Jason Brough

2015 NHL Draft - Round One
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Benning on 2016 draft: ‘I don’t know if there’s a true No. 1 defenseman’

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Since entering the league in 1970, the Vancouver Canucks have never had a true No. 1 defenseman.

That’s not to say they haven’t had some decent defensemen, because they have.

But they’ve never had one who could win the Norris Trophy or play 30 minutes a night in the playoffs, a la Duncan Keith or Drew Doughty.

And according to GM Jim Benning, even if the Canucks use their fifth overall pick to draft the best defenseman in this year’s draft — say, somebody like Olli Juolevi, Jakob Chychrun, or Mikhail Sergachev — they may still not have a true No. 1.

“I don’t know if there’s a true No. 1 defenseman (in the draft),” Benning told TSN 1040 radio. “If you look through the league right now, there’s maybe eight or ten No. 1 defensemen in the whole league.”

And so the Canucks may choose a winger like Matthew Tkachuk or, perhaps more likely, a center like Logan Brown. If Pierre-Luc Dubois doesn’t get picked at No. 4, he’d certainly be an option, too.

“If we felt there was a true No. 1 defenseman….then that’s where our focus would be,” said Benning. “But having said that, with Henrik Sedin getting older now, we have to look to the future, too.”

Related: A ‘real legitimate chance’ Oilers trade fourth overall pick

Rangers re-sign Raanta, who may get to play more next season

Antti Raanta, Henrik Lundqvist
AP
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Antti Raanta will return to back up Henrik Lundqvist next season. The New York Rangers announced today that Raanta has agreed to terms on a new contract.

It’s reportedly a two-year deal with a cap hit of $1 million.

Raanta — who joined the Rangers in the wake of Cam Talbot’s departure — went 11-6-2 with a .919 save percentage during the regular season. He could’ve become an unrestricted free agent this summer.

After making 18 starts in 2015-16, there’s reason to wonder if Raanta’s workload will increase next season. Lundqvist turned 34 in March and struggled down the stretch and in the playoffs. Assuming Raanta can keep providing quality netminding, it may be in the Rangers’ best interests to give their franchise goalie a bit more rest during the 82-game schedule.

Maatta out with ‘upper-body injury,’ Pouliot could draw in

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Penguins coach Mike Sullivan opted not to name Olli Maatta‘s replacement tonight, but there’s reason to believe it will be Derrick Pouliot.

According to Sportsnet’s Chris Johnston, Justin Schultz — the other option to take Maatta’s spot on Pittsburgh’s blue line — stayed out for a long skate this morning, typically a sign that a player won’t play that night.

Whether it’s Pouliot or Schultz, we won’t know for sure until this evening. Sullivan would only say that Maatta, the victim of a suspension-worthy Brooks Orpik hit on Saturday, would miss Game 3 against the Capitals.

“Maatta will not play tonight,” the coach said. “He is out with an upper-body injury. The rest of the lineup will be a game-time decision.”

Pouliot, 22, has not yet played in the postseason. His last appearance was on April 9 in Pittsburgh’s last game of the regular season.

Related: Brooks Orpik suspended three games for hit on Olli Maatta

‘There’s a real legitimate chance’ that Oilers trade fourth overall pick: Chiarelli

Peter Chiarelli
AP
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The Edmonton Oilers need to start winning, and they need to start winning soon.

They also need to improve their defense, and they need to do it badly.

Take those two needs and it’s no surprise to hear that GM Peter Chiarelli is considering trading the fourth overall pick in this summer’s draft.

“There’s a real legitimate chance to look to move this pick, to improve our team — to get bigger or to get a D and get something else,” he told CHED radio, per the Edmonton Journal.

“We’re going to look at a lot of different things.”

The Oilers can dangle more than just the fourth overall pick to get what they need. After yet another missed playoffs, Jordan Eberle, Nail Yakupov, and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins have all heard their names come up in speculation.

The challenge for Chiarelli will be targeting the right player, and getting something done without dramatically overpaying. There are plenty of teams that will be looking for a top-4 defenseman this offseason, but none that will be giving one away for cheap.

Related: Changes are coming in Edmonton

Burke: Once a team picks first overall, no more drafting first overall (for a few years at least)

Calgary Flames' President of Hockey Operations & acting GM, Brian Burke speaks to the media as team members show up for NHL hockey season-end activities in Calgary, Alberta, on Monday, April 14, 2014. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Larry MacDougal)
AP
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Brian Burke isn’t trying to pick on the Edmonton Oilers — no really, he isn’t — but Calgary’s president of hockey ops doesn’t believe any team should get to draft first overall as much as his northern rivals have done the past few years.

“If you’re a team that picks first overall, you shouldn’t be allowed to pick first overall for some specified period … three years or five years, whatever … or even the top two teams, pick in the top two,” Burke told the Flames’ website.

“You could still pick four or five, still get a good player, but you can’t get rewarded for continued failure, or continued luck.”

The Oilers, of course, picked first overall in 2010, 2011, 2012, and 2015. And after yet another dismal season in 2015-16, they have a 13.5 percent of winning’s tomorrow’s lottery and getting the same privilege again

“Everyone thinks when you talk about the draft having flaws, that you’re picking on Edmonton,” said Burke.

“There are a lot of teams that have followed this path and have repeated high, high picks for a number of years. Chicago did it. Florida’s done it. Buffalo’s done it. You can argue we did it in Toronto, certainly by not any effort of ours. We were just not successful in the lottery. This is not an indictment of any one team and it’s not an indictment of the system.

“This is saying, ‘Okay, if 30 reasonable people got into a room and said, how do we best award amateur talent in the draft without having abuses,’ I’m not sure this is the system we’d come up with. That’s all I’m saying.”

And many would agree with Burke.

In fact, many would go a lot further, suggesting the entire system should be rethought.

But the question will remain, what’s a better system? The current one incentivizes losing, and so some teams tank. They may not use the word “tanking,” but they’re sure not trying to win. Not in the short term.

Now, is it a good look for the NHL when teams are built to be bad and we see fans openly rooting for losses? No, it’s not a good look.

But would it be preferable for each team to have the same odds of drafting first overall. Even the Stanley Cup champion?

Imagine for a moment a system that didn’t take the standings into account. You just know there’d be some poor franchise that was chronically unlucky, year after year after year. And you just know there’d be some ultra-lucky franchise, too.

The fact is, as long as the NHL wants to maintain its competitive balance — and remember, there’s nothing the NHL is prouder of than its precious parity — losing teams will be rewarded in the draft.

Burke is fine with that.

All he’s saying is the current system could use a few tweaks.

And if the Oilers win the lottery tomorrow, you can bet there’ll be some.