For a fleeting moment, before P.K. Subban, Shea Weber and Steven Stamkos stole the spotlight, Wednesday’s blockbuster trade between the Edmonton Oilers and New Jersey Devils was the off-season’s biggest story. Left winger Taylor Hall for defenseman Adam Larsson. One player for the other. No salary retained.
The transaction was…poorly received by the Edmonton Oilers fanbase judging by the social media response. “Worst trade in NHL history” isn’t a term tossed about lightly, but it popped up repeatedly. Taylor Hall is among the best left wingers in the game, blessed with major speed and scoring ability. He was the first overall pick of the 2010 draft. His 0.86 points per game since arriving in the NHL in 2010-11 ranks 26th, ahead of Joe Pavelski, Vladimir Tarasenko and Tyler Seguin over that stretch. Hall even made a concerted effort to improve his defensive ability under new coach Todd McLellan this season. Hall had the second best 5-on-5 relative Corsi on the Oilers after Brandon Davidson among regulars with 400 or more minutes played, per puckalytics.com. Better yet, Hall has four years left on his contract at a $6-million cap hit. That’s quite reasonable.
But now Hall is a New Jersey Devil. Only one man, Larsson, heads the other way. Losing Larsson, who had begun to mature into a big-minutes NHL defenseman, leaves a gaping hole on New Jersey’s blueline, but it was clearly a “who cares” trade for GM Ray Shero. You don’t pass up Hall for Larsson. You fix your D-corps later.
All the P.K. Subban trade chatter turned out to have some merit after all.
On Wednesday, the Montreal Canadiens sent the all-star defenseman to the Nashville Predators for fellow all-star Shea Weber in a blockbuster, straight up, deal.
Subban, 27, had been, along with goalie Carey Price, the face of the franchise for the past five years. He was a two-time all-star, and won the Norris Trophy as the NHL’s top defenseman in 2012-13. Last season, he scored six goals and 51 points in 68 games before missing the final 14 games of the season with a neck injury.
The excitement over the Steven Stamkos Sweepstakes has gotten Jim Benning in trouble with the NHL.
The Vancouver Canucks GM was fined $50,000 by the league on Tuesday for tampering. The charges stem from comments Benning made on the radio last week about Stamkos, and Canadiens defenseman P.K. Subban.
BUFFALO – The Buffalo Sabres walked away with an impact Russian defenseman early in the NHL draft after all. No, it wasn’t Mikhail Sergachev, as they passed on him for a forward in Alex Nylander during Friday’s first round at No. 8 overall. Instead, GM Tim Murray upgraded his blueline Saturday morning by acquiring veteran Dmitry Kullikov and pick No. 33 (Rasmus Asplund) in Saturday’s draft from the Florida Panthers for D-man Mark Pysyk, picks No. 38 and No. 89.
Some trades are easier to understand than others, and this deal, first reported by TSN’s Bob McKenzie, makes perfect sense for the Sabres. They were very clearly in the market for a veteran top-four blueliner, commonly linked to the Anaheim Ducks’ Cam Fowler. Kulikov, a tenacious left-handed shooter who blocks shots with aplomb, shores up Murray’s blueline. Rasmus Ristolainen remains the cornerstone piece, and Kulkov, Cody Franson, Zach Bogosian and Josh Gorges provide depth. It wouldn’t be a surprise to see Kulikov play on the top pairing with right-shooting Ristolainen.
Just as we’ve seen with the Leafs landing Frederik Andersen and the Coyotes signing Alex Goligoski, the Sabres send a message here they’re ready to start competing as a playoff hopeful. They’ve amassed a nice pile of promising young scorers in Jack Eichel, Sam Reinhart and Nylander. They have their No. 1 stud blueliner in Ristolainen. Why not pick up an impact veteran in Kulikov, still young at 25, and start trying to push for a post-season berth in the weak Atlantic Division?
BUFFALO – Night 1 of the 2016 NHL draft gave us a bit of everything, a blend of expectant nods and wide-eyed gasps.
We saw the predictable occur. Auston Matthews went first overall, Patrik Laine second. The Calgary Flames acquired a goaltender in Brian Elliott. The Chicago Blackhawks squeezed another forward out because of their salary-cap crunch in Andrew Shaw, dealt to the Montreal Canadiens. The Detroit Red Wings shipped Pavel Datsyuk’s $7.5-million cap hit to the one team we knew would take it: the Arizona Coyotes, striving for the salary floor.
We saw plenty of shocking moments, too. Pierre-Luc Dubois, the draft’s swing pick, usurped Jesse Puljujarvi, seemingly the consensus No. 3 overall selection. The Wings went off the board on Dennis Cholowski at No. 20 overall. We had him 37th in our 2016 Draft Preview, for what it’s worth.
But plenty of hyped storylines remain unresolved entering Day 2 of the draft. Let’s review a few.
BUFFALO – Despite not winning the NHL draft lottery and missing out on the No. 1 pick, the Edmonton Oilers showed they still have a bit of luck when it comes to the draft.
On Friday, that luck came in the form of high-touted right winger Jesse Puljujarvi slipping to the Oilers at the No. 4 pick. Puljujarvi was the consensus No. 3 player in the draft, and in fact at one point ranked No. 2 by International Scouting Services. But the Blue Jackets surprised everyone by taking left winger Pierre-Luc Dubois at No. 3.
That left the Oilers with a no doubter when their turn came – and snuffed out any ideas of trading the pick. In Puljujarvi the Oilers have a potentially elite two-way winger who can ride shotgun with Connor McDavid for the next decade.
BUFFALO – There was a definitive St. Louis flavor to the Calgary Flames first round in the draft. Not only did they use the sixth overall pick to take Matthew Tkachuk, a product of the St. Louis minor hockey system and son of former Blues star Keith, they got the No. 1 goalie they’ve coveted when they traded for Blues goalie Brian Elliott in exchange for the 35th overall pick and a conditional third-rounder in 2018.
The Flames came to Buffalo with a single-minded purpose and that was to get an NHL-caliber goaltender for next season. They had permission to talk to Ben Bishop of the Tampa Bay Lightning and that created a fair bit of traction. But in the end, the Flames were unable to come to terms on a contract extension and turned to Elliott, a player who has one year left on his contract with a $2.5 million cap hit.
BUFFALO – In what has become an annual event, the Chicago Blackhawks have done a summer dismantling of their team in an effort to fit their roster under the salary cap. Along with the Carolina Hurricanes, the Montreal Canadiens are the beneficiaries. And it may have come one year late, but Canadiens GM Marc Bergevin got a Blackhawk he coveted.
It was widely believed Bergevin was prepared to give Brandon Saad an offer sheet last summer, which was what prompted the Blackhawks to trade him to the Columbus Blue Jackets. But at the draft this year, Bergevin got Andrew Shaw, a player he scouted for the Hawks when he was their director of player personnel in 2011.