NHL presidents and general managers spent the day huddling in meetings on the eve of Game 3 of the Stanley Cup final, covering off what one president described as a fairly thin agenda. Typically, one of the few team presidents to stop and chat and actually have something interesting to say was the Tampa Bay Lightning's Oren Koules. Koules mentioned that the Lightning will fly the three top prospects for the NHL entry draft - John Tavares, Victor Hedman and Matt Duchene - to Tampa tomorrow, to talk to them as a group and see how they interact with one another in that setting.
"We're going to take them to dinner; hang out with them a bit; show them around; and introduce them to the media," said Koules. "We're excited. Any one of those three kids will improve our team drastically. They're all great kids and we're excited to show them around Tampa."
There is much speculation that Tampa will be active between now and the draft.
Koules said he sat next to "Burkie [Toronto Maple Leafs general manager Brian Burke]for three hours and he never said anything me."
Really? Brian Burke went three hours without speaking?
"He talked the whole time," answered Koules, "but not about that [moving up in the entry draft]"
Koules did mention that the Lightning would be happy with any one of the top seven or eight players available in the 2009 entry draft, which suggests that they will not completely rule out a deal with Toronto, given that they are drafting at No. 2 and the Leafs select seventh overall.
Hedman, a defenceman, would meet a more immediate need, unless the Lightning do move Vincent Lecavalier before his no-movement clause kicks in July 1, in which case Tavares or Duchene might be a nice fit.
For the moment anyway, Tampa is proceeding on the assumption Lecavalier will remain with the team, said Koules, who indicated that his payroll next year needs to come in right around $49-million (U.S.) They will not be a cap team and neither will the Anaheim Ducks, a team that will try to meet with Scott Niedermayer to get a clarification of his status for next season within the fortnight, so they can put a game plan in place for the entry draft.
Ideally, Anaheim wouldn't mind keeping both Niedermayer and Chris Pronger next year, but the only way that happens is if they can find a way of trading J.S. Giguere, another player with a no-movement clause who lost the starting job to Jonas Hiller this season. Getting out from under Giguere's contract may prove impossible, but it is an option that Anaheim will explore.