With the NHL Awards over, the hockey world has fully descended upon Pittsburgh, PA for the 2012 NHL Draft. The week started quietly, with top prospects in town early to participate in events such as a midget and mite youth clinic and batting practice at PNC Park. So with a fairly quiet week coming to an end, it is only fitting the draft will officially begin Friday evening amidst a flurry of trade speculation and possibly end with several blockbuster trades.
Ever since it was announced the Edmonton Oilers were going to once again pick first overall and by virtue select electric forward Nail Yakupov, there was speculation over whether or not they would keep the pick or explore a trade to try and move down to acquire WHL defenseman Ryan Murray. Edmonton management has since said they plan to maintain the number one pick, but will undoubtedly continue to hear offers.
Muddying the waters are the Columbus Blue Jackets. In possession of the second overall pick and also considered to be in pursuit of Murray, the Blue Jackets are additionally looking to trade star forward Rick Nash. The result is potentially a ripple effect among not only teams selecting high in the draft, but teams looking to trade and acquire NHL talent.
Teams such as the New York Rangers have long been rumored to have interest in Nash but recently teams like Philadelphia and Ottawa are said to be heavily in the fray. The price for his services will be high though. The rebuilding Blue Jackets have needs at all positions and will be looking for a package that includes some combination of young NHL roster players, prospects, and draft picks.
The biggest surprise however could come from the host team. The Pittsburgh Penguins were already expected to be a player either during the draft or off-season, with GM Ray Shero announcing his intent to try and move one or two NHL defensemen and lock up center Jordan Staal to a long-term contract. What no one, including Shero, may have anticipated however was Jordan Staal's agent, Paul Krepelka, telling TSN writer Pierre Lebrun, "He is not prepared to enter into a contract extension at this time."
A 23-year-old veteran of six NHL seasons and over 400 games, there has been speculation that Staal is not seeking a trade, but simply trying to keep his options open and maintain negotiation leverage. Still, if he is on the move, the Penguins will have no trouble finding suitors.
The speculation and uncertainty surrounding the draft are not just limited to fans and members of the media however.
"Everyone kind of doesn't really know what's going to happen," said Ryan Murray, a prospect who has been at the center of much of the speculation. "That makes it so exciting for Friday."
"We've all been talking amongst each other and everyone says the same thing. We really have no idea where anyone is going to go. It's pretty exciting."
By Ian Altenbaugh.