raanta) to re-sign. They’ll have to either do a dollar-for-dollar swap with the Canucks or convince them to pick up part of Kesler’s salary to squeeze him under their cap. The Chicago Sun-Times’ Mark Lazerus reports Blackhawks winger Patrick Sharp has been mentioned as a trade candidate, but Sharp has a modified no-trade clause, meaning he’ll have to agree to the deal. Read more

Detroit has the easiest schedule, Columbus and Toronto the hardest

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The NHL schedule has been released and the number-crunchers have already put in some great work in breaking it down. As always, there are fun match-ups to kick off the season, such as Los Angeles hosting San Jose and Montreal visiting Toronto. But which teams will really be grinding through 82 games and which ones get more of a cozier ride?

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Hey Hockey Hall of Fame: Induct Pat Burns. NOW

Pat Burns (Lou Capozzola /Sports Illustrated/Getty Images)

The Hockey Hall of Fame’s annual induction announcement is slated for 3 p.m. Monday afternoon – and, as usual, there will be a debate over the players who made the cut and the ones who didn’t. But there’s one debate, about one prominent hockey figure who still hasn’t been honored by the HHOF, that was over long ago – and one injustice that deserves to be corrected today.

Pat Burns should be in the Hall of Fame. No doubt, full stop, end of story.

The fact is, Burns should’ve been inducted as a builder before lung cancer took his life in November of 2010. He won more Jack Adams Trophies (three) as the NHL’s best coach than anyone in history. He coached three Original Six franchises; amassed a 501-353-151-14 record; is currently seventh all-time in playoff games coached (149) and tied with Mike Babcock for ninth all-time in playoff coaching wins (78) and won a Stanley Cup in New Jersey. If previous bouts with colon and liver cancer hadn’t forced him out of action in 2004, Burns would have even more impressive credentials.

This it was why it was such a black mark on the HHOF’s reputation when Burns passed away without being honored. It’s bad enough the organization’s selection committee operates with zero transparency when there’s consensus on an HHOF candidate, but when there’s no valid explanation for keeping out someone respected as universally as Burns was, it borders on revolting.

The best thing the HHOF could’ve done was inducted Burns when he was still with us. Nearly four years later, they have rationalized ways to avoid doing so and it is just as indefensible as it was then. Read more