Most NHL draft prognosticators have the Buffalo Sabres making Swedish defenseman Rasmus Dahlin the No. 1 overall pick this year and the Carolina then taking Russian power forward Andrei Svechnikov with the No. 2 selection.
Don Waddell, the Canes’ president and general manager, did nothing Thursday to dissuade that notion with the 2018 NHL Draft a little more than two weeks away.
Asked if it was safe to assume the Canes would take Svechnikov, Waddell said, “If we were sitting there right now and nothing changes, I would would say it’s pretty safe that’s the player we would pick.”
Svechnikov, 18, who spent a few days in Raleigh this week, was a 40-goal scorer in the Ontario Hockey League last season and has the size at 6-3 and 191 pounds as well as the scoring touch the Canes covet.
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“He’s very passionate, very committed,” Waddell said. “With him it’s nothing about him individually. It’s all about team success.”
But what about the Canes trading the No. 2 pick? That’s been discussed as the Canes, who won the NHL Draft Lottery to jump up to the No. 2 pick, have kept their options open. Is it safe to assume the Canes will use the No. 2 pick?
“As I’ve told everybody, we think we’re going to get a very top-end player, so you’d have to put something on the table that would blow us away to say, ‘This makes more sense,’ " Waddell said. "But I think it’s going to be very difficult to do."
Waddell, who has talked to numerous general managers in the past month, said nothing has reached the “blow us away” level.
“Not even close,” he said.
Waddell was in Buffalo, N.Y., last week for the NHL scouting combine, where the Canes conducted 80 interviews with prospects. But he also had conversations with GMs and player agents, including Don Meehan, who represents Canes forward Jeff Skinner.
While trade speculation always intensifies leading up to the draft, to be held in Dallas on June 22-23, Skinner’s name has been among the prominent players being mentioned. Skinner, the Canes’ first-round pick in 2010, was the league’s Calder Trophy winner as rookie of the year in 2011 and has been one of the team’s most popular and marketable players.
Despite playing 579 games in eight seasons in the NHL — scoring 204 goals, with three 30-goal seasons — Skinner still has not helped the Canes reached the Stanley Cup playoffs. His plus-minus this past season was a career-worst minus-27.
Skinner, 26, is entering the final year of his contract and is due to become an unrestricted free agent after the 2018-19 season. He has a no-move clause in his contract, meaning he can approve or scuttle any trade.
Waddell said neither Skinner nor Meehan has been asked to waive the no-move clause for a proposed deal.
“We talked about what would be best for Jeff,” Waddell said of his meeting with Meehan. “Nothing changed from our end. If there’s something out there that makes sense for us and for Jeff, we’ll look at it. If not, we’ll bring him back.”
One media report, by Pierre LeBrun of TSN and The Athletic, said the Canes’ asking price for Skinner would be a first-round pick and a prospect.
“That’s a guess on his part,” Waddell said. “We’re dealing with teams and we’ll just see where it goes.”
Waddell called the Canes’ goaltending situation “ongoing” and said the team may resolve that conundrum until July 1, when NHL free agency begins. Waddell has said the team does not prefer returning for the 2018-19 season with Scott Darling and Cam Ward as its top two goalies, given the team’s woeful goaltending statistics last season.
Waddell said no decision had been made on whether to simulcast the TV and radio broadcasts next season. A simulcast, in which the TV audio feed is used on the team's radio broadcasts, could end or curtail the on-air presence of longtime radio voice Chuck Kaiton.