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On Friday morning, each of the 31 general managers and their trusted hockey departments rose early for the big NHL draft weekend in Chicago.
There were trades to be made and last-minute politicking from scouts to persuade their respective bosses about possible picks they felt strongly about.
The Edmonton Oilers already had traded Jordan Eberle to the New York Islanders in yet another move in the hopes to entice captain John Tavares to stay. In a year, the 26-year-old Tavares will be eligible to become an unrestricted free agent.
The busiest GMs on Friday were Chicago Blackhawks Stan Bowman and John Chayka of the Arizona Coyotes.
Chayka already had traded his longtime No. 1 goalie Mike Smith to the Calgary Flames, told the face of the franchise, 40-year-old captain Shane Doan, that he was no longer wanted, and parted ways with popular coach Dave Tippett.
The Coyotes overhaul continued with the acquisition of goalie Antti Raanta and centre Derek Stepan of the New York Rangers in exchange for 21-year-old defenceman Anthony DeAngelo and the seventh overall selection on Friday night, who turned out to be forward Lias Andersson, the son of former Quebec Nordiques left wing Niklas Andersson.
The Coyotes also made a trade with Bowman and the Blackhawks, landing top-four defenceman Niklas Hjalmarsson for young blue-liner Connor Murphy as well as fourth-line centre Laurent Dauphin.
Bowman wasn’t done either. He traded left wing sniper Artemi Panarin, forward Tyler Motte and a sixth-round selection to the Columbus Blue Jackets for left wing Brandon Saad, backup goalie Anton Forsberg and a fifth-round pick.
Why would Bowman trade key players in Panarin (61 goals in his first two seasons) and a dependable defender like Hjalmarsson? Was the GM that upset that his three-time Stanley Cup champions have been first-round losers in the past two playoffs?
Sure Bowman is disturbed that captain Jonathan Toews and Co. haven’t won a series in the past two springs, but Bowman also was concerned how the heck was he going to keep Hjalmarsson and Panarin next summer when they both are slated to become unrestricted free agents.
The Philadelphia Flyers also made a bold move. They traded centre Brayden Schenn to the St. Louis Blues and received in return centre Jori Lehtera, the 27th overall pick on Friday evening and a conditional 2018 first-round selection.
With the extra first-round pick the Flyers chose Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds forward Morgan Frost, the son of popular Q107 Toronto DJ Andy Frost, who also used to be the public address announcer at Maple Leaf games at the Air Canada Centre.
When it came time to make the first pick, the New Jersey Devils selected slick Halifax Mooseheads forward Nico Hischier of Switzerland, leaving Brandon Wheat Kings forward Nolan Patrick for the Flyers in the second slot.
Overall, there were 11 Canadians, a record six Finns, six Americans, four Swedes, two from the Czech Republic and one apiece from Russia and Switzerland taken in Friday’s first round.
Interesting how the Ottawa Senators were the lone team of seven Canadian clubs to have selected a Canadian, forward Shane Bowers of Halifax. The Vancouver Canucks chose a Swede (Elias Pettersson), as did the Toronto (Timothy Liljegren).
The Flames went with a Finn (Juuso Valimaki) and so did the Winnipeg Jets (Kristian Vesalainen). The Montreal Canadiens (Ryan Poehling) and Edmonton Oilers (Kailer Yamamoto) selected Americans.
There were, however, a couple of noteworthy pseudo-Canadians taken in Cal Foote and Josh Norris. The latter was born in Michigan, but is the son of former 1990 Canadian world junior hero Dwayne Norris of St. John’s. He scored the gold-medal clinching goal for Canada, but now runs an elite camp near his alma mater at Michigan State University.
Foote, a second-year defenceman with the Kelowna Rockets, was born just outside of Denver, where his father Adam played for the Colorado Avalanche. Foote was selected by Tampa Bay Lightning GM Steve Yzerman, who battled in many heated games with the Detroit Red Wings against the older Foote and rival Avalanche.
But Yzerman also is fond of the older Foote for his leadership role and strong play for Canada at the 2002 Olympics in Salt Lake City.
Now, we’ll see how the younger Foote, Frost, Norris, Andersson, Patrick and Hischier fare in the NHL. We’ll also see how much of a difference the big trades of the day will work out for the Coyotes, Blackhawks, Rangers, Blues, Flyers and Blue Jackets.