A slower day in sports today so I want to look back at the NHL Draft and look ahead to the off season. I consider myself an NHL fan (a Boston Bruin fan to be precise), but I cannot say that I followed the draft very closely. I can tell you that the Tampa Bay Lightning chose center Steven Stamkos number one and that the Bruins drafted center Joe Colborne number 16. I can tell you that after Stamkos, the next four players chosen were all defense man and that 12 defense man were chosen in the first round. I can tell you that the tallest player taken in the first round was Tyler Myers by the Buffalo Sabres (12th pick).
If you want me to start analyzing individual picks, don’t get your hopes up. Most players in this draft will not be in the NHL for years to come, whether they are going to college or playing overseas. However, the top picks in the draft will look to make a difference next year. Stamkos will make the Lightning better immediately and the four defense man chosen after that should all have impacts on their respective teams next year. Almost none of the playerstaken after the top five will see NHL ice time next year. With that in mind, it is extremely difficult to grade teams in the draft. Not just are most players not ready for the NHL and will spend a couple years getting better, but it is tough for NHL general managers to predict their respective team’s needs years in advance. So I am sticking away from grading each teams. I can barely grade my beloved Bruins. I have mixed feelings over picking Colborne. He is a talented player with great upside, but from what I’ve read, he may be too soft for the NHL. I guess Bruins management (and their fans) are hoping his time at Denver University will toughen him up.
With the draft over, it is time to look ahead to the off season and the potential free agents up for grabs. As I look through the list of unrestricted free agents, there aren’t many superstars’ names on it. The biggest name is Marian Hossa, who wants to stay in Pittsburgh, but the two sides seem far apart on a deal. I would love the Bruins to make a serious run at this guy. In the NHL teams have the opportunity to buy out players on their team for two-thirds of their salary. In the Bruins case, I hope GM Peter Chiarelli will choose to buy out Glen Murray and goalie Manny Fernandez. Murray has had plenty of great years for the Bruins, but he’s aging and just isn’t playing up to his salary. Fernandez has been injured and is just eating up money. If the team can do that, then maybe they will make a pitch to Hossa. I’m sure my bias is clear here, but I want to add that besides money, the Bruins are also going to have to convince Hossa to come to Boston. There are plenty of teams out there who would love to add a player like Hossa and I’m sure he will receive offers from many teams.
Other big names in the draft include Joe Sakic and Peter Forsberg. Sakic is 39 and is debating returning for a 20th season. If he does return, it is clear he will continue playing in Colorado. Forsberg is also up there in age, but will also become an unrestricted free agent on July 1st. Sean Avery is also a free agent and the Rangers don’t seem to be able to sign the forward. Brendan Shanahan is also an unrestricted free agent on the Rangers. There are very few superstars available this year. The league has gotten much younger since the lockout and teams are signing their young stars to long deals which makes the free agent crop very weak. That’s not to say that there isn’t talent in the free agents this year. There is plenty of talent out there and when teams begin to buy players out of their contracts, the talent level will only increase and the competitive nature of the NHL off season will ensue. (Photos: ESPN)