What a busy night it turned out to be in Pittsburgh. The 2012 NHL Draft was one of craziness and could go down as one of the more entertaining first rounds in a while, and that was before the draft even got into double-digit picks. The Edmonton Oilers did take Nail Yakupov first overall, but from there things started twisting quickly in strange ways. The Anaheim Ducks traded veteran offensive blueliner Lubomir Visnovsky to the New York Islanders, causing a celebration among Dallas Stars fans who have watched the dangerous defenseman burn Dallas quite a lot over the years. But then Dallas had a move of their own.
The Stars started their night by moving play-making center Mike Ribeiro to the Washington Capitals, getting back Cody Eakin and the 54th overall pick. The move was a big splash. Ribeiro and Steve Ott have been in a lot of rumors over the last year, with both in some internet chatter leading up to the draft. In the end the Capitals got a 2nd line center that can create like they have been searching for. The Stars got back a former 3rd rounder in Eakin who projects as a speedy center with a good shot and a third 2nd round pick to now have a stockpile of picks to play with early today.
From there things only got crazier. As the draft got out of the top three, teams started a strange trend as the prospects selected became all defensemen. Starting with the Islanders at 4th taking Griffin Reinhart, seven straight picks were used on blueliners as multiple big name forwards started to slide down. Even Filip Forsberg, a youngster that sat somewhere between 2nd and 5th on just about every mock draft and rankings list, started free falling for no apparent reason at all before being taken finally at 11th. In the middle of it the hometown team shocked the draft room again with a third big trade. The Pittsburgh Penguins traded Jordan Staal to the Carolina Hurricanes (where he wanted to go) for the 8th overall pick (they took Derrick Pouliot), big prospect Brandon Sutter, and defensive prospect Brian Dumoulin. The Hurricanes and Staal got what they wanted, uniting Staal with his older brother Eric. But with Pittsburgh set to lose him next summer, they made away like bandits and the hometown fans loved it.
When the Stars finally were on the clock at 13th, it seemed like the draft had already been through multiple rounds with all the excitement. And in the middle of it all, Dallas was left with a few players that most thought would be off the boards (myself included). With the 13th overall pick the team selected center Radek Faksa, holding to their strategy of saying they would take a center, something that seemed evident after moving Ribeiro. Faksa plays for the Kitchener Rangers in the OHL and will likely stay there this fall, but the 6’2″ center took the league by storm this last year, leading all Ontario Hockey League rookies in goals (29), assists (37), points (66), game-winning goals (6) and plus-minus (+19). Faksa was projected by many to be taken by the Hurricanes at 8th or the Capitals at 11th if the Canes passed up on him. But with Carolina trading their pick and Forsberg falling, the Stars likely ideal pick surprisingly was right there.
So what does it all mean? It means that Joe Nieuwendyk and Tom Gaglardi really are going to change the team and build it how they want. They addressed throughout the weeks coming up to the draft that the team needed centers and they planned to fix that this summer. They started the night out by trading away their top one in Ribeiro, before landing the guy they were excited to get in Faksa. The fan reaction has been split. While Faksa looks like a great two-way center and scorer in the future, many have questioned the Ribeiro trade. But “Ribs” only has one season left on his current deal for $5 million and a move like this likely means that he was going to be a free agent no matter what. The problem with him has always been his play in his own end (or lack of it) and his attitude. The Stars might have done the deal early, but it looks like the first domino in a chain of events.
I don’t see the team and GM Joe trading their one of their better players for a couple of good but not great pieces, and then just waiting until the season starts. With how hands-on Gaglardi appears to be, I expect more things ahead if he signed off on a big move like this. Only time will tell of course, but we could start seeing some return tomorrow. The Stars now own three picks in the 2nd round of the draft, with quite a few good looking forwards still on the board as many teams focused on defense in round one. Their 1st round selection looks excellent. Now what can they do with a bunch of picks and almost $25 million in cap space?
Topics: 2012 NHL Draft, 2012 NHL Entry Draft, Carolina Hurricanes, Cody Eakin, Dallas Stars, Edmonton Oilers, Filip Forsberg, Joe Nieuwendyk, Jordan Staal, Kitchener Rangers, Mike Ribeiro, Nail Yakupov, Pittsburgh Penguins, Radek Faksa, Tom Gaglardi, Washington Capitals