In essence, the unofficial puck drop for the 2015-16 National Hockey League season will take place this weekend at the BB&T Center in Sunrise, Florida.
This year’s draft is thought to possess generational talents in Connor McDavid and Jack Eichel, expected to be the first and second overall picks.
The intrigue is likely to begin when Arizona selects third. General Manager Don Maloney told reporters in Las Vegas that he has received “two outright offers for [the third overall] pick.”
Whatever Maloney’s decision is, the outcome will affect the Devils, who have the sixth pick in the draft. During a wide-ranging interview with reporters on the state of the franchise on May 9,Devils co-owner Josh Harris stated unequivocally the newly reconstructed management team will do whatever is necessary in order to ice a competitive team. Included is trading the pick.
“There are three ways to improve our team,” Harris said. “Draft, free agency and trades. Everything is on the table. I think that the way you set yourself up to win is to be very opportunistic to pick up those players and those people that make themselves available. If you have a direction–or another direction–and you’re tied to that direction, I think you’re foreclosing options. I like the optionality of being able to react. We’re going to be very busy as an organization over the next couple months trying to our best to improve our team. Everything is on the table.”
Along with the sixth overall pick, the Devils have the 36th, 41st, 67th, 97th and 157th. The Islanders own the 72nd, 82nd, 112th, 172nd and 202nd. The Rangers have the 59th, 89th, 119th, 179th and 209th.
Speculation persists that the Islanders and Rangers could listen to trade offers at the draft for Kyle Okposo and Cam Talbot, respectively. Both will be UFAs following next season.
In separate releases Tuesday, the NHL and NHLPA announced the 2015-16 payroll range for the 30 franchises. The cap floor has been set at $52.8, the midpoint at $62.1 million, and the cap ceiling at $71.4 million.
So what does this mean for the Devils, Islanders and Rangers?
The Devils have $23.504 million in cap space with 15 players already under contract according to industry website CapFriendly.com. Defensemen Adam Larsson and Eric Gelinas are restricted free agents; right wings Michael Ryder and Steve Bernier, left wing Martin Havlat, center Scott Gomez, defensemen Bryce Salvador, Peter Harrold and Mark Fraser are unrestricted free agents.
Harris indicated that adding salary is a consideration in order to ice a competitive team.
“This is something we’re committed to, winning here in New Jersey, we’re committed to building something here that Newark can be proud of, that New Jersey can be proud of, that we and our families and our leadership and our employees can be proud of. We’ll spend when it makes sense to spend,” Harris said.
“We didn’t do this to be second best. We want to build an elite organization and what that means is we’re consistently in the mix, deep in the playoffs for the Stanley Cup. We ultimately deliver a Stanley Cup or a number of Stanley Cups. That’s not easy to do. Twenty-nine other owners want to do that, they’re all really smart, they’re all really resourced. There’s no shortcuts. We’re going to put in place plans that allow us to do that. Every decision that we make will be oriented around that. Ultimately I believe we’ll be successful.”
The Islanders have 17 players in place for next season and have $16.650 million in space. Forwards Anders Lee and Brock Nelson, and defenseman Thomas Hickey, are RFAs. Forwards Colin McDonald, Eric Boulton, Kael Mouillierat, Tyler Kenney, defensemen Lubomir Visnovsky, Matt Carkner and Matt Donovan, and goaltender Michal Neuvirth are UFAs.
The Rangers have $11.9 million in available space and 15 players signed. Much of the available cap space will be earmarked for RFA center Derek Stepan. Other RFAs are Jesper Fast, Carl Hagelin and J.T. Miller. Rangers UFAs are defenseman Matt Hunwick, James Sheppard and Martin St. Louis.
NYC owns NHL
There was a slight New York flavor to Wednesday night’s NHL Awards ceremony. Islanders center John Tavares was a finalist for the Hart Trophy, the MVP as judged by the Professional Hockey Writers Association. The Rangers were represented by Henrik Lundqvist and Glen Sather, finalists for the NHL Foundation Player Award and General Manager of the Year, respectively.
Prior to the ceremony, every NHL team announced the date and opponent for their 2015-16 home openers. The Devils will open the Prudential Center portion of the schedule Oct. 9 against the Winnipeg Jets, while the Rangers will host Metropolitan Division rival Columbus Oct. 10 at the Garden.
The Islanders will make their Barclays Center regular debut Oct. 9 against the Stanley Cup Champions Blackhawks. Following 43 seasons at Nassau Coliseum, the Islanders are moving to Brooklyn after being unable to come to terms with Nassau County on a deal to build a new arena on the grounds that the Coliseum stands.
“Opening night for the Islanders at Barclays Center represents an historic event for Brooklyn,” Barclays Center CEO Brett Yormark said in a statement released by the Islanders. “We are proud to welcome the Islanders to their new home and to host the first-ever regular season NHL game in the borough. There’s great anticipation for the team’s inaugural season and we are ready to offer fans a memorable experience on opening night.”
According to TSN hockey reporter Bob McKenzie, the NHL will implement 3-on-3 for overtimes beginning next season. A Sportsnet report Wednesday, citing sources, said NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman will recommend expansion to the league’s Board of Governors. The report went on to say Las Vegas “is going to get a NHL team. There will be competition for the other spot, with Seattle and Quebec City among the [favorites] to land it.”