2014 NHL Draft Results: Biggest Winners and Losers
Just about every fan feels like a winner after the NHL draft. You can look over the mind-blowing junior numbers of the player your team just selected and imagine them doing something similar for your favorite NHL team. It's quite the nice feeling.
Hope reigns supreme in the hours and days after the conclusion of the draft.
Allow me to destroy any of those good feelings with this slideshow.
Well, not all the good feelings.
Some teams did very well for themselves over the past two days. Other teams didn't do all that great but still have time to recover before the start of free agency on July 1. And other teams did so poorly that it makes you wonder if there's nothing more than a hamster on a wheel in the general manager's office.
Here's a look at the winners and losers in the aftermath of this year's draft.
Winners: Florida Panthers
By simply using the first pick to select defenseman Aaron Ekblad, general manager Dale Tallon and the Florida Panthers made the most of their draft.
Ekblad is NHL-ready at 6'3" and 216 pounds and has all the tools to contribute immediately. Besides his obvious size and strength, he can skate and score, as shown by his 23 goals and 30 assists last season for the Barrie Colts of the OHL.
Even if it turns out that Ekblad is nothing more than a second-pairing defenseman, Tallon turned down enough inferior offers leading to the pick that make Ekblad worth it.
According to Harvey Fialkov of the Sun Sentinel, the Flyers ponied up either Luke or Brayden Schenn (the tweet isn't clear) and Vinny Lecavalier for the top pick, but the Panthers balked, a wise move considering Brayden and Luke Schenn haven't been living up to expectations and Lecavalier looks more out of gas than an abandoned car on the side of the New Jersey Turnpike.
Tallon said there were other "enticing" offers, but he stayed strong and got himself a franchise cornerstone.
Losers: Pittsburgh Penguins
New general manager Jim Rutherford had one real job to do with the Penguins—make them deeper up front so they don't have to rely on the heroics of Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin so often.
The Penguins are quite deep defensively and have Kris Letang's enormous $7.25 million cap hit that could easily be moved to a team in need of an elite scorer on the back end. A deal involving Letang would go a long way toward alleviating the team's cap crunch as well.
Instead, Rutherford dealt forward James Neal ($5 million cap hit) to the Nashville Predators for forwards Patric Hornqvist ($4.25 million) and Nick Spaling (restricted free agent, earned $1.5 million last season) in an effort to do something or other with the roster that remains a mystery. Hornqvist is good enough to come close to matching Neal's production (about 40 goals per season playing alongside Evgeni Malkin), but Spaling and his career-best 32 points last season likely won't be a bargain.
Neal averaged about 30 goals per season the past three seasons (pro-rating the shortened 2013 season) and seemingly could have fetched much more from another team. It seems like the Penguins had their pockets picked here and didn't save any cap space in the process.
Winners: Anaheim Ducks
Desperate for a No. 2 center to install behind Ryan Getzlaf, the Anaheim Ducks landed their man hours before the start of the draft. The Ducks acquired Ryan Kesler and a 2015 third-round pick from the Vancouver Canucks for center Nick Bonino, defenseman Luca Sbisa and a first-round pick (No. 24) in the 2014 draft.
It's not as though the Ducks fleeced the Canucks, but they certainly took advantage of a team with a player that wanted out of town. Bonino is a solid third-line center, and Sbisa has the upside to be a second-pairing defender, but Kesler gives the Ducks the size and skill to compete with the Los Angeles Kings, who bounced the Ducks in the second round on their way to a Stanley Cup.
The move isn't cost prohibitive, either—the Ducks only added $925,000 worth of salary to this year's salary cap.
Losers: Vancouver Canucks
The Canucks didn't walk away from the draft in the loser category because of the Ryan Kesler trade, but on the whole, they did quite a poor job with their three draft-day deals.
By acquiring Nick Bonino and Luca Sbisa, the Canucks landed two guys who can play right away. Anything can happen with No. 24 pick Jared McCann, but there's no denying the team did the best it could dealing a player who wanted to be traded.
But trading Jason Garrison to the Tampa Bay Lightning for a second-round pick, the rights to prospect Jeff Costello and a seventh-round pick is the equivalent of paying for a pack of gum with a $100 bill and saying, "Keep the change."
Garrison is a top-four defender with offensive ability. He had seven goals (four on the power play) and 33 points in 81 games last season. Sure, his contract is large (four years at $4.6 million per season remaining), but it's not as though he was being overpaid. The Canucks were clearly looking to save money, but this is the deal a team makes to lose a bad contract, not one as reasonable as Garrison's deal.
Then they gave a third-round pick to the New York Rangers for Derek Dorsett, a professional face-puncher who put those duties aside to be a useful fourth-line winger this season. His raw Corsi of 50.5 percent last season was the best of his career, but it's unlikely he matches that next season.
The Canucks saved a ton of money without switching to Geico, so perhaps we can consider them winners once the free-agency flurry concludes.
Winners: New York Islanders
New York Islanders general manager Garth Snow was potentially looking to deal the No. 5 pick, but instead used it to draft left wing Michael Dal Colle, who had 95 points in 67 games for the Oshawa Generals of the OHL last season.
Considering what the Florida Panthers were reportedly offered for the No. 1 pick, it was probably wise of the Islanders to use their pick.
About two hours later, the Islanders traded a pair of second-round picks to the Tampa Bay Lightning for the 28th pick, which was used to take Josh Ho-Sang of the Windsor Spitfires of the OHL.
Ho-Sang is a prospect with loads of upside but may not have been a favorite of teams due to his alleged outspoken personality, whatever that means in NHL circles. Craig Custance of ESPN.com profiled Ho-Sang before the draft, looking into the risk/reward of drafting someone of his talent along with character questions.
History has shown the perennially poor Islanders have a hard time attracting top-end talent to Long Island, so taking risks like these make a lot of sense for the franchise. If just one of Ho-Sang or Dal Colle pan out, this will be a great draft for the Islanders.
Losers: Toronto Maple Leafs
It's reached the point where it's fair to wonder if anyone inside the Toronto Maple Leafs organization has any idea what they're doing.
On the second day of the draft, the Leafs dealt defenseman Carl Gunnarsson to the St. Louis Blues for defenseman Roman Polak, a worse blueliner by any objective measure of judging hockey players.
For good measure, the Leafs threw in a third-round pick. And according to ESPN.com's Pierre LeBrun, the Leafs retained $200,000 of Gunnarsson's salary in the deal. Gunnarsson has a $3.15 million cap hit for the next two years; Polak has a $2.75 million cap hit for the next three years, so by retaining salary, the cap hits wash each other out.
First, the fancy stats comparison.
Gunnarsson sees his fair share of tough matchups, and while his 40.1 percent raw Corsi and minus-4.0 percent Corsi relative isn't all that great, it's pretty darn good considering his quality of competition and 38.3 zone-start percentage.
Polak, meanwhile, led a sheltered existence with the Blues, yet had a minus-5.8 percent Corsi relative last season. He started eight percent more of his shifts in the offensive zone against weaker competition yet couldn't finish in the black (49.4 percent) in raw Corsi.
Despite that contrast in zone starts and quality of competition, Gunnarsson had 17 points in 80 games, while Polak had 13 points in 72 games.
Polak is 40 pounds heavier, so apparently this is the price for purchasing beef in Ontario.
For good measure, team president Brendan Shanahan offered one more kick to the groin by telling Rich Chere of The Star-Leger the team is interested in Martin Brodeur, a 42-year-old who has been perhaps the worst goaltender in the league the past two seasons.
All the best this season, Toronto.
If jobs in the front offices of NHL teams are obtained through the old boys network, jobs on the ice are earned through the young boys network.
If you were related to anyone who ever laced up the skates professionally, there is an above-average chance you were selected in the first round.
According to a story on NHL.com, nine players with ties to former professionals were selected in the first round. That includes Leafs first-round pick William Nylander, son of former NHL forward Michal Nylander.
John Quenneville, selected by the New Jersey Devils, is the cousin of Chicago Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville. Pittsburgh Penguins first-round pick Kasperi Kapanen is the son of longtime NHL forward Sami Kapanen.
On the second day of the draft, the Arizona Coyotes took Ryan MacInnis, son of Hall of Famer Al MacInnis.
The lesson here is that if you have a child who is an aspiring NHL player, change his last name to Crosby, invent a lavish backstory about how he's a distant cousin of Sidney and do what you can to catfish an NHL organization.
Losers: Philadelphia Flyers
It's not as though the Philadelphia Flyers did anything poorly with their draft selections—they grabbed a much-needed defenseman with their first-round pick in the 6'3" Travis Sanheim and used two of their next five picks to take blueliners—but that wasn't where things went bad.
Once the NHL announced the 2014-15 salary cap would be lower than expected—an even $69 million—that left the Flyers as one of two teams above that number. The Chicago Blackhawks killed two birds with one stone, getting better and under the cap by dealing Brandon Bollig to the Calgary Flames for a third-round pick.
Philadelphia reportedly made a push for the No. 1 pick by offering Vinny Lecavalier to the Florida Panthers, which would have alleviated the cap problems. Darren Dreger of TSN says Lecavalier is on the block, and if the Flyers can trade him before July 1, they can save $2 million in bonus money.
There's still time for the Flyers to gain flexibility before the start of free agency, but time is running out.
Winner: Anthony DeAngelo
Anthony DeAngelo has first-round talent—as evidenced by the Tampa Bay Lightning taking him with the 19th pick on Friday—but there were some serious character questions surrounding him that could have hurt his stock.
DeAngelo was suspended for a second time this season for violating the OHL's harassment, abuse and diversity policy. He offered a slur to a teammate and was forced to sit eight games, a blemish on a record that saw the defenseman post 71 points in 51 games for the Sarnia Sting last season.
“I cleared a lot of things up at the combine," DeAngelo said to Puck Daddy in the days leading to the draft. "I think I had some honest interviews, about making some mistakes in the past and learning from them. They wanted answers. They didn’t want to hear hearsay. They wanted to hear it from my mouth. That was almost better for me, to be able to tell my story and be honest about what happened.”
On some draft boards, DeAngelo was ranked outside of the first round. TSN's Bob McKenzie had him ranked No. 31 in his final projections, but DeAngelo hit the lottery by being selected by the Lightning.
Not only is DeAngelo part of an organization that is loaded with young talent and is poised to contend in the East for years, but he will receive an entry-level deal that he would not have been able to receive if he was taken later in the draft.
Losers: Ottawa Senators
Jason Spezza is making life quite difficult on Ottawa Senators general manager Bryan Murray.
The 31-year-old center with one year and $7 million remaining on his contract turned down a trade to the Nashville Predators, according to ESPN.com's Pierre LeBrun. The Predators were already active during the draft, picking up James Neal from the Pittsburgh Penguins for Patric Hornqvist and Nick Spaling, but that did not make them an enticing enough destination for Spezza.
The Canucks did well enough dealing a disgruntled center to the Anaheim Ducks, and Murray said via the Canadian Press, "I told [Spezza's agent] Rick Curran that today, I had a deal sitting there if I wanted to do it, but he was on the list of no-go's." If Spezza is painting the Senators into the corner, the return for a player who is older than Ryan Kesler and carries a less desirable contract is probably going to net next to nothing.
It's possible this lingers long into the offseason, but the Senators would prefer to get this done before the start of free agency. But based on this news, that doesn't seem likely.