FT. LAUDERDALE, Fla. - The 2015 NHL Draft was supposed to be about big splashes with teams moving established stars for high picks.
Instead, teams coveted their picks and the few players traded yielded surprisingly soft returns.
Vancouver Canucks general manager Jim Benning made it clear before the draft that he wanted to move a backup goaltender ? either Eddie Lack or Jacob Markstrom ? and that he wanted to ship out veteran defenceman Kevin Bieksa. By Saturday night, Lack had been sent to the Carolina Hurricanes for a pair of draft picks and Benning only had some conversations about Bieksa.
"We were concentrating on the draft today," said Benning on Saturday when asked why Bieksa was still with Vancouver. "We go back home tomorrow and we'll resume conversations next week."
Benning spoke about the challenges of two teams reaching an understanding when making a deal.
"When you're making a trade two sides have to agree to get a deal done. Maybe one side thinks that they're happy with the deal but until the other side agrees that they're going to do the deal it's not done," said Benning. "I think both parties, we worked hard to try to figure something out, but at the end of the day it didn't work out."
The Toronto Maple Leafs were looking to jump start their rebuilding project by moving established stars like captain Dion Phaneuf or Joffrey Lupul. All-star sniper Phil Kessel drew the most buzz, with Maple Leafs president Brendan Shanahan acknowledging on Thursday that he had received strong interest in the high-scoring winger before the draft began on Friday.
By Saturday afternoon, no deal was in sight for Kessel.
"Nothing really materialized," said Shanahan. "I've been saying to everybody I came here for the draft, this is not the trade deadline. I did come here for the draft. We had some talk. I think there was some discussions that were initiated here down on the floor with teams that are still alive.
"They were under no rush, we were under no rush. This was a good time for some initial contact to be made."
Shanahan has consistently preached patience in Toronto's rebuild and warned fans that July 1, when NHL free agency opens, might also be a quiet day for the Maple Leafs.
"We'll be active," said Shanahan. "I don't know that we'll be the headline stealers in the NHL on July 1. Certainly we'll be active like everybody else. We might have a different set of targets then some of the teams. I don't know that we're going to be making headlines on July 1."
"We're Toronto, so somehow there'll be headlines whether we do something or we don't, there'll be headlines," he added with a laugh.
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