Penguins at center of draft intrigue
By Karen Price
Saturday, June 24, 2006
VANCOUVER, British Columbia -- The rumors were swirling Friday night around the Penguins, their No. 2 pick in today's NHL Entry Draft and whether they would keep it or trade it.
But after leaving the NHL general managers meetings late yesterday afternoon, Penguins GM Ray Shero was keeping his plans to himself.
"Our mandate is we have to be prepared to pick at No. 2, and we have to be prepared for all these different scenarios," Shero said.
The prominent rumor yesterday concerned the Penguins trading the second pick to the Carolina Hurricanes for defenseman Jack Johnson, the defenseman whom the Stanley Cup champions drafted third overall in 2005. The Hurricanes would then use the second pick to select center Jordan Staal, brother of their current star forward, Eric Staal.
"(I told Shero) 'If you're moving the pick, give me a call,' " Hurricanes GM Jim Rutherford said yesterday.
Shero said speaking to Rutherford was on the agenda for last night.
"As of later ... I'll have talked to everybody including Carolina, and I'll see where we are," he said yesterday. "So we'll see."
Shero wouldn't say whether the prospect of getting Johnson was attractive to him and answered the question by saying they needed to be ready for whatever came along. But Johnson is a highly regarded defenseman who just finished his freshman year at the University of Michigan, and he also happens to be good friends with Sidney Crosby.
The Hurricanes asked Johnson to sign with them after his college season ended and join them for their playoff run, but Johnson declined because he felt he wasn't ready to make the jump to the NHL.
"I'm only 18, and I thought I needed more time," Johnson said by phone last night. "I just don't want to rush things."
Johnson said he'd heard the rumors as well and would be watching today's proceedings closely.
"My allegiance is to the Carolina Hurricanes, but if they want to trade me, by all means trade me," he said. "I want to go some place where they really want me."
Shero inquired about moving up to the first spot overall to select another highly regarded defenseman, Erik Johnson, whom the No. 1 St. Louis Blues said Thursday they planned to draft if they didn't trade the pick. But Shero believes the price to trade up will be too high.
"I talked to (Blues GM) Larry (Pleau on Friday) morning, and he's got to get something really good," Shero said. "I don't think, speaking from Pittsburgh's standpoint, that I can satisfy him in terms of the assets to give up to move up. I would have interest in doing that, just like a lot of teams, but at the end of the day, we've got some decent assets in place and we're going to get a good player at two. I have to keep that in mind."
The draft doesn't begin until 3 p.m. in Vancouver, Shero pointed out, so there will still be plenty of time for negotiations this morning. It was believed that as of last night another team had stepped into play and was making serious offers for the Penguins' second pick as well.
Shero said if they stayed at No. 2, they knew who they were going to draft. He wouldn't tip his hand, although it's believed they are high on center/winger Jonathan Toews. The Penguins staff has met with Toews, Staal, Johnson and fifth-ranked Phil Kessel since arriving in Vancouver.
"I don't think (the Penguins) want to obviously tell me anything so I go ratting out to other teams," Toews said when asked if he thought the Penguins were interested in him. "I think every team wants to keep their cards pretty close in and not let anyone else know what their intentions are on draft day."
Bring me Jack!
Seems the team is telling each paper something different things. The Pittsburgh Post Gazette says that they are favoring Kessel (which I hope is true) and the Tribune Review here says Toews if the pick is kept.