It’s been a full week since last I posted and I am pleased to report that four of those seven days were planned away time spent in South Florida doing whatever it is that resembles relaxation for the parents of young children. (I think I slept less than I normally do, in all honesty, but the kids had a nice little adventure and that’s what it’s all about.)
Now, these other three days in absentia I can chalk up to the joys of real estate transactions and I suppose a little patience on my end (and yours, perhaps) is in order, as we’re only in the very beginning stages of this endeavor.
Anyway, while I was sunning it up down Panther way, the new regime at the helm of the NHL’s residents in Sunrise were busy overhauling their roster for the upcoming season, hauling in a slew of players from the free agent waters and getting involved in their second significant trade of the off-season already as well. (They did not offer me a contract, for those wondering about my real intentions… I mean, what hockey writer – at any level – would plan a family vacation that started in the evening of the very first day of free agency without an ulterior motive?)
During my time in enemy territory, as the gracious host city saw its team spare no expense in attempting to improve their on-ice fortunes (or at least meet the salary cap floor, that is), back home here in Tampa, the Lightning were getting busy on plugging some holes in their roster too. Though the big story of the summer has yet to see its final chapter written, as in a new contract for superstar forward Steven Stamkos, Tampa Bay general manager Steve Yzerman and company have been involved in the NHL’s annual silly season sparingly, with a refreshing measure of sensibility, as compared to the overspending of so many. Sure, they met with representatives for former Bolt Brad Richards – it was a given that they’d at least inquire – but with the dollar number and term that he eventually signed for with the New York Rangers, that was every bit the pipe dream from the start as I’d pegged it to be. That aside, the small ripples the Lightning have made this summer have an aim at bigger splashes down the road, in terms of eventual impact, quality and, most of all, value.
The NHL Entry Draft is one of those annual “hope springs eternal” events. If the awards show bids farewell to a season gone by, the selection process for the latest prospect crop marks the league’s transition into next year.
Just like that, every club starts anew.
Just like that, the page is turned for all.
The Boston Bruins reign as Stanley Cup champions has just begun and yet, as of tonight, even they have work to do. 29 other teams are now gunning for what they have. And for some, reshaping their franchises to make a run at hockey’s iconic chalice will start with their first overall selection tonight.
Of course, it’s been said that there aren’t any immediate game-changers to be had among this crop – and certainly not beyond a half-dozen or so prospects atop most draft boards. But the draft itself has become such an integral aspect of building a championship-caliber team, even the late round selections will be a product of weeks and months of internal debate and study on the part of a team’s decision-making hierarchy.
For other clubs, the leap from 2010-11 to 2011-12 will be aided during draft weekend by trade. This year, with the Philadelphia Flyers kicking things off with a pair of earth-rattlers a day in advance, shipping key components Mike Richards and Jeff Carter out of town in separate deals yesterday, the expectation is that trade activity in St. Paul could be high. As teams gear up for free agency next week, some will look to get a jump on crazy season by filling holes and altering their salary scales with a deal or two and there is a wealth of big-name talent reportedly on the trade market already.
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