Welcome back to Northern Exposure, your weekly NHL Canadian tour. Join me as I make a stop in each of the seven Canadian NHL cities, discussing stories of interest in each.
Its really too bad that there was nothing of great significance to happen in the past week in the Canadian NHL markets. Wait a minute, it was only the most active week since I started writing this weekly column, what with the awards, draft, signings, trades, hirings, and franchise naming that went on. So without further delay, lets get to it, starting this week in the newest Canadian NHL city:
The logo will not be the same, but on Friday night, just prior to making their first round selection, it was confirmed at the podium by new owner Mark Chipman that the team will indeed be called the Winnipeg Jets. They also hired the first head coach of the relocated franchise by naming former Manitoba Moose coach Claude Noel to the post earlier in the day.
The club completed a whirlwind day by making Barrie Colts centre Mark Scheifele the first pick of the re-born franchise with the 7th overall pick. It was poetic justice that Scheifele was the selection as he is coached in Barrie by probably the best player to have played in the NHL in Winnipeg, Dale Hawerchuk.
The Edmonton Oilers were in possession of the 1st overall pick and they used it to bolster an already up and coming forward unit by selecting Red Deer Rebels forward Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. The Oilers also held the #19 selection where they finally addressed their blue line deficiencies by choosing Swedish defenseman Oscar Klefbom.
The Oilers also reached into their past by acquiring former captain Ryan Smyth from the Los Angeles Kings in exchange for Colin Fraser and a 7th round draft pick next year. The deal was rumoured to be happening early on Friday, and included Gilbert Brule instead of Fraser, but concerns over Brule’s health extended the negotiations and forced the change to the makeup of the trade. Bringing back Smyth seems like a no-brainer, despite the fact that he isn’t the player he was when he left the club in 2007. He will be a great mentor to the young players and is in the final year of a contract that carries a $6.25 M cap hit but he is only due $4.5 M in actual salary. Plus, he is still good for around 20-25 goals and 50-60 points, which is nothing to sneeze at.
Now only if they could solve the Sheldon Souray dilemma.
The Vancouver Canucks had a good night at the NHL Awards last Wednesday as five members of the Canucks organization went home with hardware. Ryan Kesler was the overwhelming winner of the Selke Trophy for best defensive forward. In addition to the Art Ross Trophy for being the leading scorer, Daniel Sedin also took home the Ted Lindsay award for most outstanding player as voted on by the other players. Roberto Luongo and backup Cory Schneider took home the William Jennings trophy as the duo allowing the fewest goals against in the league, and Mike Gillis won the NHL General Manager of the Year award. Daniel Sedin finished 2nd in the Hart Trophy voting to Corey Perry of the Ducks. Alain Vigneault and Luongo fell short in their quest for awards after losing out on the Jack Adams and Vezina trophies respectively. Henrik and Daniel Sedin were both voted to the NHL 1st All-Star team.
At the draft table, the Canucks didn’t have a selection until the 29th pick, which they used to draft skilled Danish forward Nicklas Jensen from the Oshawa Generals of the OHL.
It was a sad week for the Calgary Flames as they lost one of the people responsible for bringing the Flames to Calgary and over the years, keeping them there. Harley Hotchkiss passed away last Wednesday, puting a damper on the Awards festivities. Gary Bettman paid tribute to Hotchkiss at the Awards and also at the draft on Friday.
It was a relatively busy week for the Flames, as they dealt away defenseman Robin Regehr and forward Ales Kotalik to Buffalo for young forward Paul Byron and defenseman Chris Butler. The Flames were also rumoured to have acquired Ryan Smyth from the Kings, but the deal fell through, and Smyth subsequently went back to Edmonton. However GM Jay Feaster did complete one of the most important items on his to-do list, by signing Alex Tanguay to a 5 year, $17.5 M deal. The club’s second leading scorer last season was scheduled to become a UFA on July 1st.
At the draft, the Flames used their 13th overall pick to nab Portland Winter Hawks forward Sven Baertschi. The Swiss native is a deft puckhandler and playmaker, and was the top rookie scorer in the WHL.
The Ottawa Senators reaped the fruits of their labour from earlier in the year, as they went into the draft with 11 picks, 6 in the top 66. With the 6th overall selection, the Senators took 2 way Swedish centre Mika Zibanejad. Still in the first round, they selected Stefan Noesen from the Plymouth Whalers in the OHL. Murray then traded 2-2nd round pick to Detroit to garner yet another first round pick, which they used to select Matt Puempel from the Peterborough Petes. The trio of first round forwards finally put faces to the rebuild, and become the result of the late-season Ottawa purge. Murray also took a gamble by shipping the 66th overall pick to the Columbus Blue Jackets for underachieving forward Nikita Filatov. Filatov was the 6th overall pick in 2008. The Senators went local for their 2nd and 4th round picks, as they selected Ottawa 67′s winger Shane Prince and Gatineau Olympiques centre Jean Gabrieal Pageau 61st and 96th respectively.
Earlier in the week, the coaching staff was completed as Dave Cameron and Mark Reeds will join Luke Richardson and Rick Wamsley on Paul MacLean‘s coaching staff. Cameron’s appointment was somewhat controversial as he was a contender for the head coaches job, and many speculated that he was added after pressure from owner Eugene Melnyk. Melnky defended the hiring, stating that Cameron is qualified, and in fact stated that he didn’t want the job as a favor or out of loyalty. Cameron and Reed both coached OHL representatives in the Memorial Cup, Cameron for the Mississauga St. Michael’s Majors and Reed for the OHL champion Owen Sound Attack.
The Montreal Canadiens managed to snag one of the best skaters in the draft, as they picked Nate Beaulieu from the Memorial Cup Champion Saint John Sea Dogs with the 17th pick. Beaulieu is a smooth skating offensive defenseman who will try for a spot on the team at training camp, but will likely be destined for another season in Saint John, who will be hosting the Memorial Cup and also be a key player on Team Canada’s World Junior entry.
The Habs got their top defenseman Andrei Markov locked up for three years, at $5.75 M per year, keeping him out of unrestricted free agency. GM Pierre Gauthier continues to chip away at the holes in the roster, but still has a number of players to get signed before July 1st.
Toronto Maple Leafs GM Brian Burke started draft weekend off by acquiring defenseman John-Michael Liles from the Colorado Avalanche for Boston’s 2nd rd pick in 2012. Liles’ acquistion quashes any remote potential for the return of Tomas Kaberle, as he brings as much offensive potential from the blue line as Kaberle provided in recent years.
At the draft, Brian Burke got his man in Tyler Biggs. Biggs gives the Leafs a mean, nasty skilled power forward who is just the type of player Burke loves. Burke moved up from the 30th pick to the 22nd in order to make sure he got Biggs, an American who played with the US Under 18 Development Program. Burke then snapped up Mississauga Majors defenseman Stuart Percy with his second 1st round selection at #25.
That is all for this week’s packed edition of Northern Exposure. The upcoming week will be another busy one as many teams will be looking to lock up players before Friday’s opening of Free Agency. Also, many teams will be holding development camps, and introducing the newest players to their new cities.
Topics: Alain Vigneault, Ales Kotalik, Alex Tanguay, Andrei Markov, Brian Burke, Calgary Flames, Chris Butler, Claude Noel, Colin Frase, Corey Perry, Cory Schneider, Dale Hawerchuk, Daniel Sedin, Dave Cameron, Edmonton Oilers, Eugene Melnyk, Gary Bettman, Gilbert Brule, Harley Hotchkiss, Henrik Sedin, Jay Feaster, Jean Gabriel Pageau, John-Michael Liles, Luke Richardson, Mark Chipman, Mark Reeds, Mark Scheifele, Matt Puempel, Mika Zibanejad, Mike Gillis, Nathan Beaulieu, NHL Draft, NHL Free Agency, Nicklas Jensen, Nikita Filatov, Northern Exposre, Oscar Klefbom, Paul Byron, Paul MacLean, Pierre Gauthier, Rick Wamsley, Roberto Luongo, Robin Regehr, Ryan Kesler, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Ryan Smyth, Shane Prince, Sheldon Souray, Stefan Noesen, Stuart Percy, Sven Baertschi, Tomas Kaberle, Tyler Biggs, Vancouver Canucks, Winnipeg Jets