Author: Mike Halford

2015 NHL Draft - Top Prospects Media Availability

The Next One? Oilers take McDavid first overall


SUNRISE — On Friday night, the Oilers cashed their winning lottery ticket.

Edmonton did the expected to open the 2015 NHL Entry Draft at the BB&T Center, picking OHL Erie wunderkind Connor McDavid with the first overall selection.

In McDavid, Edmonton gets a franchise center that’s routinely drawn comparisons to Pittsburgh captain Sidney Crosby. McDavid dominated the OHL this season and went on an amazing run during the playoffs, scoring an eye-bulging 21 goals and 49 points in 20 games and put together a highlight reel of goals.

The Oilers won the right to draft McDavid — dubbed a “generational talent” — after winning April’s NHL draft lottery. It marked the fourth time in six years the Oilers earned the right to pick first; previously, they drafted Taylor Hall in 2010, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins in 2011 and Nail Yakupov in 2012.

A dynamic player with elite-level skill and speed, it’s expected that McDavid will make an immediate impact in Edmonton next season — and the Oilers will need it. The club has struggled mightily over the last 10 years, failing to make the playoffs while struggling through a number of regime changes.

But the McDavid selection caps off what’s been a summer of transformation. There’s a new GM (Peter Chiarelli), a new head coach (Todd McLellan) and new hope for an organization that hasn’t been to the playoffs in an awfully long time.

Click here to read PHT’s McDavid draft profile.

Trade: Buffalo keeps dealing, acquires O’Reilly from Colorado

Nashville Predators v Colorado Avalanche

SUNRISE — The big trades haven’t stopped at the 2015 NHL Entry Draft, as the Colorado Avalanche have sent talented young center Ryan O’Reilly and forward Jamie McGinn to Buffalo.

In exchange, the Avalanche receive Nikita Zadorov, Mikhail Grigorenko, J.T. Compher and the 31st overall selection. The move reunites Grigorenko with Avs head coach Patrick Roy, who was his coach in the Quebec junior league, and gives Colorado a much-needed blueline prospect (Zadorov) and an intriguing youngster in Compher, who has impressed at the University of Michigan.

The key to the deal, though, is O’Reilly, one of the best young two-way centers in the league. He arrives in Buffalo after some acrimonious contract negotiations with the Avs, which included a contract holdout and signing an offer sheet with Calgary during the lockout-shortened ’13 campaign.

As a result of Colorado matching that offer sheet, O’Reilly’s heading into the last of a two-year, $12 million deal with a $6M average annual cap hit. There have been rumblings around him for the last few days, which intensified on Thursday when the Avs acquired the draft rights to center Carl Soderberg from Boston, then signed him to a five-year extension — believed by many as a move to replace O’Reilly down the middle.

Where O’Reilly fits in Buffalo remains to be seen.

He’s flipped between the middle and wing throughout his career, and could be headed back outside again with the likes of centers Jack Eichel and Sam Reinhart in the mix.

O’Reilly had 17 goals and 55 points in 82 games last year, down slightly from a banner ’13-14 campaign in which he posted career-highs in goals (28) and points (64).

This is the second significant deal of the day for Sabres GM Tim Murray. Earlier, he acquired goalie Robin Lehner and forward David Legwand from Ottawa in exchange for the 21st pick at the draft.

Though the O’Reilly trade is in the books, Murray’s work isn’t done. He’ll need to get to work on a contract extension, as O’Reilly needs a new deal at season’s end.

After Lucic trade, Kings forced to let Sekera walk

Andrej Sekera

Teams looking at free agent defensemen should be pleased to hear this news — following Friday’s pre-draft acquisition of Milan Lucic, Kings GM Dean Lombardi announced the team wouldn’t be signing d-man Andrej Sekera to a contract extension.

The news, reported by ESPN, comes after L.A. expressed major interest in bringing the 29-year-old back. Sekera was acquired at the deadline from Carolina and impressed in a limited body of work; he only appeared in 16 games for the Kings before suffering a season-ending knee injury in late March.

Any chance the Kings had of retaining Sekera went out the window after inheriting Lucic’s $6 million cap hit, even with Boston picking up $2.7M of it.

Sekera will undoubtedly garner interest on the open market. Colorado has already expressed an interest in adding a left-handed defensemen and Sekera, who scored a career-high 44 points in ’13-14, would certainly fit the bill.

Just don’t expect him to come cheap. The UFA defenseman market is thin and Sekera will be one of the best available, almost certain to get a big raise from the $2.75 million he made annually on his last deal.