The Edmonton Oilers almost surely would take Finnish centre Aleksander Barkov with the first pick in the NHL entry draft, but they have to get in the top five to do so. He’s big at six-foot-three and 205 pounds, has skill and he’s just 17, but he’s played in the Finnish Elite League for two years and has 48 points in 53 games in Tampere. “Plays a 200-foot foot game, up and back. Plays like (Mikko) Koivu,” said former Oilers star winger Jari Kurri, general manager of the Finnish national team. “Yeah, I like him.”
If new Pittsburgh Penguins winger Jarome Iginla signs as a free agent with the Edmonton Oilers this summer, I’ll eat a good portion of the NHL Guide and Record Book, which was 664 pages the last time I looked. I get it that it would be homecoming, a nice storyline. The grandparents are in Edmonton, and there would be a family pull for sure, but would a guy who was a member of the Calgary Flames for 16 years suddenly sign down the road in Edmonton at the first chance he gets? Could he actually do that to his old team? I’ve said it before, I think he’ll move to the Los Angeles Kings with his old coach, Darryl Sutter, for somewhat less than the $7 million he’s making now. It could be $4.5 to $5 million per season for three years.
Los Angeles Kings head coach Darryl Sutter says star centre Anze Kopitar is the ultimate weapon. You can play him short-handed, on the power play, against the other team’s best centre. “Somebody asked me the other day if I thought he was a (Frank J.) Selke (Trophy) candidate. Why not? I can play him any time,” said Sutter. The Selke doesn’t go to simply a checker anymore. Pavel Datsyuk won it three straight times. Rod Brind’Amour twice, Patrice Bergeron, Ryan Kesler, Ron Francis, Sergei Fedorov have all won it. Bob Gainey, with four, won it the most. Jere Lehtinen, Datsyuk, Guy Carbonneau, with three, are next in line.
Vancouver Canucks goalie Roberto Luongo, who has been a trooper through the lockout season, not getting traded and now watching Cory Schneider start game after game, had a short list of teams he’d play for last summer (Florida Panthers, Toronto Maple Leafs?). Now? “I have 37,” Luongo said jokingly. He will go anywhere, any time at this point in his career. His bags are packed. Teams not dealing for Luongo have saved some money off his 12-year contract, but he’s also a year older. He turns 34 on Thursday. Can’t imagine the Canucks would get more than a second-round pick and a prospect for Luongo now, but maybe they can retrieve Tyler Bozak from Toronto. They might also have to eat somebody else’s mistake. Canucks associate coach Rick Bowness, who has coached five NHL teams, has been places where a situation like Luongo and Schneider would have turned toxic. “Yeah, there’s a lot more of that than we’re seeing here.”
If anybody’s interested in Nashville Predators defenceman Ryan Ellis, who once was the Predators top prospect, he can certainly be had. “He was drafted as a very skilled, poised, playmaking defenceman. I haven’t seen those qualities lately,” Nashville head coach Barry Trotz said. What the Predators haven’t done is find a big partner for Ellis, who is generally listed at five-foot-10.
If you’re searching for why the Nashville Predators are scuffling around, outside the playoff cut line, look no further than goalie Pekka Rinne. He has five shutouts this season, but, until a 1-0 overtime loss to the Colorado Avalanche in Denver on Saturday, had an .849 save percentage over the previous two weeks. He hasn’t stole many games for Nashville.