The 2021 NHL Entry Draft took place on July 23rd and 24th and surprising exactly no one, defenceman Owen Power was the 1st overall pick by the Buffalo Sabres. The draft floor is a busy time for trades, even when it’s a Zoom screen. The days surrounding the draft and the opening of free agency on the 28th were a whirlwind, and Canadian teams were busy.
Leading up to the draft, the Vancouver Canucks unloaded the contracts of Loui Eriksson, Jay Beagle and Antoine Roussel, along with picks that included this year’s 9th overall, to Arizona for Oliver Ekman-Larsson and Conor Garland. Vancouver then extended Garland. On the eve of free agency, they moved Nate Schmidt for a 3rd round pick and bought out Braden Holtby. They added free agents Jaroslav Halak, Luke Schenn, Nic Petan and Tucker Poolman.
Prior to obtaining Schmidt from Vancouver, the Winnipeg Jets selected centre Chaz Lucius at 18th overall. They also acquired defenceman Brenden Dillon from Arizona for 2nd and 3rd round picks, addressing their weakness on defence. The Jets also re-signed veteran centre Paul Stastny and added goalie Eric Comrie in free agency.
The Calgary Flames were active on draft day, acquiring Tyler Pitlick from Seattle for a 4th rounder. They picked 13th overall and selected Matthew Coronato, a small, goal-scoring winger. The Flames got into the trade action, acquiring defenceman Nikita Zadorov from Chicago and signed free agent Blake Coleman, fresh off two cups with the Lightning.
With no pick in the first round, the Toronto Maple Leafs went into the draft quiet as a lamb. They had traded the 25th overall pick to Columbus in the Nick Foligno deal and got exactly four playoff games from Foligno for their trouble. In free agency, Toronto added Petr Mrazek to their goalie tandem, and then added a bunch of names you won’t recognize. Toronto is expected to add a goal scoring winger in the days ahead.
The Ottawa Senators also had a low key draft. The Sens had the highest pick of Canadian teams in the draft at number 10, and they used it to select Tyler Boucher, a big winger who has been compared to Tom Wilson. Ottawa traded Evgeni Dadanov to Vegas for Nick Holden and a pick and added Michael Del Zotto in free agency. The Sens also extended coach DJ Smith.
The award for most comical draft goes to the Edmonton Oilers. Fresh off signing octogenarian goaltender Mike Smith to a two-year extension, they had an opportunity to draft a talented netminder in the first round. Fans watched as the top ranked goalie fell to them at number 20 only to have GM Ken Holland trade the pick to Minnesota. The Wild drafted the goalie and the Oilers selected centre Xavier Bourgault. Holland was able to re-sign Tyson Barrie and nab Zach Hyman and Cody Ceci in free agency. The Oilers also traded Ethan Bear to Carolina and bought out James Neal.
Just when viewers had settled into a sleepover draft that was as titillating as watching paint dry, the Montreal Canadiens killed it. After the Cinderella cup run, you’d think it impossible to kill the joy in the Habs fanbase, but GM Marc Bergevin pulled it off by selecting defenceman Logan Mailleux.
Mailleux had played in Sweden this year due to the COVID-19 shutdown in the OHL. In November, Mailleux had taken a non-consensual photo during a consensual sexual encounter, and then shared it with his team on social media. He was charged and fined by Swedish authorities. When the news broke, Mailleux asked to withdraw from the draft, stating he had not demonstrated the maturity or character to earn the privilege of being drafted. Bergevin ignored this request and made him the Habs first round pick.
Consequently, the Habs spent the opening of free agency dealing with a public relations nightmare. They also signed free agents David Savard, Mike Hoffman, Cedric Paquette, Mathieu Perreault and Chris Wideman.
In other NHL news, Chicago won the Seth Jones sweepstakes and acquired Marc-Andre Fleury from Vegas. Rasmus Ristolainen wound up in Philadelphia. The Bruins were able to extend Taylor Hall. New Jersey landed Dougie Hamilton. Philipp Grubauer went to Seattle, along with Jaden Schwartz. It’s expected the wheeling and dealing will continue for a few days before hockey takes a summer break.
The NBA entry draft took place on July 29th. The Raptors held the 4th overall pick going into the draft and used it to select Scottie Barnes. The 6’9” and 227 lb forward played for the Florida State Seminoles last year and is known for his defensive prowess.
Free agency opens today (Aug. 2), and Toronto is expected to be active.
Blue Jays Babble
The MBL trade deadline was on July 30th. As of press deadline, there was just one move to report. The Jays obtained reliever Brad Hand from the Washington Nationals for a catching prospect.
Lori Bennett is a social worker, policy professional, recreation softball player and coach, and newbie ukulele-ist. A Newfoundlander living in Toronto, Lori loves a good hockey chat, just as long as it remains respectful. Find her on twitter as @lori10habs.