Saturday, July 30, 2005

The draft's done and White's gone

You'd think with NHL history being made a few miles from my home, I'd be there to soak it in in person, right?

Unfortunately, with the Westin Hotel's perimeter being surrounded by armed guards, scaring off anyone who wanted to witness the Sidney Crosby coronation in person, as well as the NHL sanctioned attack dogs roaming the city, I was unable to attend the draft in person. Such a shame.

But alas, like most I have to assume, I did watch it's sloppy and often downright amateurish TSN broadcast. I realize this thing was put together on short notice, but my God were there a lot of technical errors. From wrong camera shots (which of course led to the always fun uncomfortable smiling) to bad mics to the analysts, who I normally enjoy immensely, stepping all over each other to offer commentary, this thing was about the polar opposite of the draft lottery a few weeks ago, which not only went off without a hitch, but was produced wonderfully and made for compelling TV.

While it was certainly cool to watch Crosby finally get selected, it was also, perhaps, the most anti-climatic moment in hockey in some time. Part of me was hoping Craig Patrick and the Pens did move him in some blockbuster trade just for the shock value. We would've heard what 200 NHL executives gasping sounds like, that's for sure.

Fortunately, the rest of the draft was not so predictable, with Bobby Ryan, who looks quite massive in person, going #2 to Anaheim, meaning Brian Burke was unable to work his draft day magic for his new team and make some kind of big trade, as had been rumored. You have to wonder how much of the "Burke will trade #2" talk was rooted in any kind of reality, as I wouldn't put it past the Ducks' new GM, a master media manipulator, to have created the whole story himself just to get he and his team's name out there. What kind of player Ryan becomes remains to be seen, but he seems to have all the physical tools and, apparently, has tremendous character. Hopefully he'll have a good career and won't be the answer to some trivia question 20 years from now.

The Sens picked 9th, and selected defenceman Brian Lee. To say I was underwhelmed would be putting it mildly. He wasn't even on my radar as someone they might pick, which is maybe why I should leave that kind of stuff to the people at Hockeys Future, who know more about this kind of stuff anyway.

All the info on Lee says he's a solid two-way d-man. He won the Associated Press's high school player of the year award as well as the Mr. Hockey award for best high school player in Minnesota. He was ranked the #15 North American skater in the Central Scouting Bureau but the Sens saw him in a much more positive light. He says he likes to emulate Brian Leetch, but Sens GM John Muckler says he's comparable in play to Wade Redden.

Speaking of whom, Muckle openly admitted part of the reason for the pick was the fact that the team might be in a position where they need some young defencemen soon, with their top three blueliners, Redden, Zdeno Chara, and Chris Phillips all eligable for unrestricted free agency status in a few years. It's doubtful the team will be able to keep all three, and maybe none at all if they decide the grass is greener elsewhere, so loading up incase that happens makes sense.

Like a lot of the players in this year's draft, Lee is going to a U.S. college to play next year, specifically the University of North Dakota, so he won't step in right away. I will say I hope he takes a charisma class in school because when interviewed, this kid had the personality of a piece of lumber.

The team's other picks were big defencemanVitaly Anikeyenko - who's 6'4" stature is a positive - 70th, center Cody Bass 95th, defenceman Ilya Zubov (any relation?) 98th, Finnish left-winger Janne Kolehmainen 115th, Czech defenceman Tomas Kudelka 136th, Russian defenceman (yes, another one) Dimitri Megalinsky 186th, and Canadian forward Colin Greening 204th.

The full draft results can be found here

The Senators also officially parted ways with local boy Todd White, sending him to Minnesota for a fourth round pick. Considering they weren't going to qualify him tomorrow, the fact they got anything is, I suppose, a positive. As I wrote earlier in the week, White's been an important part of the Sens for a few seasons, and off the ice and in the community, he's also been one of the more active players, and thus losing him is unfortunate.

Another trade saw the Maple Leafs acquire Jeff O'Neill from the Hurricanes, who like White here in Ottawa, was not going to get a qualifying offer from his team, and thus, Carolina got something for him instead of losing O'Neill and getting zero compensation. What's interesting about the O'Neill deal though is his contract, as it's yet another example of this wacky new NHL we live in. He agreed to a two-year, $3 million deal, giving him an annual salary of almost half of what he would've had to have been qualified at. While his numbers have slipped as of late, that could end up being a steal. Getting a 29-year-old former 40 goal scorer at such a price indicates just how much the financial landscape has changed, and I suspect when the flood gates open on Monday at midnight, we'll see more players like O'Neill willingly take less money to play where they want.

As far as trades involving current NHLers, those two were the most significant, which is sorta disappointing considering all the talk that had been swirling about this all-star defenceman going here, and that one going there. Surely all those rumors couldn't have been bullshit, right? Right?

The Sens did reveal they had extended qualifying offers to Marian Hossa, Martin Havlat, Jason Spezza, Mike Fisher, Ray Emery, Chris Kelly, Chris Neil, Christoph Schubert, Brian McGratton, and Antoine Vermette. The same can't be said for a few others, including Martin Prusek, who many thought would be dealt today, and John Langfeld. Whether or not they do so before tomorrow's deadline remains unclear, but I'd have to guess the answer is no.

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