This past week was one of the most fascinating, exciting, and historic weeks in the NHL in recent memory. Starting last Wednesday morning, and culminating with the entry draft, with a Badger flare, on Saturday.
The hockey world was nearly sent into shock late Tuesday night and Wednesday morning when it was announced that future hall of famer Marian Hossa would miss the 2017-18 season due to a skin allergy that has been plaguing him for years. According to the Chicago Blackhawks, Hossa developed a reaction to his equipment, and the strong side-effects of his treatments are proving to be dangerous for the 38-year-old. Whether we have seen the end of Marian Hossa, that is yet to be determined. As for next season, the league will be without one of their icons.
About a year ago this week, Las Vegas was awarded and NHL franchise in the form of an expansion team. Set to begin play in the 2017-18 season, all that was left for the Golden Knights was, well, a team. Enter the expansion draft. This expansion draft was an insanely complicated and confusing process, all with the goal of making the Golden Knights relatively competitive relatively quickly. Without boring everyone with details, essentially, every team was allowed to protect a certain number of skaters and goalies. Of the players left unprotected, Vegas was to select one unprotected player from each team. After weeks of speculation and backdoor agreements, the Vegas Golden Knights official roster was announced at the NHL awards show Wednesday. At the end of the night, 30 players were headed to Vegas.
Then came Thursday morning at 7am central time. Until then, there had been a roster freeze, stopping movement of any players until after the expansion draft. For the next 36 hours came a flurry of trades, including some newly acquired Golden Knights players being flipped to new teams for draft picks.
On Thursday afternoon and into Friday morning, the real trades started rolling in. First, the Edmonton Oilers traded forward Jordan Eberle to the New York Islanders in exchange for Ryan Strome. This deal was likely to save Edmonton some money in hopes of extending the contract of league MVP Connor McDavid. Meanwhile the Islanders are likely hoping Eberle can rejuvenate John Tavares and take their game to the next level. Shortly thereafter, the Chicago Blackhawks dropped two bombshells on the rest of the league. First by dealing three time Stanley Cup champions Niklas Hjalmarsson to the Phoenix Coyotes for a younger defenseman and forward, as well as a little cap space. Followed by trading former rookie of the year Artemi Panarin to the Columbus Blue Jackets to reacquire forward Brandon Saad as part of a four player deal. While Panarin and Saad will both be making $6 million next year, Saad is a year younger signed for the next four seasons. Panarin on the other hand, will likely demand around $8 million a year after his contract expires in two seasons. On top of the money issues, Blackhawks captain Jonathon Toews has been rumored to have requested the Hawks try to bring Saad, his former linemate, back to Chicago.
After a hectic Friday morning, the first round of the NHL entry draft was taking place later that evening. Fittingly, this years draft was held at the United Center in Chicago. With the first overall pick, the New Jersey Devils took Swiss prospect Nico Hischier, a forward who just recently skyrocketed up the draft boards. He was also the first Swiss-born player ever to be taken first overall. Following Hischier, the Philadelphia Flyers took Canadian Nolan Patrick. Patrick was thought to be the consensus top selection until his 2016-17 campaign was plagued with injuries, casting a little doubt on the young prospect. With the 6th pick, the Vegas Golden Knights made their historic first ever selection in the form of Canadian center Cody Glass
Rounds 2-7 took place on Saturday morning, and this is where we saw the future of the Wisconsin Badgers hear their name called. Starting with Barrington, Illinois native Tyler Inamoto. The defenseman was taken in the fifth round, 133rd overall by the Florida Panthers. He was one of three Badger defensemen taken as Wyatt Kalynuk was taken 196th overall by the Flyers and Joshua Ess was selected 215th by the Blackhawks. Additionally, the talented Swedish forward, Linus Weissbach was taken 192nd by the Buffalo Sabres. If this draft is any indication, the young talent coming to Madison next fall is definitely something to be excited about.
This past week was just the tip of the iceberg for the NHL offseason. While there should be a few calmer days ahead, the free agency period begins July 1st.