Photograph: Bri Weldom via Wikimedia Commons
With the Red Wings falling short against the Chicago Blackhawks in game seven of the Western Conference Semifinal series which was completed on Wednesday, the NHL’s final four is set. Also set as a result of Wednesday night’s thrilling game seven? Vancouver’s place in the 2013 NHL Draft order.
At the 2013 NHL draft in Newark, the Canucks will select a draft eligible player 24th overall in the first round, and then again with the 85th pick of the draft, the 115th pick, the 145th pick, the 175th pick, and finally the 205th pick in the seventh round. But more important than any prospects whom the Canucks might select, are the opportunities presented to them exclusively at the draft to improve the team through trades and creative manipulation of the new collective bargaining agreement (which of course we haven’t seen yet). Read past the jump.
I’m mostly writing this to point out that this years draft could be an extraordinarily interesting one. We haven’t seen the post-lockout CBA yet, but assuming the "special" compliance buyouts work in much the same way standard buyouts worked under the 2005 NHL CBA, there will be a short window – like, maybe only a week – between the end of the Stanley Cup Final and July 5th, in which teams can utilize one (or both) of their compliance buyouts.
So if the Canucks are going to use one of their compliance buyouts creatively, and the other one on Keith Ballard, and of course they should, it would seem very likely that the draft is the place to get their ducks in a row.
There are a couple of ways Mike Gillis could creatively use a compliance buyout, as I see it. He could use one as a way of mitigating the "poison pill" factor of Roberto Luongo’s contract, or he can use one to straight up purchase an asset (presuming the Aquilinis are willing to spend that sort of money).
If the team were to use a buyout to mitigate the "poison pill" factor of Luongo’s contract, that would involve accepting a bad deal in a hypothetical Luongo deal (say Ed Jovanovski or Scott Upshall from Florida) and turning around and buying that deal out, while also presumably recouping some value for Vancouver’s elite and yet supposedly immovable star goaltender.
The straight purchase angle is a wee bit different, but Jason Botchford touched on it a few weeks ago. The way I see it, a rich team should always be looking to "purchase" talent when possible, rather than engaging in a more traditional hockey trade. Why? Because in a purchase you get something for nothing (except money, which who cares), whereas in a hockey trade you give up something of value to get something. Vancouver’s prospect cupboard is barren, and though the team has some surplus talent along the blue-line, defensive depth is critical and developing and maintaining it has been a key feature of Mike Gillis’s managerial modus operandi.
I’d mention that Mike Gillis has "purchased" talent in the recent past as Canucks General Manager. That’s what happened when the Canucks acquired Christian Ehrhoff and a 1.8 million dollar liability (Brad Lukowich) in exchange for two nothing prospects. It happened again when the Canucks "purchased" David Booth and took on Steven Reinprecht’s contract in exchange for two oft-injured oldsters with limited value on expiring contracts. The other example I can think of off the top of my head was Brian Burke’s "purchase" of Cody Franson, for which the purchase price was taking on Matt Lombardi’s onerous deal…
A couple of levers in the new collective bargaining agreement, notably the compliance buyouts and the team’s newfound power to retain salary in trades, will give Mike Gillis more options than he’s had in the past for some much needed creative destruction with the Canucks roster. Though Gillis has become King Midas in reverse over the past couple of years, one thing he’s excelled at consistently is in taking full advantage of the collective bargaining agreement where he can. He’ll have more opportunity, and more need, than he’s ever had to utilize his CBA mastery at the 2013 NHL draft…