Draft day – the first two rounds

A note before continuing: it occurs to me that, since most of the “people” we’re talking about here aren’t real, that you may need more information.  Accordingly, I’m going to start adding screen shots to some of these posts where appropriate.  And if there’s anything that anyone would like to know or see, feel free to ask!  I can take requests.

June 19, 2021 (evening)

It’s six hours later and, after a quick dinner, Beginner and his staff have joined the teams are assembling on the floor of the arena.  The conversations with the Flyers and Canucks went about as Beginner guessed.

McDonough suspects, correctly, that Beginner didn’t really push very hard.  McGill suspects, also correctly, that Beginner would have gone ahead and started pushing if Philadelphia had shown a little interest.  A week ago, Beginner had already talked with Philadelphia.  Frank Granderson hadn’t wanted Brent Seabrook, and hadn’t bothered to suggest anyone in return; nothing had changed since, even though the picks were now seven spots higher.  Beginner suspects that Philly already has something else in mind.  “It’s the logical play,” he says.  “They aren’t going to get the value out of their top pick that another team could get.”  And he is a little miffed at himself.  “Joe’s right about one thing,” he says.  “If we’re rebuilding then the picks make a lot of sense, maybe more than guys like Arnost Anderle.”  He scratches his chin.  “I just think we’re closer than that.  We’ve already rebuilt.  We have those pieces in place.  What I should have done is gone for Pederson and dealt Getzlaf at the deadline, and just trusted that team for the playoff run.  I’m going to do it now anyway, but it’s too late for Pederson and I won’t get what I could have for Ryan.”  He looks over to the Flyers’ table, which is one row ahead and to the right of theirs.

What has also happened, that nobody in the Florida table can guess, is that Philadelphia would be more than happy with Arnost Anderle and Gary Flynn.  The only problem from the Flyers’ point of view was that those prospects are currently Florida Panthers.  “To be frank,” one member of their front office said, “we know they’ll be good because the Panthers developed them – but you don’t want to give them those picks back.  If those two guys were Blue Jackets or Maple Leafs, we’d have probably signed off on it, unless someone else came over the top of them.”

“What if the Panthers were the ones coming over the top?”

“That might change things,” the official said.  “Ludvik, for sure.  Lot of respect for that kid around here.  Let’s say they offered Ludvik and the picks, or Ludvik and Anderle and one picks, or Nosov and Flynn and two picks.”  Everyone mentioned has been a blue liner.  The Flyers have picked third, eighth, fifth, seventh, and fifth in the past five years, and each time they’ve grabbed a forward:  Gareth Jean, Morris Degray, Keegan Dempsey, Jerome Fontaine, and Riley Chiasson.  Along the way they passed up some solid defenders who are contributing now (or are about to).  They are eager to remedy this situation.

But until the draft started, there was no way to know this.  Beginner kicked the tires on a few deals, each time casually mentioning the team’s blue-line depth.  The implication is that those players would be ready now, unlike the bevy of defensive prospects expected to come off the board in the first 45 picks.  Teams are not biting, not even when Beginner off-handedly suggests that Ryan Getzlaf could be in play.

Phoenix steps up first and they surprise a few people by taking center Chris Boyd, passing up on the “big three” defensive prospects – Rick Pollock, Billy Orr, and Gerard Cunningham – who are expected to be top-five picks.  This throws off several rumored deals: Nashville wanted to move up from seventh to go for one of them, but knowing how badly Colorado wants a goaltender, they now only have to sweat out Minnesota and Tampa Bay.  There is talk of Tampa moving down.

Orr goes second overall to the Senators.  As each name goes off the board, Beginner pulls the card he has prepared for that player and hands them off to an intern, who writes the team and draft slot on it, and files it away.  He sorts through the remainder.  He already has a fair idea of what might be waiting for the Panthers at 15th.

Minnesota is on the clock and there is a delay, probably GM Doug Risebrough hearing last-minute offers from Nashville’s Garth Snow.  McDonough casually taps him on the shoulder.  “Tampa’s staying put,” he says, and they look over to the Lightning table.  Their GM, Richard Styne, is looking at his own team charts, and neither he nor anyone else there is on the phone.  “Nashville isn’t calling them.”

The Wild hand in their card.  No deal for the Predators.  Minnesota has taken wing Garrett Timmins.  “Wonder if Garth knows something,” Beginner says, and grabs his phone.  It might be a chance to jump into the seventh slot.  Working quickly, Beginner starts framing a deal that will move the 15th pick and at least one defensive prospect to Nashville for the 7th pick, provided that one of Snow’s three targets is no longer available.  While he talks, Rick Pollock goes very quickly to the happy New York Islanders.

“They’ll ruin him,” Andersson says glumly.  Pollock was first on his board and if the Panthers had moved up high enough, he would have pushed for his selection.  “They ruined Jarkko rushing him.”  Jarkko Kytolassko was a high Isles pick in 2015 who has suffered through heavy minutes on their blue line while they rebuilt for the who-knows-how oftenth time.

This pick is the key.  Tampa is still not talking.  Now both Florida and Nashville are stuck; if the Predators lose Cunningham, Beginner has a deal.  The Lightning take goaltender Erin Jackson.

Beginner pulls the card and hands it over to the intern.  “Even when they don’t get us, they get us,” he says, but he’s smiling.  He actually wasn’t keen on Cunningham – not as keen as he is on Åberg and McConnell, actually.  But he wouldn’t have minded a shot at Wade Desharnais or Binne Self, forwards he expects will be gone in the 8-12 range.

Colorado, sixth, takes Aaron Nadeau, who was neck-and-neck with Jackson in the goalie rankings this year.  Beginner glances over to the prospects’ seating and sees the family celebrate – including Wren Nadeau, Aaron’s older brother and a Panthers’ defenseman.  Beginner turns to McDonough.  “I’m calling Philly again,” he says.  “Do me a favor and call Detroit, see if they want to jump up.”  He hands over Nadeau’s card to the intern.  McGill, who is a big supporter of Wren Nadeau’s in the organization, has moved off to congratulate them in person.  He is also going to circle around the room a bit – a team stuck for a plan may call him over and bounce a useful proposition off of him.

Detroit, unfortunately, is in much the same position as the Panthers right now – they’re trying to jump way up, or back down.  They’re floating the 24th pick to Anaheim, picking eighth, or Toronto, picking eleventh.  McDonough suggests the 36th and 45th, and slips Beginner a card – “Would 15 and 24 get us the tenth?”

Beginner just circles the “15 and 24” and writes KEEP underneath.  There’s nothing top-ten that would warrant a two-for-one swap in his mind.  He really would prefer as many shots as possible at that group from 25-55.  He turns back to his own conversation, nodding and frowning.  McDonough slips the card back across – “36 and 45 for 24; 15 for 25 and 40.”  Beginner looks at it, and then repeats the “15 for 25 and 40” part to Philadelphia.

McDonough has Detroit on hold.  Nashville has snapped up Cunningham, the Ducks have picked Clay Francis, and the Blackhawks, holding the ninth pick, are on the clock.  Once they go, Philly’s on the clock at ten, and if they have a deal to move down, it makes them less flexible in other deals.

“You can have Anderle or Svoboda,” Beginner says.  “I’m not eager to lose both.  We’re the ones moving down here.”  A pause.  He can always re-sign Yvon Matlock if he has to, but losing both means relying on Bergkvist or Flynn earlier than he thinks is wise.  Chicago takes defenseman Miguel Dubé, and Philly’s on the clock.

Beginner thanks Philadelphia and hangs up, and then takes McDonough’s phone to talk with Detroit.  “They say they’ve got something else they’re happier with… no, I thought it was a good idea too, and I think we were there.  So much for three-way deals… I’ll be honest, if I can’t move my pick to get some extra chances lower down, the deal doesn’t really do much for us… Oh, of course not… Thanks for being straight with us.”

“This had better be good,” McDonough says.

Philadelphia announces a trade.  It’s with the Oilers, and the terms make him gape: the 59th and 89th picks, and two defensive prospects, Doug Turnbull and Ilkka Wendell.  Wendell was the ninth-overall pick three years ago, and is now on his third organization already; Turnbull is promising but somewhat one-dimensional, possessing little offensive upside.

“How is that better than what we offered?” McDonough says in dismay.

“Welcome to the Florida Panthers, Joe,” Beginner says with a grin.  He’s seen a lot of this sort of thing – people don’t like helping “those guys” who seem not to need the help.  Beginner is dialing the phone again.  “I’m going to talk to Buffalo,” he says.

 Edmonton surprises everyone by taking a goalie – but not Rob Crowley, who is the consensus “next guy” after Jackson and Nadeau, but Denis Petit, who was probably going to last to the end of the round, where they hold the 29th pick.  “Someone’s losing their job in a year,” McGill says when he returns to the table.  And try as he might, Beginner can’t move the 15th pick, up or down.  It’s not a huge problem – if it had been so important he could have stayed at 22 in the first place – so Beginner doesn’t try to force anything.  Besides, Edmonton did him a favor.  Taking a defender would have diminished the odds of one of his targets lasting to his draft slot. 

Toronto takes Binne Self right after the Edmonton debacle, and Desharnais goes 13th.  Six defensemen have been taken in the first 14 slots, two fewer than the Panthers had anticipated.  And now they’ve got a choice.  They would gladly take either Åberg or McConnell, despite their being lower-ranked prospects, because those are the guys they really like.  The debate is whether or not they can still get both of them at 36 and 45, and get a player they hadn’t counted on now.

McDonough likes the idea of taking Darryl Babcock, a fleet-skating winger from St John’s.  Derek Kaleta is also still on the board, and Dave Thomas likes him a lot.  Beginner prefers to take Åberg now, but with more defensemen available than expected and Crowley still on the board, he thinks it might be safe to wait, knowing that McConnell ought to be there if Åberg isn’t.  They could also take Kahlil MacKinnon, but there, everyone else disagrees.  Babcock is the better player; they can pass him for defense but not for a worse forward.  “Besides, we have a thousand defensemen,” McGill says.

Beginner takes Babcock.  Kaleta goes immediately after to the Sabres.  Columbus, picking in Florida’s original spot, takes Milos Simek, a guy the Panthers had listed well under their top-ten for the position, and the ISS listed 110th.  Beginner suddenly feels like a fool for not just taking the guy he was after.  Everyone else is.  All it takes is one person to really like McConnell or Åberg…

And as it turns out, the Flyers really like McConnell, and take him 25th.  Beginner starts working the phones, trying to get up into the bottom of the first for Åberg.  If he misses both of them, he will regard this draft to be a failure.  Luckily for Florida, the forwards start moving again, and Åberg falls to Florida with their 36th pick.  Unluckily, MacKinnon, Varga, and Benko are all gone as well, and Ernest goes before Florida’s turn at 45.  Instead Beginner selects Anatolij Mashanov, a Russian center with speed and some raw tools, who might not pan out.  The second round ends about an hour later, and the first day of drafting with it.

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