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ST. PAUL, Minn. -- Under the echoes of tables being folded up, phones being boxed away and chairs being stacked on carts inside the Xcel Energy Center on Saturday afternoon, we were left with this thought:
With the Philadelphia Flyers stealing the draft weekend spotlight after GM Paul Holmgren's bold trades Thursday (Jeff Carter to Columbus and captain Mike Richards to Los Angeles), the rest of the weekend's activities seemed to pale in comparison.
Oh, there were interesting moments, like the ongoing saga of Ryan Smyth (Edmonton or bust?), the swapping of Devin Setoguchi for Brent Burns, the movement of Robyn Regehr to Buffalo and the reunion of Panthers GM Dale Tallon and Chicago defenseman Brian Campbell in Florida.
But the happenings over draft weekend are really just the first steps as GMs now prepare for the free-agency period that begins July 1. But here are some final musings from Day 2:
|Brian Campbell and the remaining five years of his whopper contract are headed to the Florida Panthers.|
A lot of folks look at the Panthers' acquisition of Campbell as a simple mechanism to get the team to the $48.3 million salary-cap floor.
That's not how Tallon views it at all.
In fact, Tallon, who signed Campbell to his current eight-year, $57 million deal when he was GM in Chicago, downright bristles at the notion this deal was just about meeting cap requirements.
"The focus is not the floor. The focus is to become a really good team as quickly as possible without jeopardizing our future," Tallon said Saturday. "The floor, it's going to accidentally get in the way. That's the way I'm looking at it. I'm not doing this to get to the floor. I'm doing this to become a good team, period."
The Panthers have just more than $22.3 million committed to salaries for next season, the lowest of all NHL teams. "We've got a lot to go yet to get to the floor even," Tallon said.
Not to compare an Original Six market like Chicago to the moribund non-traditional market in South Florida, but when Tallon took over in Chicago, he had to work to find players that would come to the Hawks because the team had fallen on such hard times. The Panthers have the same issues -- they've failed to qualify for the playoffs for 10 straight seasons.
It was seen as a coup for Tallon to have signed Campbell when he was a free agent. Now, he hopes Campbell's decision to come to Florida will help accelerate the rebuilding process there, and perhaps make it easier to lure free agents to the marketplace.
"I think it's very similar to why we brought him into Chicago. It gives us credibility," Tallon said. "A player of his stature to add us to the list, to make the decision to come to play for the Panthers means a heck of a lot to me and to our organization. He's willing to come down and help us turn this franchise around and that speaks volumes."
After adding a top puck-moving defenseman in Campbell, Tallon's top priority will be in resuming talks with netminder Tomas Vokoun, who can become an unrestricted free agent July 1. It was believed that Vokoun would likely hit the free-agent market, but Tallon hasn't ruled out getting him under contract.
"We're going to talk this week and see what we can get done," Tallon said. "I think now, getting more pieces, it might be a better position for all of us. This is going to be an important week for us to get things done. Definitely one of our priorities is to talk to Tomas as soon as we can."
The Panthers enjoyed a strong draft for the second straight season, and one of the players Tallon was excited about was diminutive Rocco Grimaldi, whom the Panthers selected with the 33rd overall pick.
"Every tournament we saw him play in this year in Europe or wherever, he was just dominant. He played great," Tallon said. "He was as good as anybody, or better than anybody in those tournaments. You always look at the size, but you see a lot of great players in the NHL that are 5-foot-6, 5-foot-7, and this guy was so dynamic in all these tournaments against all these other guys that were rated higher than him and that were bigger than him. He certainly didn't look out of place."
If there is one move that illustrates the hit-or-miss element inherent in scouting and drafting, it was the Columbus Blue Jackets' decision Saturday to trade Nikita Filatov to the Ottawa Senators for the 66th pick in this year's draft.
Filatov, the sixth overall pick in 2008, has been a bust for a Columbus franchise that can ill afford draft-day blunders. Filatov played just 44 games for the Blue Jackets and scored just six goals. He was sent back to the KHL for part of the 2009-10 season and then played 36 games for the team's AHL affiliate in Springfield, where he scored just nine goals last season.
GM Scott Howson said Saturday Filatov asked for a trade and, if a trade had not been forthcoming, he would have likely returned to the KHL.
For the rebuilding Senators, Filatov represents an acceptable risk. For the Blue Jackets, a team that has never won a playoff game, the deal is a stark reminder of why success has been so difficult in that marketplace and the perils of making mistakes with key draft picks.
"It was just time for everybody to move on. I wish him all the best," Howson said. "It's not a great move. It's not something you want to do, but I'm also a believer that we all make mistakes in this business and you've got to move on from your mistakes. I'm not in any way, shape or form saying that Nikita's not going to play in the NHL. It just didn't work for Columbus.
"You won't find many more talented players. He's got to sort some things out himself. And you know what? That happens sometimes when you go through changes. This league is full of players that have had to go through two or three teams to become good players."
If Filatov was a swing and miss, Howson hopes he's finally hit a home run with the acquisition of former 46-goal scorer Carter from Philadelphia on Thursday. But even that deal comes with some issues; Carter has not spoken to Howson and remains upset at the deal.
"I haven't spoken to him yet. I will over the next couple of days," Howson said. "My understanding in talking to Rick Curran [Carter's agent] is that this is a shocking thing for him. He's very emotional right now, so we have to let that settle."
Still, the Columbus GM said he's not worried about this having an impact on Carter's ability to fit in with the Blue Jackets.
"No, it's not a concern. I certainly believe there will be an adjustment period when he comes to Columbus and starts playing. There was for R.J. Umberger," Howson said. "The Flyers do a great job of attaching people to their organization. It's a great place to play, it's a great city, and he had made a long-term commitment to Philadelphia and now this surprised him, so it's not surprising about what he's going through."
Is there a risk in assuming an 11-year contract extension that kicks in this season? Not as far as Howson is concerned.
"We think it's a good contract, so there was no risk from our point of view," he said. "He's a good player, he's a No. 1 center. We've never had a No. 1 center, a true No. 1 center in Columbus. Now we have one. We're thrilled."
There are a number of teams looking for goaltending help, including the Phoenix Coyotes, Colorado Avalanche and possibly Detroit if Chris Osgood doesn't return to back up Jimmy Howard.
There will be plenty of speculation about whether the Washington Capitals, blessed with three top-end goaltending prospects in Braden Holtby, Michal Neuvirth and Semyon Varlamov, might be willing to deal one, but a source told ESPN.com at the draft that is unlikely.
With Ilya Bryzgalov locked up for nine years in Philadelphia, the options include impending free agent Tomas Vokoun (unless he re-signs in Florida), Evgeni Nabokov, Jose Theodore and perhaps Mike Smith and/or Dwayne Roloson, although it's hard to imagine Tampa Bay GM Steve Yzerman won't lock up at least Roloson given his strong play this past postseason.
After acquiring defenseman Brent Burns from Minnesota on Friday, San Jose GM Doug Wilson mentioned that the two most difficult assets to acquire are puck-moving defensemen and centers. The Sharks are set on both fronts, but teams looking for help down the middle on July 1 will find pretty slim pickings.
There is Brad Richards, of course; the former playoff MVP will have his pick of suitors. But after that, there's not much else. It will be interesting to see what happens to Capitals second-line center Brooks Laich, who has enjoyed success in the regular season playing much of the time with Alexander Semin. But Laich may want too much term and dollars to stay in Washington.
Washington's acquisition of rugged winger Troy Brouwer on Friday night may have been a signal that the Caps will move on, and so will Laich.
After taking an interminable four hours to wade through the first round Friday night, NHL scouts and GMs blazed through the final six rounds Saturday in about the same time.
OK, who thinks four hours stretches the bounds of credulity?
The NHL, which moved the first round to Friday night to try to gain a national television audience, might do well to insist on a tighter time line to ensure the draft stops looking more and more like the Academy Awards in terms of bloated excess.
Scott Burnside covers the NHL for ESPN.com.