TORONTO - While the New York Rangers don’t own the high draft choice others can wield in trade talks, they will gladly use the 28th pick if it’s a package to entice Columbus to give up Rick Nash.
The Rangers were heavy into the Nash sweepstakes at the trade deadline before the Blue Jackets decided to keep their brooding star for the time being. But the summer sun is melting the resolve of a lot of teams when it comes to deals, as Friday’s first round of the draft approaches in Pittsburgh.
“It’s a real busy time for trades and everything else because as we’ve all learned trades are real difficult to make during the season now,” Washington general manager George McPhee told local media last week.
“What you find is that GMs are far more forthcoming in terms of talking about what they want to do with other clubs.
“Most guys would hold things pretty close to the vest because they didn’t want everyone to know what they were doing with their ammunition. But now most teams say, ‘Listen, I’m deep here or there, and I’m trying to move this for that.’ Guys are much more open about what they want to do, to get the message out to other clubs because this is the time to deal.”
Nash joins players such as Vancouver’s Roberto Luongo and Pittsburgh’s Jordan Staal in trade speculation heading into Friday and the days before July 1 free agency. The Columbus Post-Dispatch had up to 11 teams either making a direct pitch for Nash or at least kicking tires on the Columbus forward.
As everyone knows, Lou Lamoriello marches to his on drummer.
The New Jersey Devils’ GM and his scouting director, David Conte, are known to find nuggets way down the draft order. Thus they’ve elected not to give up the 29th selection this year, when all signs point to a weak crop and it seems to be the logical time to pay the price of the Ilya Kovalchuk signing snafu of a couple of years ago.
The league decreed the Devils must surrender a first-rounder sometime between 2011 and 2014 as punishment for cap circumvention when Kovalchuk was first signed for 17 years at $102 million. The Devils wisely kept their fourth-overall selection last year, defenceman Adam Larsson, but let the deadline pass again this year.
On Friday, all eyes will be on the Devils’ table at 29th where Conte’s past list of steals in the 20s includes Scott Gomez, Travis Zajac, David Hale, Nicklas Bergfors and Mike Van Ryn.
DRAFT DOT DOT DOTS
The Buffalo Sabres hold four of the first 44 selections this weekend ... A group of scrappy players from the Stanley Cup final could all be unrestricted free agents in a couple of weeks. They include Jarret Stoll and Colin Fraser with the Cup-champion Kings and the Devils’ fourth line of Ryan Carter, Stephen Gionta and Steve Bernier. Bernier would be better off elsewhere after his Game 6 gaffe ... New York Newsday points out the Rangers have a soft spot for acquiring or drafting the sons of former NHLers, Tim Erixon (Jan), Christian Thomas (Steve) and Ryan Bourque (Ray). This year, they could take forwards Henrik Samuelsson (Ulf) or Stefan Matteau (Stepane) ... The Tampa Bay Lightning were aware that goalie Anders Lindback was diagnosed five years ago with Still’s Disease, a rare arthritic condition. But daily medication has controlled it and they had no qualms acquiring him from Nashville. The Preds, meanwhile, have signed 2011 second-rounder Magnus Hellberg to an entry-level contract as a possible back-up to Pekka Rinne ... The Lindback deal includes Nashville getting two second-rounders(37th and 50th overall) for Saturday’s final rounds ... Vancouver, which gave up a pair of fourth-rounders to add Sammy Pahlsson at the deadline, lost him to MoDo of the Swedish Elite League this week, a move that was expected ... The last time the draft was held in Pittsburgh (1997), two players in the top 30 eventually played for Cup teams, Dan Cleary (Detroit) and Marian Hossa (Chicago), though Cleary was drafted by the Blackhawks and Hossa by the Senators.
BURKE WON’T GIVE UP FIFTH PICK
In this thin draft year, many observers think the best prospects, certainly the top forwards, will be gone by the time the Maple Leafs pick fifth on Friday in Pittsburgh.
That has not convinced Brian Burke to give up the pick, at least not yet, and the general manager indicated he wants to come out of Friday’s first round with a fifth or a comparable choice.
“We are keeping the pick,” Burke said in an e-mail to the Toronto Sun on Monday. “We may move up or down, it’s hard to say. Based on today, we’ll pick fifth.”
Help up front is what the Leafs crave, both now and down the road. No one was expecting the fifth pick to be NHL-ready, but it could thin out even further as the top-10 choices unfold.
Nail Yakupov appears destined for Edmonton first overall and the two other Russian-born, CHL trained players, Mikhail Grigorenko and Alex Galchenyuk will go to either Columbus, Montreal or the Islanders, with defenceman Ryan Murray figuring somewhere in the top five.
Grigorenko would be the likely one to drop to fifth from that group. At least one of the next set of forwards, Filip Forsberg, has indicated he’ll stay in Sweden for one more year. Any move the Leafs make downwards with their first pick would be linked to securing a goaltender or forward, but the club is also wary of being without a first-rounder for the fifth time since 2003.
Burke added an extra at last year’s draft, allowing him to get defenceman Stuart Percy and forward Tyler Biggs, both of whom could challenge for jobs at this year’s camp.