PITTSBURGH -- There were a few major trades on the first day of the 2012 NHL Draft, but it was definitely quality over quantity.
Only six deals in total were completed; surprisingly, only one involved strictly draft picks. Twenty-seven of the 30 first-round choices were made by the club that owned them at the beginning of the day.
The biggest move of the day involved the host organization, as the Pittsburgh Penguins traded Jordan Staal to the Carolina Hurricanes for Brandon Sutter, the No. 8 pick in the 2012 draft and defense prospect Brian Dumoulin. Pittsburgh general manager Ray Shero also took part in the final transaction of the night, sending defenseman Zbynek Michalek back to the Phoenix Coyotes two years after signing him as a free agent.
Michalek signed a five-year, $20 million contract with the Penguins before the start of the 2010-11 season; he returns Phoenix, where he played for five seasons before signing with Pittsburgh.
"He was an assistant captain. He was someone we did not want to lose," Phoenix general manager Don Maloney said. "We know what he is, so we were thrilled. ... We looked at ‘Z' playing with a young player like Oliver Ekman-Larsson as a terrific combo to matchup against the best players in the West."
Phoenix sent defense prospect Harrison Ruopp, goaltender Marc Cheverie and the 81st selection in this draft to Pittsburgh to complete the trade. The Penguins also saved about $2 million in cap space in moving Staal for Sutter.
Once one of the teams with the most salary cap space allocated for next season, the Penguins now have more flexibility to reshape their roster. The defense will have a different look next season after yielding 30 goals in six playoff games.
"Change the mix a little bit, but certainly we've got some younger D that are really pushing," Shero said. "We've got some good young defensemen coming. Today we did clear some cap space with the Staal and the Michalek trades and we'll see where that's going to lead us. We've drafted a lot of defensemen, and a lot of people have written that it is time for these guys to play. They turn into assets. [Michalek] is a great person, but to go back to Phoenix where it was a really great fit for him before -- I was dealing with some other teams on Z, but it is a good situation for him and his family."
Maloney was glad to have him back.
"He was such a good fit with us," he said. "Pittsburgh is a real up-tempo style, get pucks up to the forwards in a hurry, and ‘Z' is more of that defensive guy who blocks shots and waits for the next shot to block. We just thought with the way we play with Dave Tippett and our style, that we needed that No. 1 matchup guy ... It is also the culture we have there. He is a guy that just fits. We have three or four Czech players, and he was the leader of the pack and an assistant captain before he left. We know what we're getting."
The first trade of the day came hours before the draft began. Columbus, which finished 28th in the League in goals allowed this past season, added goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky from Philadelphia for three draft picks -- Nos. 45 and 117 this year and a fourth-round choice in 2013.
Bobrovsky was the starter for the Flyers in 2010-11 before a second-round postseason exit led to the addition of Ilya Bryzgalov. Bobrovsky appeared in 29 games in 2011-12 -- 25 fewer than his rookie year -- with an .899 save percentage and a 3.02 goals-against average.
If the Blue Jackets do not add another goaltender, the 23-year-old Bobrovsky will compete with Steve Mason for the No. 1 job.
Having an extra second-round pick to go along with the 31st choice -- the first one on Saturday morning -- made the trade doable, according to Columbus GM Scott Howson.
"I wasn't going to trade [No. 31], I don't think," Howson said. "Having another second makes it a little more stomachable, but this is a player … we had to do something with our goaltending, we could not go in with the same mix. We're excited about getting Sergei."
Visnovsky had six goals and 27 points in 68 games for the Ducks this past season -- but in 2010-11, he scored 18 goals and led all defensemen with 68 points. He turns 36 in August and will cost $5.6 million against the salary cap for the Islanders in 2012-13 -- though his salary is $3 million. A veteran defenseman was considered a top priority for the Islanders this offseason.
Just before the Penguins traded Staal to Carolina, another Southeast Division team bolstered its depth at center. The Washington Capitals added Mike Ribeiro from the Dallas Stars for young forward Cody Eakin and the No. 54 pick in this draft. Ribeiro will likely slot in as Washington's No. 2 center behind Nicklas Backstrom and gives the Capitals two pivots capable of reaching 60-plus points.
"He's got skill and make plays," Washington GM George McPhee said. "Sixty-seventy points a year, and a pretty good shootout guy too -- those points are valuable. It just felt like at some point this summer we wanted to add a skilled guy, and if it was at center ice that would be ideal. It is nice to do it today."
The only deal of the day that involved just swapping picks allowed Buffalo to move up seven spots to draft Zemgus Girgensons at No. 14. Buffalo traded No. 21, which became Mark Jankowski, and the No. 42 choice to Calgary to add Girgensons, the first Latvian-born player taken in the first round of the draft.
The host Penguins made the big news on day one, and Shero could be busy again Saturday.
"We're just going to see what happens in the next little bit, so what the market is and so forth," Shero said. "We'll look to do that and we'll see what happen tomorrow and over the course of this week and see what happens on July 1."
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