COLUMBUS Â– It's five hours before the first pick of the 2007 draft and the hotel lobbies Â– all 50 of them, it seems Â– are abuzz with speculation about blockbuster deals.
Does that mean that tonight's proceedings will be rife with intriguing trades and lots of movement? Possibly, but not likely.
I've been to enough of these things to realize, most of the time, about 90 per cent of the pre-draft speculation fails to materialize. Sometimes it does, however, such as last year when the draft was usurped by the Roberto Luongo trade to Vancouver.
One rumor making the rounds as the afternoon progressed involved the Edmonton Oilers, who have the sixth, 15th and 30th picks in the first round. There is talk that the Oilers are desperately trying to move up to the No. 2 spot, currently occupied by the Phoenix Coyotes, and are willing to package their picks to do so.
Another rumor that was gaining steam would see the Boston Bruins acquire goaltender Manny Fernandez from the Minnesota Wild for either Glen Murray or P.J. Axelsson and perhaps a pick. If Murray were to be dealt for Fernandez, it would basically be a wash in terms of money and Boston would acquire some goaltending help. Murray's cap hit is $4.15 million for each of the next two seasons, while Fernandez's number is $4.33 million for each of the next two seasons.
There is still talk that the Ottawa Senators could deal Wade Redden, perhaps to the Oilers, but that talk seems to be fading. If a deal for Redden is going to get done, it might not be at the draft proceedings. Redden, whose cap number is $6.5 million for one more season, has a no-trade clause, but it would likely be waived if the team acquiring him signed him to an extensionÂ…
SECOND PURSE, SAME AS THE FIRST? There's a chance, albeit a very slim one, that the Toronto Maple Leafs move to acquire goalie Vesa Toskala today could turn out to be as disastrous as their 1991 deal that saw them acquire defenseman Tom Kurvers for the third overall pick, that turned out to be Scott Niedermayer.
Follow the bouncing ball here. If the player the Sharks wanted with the Leafs 13th overall pick is gone by the time that slot comes up, the Sharks have the option of taking the pick in next year's draft. But if the Leafs end up picking in the top 10 in 2008, they have the option of using that pick and letting it slide to the 2009 draft.
Now let's just say for fun, that the Leafs slide down the standings becomes precipitous Â– not likely, but not a completely outrageous notion either Â– and they finish last overall (or win the draft lottery and are awarded the first pick) in 2009. That would mean the Sharks would get the first overall pick that year.
And who's the top prospect for the 2009 draft? John Tavares, that's who.
RYAN, OH RYAN If you're looking for super agent Don Meehan this weekend, just keep an eye out for New York Islanders GM Garth Snow. Meehan, it seems, can't go very far in Columbus without Snow trailing close behind.
And the reason for that is simple. Snow desperately wants to sign Meehan's client, Ryan Smyth, to a long-term deal prior to July 1 when free agent season begins. But there's almost no chance of that happening. The word is that Smyth is intent on testing the free agent market and if that happens there will only be about 20 teams that will be interested in signing him.
HARD LUCK The injury-riddled career of hard-luck center Alyn McCauley is once again in jeopardy. The Los Angeles Kings, who signed McCauley to a three-year, $6 million deal last summer, placed McCauley on waivers and he cleared. L.A. will almost certainly buy out the final two years.
So may end the career of one of the league's hardest-working players and one of its truly most decent citizens. The problem for McCauley is that a knee injury that cost him all but 10 games last season is not healing sufficiently. Previously in his career, McCauley battled through shoulder problems and concussions, but seemed to revive his career after a trade to the San Jose Sharks, where he emerged as a finalist for the Selke Trophy in 2003-04.
Should the Kings buy McCauley out, they'll be responsible for paying two-thirds of his salary, which comes to $2.67 million, over the next four years for a per-year cap hit of about $667,000.
NHL by-laws state that a player who is injured cannot be bought out, but McCauley finished last season on the active roster, even though he didn't play. The Kings could try to put him on the long-term injury list, which would mean his salary would not go against the cap, but the Kings would then have to pay his entire salary in real dollars.
This way, they save some money and don't have to worry about the cap hit because they're not expected to approach the upper limit of the cap anyway.
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