• By: Dave Gross

Bland draft gives way to NHL free agency

Photo courtesy NHLI via Getty Images

Stage 1 of the NHL’s off-season is in the books.

The National Hockey League entry draft now makes way for what promises to be (here’s hoping) an intriguing free agency window – Stage 2. That window gets cranked open next Monday (July 1).

After a less-than exciting draft, the league sure would like to add some zip before going dark for the next couple of months.

A quick thought on that draft. The coverage on Sportsnet was exceedingly bland. Can’t imagine how much worse it would have been without Brian Burke whose takes never soften with his advancing age.

The lack of significant trades also didn’t help. (Actually, the lack of any trades involving real, live bodies on Day 1 didn’t help).

As pointed out by numerous scribes, this was the first time since 2005 that there were absolutely zero deals involving players in the first round of a draft.

Day 2 brought some excitement as a much-rumoured deal involving P.K. Subban hit the draft floor just prior to the kick-off on Round 2.

Subban was rumoured to be going to either Toronto or Vancouver but it was the revamped New Jersey Devils who took the plunge, giving up a slew of unknowns for the flashy Subban.

Suddenly, the Devils have hopped into the mix as an Eastern Conference playoff contender. Subban joins former Hart winner Taylor Hall and 2017 first overall pick – the still developing Nico Hischier – on an improved roster.

As for the Senators, they did make a minor deal to move up in the second round (pick No. 37) so they could grab 6-8 netminder Mads Sogaard who’ll continue his development at Medicine Hat (WHL) next season.

Ottawa’s first-round pick was a head-scratcher for most (see Thoughts, News and Notions below) as Lassi Thomson was selected 19th overall.

The club’s first second-round pick (32nd overall) was good-sized centre Shane Pinto.

Those three and the rest of the Senators prospects will be at this week’s prospect’s camp here in Ottawa.

For management, the focus shifts to Monday’s free agency.

Ottawa has itself in a fortunate position holding a tremendous amount of cap space. Still, don’t expect a big splash, the Senators have maintained they’re sticking to the rebuild philosophy. (The name Matt Duchene has been discussed but reports indicate that’s a bit of a longshot).

For teams with money and not in a rebuild, there’s plenty on the store shelves. Former Columbus stars Artemi Panarin and Sergei Bobrovsky will be pricey – Florida is in the mix with both. Blueliners Tyler Myers and Jake Gardner are also available, as is rugged winger Wayne Simmonds, and a pair of former Senators in Robin Lehner and Ryan Dzingel.

Thoughts, news and notions: Lots of difference of opinion on Ottawa’s first pick. Lassi Thomson of the Kelowna Rockets went 19th overall. Burke had these thoughts: “He’s a mid-sized guy,” Burke said. “Not small, but mid-sized. Hard shot. Not an elite skill level. There’s a split (of opinion) on this guy.” Meantime, Grant McCagg’s Recrute site had the Finnish blueliner ranked 13th: “. . . a great pick by Ottawa,” said McCagg . . . Tweet of the week: “People say they’re concerned about (first-overall pick) Jack Hughes’ NHL readiness but I just saw him give an interview where he said absolutely nothing interesting.” See, sometimes Twitter isn’t just a place for the wildly disgruntled to let loose . . . Thinking the Patrick Marleau trade from Toronto to Carolina was a good one for the cash-strapped Leafs. The move frees up $6.25 million US. Yes, Toronto surrendered a first-round pick, but it promises to be a low one. There are no guarantees there but the fact the Leafs desperately needed cash to sign their legion of pending free agents was a must.