The Nation Notebook: NHL Draft, Vegas Picks, and the Free Agent Window Begins

Christian Pagnani
June 26 2017 07:05AM

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The Nation Network Notebook is a regular feature that rounds up interesting news, stories, and rumours from around the NHL that don’t quite deserve their own article. 

The draft is over and now the focus shifts to free agency. Picks were traded, rumoured players were finally moved and a few that were guaranteed are still awaiting a new destination, while some surprising names switched teams. Las Vegas has their roster and their inaugural draft class to boot. The window to talk to pending unrestricted free agents has opened. Matt Duchene hasn't been traded yet and what's going on with Ilya Kovalchuk?

Trades!

Some of the most rumoured players to be moved ended up were finally traded. Jordan Eberle, Travis Hamonic, and Dereks Stepan all found new homes. But some surprising names were also on the move. Artemi Panarin, Niklas Hjalmarsson, and Brandon Saad weren't particularly found in most rumours around the league but were traded before the draft.

The Saad/Panarin trade might have been the most unexpected blockbuster, but it made sense afterwards with the Blackhawks' getting swept and wanting to cash in on Panarin's short contract for Saad's longer term. The Blackhawks couldn't afford Panarin past his contract, while Saad has two more years under contract.

Brayden Schenn was sent to St. Louis in an interesting trade that saw Philadelphia receive two first-round draft picks and a cap dump in Jori Lehtera. Trading Ryan Reaves allowed the Blues to trade back into the first round. Schenn isn't a particular driver of offense, but found a fit on the Flyers' power play.

Welcome to Las Vegas

Las Vegas has their official roster, and well, really? You can see their picks here, and while they did accumulate a wealth of draft picks and a few interesting prospects, it still feels like they left teams off the hook a bit instead of extracting a much better player. Your mileage may vary, but I take Matt Dumba or Marco Scandella, even Eric Stall, over Erik Haula, prospect Alex Tuch, and a third-round pick pretty easily. They could have taken a good forward from the New York Islanders, but received the 15th pick, Mikhail Grabovski's contract, and Jean Francois Berube not to. Vegas could flip those players for a better haul than what they got for not selecting them, and if not, keep them and move them at the trade deadline when teams go crazy.

They had a nice draft, though. Cody Glass, Nick Suzuki, and Eric Brannstrom are nice building blocks for an expansion franchise for a team that clearly decided to ice a non-competitive roster. We'll wait and see if they flip some more players after moving David Schlemko and Trevor Van Riemsdyk. They have currently have 30 contracts and 10 defensemen.

Free Agency Window Opens

As of now teams can talk to pending unrestricted free agents, but definitely won't negotiate any terms of salary at all before free agency opens on July 1st.

There's already rumours players like Joe Thornton and Michael Del Zotto have received interest from multiple teams so it should be a wild week of whose talking to who and whose visiting which team. Who knows, after teams feel like they might have someone in the bag, maybe some trade targets get revisited around July 1st.

What about Duchene and Kovalchuk?

Matt Duchene was dubbed the most likely player to be traded by Bob McKenzie, yet the NHL draft has passed and Duchene still remains a member of the Colorado Avalanche. There are rumours Colorado general manager Joe Sakic is asking too much, and that might be irritating the Duchene camp as they await a move.

As for Ilya Kovalchuk, it seemed like there was a lot of talk that took a backseat to Las Vegas and the NHL draft. If Kovalchuk can only be moved after July 1st, maybe things unfold closer to then. Columbus seems like an obvious fit as they want to improve their forwards and Kovalchuk's former linemate Artemi Panarin was just acquired. The Columbus Dispatch's Aaron Portzline says that's not necessarily the case, but Columbus' search for offense continues as they look for a top-six center.

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I like to read and write about sports. I'm @chrispagnani on Twitter.
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