With the 2012 NHL Entry Draft set to begin tonight and throughout the weekend, many young athletes from around the world are about to have their dreams come true as they eagerly anticipate their selection and the chance to play for any one of the 30 NHL teams.
However, that anticipation transcends the young players looking to make a name for themselves and carries over to established talent who could be on the move in order to make room for the younger building blocks and future franchise cornerstones.
Rick Nash of the Columbus Blue Jackets and Roberto Luongo top the list of potential trade targets who could be moved at the draft tonight.
Nash, a left wing with a $7.8 million cap hit, had been linked to a bevy of teams including Ottawa, Toronto, Philadelphia, San Jose and the New York Rangers. However, teams are reluctant to pull the trigger for Nash due to the high asking price by Columbus general manager Scott Howson. The San Jose Sharks seem to have a high interest in Nash, but not if it involves including budding star Logan Couture within the package. Similarly, the New York Rangers had a high level of interest but the Rangers aren’t willing to part with rising young talent to acquire Nash.
The Vancouver Canucks also appear to be shopping Luongo (pictured, top) and would like to move him before the draft, but similar to Nash, moving Luongo is proving to be difficult thanks to his massive contract that costs $5.33 in cap space and takes Luongo well into his 40’s. Teams are hesitant to tie up that kind of money into a goaltender. Still, the Toronto Maple Leafs continue to have their name floated around as possible suitors, while Columbus could also get in on the action. Chicago has been linked passively, but their needs appear to be elsewhere at the draft, while Columbus could also look to grab Luongo as part of their rebuilding process.
The Edmonton Oilers again nabbed the top pick in the draft for the third year in a row, giving them several different options heading into the event tonight. Forward Nail Yakupov is widely regarded as the top prospect heading into the draft, but Edmonton desperately needs to rebuild their blue line and could opt to take defenseman Ryan Murray instead. The team could also opt to trade the number one overall pick for established defensive help, too.
Rumors surfaced recently that Phoenix could be shopping defenseman Keith Yandle, and the Chicago Sun-Times confirmed that the Blackhawks are actively shopping defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson (pictured, bottom) and Steve Montador. Some chatter has also floated around that Calgary could try to move Jay Bouwmeester while San Jose may try to trade Dan Boyle if the price is right. Could a trade materialize at the draft between the Oilers and any of these teams for the top pick in exchange for defensive help?
Mlive.com reports that the Detroit Red Wings likely won’t get involved in trade talks at the draft, instead opting to focus on Ryan Suter and Zach Parise during free agency. However, Detroit has two spots to fill in their top-four on defense, and with Yandle, Hjalmarsson, Montador and potentially Bouwmeester and Boyle being shopped, could Detroit decide to get in on one of these players?
Speaking of Suter and Parise, both the Nashville Predators and New Jersey Devils have some interesting decisions to make tonight regarding their top free agents – namely, should they trade their respective players’ negotiating rights at the draft tonight? Predators GM David Poile has previously stated thathe will not trade the rights to Suter before July 1, however, if the New Jersey Devils feel like they will not be able to retain Parise for next season, they may opt to trade Parise’s rights.
Another interesting team to watch tonight will be the Tampa Bay Lightning. The Lightning were previously linked to Roberto Luongo, but with the team trading for Nashville backup goalie Anders Lindback last week, it remains uncertain if they will still pursue goaltending help. But Tampa Bay retains two first-round draft picks (10th overall and 19th overall), as well as one second round choice. Don’t be surprised if Tampa flips one or both of their first round picks for defensive help. After all, the Lightning did finish last in the league in goals allowed per game with an average of 3.39.
The NHL Entry Draft has the potential to become as big as free agency or the trade deadline thanks to teams having plenty of cap space and a willingness to spend and improve their rosters for next season. Plus, with a severe drop-off in available free agent talent after a select few high-end players, teams seem to be much more willing to trade for help rather than risk losing out on the high-end free agent talent. With an abundance of rumors flying around today, the 2012 NHL Entry Draft could provide plenty of fireworks.
The NHL Entry Draft begins tonight at the Consol Energy Center in Pittsburgh. The first round will commence at 7 pm EST tonight, with rounds two through seven taking place Saturday.