Smoke Doesn’t Always Mean Fire Before NHL Draft

As the NHL Entry Draft approaches, so do the rumors about the possibility of traded draft picks. The draft is one of the key moments in a season where general managers really earn their paychecks, and this year appears to be no different. With top-end talent up for grabs, GMs scramble in the days preceding the draft to ensure they leave the floor with “their guy.”

Of course, it’s not just draft picks that get thrown into the rumor mill. RFAs, disgruntled players, or players that simply don’t fit into the future plans of the organization all find themselves on the chopping block hours before the draft begins. But with so many rumors flying around the hockey world, every fan should realize that smoke doesn’t always lead to fire when it comes to the NHL draft.

Semin, Skinner, and the Canes

The message out of Carolina is “change.” Last offseason, Ron Francis took the role of general manager for the Carolina Hurricanes, and he made one thing clear right off the bat.

“At the end of the day, this is a fresh start for everybody,” Francis said. “But if we have to make changes, we’ll make changes.”

Well, an 0-6-2 start to the following season, leading up to yet another missed playoff berth, and the worst statistical year for many of the Canes players has necessitated that change.

Alexander Semin’s season was tumultuous from the get-go. While the rest of the team seemed to grasp the change in play that new head coach Bill Peters demanded from them, Semin had a difficult time adjusting his style. This led to some terse words to the media from Peters and a lot of press box visits for the Russian winger. While later reports indicated a lingering wrist injury affected Semin’s play this past season, the fact remains that six goals and 19 points is a travesty for a guy getting paid $7 million.

Rumors had the Canes packaging Semin for this year’s 5th overall pick to simply get rid of the enigmatic winger’s contract, but Elliote Friedman of SportsNet all but shot that rumor down in his 30 for 30 Thoughts segment.

“History suggests that is very unlikely. Last year, Calgary said it would acquire Cam Ward as long as the seventh selection was included with it. GM Ron Francis declined,” Friedman wrote. “As much as the organization would love to move Semin, this draft pick is way too important to give away in a salary dump. It’s got to be a significant, legit hockey trade if at all.”

Friedman also mentioned that Jeff Skinner’s name is out there, and others like Pierre LeBrun have stated that Carolina is definitely open to moving him.

While I don’t doubt that the Canes are taking calls regarding Skinner, I don’t think they’re giving him away as cheap as many fans hope. He did struggle to score last year, the same as the rest of the team, but he’s one year removed from a 33-goal season. That was his second 30+ goal season before the age of 22. Even taking his concussion concerns into account, he’s not going to dealt for spare parts.

Offseason in Arizona

The Arizona Coyotes have the 3rd overall pick in the 2015 NHL Entry Draft, which for all intents and purposes might as well be the 1st overall pick. It’s safe to assume the Edmonton Oilers are going to take Connor McDavid and the Buffalo Sabres will take Jack Eichel. This puts Arizona is the ultimate position of power, as it gives whoever holds the 3rd pick the pick of the litter, and with names like Noah Hanifin, Ivan Provorov, Mitch Marner and Dylan Strome available, it’s a desired position to be in.

While the Coyotes could use any of the above players, general manager Don Maloney isn’t afraid to play the field. According to Bob McKenzie, Arizona has at least two firm offers that give Maloney “pause to consider.” While many have linked the Columbus Blue Jackets, Philadelphia Flyers, and San Jose Sharks to the pick, perhaps an exchange of draft picks to move those respective teams up to the No. 3 spot, Maloney has played his cards close to his chest.

Fans have to remember that this sort of thing happens before every draft. Last year, there were rumors that the Florida Panthers were open to trading the first overall pick, yet when the time came to make a decision, there was no hesitation in taking Aaron Ekblad. Likewise, the year before that, the Tampa Bay Lightning were rumored to have put the third overall pick up for grabs. But once again, when the 2013 draft began, the first four teams might have set a record on how quickly they nabbed their players.

In fact, the last time a team actually traded a top-five pick before the draft selection was in 2008, when the New York Islanders first traded down from fifth to seventh, then from seventh to ninth. They nabbed a few extra draft picks for their trouble and drafted Josh Bailey with the ninth pick. However, the extra picks they acquired never amounted to much, which made the whole exercise unnecessarily risky. Luckily for the Islanders, the difference between Josh Bailey and those picked just above him wasn’t too great.

So will the fans see a major trade before the first selection on Friday? It’s hard to say. There’s plenty of rumors going around that certainly make it seem like the 2015 NHL Entry Draft will be an exciting one to watch. But contrary to the old saying, when it comes to the NHL, smoke doesn’t necessarily mean fire.