The big questions hanging over the 2022 draft
It’s been a long time since NHL decision-makers stopped at one spot at a time when league rosters were so incomplete. An optimist would think there is a trading boom around the corner.
This may not be the case; there’s this ugly thing called the salary cap, after all. That said, there are quite a few major questions to answer that could spark a decent amount of action at the NHL Draft in Montreal and beyond.
Here are those dominoes:
Will the New Jersey Devils move the No. 2 pick overall?
It’s a decision that probably depends on another. While the Canadiens aren’t tipping their hand with the No. 1 draft pick, plans could change for Tom Fitzgerald and the Devils front office depending on who is or isn’t available after Montreal’s picks.
But if the priorities don’t change depending on the Canadiens, it’s been widely reported that the Devils are open to moving the second overall pick – and possibly the rights of Juraj Slafkovsky or Logan Cooley – to a player who can help. improve their alignment immediately. Personally, this seems terribly wrong. The Devils have amassed a decent measure of talent, but it’s hard to imagine that even an impressive return to a hugely valuable asset will push the team into serious contention.
Yet it is the kind of scenario that could make this project an unforgettable moment. Fitzgerald’s openness to moving the pick, which isn’t a decision often even considered, means an assembly of teams suddenly has the opportunity to pack franchise-altering talent.
This is the drama project we rarely get.
Has Alex DeBrincat left Chicago?
Here’s another potential inflection point in the lottery section of the NHL Draft.
There’s serious potential here for a team (perhaps even the Devils) to use their position in the top half of the first round as part of a package to land the best trade goal this offseason. Alex DeBrincat is almost certainly being dealt with by the Chicago Blackhawks this offseason, and it’s hard to imagine general manager Kyle Davidson not working desperately to get back to the first round after the previous regime spit out his first-round pick in the Seth. Jones traded last summer.
DeBrincat lays out the ways to do that, which means his trade likely happens before the first round. We’re unlikely to see a player moved on in the immediate moments after donning a new cap and shirt and taking pictures with the management team deciding to call his name.
If not the Devils, the Philadelphia Flyers and Ottawa Senators at numbers 5 and 7 appear to be possible entry points for the Blackhawks, who are unlikely to make a selection until number 38 overall.
The 40-goal double-scorer makes a lot of sense, especially for the Senators, who have what it takes to seal the deal.
Will Johnny Gaudreau raise his hand?
The one team that stands to lose the most this summer is the Calgary Flames. With Johnny Gaudreau reportedly offering a max-time offer of nearly $10 million a year, it’s extremely possible that the Flames’ best player will walk through the free agent door after July 13, completely changing the complexion of the franchise.
While the Flames seem content enough to be patient with their star winger, one has to wonder if they’re asking for clarification before any moves start to be made on the draft floor. Because if Gaudreau plans to walk, a team chasing a championship might start retooling instead.
Calgary probably can’t improve on its current draft position by, say, dealing with Gaudreau’s bargaining rights. But perhaps more steps can be taken to bring a draft selection higher on the board than their current selection at No. 59 overall. The Flames have several impressive assets they could trade for a valuable future if Gaudreau forces them to back down.
Is JT Miller traded by the Canucks?
Miller was already a prime trade candidate, but the Canucks’ decision to extend Brock Boeser further cemented that over the weekend. A nearly 100-point scorer last season, Miller is at his peak and could bring back a valuable draft pick in return. Time is running out for that to happen.
Like the Blackhawks, Vancouver is expected to look to replenish first-round futures after dealing its first-round pick last summer in a trade involving a high-priced defenseman. The addition to their current position — which is the No. 15 overall pick — would give Patrik Allvin and his new-look team the opportunity to fuel a hungry prospect system.
Miller won’t bring back the same yield as DeBrincat; he’s both 30 and slated for unrestricted free agency next season. So while he likely won’t bring back a lottery pick, the Canucks could pledge Miller to a contender looking to spend his last first-round draft pick.
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