The Flames paid a premium to get a sought-after right-handed defenseman, Penguins make a deal for Reaves, and Russia takes a step back.
CHICAGO – The long and drawn-out Travis Hamonic Sweepstakes finally ended on Day 2 of the draft with the Calgary Flames dealing a chunk of potential for something very good in the present. And the way Flames GM Brad Treliving sees it, when you have a chance to get an established right-shot defenseman who’s under contract long term with a great cap hit, he comes with a premium.
The Flames gave up a first- and second-round pick in 2019 and a second-rounder either in 2019 or 2020 to get Hamonic, who requested a trade from the New York Islanders prior to the 2015-16 season, then rescinded it later that season. Treliving said Islanders GM Garth Snow drove a hard bargain – the price going into the weekend was two-first round picks – and the Flames had coveted Hamonic for quite a while.
“People are going to say, ‘You paid (too much),’ ” Treliving said. “Yeah, you’re going to have pay a price. But we feel we’re getting a good player who fits with us. The way we look at it is two things. You evaluate the price, obviously. But then you overlay it on what you think that impact to your team is going to be and when we look at Travis Hamonic and adding him to Mark Giordano, Dougie Hamilton and T.J. Brodie and some of the young people we have coming, we think now that top four really solidifies. We really like the player, love the character of this kid.”
And they undoubtedly love the fact that he’s signed for another three seasons with a cap hit of just $3.9 million.
RINGING IN THE REAVES: True to his word, Pittsburgh Penguins GM Jim Rutherford went out and got a tough guy. You may be surprised with the price he paid to get Ryan Reaves from the St. Louis Blues, but you shouldn’t be by the fact that he went out and got him. Rutherford all but said that’s what he was prepared to do after watching Sidney Crosby get abused during the playoffs this year.
On the eve of the Stanley Cup final, Rutherford told THN.com that he felt he had no choice but to make a move like the one he made Friday night, dealing a first-round pick and prospect Oskar Sundqvist to the St. Louis Blues in exchange for Reaves and a second-round pick.
“I hear every year how the league and everyone loves how the Penguins play,” Rutherford told THN.com before the final. “Well, now it’s going to change and I feel bad about it, but it’s the only way we can do it. We’re going to have to get one or two guys…and some of these games that should just be good hockey will turn into a sh—show. We’ll go right back to where we were in the ’70s and it’s really a shame.”
That might not be exactly the way it plays out – after all, Reaves scored seven goals and appeared in 80 games last season so he can actually play. But with 104 penalty minutes and 56 career fights, there is no mistaking what Reaves’ strengths are.
“We do run into physical teams that, at times, do try to take some liberties and we certainly felt it wasn’t going to get any easier this year,” Rutherford said. “Everybody is going to want to beat us by whatever way we can. We felt we needed that type of player and if you’re going to get that type of player, you might as well get the best one.”
The Penguins, right from owner Mario Lemieux down, have tried for years to get the league to do more to protect skill players, to absolutely no avail. So it was a case of, if you can’t beat them, you might as well beat them.”
KLIM PICKINGS FOR RUSSIA: Think about this. If this year’s draft had been held any previous year, there would not have been a single Russian player picked in the first round. The St. Louis Blues used the pick they received in the Reaves deal to select Klim Kostin from Moscow Dynamo.
Tiny Finland, meanwhile, had a whopping six players taken in the first round, while Sweden had four. Even the Czech Republic had two. Overall, there were a total of 18 Russian players drafted.
The big question is whether this is simply a cyclical phenomenon or whether there’s something more at play here. Teams often talk of the “Russian factor” and the fact that when and if they will come to North America is often in question. But when asked about his intentions before the draft, Kostin made it clear he intends to play in North America next season, whether it’s in the NHL or the American League. Klim was hurt much of last season and that hurt his status, but the 1999-born draft class in Russia was generally panned by scouts.
“We have a guy in Russia and he says there’s just not that many good ones,” said Detroit Red Wings European scout Hakan Andersson. “Is it something wrong with their development or the society? I don’t know. I couldn’t tell you. The future will tell us if it’s a slump or a trend.”
Tampa Bay Lightning director of amateur scouting Al Murray acknowledged there’s a good chance Kostin would have been taken higher had he not been hurt. He said his group liked Kostin and the two players they picked, Alexander Volkov at No. 48 and Alexei Lipanov at No. 76.
“The guys we liked, we liked a lot,” Murray said. “But after that, I don’t think it was a particularly strong year for them. One team we talked to and they said, ‘Can you believe (Kostin) fell? We had him a nine on our list.’ ”