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Instant E.J.: Five thoughts from draft weekend

by EJ Hradek
With an interesting draft weekend in the rearview mirror, here are five things that I'll be pondering on the plane ride home.

1. For the second straight year, the Hurricanes used their first pick to select a baby-faced prospect from the Kitchener Rangers. Last June, GM Jim Rutherford's crew tabbed Jeff Skinner with the seventh overall pick. That worked out pretty well, right?

This time, with the 12th pick; the Canes' picked puck-moving defenseman Ryan Murphy, who had to answer about six thousand questions about his size in the run-up to the draft.

For the record, he's listed at 5-foot-10, 176 pounds -- and he might just be a bit short of those measurements. Still, the scouts that I trust say his game is big ... as in really big. They just rave about his numerous offensive skills. And, they say he's not afraid of physical play.

With Murphy and last year's second-round pick, Justin Faulk, in the fold; Rutherford is building one heck of a dynamic defense for the future.

2. Wild GM Chuck Fletcher shocked the house at the Xcel Energy Center by pulling off a first-round blockbuster with the Sharks, sending the club's top D Brent Burns and a 2012 second-round pick to the Bay Area for RW Devin Setoguchi, F Charlie Coyle (a first round pick last season) and a 2011 first-round pick (28th overall).

According to Fletcher, the deal came together quickly. Sharks GM Doug Wilson made a house call to the Wild offices on Friday afternoon to do some serious face-to-face negotiating. After some significant discussion, the two managers were able to close on the deal later in the evening.

The Wild get some much-needed scoring help (Setoguchi), a very highly-touted prospect (Boston University standout Coyle) as well as an additional first-round selection (Zack Phillips) for a guy that seemed destined for unrestricted free agency next summer. The scouts that I spoke with felt the inclusion of Coyle in the deal was vital for the Wild.

On the flip side, the Sharks -- who feel they're just a few pieces from a Stanley Cup run -- get a skilled young defenseman with good size to provide further support for veteran puck-mover Dan Boyle. While Wild watchers will tell you that Burns can frustrate you with his streaky play, the Sharks figure the 26-year-old will benefit dramatically from a much stronger supporting cast. Clearly, Burns has the ability to be a difference-maker in San Jose.

3. With plenty of money to spend just to get the new $48.3 million salary cap floor, Panthers GM Dale Tallon pulled the trigger on a deal to acquire high-priced D Brian Campbell from the Hawks.

Tallon certainly knows all about Campbell's big-ticket contract (a $7.1M cap hit for each of the next five seasons). After all, he negotiated the free agent deal with the speedy defenseman in 2008 during his time as the manager in Chicago. The past relationship between the two men, plus some pretty nice Florida weather, convinced Campbell to waive his no trade clause and okay the deal.

Tallon figures the move gives his rebuilding franchise some much-needed credibility as we head into the free agent window that opens on Friday at noon ET.

The Hawks took back underachieving/highly paid Rostislav Olesz, who missed the last two months of the season with a knee injury. A first-round pick in '04, Olesz carries a cap hit of $3.125M for each of the next three seasons.

In this case, the price of moving Campbell's deal was accepting Olesz's contract. I'll be curious if the Czech-born winger can rejuvenate his career alongside a significantly better supporting cast in Chicago. Either way, the move creates some much-needed cap flexibility for the Hawks. GM Stan Bowman can now focus some of his attention on working out a contract extension with C Patrick Sharp, who's entering the last year of his current deal.

4. You can credit new Sabres owner Terry Pegula for helping to close the deal that brings hard-nosed, veteran defenseman Robyn Regehr from Calgary to Buffalo.

Sabres GM Darcy Regier says Pegula reached out to Regehr, who wasn't ready to waive his no trade clause. The long-time Flames defender was seeking other possible trade options. Apparently, Pegula's sales job convinced Regehr to make the move east. The Sabres fan turned billionaire owner hasn't been afraid to do things his way.

The Sabres did have to swallow the final year of Ales Kotalik's contract -- a $3 million cap hit -- as part of the price to get Regehr. Perhaps Kotalik can rediscover his past form during his second stint in Buffalo. The Czech-born winger spent several seasons with the Sabres before being dealt to the Oilers in 2009.

In an unrelated Sabres note, the club snapped an odd streak when they tabbed Finnish-born winger Joel Armia with their first-round pick on Friday night. The choice snapped a 35-pick streak of selecting North American-born players. After taking Armia, the Sabres went back to recent form, choosing five North American-born prospects to round out their draft class.

5. Finally ... I found it kind of hard to believe that Edmonton pick Ryan Nugent-Hopkins was the first British Columbia native to be chosen with the top overall pick. I'd have thought a province that has been the birthplace to stars such as Joe Sakic, Paul Kariya and Steve Yzerman would have had at least one previous first overall pick.

The Oilers might have found another keeper later in the opening round, grabbing Swedish-born defender Oscar Klefbom with the 19th pick. Several scouts told me they like his chances of being a helpful player at the NHL level.
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