2011 Draft winners and losers
The soft Avalanche replaced the size and skill lost in the Chris Stewart trade
The Stars couldn't move Brad Richards; gambled on D-man Jamie Olesiak at 14
No picks in the first three rounds made for a lost couple of days for the Capitals
The word came from an NHL general manager a few days before this past weekend's draft: "Buckle up, there could be some crazy stuff going on the next few days."
If it wasn't Gnarls Barkley Crazy, it was somewhere in the vicinity.
Thing is: it wasn't the draft process itself that was much of a surprise. All the top-ranked prospects went in roughly their presumed order, with Red Deer center Ryan Nugent-Hopkins the first of the bunch to shake Commissioner Gary Bettman's hand on the stage of the green-themed Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul.
The craziness came on Thursday, a day before the first round, when Philadelphia GM Paul Holmgren looked to Columbus and Los Angeles for solutions to his team's problems. Within a few hours, Holmgren dealt away core forwards Jeff Carter and Mike Richards to the Blue Jackets and Kings, respectively. "Say what?", said the media gathered in St. Paul.
At The News Room, a St. Paul watering hole where a league-sponsored gathering for media was taking place, some Eastern-based hockey reporters sobered up quickly to get on top of the Carter-Richards news. Nobody saw the moves coming, although reports of locker-room disharmony among the Flyers had long been out there, and Holmgren did need to clear cap space for the nine-year, $51 million deal he gave to goalie Ilya Bryzgalov, a contract that some observers believe will be just as burdensome down the road as the two the GM shed.
But both guys? Carter and Richards? Put this reporter down as a "Nay" on the question of whether the Flyers won with these deals. Richards may have some issues off the ice, but on it he's a real gamer with talent. The Flyers get one guy (Wayne Simmonds) who took a step back last season after a pretty good campaign the year before, and another (Brayden Schenn) who, frankly, has yet to prove he was worth being picked fifth overall by L.A. in 2009. When a team trades away a top-five pick only two years later, that's a good-sized red flag. And Carter, he of at least 33 goals in each of his last three seasons? Really, you don't want a guy like that around anymore? Jakub Voracek isn't a bad player, but he ain't no Jeff Carter, and it's going to be a little while before center Sean Couturier -- taken by Philly with the eighth pick (obtained from Columbus) -- will make an impact.
Anyway, it's clear the Flyers are in the "Losers" category for the purposes of this draft wrap-up. Yeah, Bryzgalov is a nice step up in goal, but, um, did anyone see him play against Detroit in the first round of the playoffs? The numbers were: 0-4, 4.36 GAA with an .879 saves percentage.
Let's move on and pass judgment on a few other parts of draft weekend:
The once-mighty Avs were a chinchilla-soft, woeful bunch in the second half of last season, and they weren't helped at all by the trade of bruising power forward Chris Stewart to the Blues. They got some size and skill back with second overall pick Gabriel Landeskog, then grabbed nasty-but-talented defenseman Duncan Siemens at No. 11.
While GM Bryan Murray wanted to move up, Swedish center Mika Zibanejad was a nice pick at No. 6. Many think he was the best skater in the draft, and Ottawa added forwards Stefan Noesen and Matt Puempel in the first round.
The fact that Chicago was able to dump the ludicrous contract of underwhelming D-man Brian Campbell back on Dale Tallon and his Panthers makes the Hawks automatic entrants to the winners circle. Now there is more money for Chicago to keep players like Patrick Sharp. Smart.
Watching the newly reinstated 'Peggers and their overjoyed fans cavort at Xcel Energy Center was one of the better sights of the draft.
Why would Calgary want to get rid of tough, reliable defenseman Robyn Regehr? Plus Ales Kotalik and a second-round pick to Buffalo for...statistically-challenged Sabres scrap parts Chris Butler and Paul Byron? Seriously? Oh, and Alex Tanguay had a pretty nice season for Calgary, but a five-year, $17.5 million extension for a guy with a recent history of trick-or-treat play who will be 32 in November?
No picks at all in the first three rounds made for a boring couple of days for owner Ted Leonsis' crew.
GM Joe Nieuwendyk tried -- and failed -- to get soon-to-be unrestricted free agent Brad Richards to waive his no-trade clause so he could get something, anything, for him before he goes free on Friday. Then the Stars took a huge gamble with the No. 14 pick by taking 6-7 project defenseman Jamieson Oleksiak -- who most scouts had going later in the first round.
As stated at the top.
San Jose Sharks, Minnesota Wild
Can't decide who got the best of their opening night deal yet. The Sharks got one heck of a defenseman in Brent Burns, who when healthy might be among the top five all-around blueliners in the league, and a second-round pick next year. But they also gave up a lot in Devin Setoguchi, highly-regarded Boston University power forward Charlie Coyle, and the No. 28 pick, who turned into center Zack Phillips.
Check back here next year for a decision on this one.
NHL analyst Brian Leetch believes that Ryan Nugent-Hopkins' playmaking skills will have an immediate impact.