The Toronto Maple Leafs will be a fascinating team to watch this week and next -- and not just because they'll own the spotlight with the first overall pick in the draft Friday night in Buffalo.
The rebuilding Leafs also have the 30th, 31st and 57th picks among 12 selections in this week's draft. They've also got three second-round picks, plus their first-round selection, coming in 2017; all are a result of the team selling off parts over the past two seasons.
The question is whether some of those picks either this week or next year all become Maple Leafs prospects or some are dealt away in trades to upgrade the team?
Veteran Leafs GM Lou Lamoriello said Monday his team is ready for both options.
"Certainly we're ready to draft. [Leafs director of player personnel] Mark Hunter and his group have done a tremendous job -- they’re ready," Lamoriello said over the phone. "But if opportunities come about, you certainly have to be open to them."
The bottom line is that the Leafs are open for business.
By now, we all know that Lamoriello is never going to tip his hand, so who knows exactly what the Leafs brass has in store for this week. But aside from the No. 1 pick -- Auston Matthews is the projected top pick, with Patrik Laine a close second -- I would suggest all bets are off otherwise as the team continues to try to find ways to build its foundation.
That includes goaltending; there's been much speculation that the Leafs might try to improve there with Jonathan Bernier entering the final year of his contract. Update: The Leafs obtained Frederik Andersen from the Anaheim Ducks for a first-round pick in 2016 and a second-round pick in 2017 Monday afternoon.
"Jonathan played very well at the end of the year," Lamoriello said when asked about upgrading his goaltending. "But I think we have to look at everything if we can get better, whether it's goaltending, whether it's defense, whether it's forwards. We did end up 30th in the league. There's nothing that we cannot or should not be looking at, no matter what it is, to get better. Wherever we can get better, we have to do that but not outside the framework of what we're going to do. It's an overused word, but the 'plan.' We're not going to rush anything, but whatever can be done will be done."
And that's perhaps the most telling thing Lamoriello said in our interview Monday morning: Despite the excitement building for this revamping roster, Leafs management says it's not going to skip steps on the way to the long-term goal of building a team that contends for years.
Easier said than done, of course.
The Boston Bruins have an obvious need on defense, so it's no surprise to hear via sources that they've been in discussions on several fronts regarding acquiring a blueliner. Blues defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk, entering the final season of his contract, is among the several D-men I suspect the Bruins have had discussions about.
Teams have already reached out to the Pittsburgh Penguins regarding goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury, including Calgary -- the Flames I think doing their diligence on all possibilities. Again, it's still not decided from the Penguins' perspective whether they make a goalie move this summer or wait another year, but there's no question teams are monitoring that situation closely. The Penguins won the Stanley Cup with rookie goalie Matt Murray and have Jeff Zatkoff coming up as well. Fleury has a no-move clause and a partial no-trade.
Speaking of goaltending, what about the Dallas Stars? The Game 7 meltdown in goal against the St. Louis Blues isn't going to force a move for the sake of it. Yes, the Stars need an upgrade in goal, and perhaps GM Jim Nill gets it over the next few weeks, if it makes sense. But I also think Nill is willing to be very patient and start the season with Kari Lehtonen and Antti Niemi and perhaps wait until closer to the trade deadline next March to see what's out there, especially with some teams needing to jockey ahead of a June 2017 expansion draft, where you can protect only one goalie. If I'm the Stars, there's no question I'm patient on this. It's not as though they didn't win the Central Division, even with their goalie issues, this past season.
The Carolina Hurricanes made a nice deal picking up Teuvo Teravainen from the cap-strapped Chicago Blackhawks last week, and they might not be done. A few sources from around the league suggest the Canes are still sniffing around looking for another top-six impact forward.