JUNE 20th, 2021
The second day begins with a proposition from Philadelphia. They had spent some time trying to bundle their own second-rounders to move back up, and never managed. They have also shrewdly guessed that Beginner wanted McConnell. Putting two and two together, they’re now dangling the Harvard defenseman’s rights in exchange for some help in getting what they want: Mashanov. However, they’re not willing to make the swap straight-out. “They say they’re happy with McConnell,” Beginner says. “He’s a good prospect.”
“Why the hell didn’t they just take the guy and our picks in the first place?” McDonough says, meaning the deal for the tenth pick yesterday.
Beginner shrugs. “Good question. It’s not like Edmonton’s offer was bad for them, but if they make one more move, take our 36 and 72 for the 25, they get Mashanov right off. Eh, drafter’s remorse, I guess.”
“I think we need a defenseman at 72 in case this blows up on us too,” McDonough suggests, and Beginner is more than happy to oblige. He’s not enamored with a lot of the forwards in this range of picks, and after the third round, the Panthers don’t pick until the seventh.
After an additional pair of calls, however, the clubs are stuck. Beginner isn’t keen on overpaying for a draftee’s rights, certainly not Mashanov plus a player like Anderle, who is already an NHL-capable defender with more room to improve. Granderson, however, isn’t accepting Mashanov plus the 72nd pick. The round is moving quickly at this point, with each team only getting five minutes on the clock instead of fifteen… Beginner finally just lays his cards on the table: “We’d hate to lose out on McConnell, and you’d hate to lose out on Mashanov. If you’ve got someone in mind at 72, you have a deal. Otherwise we’ve got a guy we like.”
Granderson decides to wait it out. Beginner picks Slovakian national Slavomir Svajlen, another defender, with the 72nd pick; and a raw prospect, Dale Picard, 78th.
When Beginner’s phone rings again, it’s the Flyers. Beginner asks, “Have you changed your mind on Mashanov?”
As it happens, Philly has changed their mind – or at least, their story. Beginner’s face wrinkles in confusion. “You didn’t take Mashanov and the 72 because of Mashanov?” he asks.
McDonough actually double-takes, listening to Beginner frown and shake his head as Granderson explains the Flyers’ position. “No, I get it, Mashanov’s not the point – fine, then – no, honestly I’m not clear at all on it… I wouldn’t waste your time offering the kid if you tell me up-front that he’s the problem. What’s with the cloak-and-dagger act? … OK, then, how badly do you want Svajlen?”
The general murmur prevents the Flyers’ side of the conversation from coming back to them, but a glance up and over shows a number of upset people standing around with their hands on their hips, or arms folded, or else scowling back at the Panthers’ table. Beginner is openly annoyed.
“I am perfectly content with Savjlen,” he says shortly. “If you want him, make me an offer… Well, honestly, I think you’re bullshitting me, Frank. You had an offer that would have gotten you what you want. I’m not in the business of do-overs.”
Frank Granderson hangs up on Beginner.
“Don’t you really like McConnell?” Beginner is asked.
“I liked him AND Åberg, and I have Åberg, and I really only expected to get one of them anyway,” he replies. “And Svajlen isn’t just some stiff.” Odds are long on a third-rounder being a big contributor, but Beginner has hit a few times at this range and farther, so he’s not just saying it for the sake of appearances.
“So what makes you think they’ll give up McConnell for Svajlen?”
“Honestly? They shouldn’t, not without getting someone else. The difference is, I can live with what I’ve got, and they’re already regretting what they did, or else they wouldn’t have called me back.”
McDonough cuts in: “We’re playing chicken with them?” This is a new side of his boss to him.
“It’s only chicken if there’s a chance I’m giving in, and I’m not,” Beginner says. “They could have had Mashanov and they passed on him to try to screw us over on McConnell. They could have taken Svajlen themselves at 58 or 59. He could have taken the 72nd and picked him. He decided to be cute, and now he’s got one guy he doesn’t want and I’ve got two he does – and he could have had them both himself if he was thinking about the Philadelphia Flyers instead of worrying about the Florida Panthers. So, fuck him.”
Beginner’s phone rings again. The Panthers have nothing else to do until the seventh round, unless they make a trade. Beginner picks it up. It’s Granderson, and Beginner lets him get it off his chest for a bit, and then tells him what he’s willing to do: Svajlen for McConnell, straight up. This isn’t popular: Granderson can be heard through the phone audibly complaining that Beginner reneged on their verbal deal. “What deal, Frank?” Beginner says. “You turned down Mashanov and the 72nd.”
“YOU TOOK SVAJLEN!” Granderson shouts.
“We liked him. We didn’t take him for your sake.”
Granderson is no longer audible but he’s still visibly angered. Trading the 72nd pick for the 25th pick is certain to kill him with Philly’s demanding fans. From Beginner’s point of view, however, they’re no longer the 25th and 72nd picks – they’re two prospects, and he has the one Philadelphia prefers. “Listen, I don’t want to wring you out here,” Beginner says, forcing himself to calm down. “We wound up with each other’s guys. It happens. The trouble I have is that I’m out of the game for the next three hours or so. If you want a little extra, I can help you with something next season, but not now.” Granderson presumably asks for a Panthers prospect next, but that boat has sailed. “I can lose a pick next year.”
Granderson asks to think about it. Sometime in the middle of the fifth round, after another lost gamble on a player the Flyers would have liked, Philadelphia calls back, and McConnell’s rights head to Florida for Svajlen’s and a conditional pick in 2022: third unless the Panthers make the Conference Finals, when it becomes a second.
The Panthers’ day ends somewhat uneventfully after this. They don’t try to move again, and nobody has another offer. Beginner talks with some Web reporters and news outlets. With the 202nd pick overall, Florida chooses a wing named Garth Love, who gets some media attention, as reporters promptly link him to other late-round players like Nosov (180th in 2019), 2016 picks Caspar Hakansson (173rd) and Filip Ruutu (203rd), and even as far back as Pavel Doronin, who rose from the 210th and last pick of the 2007 draft to an NHL All-Rookie selection. Across the room, Frank Granderson is still bitter. “He can say what he likes, but he knows that taking Svajlen when we show interest suggests that the rest of it is a done deal. I’m never dealing with that bastard again.”