Analysis of Notable Trades At 2017 NHL Draft – June 23, 2017

Analysis of Notable Trades At 2017 NHL Draft – June 23, 2017

Among the notable trades prior to the opening of the 2017 NHL Draft saw Columbus ship Brandon Saad back to Chicago for Artemi Panarin.

The day kicked off with the Chicago Blackhawks shipping defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson to the Arizona Coyotes for defensemen Connor Murphy and Laurent Dauphin.

They soon followed that up with a blockbuster, shipping forwards Artemi Panarin and Tyler Motte plus a sixth-round pick in this year’s draft to the Columbus Blue Jackets for winger Brandon Saad, goaltender Anton Forsberg and a 2018 fifth-round selection.

It’s tempting to call these moves salary dumps by the Blackhawks. However, Panarin and Saad make the same annual cap hit ($6 million), but Saad’s runs through 2020-21 and Panarin’s through 2018-19.

Hjalmarsson’s cap hit is $4.1 million annually through 2018-19. Murphy’s is $3.85 million through 2021-22.

Forsberg, meanwhile, is a restricted free agent who made $650K last season. He’ll likely get a bit of a pay bump, which cancels out any savings from the deal with the Coyotes. Motte’s $925K cap hit is the only notable savings for the Hawks. 

Bottom line is Blackhawks general manager Stan Bowman wanted to shake things up. He promised as much after his club was swept from the opening round of the 2017 playoffs by the Nashville Predators.

Hjalmarsson, 30, helped the Blackhawks win three Stanley Cups since 2010. However, he seemed to struggle during that series against the Predators. Murphy, 24, is a big-bodied shutdown rearguard who skates well and plays a physical style.

The Coyotes needed more of a veteran presence on their blueline and Hjalmarsson should help. GM John Chayka envisions him as Oliver Ekman-Larssen’s partner on their top defense pairing. If they mesh well it could go a long way toward improving their porous blueline.

Bowman never wanted to part with Saad two years ago but budget constraints forced his hand. The winger was a key part of the Hawks’ last two Cup championships. They missed his two-way style and chemistry with center Jonathan Toews. Losing Marian Hossa’s decision to sit out next season because of a rare skin condition also probably factored into this decision.

Forsberg, of course, was brought in as the potential replacement for departed backup Scott Darling. He’s got good size (6’3”, 192 lbs) but limited NHL experience. He’ll likely get 20-25 games as Corey Crawford’s understudy. 

Saad had some difficulty playing for demanding Blue Jackets head coach John Tortorella. It’ll be interesting to see how Panarin fares. The 2016 Calder Trophy winner excelled alongside Patrick Kane and Artem Anisimov in Chicago, netting 73 points in 2016-17. He’s got terrific speed but, at 5-11 and 170 pounds, he’s not a physical player.

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Not to be outdone, the New York Rangers swung a major deal of their own, shipping center Derek Stepan and goalie Antti Raanta to the Coyotes for defenseman Anthony Deangelo and the seventh-overall pick in this year’s draft.

It was the second major move of the day for the Coyotes, bringing them the experienced top-line center they need and bolstering their depth in the crease.

Stepan’s in the third year of his six-year, $39-million contract. He’s a proven performance, netting over 40 points in each of his seven NHL seasons. The 27-year-old is a hardworking two-way forward and a skilled playmaker. He’ll likely have promising Max Domi skating on his wing. 

Raanta has spent his NHL career in backup roles. He played very well spelling off Henrik Lundqvist in 2016-17. This could be his opportunity to become a full-time starter as the potential replacement for the now-departed Mike Smith.

The Rangers, meanwhile, shed over a combined $7 million in cap space, pick up a promising puck-moving, right-handed defenseman in Deangelo plus a high pick in this year’s draft. With over $20 million in salary cap space for next season, they could be on the hunt for an experienced offensive blueliner to skate on the right side via trade or in the upcoming free-agent market.

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It appeared the opening round of the 2017 NHL Draft wouldn’t have any trades involving veteran players, but two late deals came through under the wire. 

The first saw the Philadelphia Flyers ship forward Brayden Schenn to the St. Louis Blues for center Jori Lehtera, a first-round pick in 2017 and a conditional first in 2018. 

Entering this offseason, the Blues were searching for more scoring depth. Schenn, 25, is a versatile forward who can play center or on the wing. He’s coming off consecutive seasons with over 20 goals and 50 points. With his speed and two-way ability, he could be a good fit in St. Louis with his speed and two-way ability. 

Lehtera, 29, had a solid NHL debut in 2014-15 with 44 points. However, his production tumbled after that. Though he has playmaking skills, he’s pretty much a checking-line center now. He’ll likely see fourth-line duty with the Flyers as a replacement for the departed Pierre-Edouard Bellemare. 

Schenn has a $5.125 million cap hit through 2019-20, while Lehtera’s is $4.7 million through 2018-19. 

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The final move of the opening round saw the Blues ship rugged winger Ryan Reaves and a second-round pick in this year’s draft to the Pittsburgh Penguins for forward Oskar Sundqvist and a 2017 first-round picks. 

Penguins fans may be puzzled by this move, but GM Jim Rutherford recently indicated he wanted to add some muscle to his forward lines. Reaves’ role will be to hold accountable those who take liberties on the Penguins’ best players, especially captain Sidney Crosby. 

Sundqvist, 23, isn’t an enforcer like Reaves but he can play an agitating physical style. He can also play all three forward positions, giving the Blues some flexibility up front.