Flames come away as biggest winner at NHL draft
DALLAS — Having no picks in the first three rounds made it look as though it would be a quiet, boring and ineffective weekend for the Calgary Flames.
Instead, they became one of the biggest winners at the NHL draft by acquiring 23-year-old forward Elias Lindholm and 21-year-old defenseman Noah Hanifin in a five-player trade with Carolina on Saturday. It cost the Flames defenseman Dougie Hamilton, winger Micheal Ferland and prospect Adam Fox, but they got younger and may have restored their lineup to its rightful order.
Lindholm is a natural center, but could be the perfect fit on Calgary’s first line alongside Johnny Gaudreau and Sean Monahan. Moving Hamilton will allow T.J. Brodie to slide back on to the first defensive pairing with Mark Giordano, while Hanifin could benefit from playing with those veterans on the blue line.
“I think Noah is just scratching the surface,” general manager Brad Treliving said. “We’ve got some guys on the blue line who can produce. We also want guys who want to be in Calgary. Both players talking today, in Elias and Noah, they’re excited to get out there.”
Beyond the Flames, here are some more winners and losers from the NHL draft:
WINNER: PHILIPP GRUBAUER
After lifting the Stanley Cup with the Washington Capitals, Grubauer was traded to the Colorado Avalanche where he’ll initially split time with Semyon Varlamov but should take over as the starter after next season. Grubauer signed a $10 million, three-year contract in the biggest payday of his career.
LOSER: NEW YORK ISLANDERS
They got strong value in first-round picks Oliver Wahlstrom and Noah Dobson, but didn’t agree to terms on a new deal with John Tavares before he could begin meeting with other teams Sunday. Tavares will host five teams in the coming days and could become a free agent July 1, which would be devastating for the Islanders.
“I have no disappointment, no discouragement,” GM Lou Lamoriello said. “He’s earned every right to make whatever choice he has. The most important thing is that we hope in the end that he’s an Islander.”
WINNER: BUFFALO SABRES
After years of wandering and floundering, the Sabres have a franchise defenseman in No. 1 pick Rasmus Dahlin. This was set in stone in April when Buffalo won the lottery, but the organization will get an up-close look at the Swedish playmaker at prospect camp and has every reason to be excited about the future.
“He’s a young player, he’s 18 years old, there’s high expectations down the road,” GM Jason Botterill said. “But it’s going to be imperative to us to protect him, put him in and put him in the right situations so he can have success.”
The only trades involving NHL players were the deal by Carolina and Calgary and the Capitals trading Grubauer and defenseman Brooks Orpik to Colorado. None of the top 10 picks changed hands, and most of the two days went off without drama.
WINNER: ILYA KOVALCHUK
The Kontinental Hockey League’s leading scorer and Olympic MVP had plenty of suitors and wound up agreeing to a three-year deal with the Los Angeles Kings worth $6.25 million a season. The 35-year-old is returning to the NHL on the same deal Patrick Marleau got from the Toronto Maple Leafs a year ago, which is a coup for Kovalchuk.
LOSER: MONTREAL CANADIENS
Rumors persisted about Montreal trading captain Max Pacioretty or even acquiring center Ryan O’Reilly from Buffalo. Neither move happened, leaving Marc Bergevin with a lengthy to-do list after already trading Alex Galchenyuk to Arizona for Max Domi.