Now that the Penguins summer of Stanley has begun, so too has the trade/free agent/draft craziness that is the NHL off-season. Every year something happens during this time of year that makes you scratch your head in awe. Someone signs for a ridiculous amount of money or a GM throws out a draft pick for a guy that he has no shot in signing. Although there are also trades that are made that immediately change the course of a team.
On June 26, 2015, the Los Angeles Kings thought they were getting over the hump in hurry by trading their first round pick, goalie Martin Jones (remember him?) and defenceman Colin Miller to the Boston Bruins for Milan Lucic. The 13th overall pick was used by the Bruins to draft 6ft 2in, 185lb defenceman Jakub Zboril from the Czech Republic. The Bruins then traded Jones four days later to the San Jose Sharks for a first-round pick in the 2016 draft and prospect Sean Kuraly. Jones would be a vital piece for the Sharks making it to the Stanley Cup Finals, beating the Kings and Milan Lucic on their way.
Not to be outdone, the Toronto Maple Leafs are throwing one of their first round picks out to get a young but talented goaltender. In exchange for the Leafs 2016 first round pick and 2017 second round pick they are getting 26-year-old Frederik Andersen from the Anaheim Ducks. From the Maple Leafs site:
In 125 career regular season games with Anaheim, Andersen has posted a 77-26-12 record with a 2.33 GAA and .918 SV%. He also holds a 17-9-2 career post-season record with a 2.34 GAA and .916 SV%. In 2014-15 season, Andersen became the fastest goaltender to reach the 26-win mark (26-5-0) in NHL history and tied the league record for the fastest to 50 career wins (50-13-5), originally set by Montreal’s Bill Durnan (50-9-9) in 1944. During the 2013-14 season, Andersen was named to the NHL All-Rookie Team after posting a 20-5-0 record with a 2.29 GAA and .923 SV% in 28 appearances. That season he led all rookie goaltenders in wins, goals-against average and save percentage — the best numbers in those categories by any rookie netminder since 2010-11.
The Maple Leafs are sitting pretty in many different areas after freeing up cap space to make a run at Steven Stamkos and in position to draft coveted “can’t miss” center in Auston Matthews. Their young kids from the American Hockey League affiliate Toronto Marlies played well for them when called up to the big club at the end of the year and no doubt some of them do feature in the short term plans.
Some General Managers who have multiple draft picks are like the kid who just got their allowance. Buffalo Sabres’ GM Tim Murray had four third round picks in this year’s NHL draft so he decided one was burning a hole in this pocket. He reached out to Nashville Predators’ GM David Poile for the availability of un-signed college prospect Jimmy Vessey. Poile, like the store owner who knew the kid just got an allowance, took one of Murray’s third round picks for Vessey. Poile was never going to be able to sign him and it has not been clear what Vessey’s true intentions are, other than to wait out Nashville. On August 15, Vessey becomes an unrestricted free agent, so I am guessing Murray figured he’d plop down a pick on a chance to win the Vessey lottery. Good luck.
We’ll see how the Leafs and the Sabres look with these two moves next year, although neither one was as close to making it to the Cup Final as San Jose was last year. Both are in true rebuilding mode and can use as much help as they can get, but maybe both will hit home runs in free agency and the lottery. You never know at this time of year, that’s why hockey never really takes an off-season and someone always has their eye on the Cup.