As we are now just hours away from the 2022 NHL Entry Draft, the first in-person version of these proceedings since Jack Hughes went No. 1 to the Devils in 2019, things are percolating and thus we’re all tasked with getting out information that isn’t too outdated. So here’s a brief summary of some things to watch for tonight–read it now before it’s all old news..
Kent Hughes and the Canadiens aren’t tipping their hand at all about who will be selected Thursday night at the Bell Centre as the host team selects first overall. When asked he narrowed the choices down to OHL center, Shane Wright, Slovak-winger Juraj Slafkovsky and Logan Cooley of the US Development Program. The closest thing to a definitive statement was Hughes saying he “expects to make the pick” when asked about entertaining trade offers. So, with the much-anticipated return to in-person, the twice-postponed draft has all the drama for Montreal. And this is a night the organization hopes will move the process forward.
In his media availability on Wednesday, Tom Fitzgerald, whose Devils own the second pick, said despite the talks with GMs around the league, Hughes hasn’t let anything slip regarding who they’re favoring. “I wish he would,” Fitzgerald said. Many in the industry believe if Montreal selects Wright, New Jersey may sprint to the podium to take Slafkovsky. That may be the case, but it’s worth noting New Jersey has gone to the US Program four times since 2019 and are plugged into the Michigan and Minnesota hockey circuits. Cooley, by the way, will be a Gopher next season.
There’s already been one goaltending trade ahead of Thursday night. The Rangers sent pending RFA, Alexander Georgiev to Colorado for three picks including a third and fifth round pick in this draft. New York also acquired Colorado’s 2023 third rounder. Darcy Kuemper, who helped Colorado win their first Stanley Cup since 2001, will test free agency, though Colorado can explore the trade market for his negotiating rights ahead of July 13. I’d suspect the Devils, who tried on Georgiev, will have interest in shoring up its goaltending conundrum prior to the UFA goalie carousel. They could also explore other pending RFAs in the league and players with term left on their deals.
Matt Murray reportedly was a target of the Sabres, but the Ottawa netminder would not waive his 10-team no-trade list, which included Buffalo. So, the Sens will look for other suitors. Murray has two years left on his contract, which carries a $6.25 million AAV, but is owed $15 million in actual dollars, albeit without any bonus structures. He’s struggled in each of his last three seasons, but is generating interest.
Then there’s Sergei Bobrovsky. Yes, it’s true the Panthers goaltender is coming off a 39-win season in which he sported respectable numbers given Florida’s oft-run and gun style, but he’s only entering his fourth season of the seven-year deal he signed in 2019. He’ll be 34 at the start of next season, has a $10 million cap hit and is owed $10 million in 2023-24, $6.5 million in 24-25; $6 million in 25-26. He’s also got a full no-move clause. So, would he even waive to go elsewhere? And, what would the Panthers, who do not have a first Thursday night or in 2023 have to send as an incentive to take on his contract and help the ‘Cats clear space following their President’s Trophy season? Too many factors working against this not ending with Bob back in Sunrise, but things can always change.
J.T. Miller going back East seems likely. Would the Rangers be able to get the ex-Blueshirt back, and, what would the cost be in acquiring him from Vancouver? He’s also one year away from becoming an unrestricted free agent in line for a nice raise on his current $5.25 million AAV. Decisions are coming for New York, who could see Andrew Copp, Tyler Motte, Ryan Strome and Frank Vatrano exit. Kaapo Kakko is their lone RFA of note.
New Jersey has reportedly tracked the Miller situation since its inception. They had interest in the regular season and the belief is that hasn’t wavered. But will the Devils part with the assets; and more so, will they part with assets if they don’t have the structure of an extension finalized? I’d suggest, even if the interest is high, that may not be a gamble the franchise is willing to take right now. The Devils were in on Kevin Fiala before he was dealt to L.A., but not entirely sure they were willing to meet Minnesota’s ask or, were all that interested with the term or AAV that Fiala got from L.A.
One team that could take the gamble on Miller without an extension? Washington. They have a little bit of cap flexibility and could have more depending on what happens with Nicklas Backstrom to start the season. They know Tom Wilson won’t be ready. The Caps own the 20th pick on Thursday.
Arizona will take whoever is left among the elite-three at third, but you wonder if they’ll do anything interesting with the two later picks–27 and 32. They have 10 picks over the next two days including seven of the first 65. Teams know they’re open to taking on some cap headaches in exchange for picks and other incentives. It’s very possible Jakob Chychrun heats up over the next 48 hours. Ottawa and Columbus did plenty of due diligence during the regular season.
Chicago is also looking for ways to get back some incentives after years of being the team that offloaded with limited cap flexibility. But, the focus leaguewide is on Alex DeBrincat. The 24-year-old winger is coming off a 41-goal, 78-point season and remains under team control after this season when he’ll be a restricted free agent. It’s an attractive add and justifiably will be expensive. A first round pick, a prospect and presumably a young NHL player are components Chicago would covet. Ottawa, who picks 7th overall has been mentioned in this. New Jersey, too. Philadelphia may have struck out once on this but could return. Can the Rangers afford this with their center uncertainty? Is Seattle a stealth team on this? I’d think so.
Jesper Bratt hasn’t been offered up or discussed in a trade at any time. This, according to Devils GM, Tom Fitzgerald. I’ve said before I think this waits til after the draft to get sorted out. But, certainly there has to be some concern of an offer sheet, even for the Devils, who own north of $25 million in cap space.
While I don’t expect Matthew Tkachuk to be dealt and the insiders within the industry have said the same, I do think we could get to that point. Probably not at the draft, but if Johnny Gaudreau goes to market–or, Calgary goes max-term and $9.5 million-plus, do they think they can afford to keep Tkachuk? Fascinating and agonizing week and a half upcoming for the Flames.
I don’t think Tampa loses Ondrej Palat, nor do I think he’ll get more than five seasons on an extension. But, he might get six on the open market. His body of work over the last three seasons and postseasons have a lot of teams hoping he makes it to market.
Enjoy the draft everyone. Should be an incredible scene.