Draft weekend is here. The Panthers, as expected, turned down all offers for the first overall pick and selected Aaron Ekblad. But draft weekend isn't only about who your team picked in the first round. It's also the unofficial start to the free agency season, as teams start moving players in anticipation of July 1. It's a time for reflection, anticipation, ridiculous trade rumors, and, of course, time to boo Gary Bettman.
With that out of the way, here's a quick look at what happened on the first night of the draft.
Only a few of the rumored trades happened on the first night, but all three are pretty big:
Ryan Kesler to the Ducks
The Vancouver Canucks started things off by sending Ryan Kesler and a third-round 2015 pick to the Anaheim Ducks for Nick Bonino, Luca Sbisa, and picks 24 and 85. This appears to be the start of the Canucks' fire sale, or least a serious overhaul of the team. The team already used a compliance buyout on former Panther David Booth, which followed its late season trade of Roberto Luongo to the Cats. For the Ducks, this is a necessary offensive upgrade. The Los Angeles Kings followed up their second Stanley Cup win in three seasons by signing Marian Gaborik for seven years. The entire league should be frightened of this team, but the Ducks are not only in their division, but also across town and they needed to do something to answer. This is a good move for them. The Canucks, on the other hand, are sending rather a different message in sending Kesler to another team in their division. But don't worry, the team flipped pick 85 to the New York Rangers for Derek Dorsett.
James Neal to the Preds
The Pittsburgh Penguins traded winger James Neal to the Nashville Predators in exchange for forwards Patric Hornqvist and Nick Spaling. I don't see how this doesn't make the Penguins worse, but it's a great move for the Predators, which have been offensively challenged for a good number of years.
Jason Garrison to the Lightning
There was a lot of chatter all week about the Canucks trying to move former Panther Jason Garrison, but the word was he was unwilling to waive his no-trade clause. Maybe he, like former teammate Luongo, ultimately decided he would rather not be where he wasn't wanted. The Lightning gave up pick 50 in return for a seventh-round pick in 2015 and the rights to prospect Jeff Costello. This is a great move for the Lightning. They picked up a legitimate top-four defenseman for nothing. Canucks. Fire. Sale.
Jason Spezza to Ottawa
It appears no one wanted Ottawa Senators captain Jason Spezza enough to part with a first-round pick. Spezza will undoubtedly move before training camps open, probably a few days into free agency after the big names are signed.
- Florida Panthers: D Aaron Ekblad
- Vancouver Canucks: C Jared McCann
- New York Islanders: C/RW Joshua Ho-Sang
Oh man, does he ever looked stoked to be headed to Vancouver.
Salary Cap News
The League announced a new payroll range for next season. The cap ceiling will be $69 million, the floor is $51 million and the Adjusted Midpoint is $61 million. The Panthers are currently just under $10 million short of the floor, with $40,865,375 in salary allocated for next season. The Panthers have only eight forwards, four defensemen, and two goalies on the roster. Defensemen Erik Gudbranson, Dmitry Kulikov and Dylan Olsen; and Forwards (Big) Jimmy Hayes and Brandon Pirri are restricted free agents.