Tampa Bay took care of some business on Tuesday, signing WHL Saskatoon blueliner Libor Hajek to a three-year entry-level deal.
Hajek, 19, was taken 37th overall at last year’s draft. Bolts GM Steve Yzerman traded up seven spots to acquire Hajek, sending another promising young blueliner — Anthony DeAngelo — to the Arizona Coyotes.
At the ’14 draft, the Lightning were thrilled to get DeAngelo. They took him 19th overall and, following selection, director of scouting Al Murray called DeAngelo “the most skilled offensive defenseman in the draft,” saying he was a better passer and puck mover than the No. 1 overall pick — Aaron Ekblad.
“Ekblad’s a special player, but he doesn’t have the offensive ability that Anthony has at this point,” he said. “Aaron Ekblad’s a tremendous player. He’s physically strong enough to be in the NHL next year, he’s a shutdown defenseman that plays with a mean streak.
“But when it comes to his actual puck skills and offensive game, he makes a solid first pass and he’s got a bomb for a shot from the point — but we don’t see the same ability to move the puck around, have the same vision, make all the different passes in different zones that Anthony has.”
DeAngelo certainly showcased his offensive ability in his first year with the Bolts’ AHL affiliate in Syracuse, scoring 43 points in 69 contests. But there was concern about the growth of his overall game. When Hajek “slipped” to the second round — Tampa Bay believed he had first-round talent — the club opted to make a move.
“Tony is one-dimensional right now,” Murray said, per the Tampa Bay Times. “Hajek has offensive ability, not at Tony’s level, but is much more well-rounded and bigger, and probably a safer bet to be able to adapt both offensively and defensively to the NHL.”
Yzerman confirmed as much.
“Anthony is a very talented, and skilled young player,” he said of the trade. “It’s more about Libor Hajek than about Anthony DeAngelo.”
DeAngelo made his NHL debut in Arizona this year, and has racked up 11 points in 31 games.