Today at 3pm a roster freeze kicked in such that only deals with Las Vegas are allowed between now and when the Golden Knights make their selections.
For many a hockey fan including the Hurricanes’ faithful, the event was uneventful, boring and maybe to some degree disappointing. With the potential for teams set to lose a good player to Las Vegas, the deadline seemed to have potential for some wheeling and dealing, but in the end the only big deal that was announced was Jonathan Drouin going from Tampa Bay to Montreal for defense prospect Mikhail Sergachev and a conditional second-round draft pick on Friday. Saturday yielded only Nathan Beaulieu leaving Montreal for a third-round pick and goalie Mike Smith going to Calgary for an odd collection of assets.
As I said on Twitter, the story of the 2017 NHL Expansion Draft is Las Vegas general manager George McPhee’s ability to correctly gauge how much value he could extract for affording input and extra protection to teams and in the process becoming a dominant market maker for all of the deals. I intentionally chose the word “announced” above because there is plenty of circumstantial evidence and a few rumors/notes from sources to indicate that Las Vegas did a number of deals and collected a reasonable haul of futures for their effort.
The Hurricanes upshot
The 3pm deadline and lack of Hurricanes’ deals
Like the vast majority of NHL teams, the Hurricanes did not make any moves leading up to the 3pm deadline. That made for a boring day for those tracking it all on Twitter. I am on record as suggesting that Hurricanes general manager Ron Francis might be able to exploit some interesting market inefficiencies before and after the expansion draft to continue his roster building for 2017-18. But without details as to what was possible or what deals might have been offered or considered, it is impossible to assess whether Francis did what he could (even though it resulted in nothing) or if there were opportunities that he missed. Considering the fact that no one else did deals either is at least one measure of the market and complexity of getting something done.
The path forward
Important to note is that there is not benefit and no benefit to completing the 2017-18 roster early. The deadline is early October or maybe to some degree mid-September for the start of training camp, the difference between wrapping things up Labor Day weekend versus before the Fourth of July counts for nothing.
In addition, the landscape and opportunities are still pretty much what they were pre-expansion draft roster freeze. One potential target in Jonathan Drouin did come off the board and in the process probably decreased the likelihood that Ondrej Palat or Tyler Johnson are available from Tampa Bay. But by far the vast majority of players who were available this week will still be available on Thursday when business reopens.
The next three-day window
When the dust settles on the expansion draft and teams are again allowed to cut deals starting Thursday morning, a significant three-day window will open for the Hurricanes. One of the assets that Ron Francis has in abundance for acquiring another key player or two is draft picks. He used one to acquire Scott Darling and still has three extra early-round (two second round and one third round) picks that to some degree expire on Saturday morning when the Hurricanes will use them if they are not traded. The prospects that the Hurricanes gain with these picks would also be something that they could trade, but draft picks are a much better currency because they allow the acquiring team to get who they want which will often be different than who the Hurricanes select. That is not to say that Francis cannot or will not be able to deal after next week’s draft. He will. But there is some amount of urgency and incentive to use the window between Thursday and Saturday morning before the draft picks are used.
Keep the faith Canes fans! Francis needs to make one big deal (and a few smaller ones), and there is plenty of time to do so.