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It was a long, but exciting day at the Prudential Center, in Newark, New Jersey, as the NHL held it's annual entry draft. With the first overall pick in the draft, the Colorado Avalanche did little to hide who they would be selecting: center Nathan MacKinnon of the Halifax Mooseheads of the QMJHL. No surprise here, as the Avalanche have been telling anyone that would listen that their first choice would be MacKinnon. Here's where it gets interesting.

Seth Jones, a defenseman for the Portland Winterhawks of the WHL, was projected to be selected with the first or second overall pick in the draft. Instead, the Florida Panthers picked the fourth ranked player, Aleksander Barkov, who played for Tappara in Finland. 

With the third pick, the Tampa Bay Lightning selected MacKinnon's line mate, Jonathan Drouin, who was expected to be picked third. Seth Jones had now fallen to fourth overall, and was immediately scooped up by the Nashville Predators, who were equally as stunned as everyone else that Seth Jones had fallen to fourth overall. This, however, is the best fit for Jones, as the Predators have a very young and promising defense, headlined by team captain Shea Weber.

Soon after, at the ninth pick, held by the New Jersey Devils, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman made an announced that stunned everyone in The Rock: The Devils had traded their ninth overall pick in the draft to the Vancouver Canucks for goaltender Cory Schneider. To say the arena was electrified would be an understatement. In this trade, the Devils acquired their successor to Martin Brodeur, when he eventually retires. The Canucks used the ninth pick to select Bo Horvat, a center for the London Knights of the OHL.

Another team that was active on the trade front was the Chicago Blackhawks, who had to make cap room as the free agency period starts on July 5th. They made three trades in this draft, with two of the trades sending away players. The first trade sent Stanley Cup game-winning-goal scorer Dave Bolland to the Toronto Maple Leafs for a second round pick and two fourth round picks. The second trade sent Michael Frolik to the Winnipeg Jets in exchange for a third round pick and a fifth round pick. Shortly after that, the Blackhawks announced they had re-signed soon-to-be UFA Bryan Bickell to a four year contract extension.

This was one of the most exciting drafts in years, and it was a great way to kick off the 2013 off-season. 

 
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It was announced this morning that the Tampa Bay Lightning have used their first compliance buyout on team captain Vincent Lecavalier. The 33-year old center had 7 years left on a deal that would pay him $7.73 million per season. 

This had to have been a tough decision for Lightning GM Steve Yzerman, as Lecavalier  has been a franchise player for the team for years. Lecavalier, a fan-favorite, has also done a tremendous amount of charity work for the local community in Tampa Bay. This move was strictly business. The Lightning, who are coming off a terrible season, are already having difficulties with the decreasing salary cap. This is a team that needs to build for the future, and buying out Lecavalier will help them do that.

Lecavalier will become an unrestricted free agent on July 5.

Also, the Lightning have been rumored to using a compliance buyout on Ryan Malone. Nothing yet on that front, but stay tuned.

Photo Credit: www.rantsports.com
 
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It was just announced that the New Jersey Devils have signed 35-year forward Dainius Zubrus to a 3-year contract extension worth approximately $3 million per season. While the deal has not been officially signed, an agreement between the two parties has been reached. Zubrus would have been a free agent if not signed by July 5th.

This is an important signing for New Jersey, as Zubrus is more valuable than most people think. The 6'5" Lithuanian is loved by the fans in New Jersey, as well as his teammates. Zubrus is a prototypical New Jersey Devils player: he's very solid defensively, but he can contribute offensively as well. This was a no brainer for Devils GM Lou Lamoriello.

The Devils are also working to sign soon-to-be unrestricted free agents Patrik Elias, David Clarkson, Peter Harrold, Alexei Ponikarovsky, and Marek Zidlicky. More to come in the next few days. Stay tuned.

Photo credit: Getty Images
 
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The Jonathan Bernier sweepstakes can finally end.

It was announced this morning that the Los Angeles Kings have traded goaltender Jonathan Bernier to the Toronto Maple Leafs for goaltender Ben Scrivens, forward Matt Frattin, and a second round draft pick in either 2014 or 2015 (year to be decided by the Maple Leafs).

Ever since Jonathan Quick emerged as the Kings' franchise goaltender, trade rumors swirled involving Bernier. Don't let his back-up status in Los Angeles fool you. Bernier, aged 24, is a solid goaltender, who has a huge upside. Expect Bernier and James Reimer to get close to even playing time in Toronto, creating a sense of healthy competition between the two.

While the Kings gave up a valuable asset in Jonathan Bernier, they brought in a credible backup goaltender in Ben Scrivens, and an offensively talented forward in Matt Frattin. Scrivens, aged 25, will complement Jonathan Quick nicely in net for the Kings, as he is capable of holding down the fort should Quick go down with an injury. Frattin, aged 25, should fit nicely on the Kings second or third line, as he has the ability to produce offensively - an aspect that the Kings struggle with. 

This trade makes sense for both teams, and it will be very interesting to see how each of the players will do on their new teams. 

What do you think of the trade? Leave a comment below.

Photo credit: sunbelt hockey.com, Getty Images
 
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It was announced today that the Florida Panthers have traded defenseman T.J. Brennan to the Nashville Predators for forward Bobby Butler. 

Butler signed with the New Jersey Devils last summer, but was picked up on waivers by the Predators. He finished the season with 4 goals and 7 assists, giving him 11 points. The 26-year old Marlborough, Mass. native also spent much of last with the Albany Devils in the AHL, scoring 16 goals and adding 11 assists, for 27 points.

Brennan, a native of Willingboro, New Jersey, started off with the Buffalo Sabres last season, but was traded midseason to the Florida Panthers. The 24-year old defenseman finished the season with 3 goals and 7 assists, giving him 10 points. Brennan also scored 14 goals and added 21 assists, giving him a total of 35 points.

This was a terrible trade by Florida Panthers general manager Dale Tallon, as Brennan has a huge upside. His offensive totals in the AHL are proof of that, considering that he was averaging just under a point per game as a defenseman. Butler, on the other hand, has shown that he has the ability to produce offensively, but his consistency is non-existant. For the last few seasons, it seemed as though Butler was poised to break out, but he never did. In a few years from now, this will be remembered as a very lopsided traded; more so than it seems now.

Photos courtesy of Getty Images and knoxnews.com
 
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It was reported this morning that the Detroit Red Wings have signed forward Drew Miller to a 3-year contract extension worth $1.35 million per season. Miller is solid player to have on the third or fourth line, and he is regarded as a great penalty killer. 

The 29-year old gritty forward scored 4 goals and 4 assists this season, giving him 8 points in 44 games this season. Miller is an important part of this Red Wings team, as he is very sound defensively. On Miller's value to the team, Red head coach Mike Babcock told M-Live.com: "I'm a huge fan of Millsie. Millsie's an important part of this team. When he was out, we missed him."

This is a great signing by Red Wings general manager Ken Holland, as he was able to keep an important part of the team for a very cheap price. Though Miller doesn't produce much offensively, he is the type of player that any team needs in order to be successful. Just look at the Boston Bruins, and how valuable gritty players are to them. 

Photo courtesy of Getty Images




 
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Since the trade deadline, there has been a lot speculation about Islanders captain Mark Streit's future with the team. The Islanders held onto him at the deadline, as they were pushing for a playoff spot. Today, the Isles dealt the rights to negotiate with the soon-to-be unrestricted free agent to the Philadelphia Flyers, in exchange for minor league forward Shane Harper and a fourth-round pick in the 2014 NHL Draft.

At age 35, Streit is still a very reliable defenseman, but a big concern for teams looking to sign him is his asking price. This past season, Streit made $4.1 million, and he will likely command a 3-year, $5 million (per year) contract. The Flyers would definitely have to over-pay to get him, but do they really have a choice? If an agreement between the two parties cannot be reached by July 5, Streit will beco a free agent, with 29 other teams in contention to sign him. Depth on defense has been an issue for the Flyers this season, and signing Streit will definitely help fill that void.

If the Flyers sign Streit, it is almost certain that the Flyers will buy out under-acheiving forward Danny Briere and enigmatic goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov.
 
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It was just announced that 35-year old St. Louis Blues forward Andy McDonald announced his retirement from hockey, stating post-concussion problems as the reason for his decision. 

McDonald played in the NHL for 12 years, playing for the Anaheim Ducks and St. Louis Blues. He was also a member of the 2007 Stanley Cup champion Ducks team. Over his career, he played in 685 regular season games, scoring 182 goals and 387 assists, for 489 points. Standing at 5'10" and weighing in at 175 pounds, McDonald was not a big player by any means, but he made up for his lack of size with his great skating ability. 

This must have been an extremely difficult decision for McDonald, as he could have still played for another few years. However, this is what's best for him in the long run, as he's had five concussions to date. While no one was expecting this decision, it was certainly the right one.

Photo credit: lkorac10.blogspot.com


 
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The Carolina Hurricanes unveiled their new uniforms today, after promoting them with a "New Storm" campaign over the past few weeks. With all the hype, I was expecting these jerseys to be great. Instead, we got the love child of the Phoenix Coyotes and Team Canada uniforms. 

These uniforms could not be more generic. There is way to much red, especially in the red (home) jersey. While I was not a fan of their old uniforms, I prefer them over these new ones. At least the old ones had a unique look to them. The Hurricanes also announced that they will be keeping their black alternate uniform next season. Out of the three uniforms, the black one is my favorite, which only shows how terrible the new uniforms are.

What do you think about them?

Photo credit: hurricanes.nhl.com
 
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Last night, the Chicago Blackhawks defeated the Los Angeles Kings 4-2 to take a 2-0 series lead in the Western Conference Finals. In the loss, Kings goaltender Jonathan Quick was chased from the net, after allowing 4 goals on 17 shots. The Kings simply did not look ready for this game, as they were overwhelmed by a very deep Blackhawks team. After such a poor performance, can the Kings really come back from being down 2-0 against the President's Trophy winners?

The answer is: yes, but the Kings are going to need to change some aspects of their game.

First and foremost, the Kings need to score goals. Scoring two or fewer goals a game is not enough to take down the Blackhawks, with the likes of Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews, Marian Hossa, and Patrick Sharp headlining the attack. Kings forwards Anze Kopitar, Dustin Brown, and Jeff Carter are going to have to significantly elevate their offensive production if the Kings stand a chance at making a comeback. The Kings are a deep enough team where offensive production should not be an issue, but it has been, and it might end up costing them the series.

Another aspect that can really hurt the Kings' comeback effort is their health. Mike Richards was scratched last night after taking a monstrous hit from Chicago forward Dave Bolland in Game 1, and Drew Doughty was injured last night after taking an awkward ankle-on-ankle hit from Chicago forward Bryan Bickell. Though Doughty finished the game, there is no way that he is feeling 100% after taking that hit, as he appeared to be in a lot of pain after the play. The Kings need Doughty and Richards to be healthy going forward. These are two game-changing players, and losing them will hurt Los Angeles' depth tremendously. 

One thing to remember here is that the Kings are the defending Stanley Cup champions. They've been to the top before, and they know what it takes to get there again. Now that the series is going back to Los Angeles for Games 3 and 4, expect the Kings to fight back with everything they have. This series is not over; not by a long-shot.

Photo credit: Getty Images