Many thought there would be a lot of trades during Friday’s opening round of the NHL Draft.
Turns out, most of the action came hours before.
Although the Panthers stayed out of the trade game and held onto the first overall selection, Vancouver was extremely busy before heading to the Wells Fargo Center.
The Canucks, who were in negotiations with Florida general manager Dale Tallon for the top pick, dealt disgruntled center Ryan Kesler to Anaheim on Friday before shipping defenseman Jason Garrison back to the Sunshine State in a deal with Tampa Bay.
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Garrison, who played three seasons for Florida from 2009-12, was said to be offered to the Panthers as part of Vancouver’s bid for the top draft choice.
Garrison left the Panthers as a free agent in 2012 after a career season to play for his hometown Canucks.
On Friday, he went to the Lightning in exchange for a second-round pick that general manager Jim Benning quickly flipped to the Rangers.
“I’d like to thank Jason for his two years of good service with the organization,” Benning said.
Kesler, who demanded a trade yet said he would only go to Anaheim or Chicago, went to the Ducks with a third-round pick next year in exchange for center Nick Bonino, defenseman Luca Sbisa and a pair of draft picks, including one of Anaheim’s two first-round selections (24th overall).
“We’ve been working on these things for the last month, so I think getting the Anaheim deal done kind of led into everything else,” Benning said. “You know, it just kind of fell into place, I guess I’d say.”
Said Anaheim GM Bob Murray: “We knew we needed somebody behind Ryan Getzlaf, and I think this is a huge move for our hockey team. I think we’re better today than we were yesterday.”
Once the draft started, there was only one early trade of note, as Nashville acquired forward James Neal — who had 27 goals and 34 assists last season — from Pittsburgh for forwards Patric Hornqvist and Nick Spaling.
San Jose and Chicago made a minor deal by swapping picks. The Blackhawks moved up from 27th to 20th.
When the Panthers ended up keeping the first selection after all, things seemed to fall in place for the rest of the draft’s first round.
Florida took defenseman Aaron Ekblad, and Buffalo — which finished last in the NHL last season but lost the draft lottery to the Panthers — took center Sam Reinhart.
Leon Draisaitl went third to Edmonton, and Sam Bennett went fourth to Calgary. Center Michael Dal Colle went to the Islanders to complete the top five.
Only the first round was completed on Friday night. The draft will conclude Saturday with the final six rounds, starting at 10 a.m.