James O'Brien

I am a contributing editor/writer/troublemaker for NBC's Pro Hockey Talk blog.

The 2016 NHL Draft’s biggest winners


The dust has barely settled on the 2016 NHL Draft, so what better time to assign winners and losers?

What’s that, you say? It would be better to wait anywhere between three and 10 years to hand out assessments?

(Awkward pause.)

OK, maybe that’s true, but let’s allow hindsight to make us look silly by throwing out some hasty picks anyway. Let’s start off with a post about the winners, shall we?

Note: These “grades’ are heavily influenced by trades and other factors beyond mere picks.



Feel free to cue Team America’s wildly NSFW theme song while noting that the United States churned out a record 12 first-rounders in 2016. That list included Auston Matthews, the top overall pick (and the first American to go first overall since Patrick Kane).

Read more about the ‘ol red-white-and-blue’s presence here.


With 14 overall selections, maybe Finland didn’t knock it out of the park in the “quantity” category. Still, with three of the top five picks hailing from Finland, that’s a heck of a haul.

Question: when will it stop being weird that Jarmo Kekalainen, the first Finnish GM in NHL history, opted against drafting one of those guys?

Maple Leafs/Jets

Filling out the “winners by default” categories are teams like the Leafs and Winnipeg Jets, who succeed merely by following the script in grabbing Matthews and Patrik Laine respectively.

Bonus points to Toronto if Kerby Rychel pans out, too.

Calgary Flames

Brian Elliott doesn’t cost much in cap space ($2.5 million) and he didn’t cost a whole lot to acquire. The Flames scored a massive upgrade in net for the short-term and might even be wise to lock him up for a few more years.

If that wasn’t enough, Calgary adds another useful young piece in Matthew Tkachuk. Extra super bonus points for inspiring the latest great Brian Burke quote:

Arizona Coyotes

Bold moves from a remarkably young new general manager. We could look back at nabbing Jakob Chychrun as a shrewd move, yet he wasn’t the only example of the ‘Yotes loading up on defense. Anthony Deangelo is an intriguing gamble. With Alex Goligoski in tow, the Coyotes have quite the war chest at the coveted defensive position … and in general, really.

Absorbing Pavel Datsyuk‘s contract is all about the franchise’s economic realities.

Red Wings

Unloading Datsyuk’s $7.5 million cap hit opens up plenty of possibilities for Detroit, even if dreams of Steven Stamkos end up being unfounded.

Besides, this franchise still unearths draft gems with impressive regularity.

Chicago Blackhawks

Hey, giving up Andrew Shaw hurts, but the Blackhawks landed quite a deal for his mere negotiating rights. GM Stan Bowman continues to be a salary cap Houdini. If they really do end up reuniting with Brian Campbell, look out.

Edmonton Oilers

It’s not easy to spell Jesse Puljujarvi, so let’s tweak it to “steal.”

Consider this a weaker “win” if the Oilers fail in their quest to land a defenseman.


Time will tell if winners end up looking like losers and vice versa. Things could even change between the moment this post is published and when free agency kicks off on July 1.

For whatever it’s worth, above teams look like they’re sitting fairly pretty at the moment.

Shattenkirk, Fowler and other names floating around rumor mill


“Realistic” or not, there are a lot of names running through the rumor mill.

PHT already touched on talk about the Lightning possibly moving Ben Bishop and the Canadiens totally not shopping P.K. Subban.

Let’s consider this a lightning round of trade rumblings, non-Tampa-Bay-edition:

  • The latest on Kevin Shattenkirk gives the impression that a move away from the Blues is very much a “work in progress” but St. Louis seems willing to expedite the process.

One team that’s in the mix: the Arizona Coyotes, according to ESPN’s Pierre LeBrun. With Alex Goligoski already signed, the Coyotes could really boost their defense in a big way (imagine the offensive potential from the blueline in Goligoski, Shattenkirk and Oliver Ekman-Larsson).

  • Shattenkirk’s name surfaced before, and there are more rumors about the Anaheim Ducks trading Cam Fowler, as ESPN’s Craig Custance reports.

The Buffalo Sabres might be in the mix for Fowler, too, although there’s a ceiling on the price.

  • Speaking of picks, all sorts of rumors are flying around about teams moving pretty high picks in various deals, so stay tuned tomorrow. (Quick example: the Oilers might be shopping their fourth pick.)
  • Pavel Datsyuk‘s cap hit is drawing some attention, according to TSN’s Bob McKenzie:

Custance reports that it might require the Red Wings to retain some cash, which could be the snag.

  • Finally, LeBrun reports that the San Jose Sharks might try to get something for James Reimer‘s bargaining rights, much like they did with Antti Niemi last off-season.

Again, there are are a lot of rumors floating around heading into draft weekend. This doesn’t guarantee that a bunch of moves will happen, yet there are plenty of stories to watch.

Flyers re-sign Gudas, reportedly for four years, $13.4M


Even before he was traded to Philadelphia, Radko Gudas often felt like the quintessential Flyers defenseman. It’s become clear that he’ll also be a long-time Flyers defenseman.

The team announced a multi-year contract for Gudas on Thursday night.

TSN’s Bob McKenzie reports that it’s a four-year deal with a cap hit that ranges between $3 million and $3.5 million per season. That would make the overall impact somewhere between $12-$14 million.

CSNPhilly.com’s Tim Panaccio reports that it’s four years for $13.4 million, which would mean a $3.35 million cap hit.

Sportsnet’s Chris Johnston breaks it down in greater detail:

He’ll provide a nasty presence for the Flyers going forward, even if he’s learned from a series of questionable hits.

People aren’t too thrilled with the price Philly paid.

Yzerman says door hasn’t ‘closed’ on Lightning signing Stamkos


Steven Stamkos‘ camp and the Tampa Bay Lightning aren’t really tipping their hands about their contract talks, so we’ll have to settle for whatever scraps we can get.

On the bright side: we should know where he ends up soon, even if Stamkos needs to mull his decision over beyond July 1.

There’s also the possibility that the Lightning can re-sign Stamkos before he hits the UFA market, however remote that might be.

For what it’s worth, GM Steve Yzerman told the media that “we know where we’re at” and then added this quote.

“Obviously he’s still the property of the Tampa Bay Lightning,” Yzerman said, according to Tampa Bay Times. “Until July 1. Anything is possible. No doors have been closed.”

As the Times notes, it’s probably unfair to read too much into such quotes.

(Waits for you to read too much into such quotes.)

TSN’s Bob McKenzie noted that there might be a little bit of conflict over the notion that the Lightning wanted an idea of Stamkos’ intentions heading into free agency. Stamkos, meanwhile, might want to explore some options first, especially with the window for teams to “interview” potential free agents opening at midnight on Friday.

It’s possible that “we know where we’re at” indicates that Stamkos & Co. might have resolved the Lightning’s qualm, but perhaps not.

Ultimately, you can file Yzerman’s comments under “saying the right things,” and that’s about it.

For anxious Lightning fans, that might not provide much solace. The silver lining is that at least there should be some closure in a matter of a week or two.

Sounds like there’s at least a chance Lightning might trade Bishop


The Anaheim Ducks decided that two good goalies made a crowd, sending Frederik Andersen to Toronto. Could the Tampa Bay Lightning follow a similar path with Ben Bishop?

That’s certainly not a sure thing, but Lightning GM Steve Yzerman told reporters including ESPN’s Pierre LeBrun that he has had some conversations with goalie-hungry teams about possibly moving the big goalie.

Such an event could happen soon, too, since a 2016 first-round pick could be part of an attractive deal for Bishop.

The Tampa Bay Times’ Joe Smith passes along an especially interesting quote that puts Bishop on trade watch.

Well, isn’t that interesting.

The threat of losing a goalie to a Las Vegas expansion team isn’t the only reason to split up Bishop from Andrei Vasilevskiy. Bishop carries almost a $6 million cap hit that expires after 2016-17, so moving him could save money this summer and avoid a possible raise for his next contract.

Naturally, the downside is that Bishop has been a rock for the Lightning, serving as a Vezina finalist in 2013-14 and 2015-16. It’s true that Vasilevskiy boasts first-round pedigree and was impressive during the postseason, yet Bishop’s list of accomplishments keeps growing.

And, if anything, we’ve seen plenty of examples of teams benefiting from having two strong goalies in case one gets injured.

Cap realities and that expansion threat loom large for the Lightning, as Tampa Bay could face challenges even if Steven Stamkos leaves town. Victor Hedman is in line for a big raise, and that’s just the biggest harbinger of a costly future.

In other words, place Bishop high on the list of valuable players to watch in the trade rumor mill.