Kukla's Korner Hockey

Kukla's Korner Hockey

The wining and dining period and draft's uncertainty make for great theatre, but not the best draft

06/27/2014 at 12:52am EDT

One really begets the other here, so bear with me:

Via Chris Nichols, Minnesota Wild GM Chuck Fletcher spoke with the Minneapolis Star-Tribune's Michael Russo about the free agent wining and dining period, which is clearly very good in terms of sensing the "fit" for players with various organizations, but isn't necessarily fascinating in terms of the way that it's driving players' "market values" into the stratosphere...

Cue Fletcher: “I’ve had the opportunity to speak with several agents of pending UFAs and try to get a sense of who may have interest in coming to Minnesota and talk about different roles and whether what we have to offer them fits from a role and an ice time standpoint with what they’re looking at. There’s been some ones that may work out, there’s been some ones that clearly won’t work out. But that’s good. I wasn’t really involved in the shopping period last year, but it’s been great. It gives you the sense where instead it used to be July 1 it was such a battle to sign guys. You were competing with other teams to sign players. It wasn’t like you were spending time interviewing players to get their idea of an ideal role. We weren’t having these conversations you might assume we were having. A lot of times you had to make quick decisions and you were throwing money around. So the great thing about the shopping period is you can say, hey this is what we have. This is the type of role. This is the type of fit. Does that interest you?”

And the lack of consensus as to who-goes-where from picks 1 to 4 to the utter mess of players who could be drafted anywhere from 5th to 40th means that we could see a flurry of trades to move up and/or down (and a first round that takes four or five hours starting tonight at 7), as NHL.com's Dan Rosen notes...

"We consider trades at every draft, looking to move up or even moving back depending on who's there or who might be there when it's "our turn to pick," Washington Capitals assistant general manager Ross Mahoney said. "That's part of our strategizing to see if we should move up, back or stay where we are."

Center Samuel Bennett of the Kingston Frontenacs in the Ontario Hockey League earned the No. 1 ranking on NHL Central Scouting's final release of the top draft-eligible skaters in North America in April, but there's no guarantee he'll be the first player to have his name announced by Commissioner Gary Bettman.

"You can look at the stats and the size of the player, since those are things we might try and factor in, but when all is said and done it's about the projection and where a player will be three to five years down the line," NHL director of Central Scouting Dan Marr said.

Marr went as far as to say that teams might go for need earlier than expected since players might seem interchangeable to particular clubs at a certain point.

"The teams will stick to their philosophy in what they believe the player brings on the ice, his contributions, his production, his skills and intangibles," Marr said. "But there is a point where it's like dropping marbles on the floor. This is a good opportunity for those team regional scouts to step up and voice their opinion over what could turn out to be a diamond in the rough or late bloomer."

But the Globe and Mail's James Mirtle wonders whether the wining and dining is good for the draft itself, or the prospects who are supposed to be the stars of the show:

So much is happening, in fact, that general managers were having a hard time fitting it all in on Thursday. Typically, the focus on the day before the draft has been on – imagine – who they wanted to pick in the draft.

But not wanting to miss out on a potential blockbuster trade or lining up free agents, GMs have been pulled in several directions, which makes having one of those multiheaded front offices, so popular of late, more useful than otherwise.

“A lot of things are squished into a pretty short period,” Toronto Maple Leafs GM Dave Nonis said. “I think that’s making it a little difficult.”

“There’s not a lot of high-end free agents out there,” added Capitals GM Brian MacLellan, one of six brand new executives in yet another complication to getting deals done. “It’s going to be a lot of teams going after the same guys.”

Mirtle continues, discussing all of the scenarios you've heard by now, and he concludes with the following truth:

So while much of Thursday’s focus was on the flashier names out there, the focus for a lot of these teams is going to be on the draft board. Five of the seven Canadian NHL teams are picking in the top nine this year – a sign of how far they’ve fallen – and the reality is they’ll have more success rebuilding that route than any other.

They’ll more than likely be bystanders in the frenzy – aside from selling off a couple of their first rounders from drafts gone by.

This whole mess is a giant do-over sandwiching the draft, and that's...different. I don't know if it's good for the Draft.

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Paul Kukla founded Kukla’s Korner in 2005 and the site has since become the must-read site on the ‘net for all the latest happenings around the NHL.

From breaking news to in-depth stories around the league, KK Hockey is updated with fresh stories all day long and will bring you the latest news as quickly as possible.

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