PHILADELPHIA -- That sound you’re hearing is the crackling of anticipation as Winnipeg Jets fans and likely every citizen of Elkhorn, Man., are awakening wondering what today will bring.
In Elkhorn, the future of Travis Sanheim is on just about everyone’s mind. The Calgary Hitmen defenceman could very well be the surprise pick of the draft shooting from a midseason Central Scouting rank of 187 to the expectation he’ll go in the first round tonight.
TSN draft expert Craig Button expects Sanheim to go in the top 25 and there’s a possibility he could push as high as 15th.
The Winnipeg Jets are slated to select 9th tonight but there was chatter on the Philadelphia hotel lobby circuit on Thursday night that GM Kevin Cheveldayoff was making a pitch to move up in the draft.
The Florida Panthers hold the No. 1 pick and have said they’re willing to move down to as low as 10th if the price is right. Panthers GM Dale Tallon is a big fan of Jets defenceman Dustin Byfuglien and there was talk on Thursday this could be a fit for the two teams.
The power forward/defenceman Byfuglien might not be enough for Tallon to give up the top pick. The Jets are also believed to be more interested in improving their lineup immediately so a roster player for a pick might not be in the cards.
Trade rumours continue to swirl around Jets winger Evander Kane and the club was also active taking to pending unrestricted free agents as part of the NHL’s interview period.
The Jets were one of a long list of teams who talked to Paul Stastny’s representatives on Thursday. Cheveldayoff also spoke with Olli Jokinen’s agent.
Jokinen is slated to be a UFA on July 1 and the early expectation was his price will be too high for the Jets. Winnipeg would be comfortable bringing back Jokinen for one year at a rate close to $3 million. Last year he made $4.5 million and scored 18 goals and 43 points.
Candidates for No. 1 include: Kingston Frontenacs centre Samuel Bennett, Barrie Colts defenceman Aaron Ekblad, Kootenay Ice centre Sam Reinhart and Prince Albert Raiders centre Leon Draisaitl.