The most highly anticipated draft in a decade takes place tonight in Sunrise, Florida (7 p.m. ET; NBCSN, SN, TVA). And that may not even be the most interesting part of the day.
Trade rumors are swirling leading up to the annual talent grab, with a number of top players expected to change hands between now and Connor McDavid’s first donning of an Oilers sweater.
Here’s a look at what’s been in the air as the draft approached. For continuing coverage, check out our live blog and draft tracker.
• Bruins GM Don Sweeney, who is approaching a Buckneresque level of popularity judging by social media, spoke briefly about today's moves. It appears he's given up hope of acquiring the No. 3 pick in the draft. "I've found that the cost of moving up today is very high," he said.
• Boston/Los Angeles deal is done. Milan Lucic on his way to the Kings. Return to Boston reportedly includes pick No. 13, goaltender Martin Jones and 22-year-old defenseman Colin Miller. The Bruins also retain $2.75 million of the $6 million owed to Lucic for 2015-16.
Unlike the Dougie Hamilton deal, this one makes a ton of sense for the Bruins. Lucic may epitomize Bruins hockey, but the 27-year-old power forward has some hard miles on him and based on the past two seasons looks like he could be heading into the back nine of his career. Add in his contract situation (he's eligible for unrestricted free agency next summer) and it was hard to see him being part of the team's future long term. Swapping him out for picks and prospects makes good business sense.
That said, it's hard to imagine Boston will stand pat now that they own picks 13-14-15. A larger deal, possibly geared toward acquiring the No. 3 pick from Arizona or an established young star like Colorado's Ryan O'Reilly, could be on tap.
With Jones likely to serve as the backup to Tuukka Rask, his acquisition, along with this week's signing of Hobey Baker finalist Zane McIntyre, signals the availability of promising young goaltender Malcolm Subban.
The Kings paid a heavy price, but these were parts they could afford to sacrifice in an effort to upgrade their top-six and return to the playoffs. Lucic should fit smoothly into Darryl Sutter's system, adding a nasty physical presence to a forward group that already stacks up as the heaviest in the league. If they get the benefit of a contract-season bump, so much the better.
• Multiple reports suggest that talks are heating up between the Kings and Bruins about Milan Lucic. Sounds like picks/prospects in return, including No. 13 tonight.
• The Bruins are now confirming that RFA defenseman Dougie Hamilton has been dealt to the Calgary Flames for three 2015 draft picks: Nos 15, 45 and 52.
Quick reaction? Brilliant move for the Flames, who now boast a blueline that matches up against the best in the West, and only had to give up an offer sheet-style return for the 22-year-old.
For the Bruins? It's just the latest example of failed management from a team that seems hellbent on self-destruction. No matter how crippling Hamilton's salary demands may have been, they couldn't possibly have caught the Bruins by surprise. And if they were aware of an impending issue, it's hard to believe a more substantial return--including an actual NHL-ready player or two to man a now-decimated blueline--could not have been secured for a player widely regarded as one of the most promising young defenders in the game.
We'll know more shortly when GM Don Sweeney pleads his case to the Boston media, but there's no way to spin this positively unless there's an even bigger move on the horizon.
Hard to believe that all three players acquired via the blockbuster Phil Kessel deal have been given to other organizations: Tyler Seguin (Dallas), Jared Knight (Minnesota) and now Hamilton.
• Elliotte Friedman now suggesting talks are back on between the Kings and the Bruins with Milan Lucic as the centerpiece of a possible deal. Still doesn't make sense to me. L.A. has a little more than $8 million in cap space and has just 17 players under contract for next season, so taking on Lucic's $6 million hit would force other cuts. And while the B's aren't going to get value-for-value in what is essentially a salary dump, they'd probably like to add a D-man in any deal. But with the Slava Voynov situation hanging over their heads that's the one position where the Kings are strapped. It's possible, but it just doesn't seem likely.
Just a hunch, but keep an eye on Calgary in the Lucic or Hamilton talks. Depending on the player they pursue, they have the 15th pick and a couple of intriguing prospects like Sam Bennett, Emile Poirier (22nd pick, 2013) or Morgan Klimchuk (28th, 2013) that might tempt the B's.
• For what it's worth, there are six teams currently without a first rounder tonight: Chicago, Nashville, New York Islanders, New York Rangers, Pittsburgh and St. Louis. The Rangers and Blackhawks are the two actively looking to move into tonight's festivities.
• Multiple outlets are reporting that Martin St. Louis will not be re-signed by the New York Rangers and will become a UFA on July 1. No surprise there. The veteran winger just turned 40 last week and his legs clearly don't have the jump that made him one of the most dangerous scorers in the game for nearly a decade. Still, there's a good chance he lands elsewhere, with Pittsburgh and New Jersey the most likely destinations.
• Adam Vingan of The Tennessean is reporting that Mike Ribeiro has rejected a contract offer from the Nashville Predators and will pursue his options in free agency. Riberio scored 62 points last season as the team's No. 1 center and seemed to get his life back in order after some off-ice difficulties in Phoenix and Dallas. Still, it's hard to imagine there'll be a line of suitors waiting at his door with long-term deals in hand. There was a nice fit for him with the Preds. I wouldn't be surprised if the two sides eventually arrived at a compromise.
• UFA defenseman Mike Reilly has agreed to sign with the Minnesota Wild, according to beat writer Mike Russo. The former Minnesota Gopher can't officially put pen to paper until next Wednesday, but Russo's sources say a two-year, $1.85 million deal (plus bonuses) has been accepted.
Reilly, who led all NCAA defensemen in scoring this past season with 42 points, projects as a power play quarterback who eventually could skate on either of the team's top two pairs.
Perhaps signing with the Wild was inevitable. Reilly’s dad, Mike, is a minority investor in the team’s ownership group.
• Aaron Portzline of the Columbus Dispatch is hearing that talk is heating up between the Bruins and Coyotes, with Dougie Hamilton and the No. 3 pick in play. Hard to see how this makes sense for the B's, unless Hamilton's contract demands are in the $7 million range, but if the Yotes pull this off it'll sure be fun watching Hamilton and Oliver Ekman-Larsson skating together for the next decade.
• Maybe there's no more to the hiring of Dallas Eakins as the new head coach of the San Diego Gulls, Anaheim's top farm team, than a desire to bring in a proven developer of young talent. But it's hard not to wonder if the Ducks see Eakins, formerly the head man in Edmonton, as a possible to successor to Bruce Boudreau if the team struggles next season. Despite a disastrous run with the Oilers, Eakins is still highly regarded. It's possible he's simply gaining more experience so that he's better prepared for his next NHL job...or maybe he has this one in line already.
• Asked for his thoughts in the wake of the Friday morning trade that landed him Robin Lehner, Buffalo general manager Tim Murray summed it up nicely: "If you'd told me we'd end up with [Jack] Eichel, [Evander] Kane and [Robin] Lehner for three first-round picks I'd have said you were high on mushrooms."
Mushrooms. Please, don't ever change, Tim.
• On Thursday night the Avalanche acquired the rights to Carl Soderberg from the Bruins for a sixth round pick. On Friday morning, they locked up the pending UFA with a five-year deal averaging $4.475 million per.
That’s a bit high for a player who struggled to generate much offensively when asked to fill in for the injured David Krejci this season and whose possession numbers dropped dramatically when he didn’t have Loui Eriksson on his wing. But the real issue for Colorado fans is that the deal essentially signals the end of the Ryan O'Reilly era in Denver.
Have to think the Maple Leafs and Sabres would be at the front of the line to snap up the malcontent center. Both have the cap space to handle his next deal (which will be north of $50 million over seven years) and a glaring need for an established two-way center. The Canadiens could be in the mix, although they’d need to move other pieces to clear cap space. And don’t rule out the Lightning. The Stanley Cup runners-up could see ROR as the player who could push them over the top in 2016. It will likely cost a first round pick, a young defenseman and a roster player to get it done.
• There’ll be some grumbling out of Buffalo after the Sabres parted with a first rounder (21) in exchange for Robin Lehner and David Legwand on Friday morning. Lehner finished the season on IR after suffering a serious concussion and has never quite lived up to expectations despite numerous opportunities to land the starting job in Ottawa. And there were other netminders available who might have offered more curb appeal. But understand this: Buffalo GM Tim Murray was part of the operation that scouted and drafted Lehner in the first place and he has a greater understanding of that player and his potential than he does any of the other goalies on the market. If he feels confident paying that price for a 23-year-old under contract for four more years, Sabres fans should trust in his decision.
From Ottawa’s perspective, this is the best they could have hoped for. Their own goaltending situation is resolved (it will be Craig Anderson and Andrew Hammond between the pipes), they have an extra first rounder to play with in a deep draft and they cleared Legwand’s $3 million hit off the cap. That’s solid.
• Now that the market has been established, expect talks to heat up involving the New York Rangers, who are trying to move Cam Talbot today. The backup keeper demonstrated that he’s ready for prime time during a lengthy fill-in stretch for Henrik Lundqvist this season. The Oilers are in the market and have a mid-first to spare (No. 16). The Sharks are also in the mix. Whichever team misses out on Talbot could get in touch with the Canucks, who are looking to deal Eddie Lack and possibly the Los Angeles Kings, who might listen to offers for Martin Jones.
The Panthers have been rumored to be interested in Talbot as well, but don't seem to have the pieces in place to make a deal. Their own first (No. 11) is too high a price to pay and they lack a second rounder that might otherwise be packaged as part of an offer.
* Speaking of the Kings, they re-signed Tyler Toffoli to a two-year deal worth $6.5 million. Reasonable term and a reasonable price for a top-six winger who is just scratching at his potential. The first year pays $2.6 million and the second $3.9. That's important because it'll be the number his next contract is based on. If he scores as expected, he'll be tacking a couple million on to that figure.
• It's looking more and more like the Coyotes will move the third pick. The Bruins appear to be at the front of the line. They’d like to deal Milan Lucic and his $6 million cap hit to help create space to re-sign RFA defenseman Dougie Hamilton (put that offer sheet dream to rest) and the big winger could be part of a deal that would also include Boston’s first rounder this year (No. 14) and possibly next. The Blue Jackets are also said to be in talks with Arizona, as is Winnipeg which has two first rounders (No. 17 and No. 25) on which it can base an offer. Coyotes GM Don Maloney said two firsts were put in play by one potential bidder. That could have been a balloon floated out there to see if anyone would match, but now there are three teams aside from the Jets that have two firsts in hand for tonight (not including Edmonton, which obviously isn't moving No. 1): Toronto (Nos. 4 and 24); Philadelphia (Nos. 7 and 29) and Ottawa (Nos. 18 and 21). Don't be surprised to see the Sens take a swing at the Coyotes pick.
• Phil Kessel could find a new home today after all, but only if the Penguins are willing to include a young, NHL-ready defenseman as part of a sizable package. The Leafs covet both Derrick Pouliot and Olli Maatta and it will take one of those two to grease the skids. It would be tough to part with either one, but the Pens have some depth at the position, with Brian Dumoulin and Scott Harrington in the mix for NHL jobs this season. More to the point: Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin won’t remain at peak freshness forever and time is wasting. If that hurdle is cleared, there’s at least one more major concern: Toronto would also have to retain some of Kessel’s contract, which calls for $8 annually over the next seven years, to help the Pens stay under the cap. The Pens also are rumored to be making calls on Carolina winger Jeff Skinner. Given GM Jim Rutherford’s ties to the Hurricanes organization, along with Skinner’s less onerous contract, there might be something to this. Jeremy Rutherford of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch is reporting that the Pens are also talking to the Blues about T.J. Oshie.
• It's believed the Pens are one of three finalists (along with the Wild and the Blackhawks) for the services of UFA collegiate defenseman Mike Reilly. If Pittsburgh thinks they have him, they're in a much better position to make a deal involving Maatta or Pouliot for Kessel.
• Elliotte Friedman is reporting that Vancouver could trade Kevin Bieksa to San Jose. If it happens, expect some disparaging remarks the Bieksa made dogging Joe Thornton and Logan Couture during the 2013 playoffs to gain some currency. That’s water under the bridge and won’t be a problem.
• Three of South Korea’s finest will have a chance to test themselves against NHL hopefuls as they attend development camp with the Stars and Red Wings next month. Cool opportunity for them, and a savvy PR move for the NHL with the Olympics less than three years away.
• There’s been a lot of discussion about the impact of three-on-three OT on the playing time of top skaters. Here’s a look at what it will mean for goalies.
• Could there be a second NHL team rocking an orange third jersey next season? Isn’t one too many?
• Mike Harrington uncovered Jack Eichel’s previously unknown weakness. Can the Sabres still draft him now that they know this?
• Jarret Stoll of the Kings pled guilty to two misdemeanor charges after being arrested with cocaine at a Las Vegas hotel pool. See what that means for the veteran forward as he heads toward free agency.