Blake on the draft, Kaliyev, qualifying offers, approach to free agency

INSIDERS. There’s lots of good content ahead. There’s some more great post-draft conversing with Mark Yannetti and Christian Ruuttu, who talk about the team’s methods at the draft in retrospect, and Ruuttu also goes into detail about the new European-based prospects.

As shared last night on Twitter, Alex Lintuniemi won’t receive a qualifying offer and no decision has been made yet on Brendan Leipsic. There wasn’t any drama with any of the other RFAs – Nikita Scherbak, Pavel Jenys, Matheson Iacoplelli won’t receive QOs, as previously shared, while Michael Amadio, Alex Iafallo, Adrian Kempe, Cal Petersen, Sheldon Rempal and Matt Roy will, as expected. No surprises there. Essentially, there was additional wiggle-room negotiated by Blake and Jeff Solomon when they traded Stepan Falkovsky for Jenys, freeing up a contract spot and a place on the team reserve list. Falkovsky still has a year remaining on his contract. More to come!

Related: “We’re going to improve this team internally,” and lots more from Blake on roster construction

Rob Blake, on drafting Arthur Kaliyev with the 33rd pick:
Well, we had him on the other side of the board obviously after the first round, so we knew we were getting the goal-scoring ability. He was the third youngest kid in the draft, so he’s coming to us at a young age from the OHL. The other thing too that is real positive, Steve Staios, who we trust, does a lot of good things in Hamilton, so we know he’s in good hands, and we got real good reports on him through that.

Blake, on whether they knew right away that they would pick Kaliyev 33rd:
There were a couple guys we were looking at when we went home last night, but barring the goal-scoring ability, which is obviously a necessity to us at some time during this draft.

Blake, on whether there was a particular type of player he was looking for in this draft:
The leadership part. The character and the compete is an important element. Now, listen, when the draft gets in the second, third, fourth, fifth round, you’re going to have to give up something somewhere. Turcotte fills everything, right? Bjornfot fills everything. But, you start whittling that down, one of the main components for us would be the compete and character. I think that was the focus going into the draft for us.

Blake, on Kaliyev’s compete level:
The further you go back, there are going to be different things. But you score 50 goals, I’m not sure you can do that without competing. It’s going to be very hard to. Now, how you rate your compete, there’s different ways to do it, but scoring 50 goals is difficult to do, so there has to be a level of compete in that. Like I said, the homework with Steve Staios and with Chris Byrne and Bryan Denney in that area, and Mark Yannetti, I wasn’t concerned on that aspect.

Blake, on whether they are in a better position to make moves because the pipeline is being restocked:
No, we want to make sure we’re on in all these picks. We had more picks this year and you saw a little bit of movement, not a lot, in a day or two to secure. The Fagemo pick was a guy we knew we had at a certain spot and we knew we could get up in the draft to get him, and that’s what we did to secure that spot too.

Blake, on how they are able to rate compete:
There’s a lot, but it’s not a number. I don’t think you can have a statistic or an analytic that solely rates that. But again, that’s why I said there’s compete in a lot of different areas on the ice. And again, these kids are 18 years old, so that’s going to grow.

Blake, on whether they knew they wanted to trade up to get Samuel Fagemo:
Yeah. Well, we didn’t know last night. When we were getting into the draft here, we were looking at who was coming off the board, and that was a guy who we had targeted, yes. [Reporter: How long does that take, and how many calls do you make?] It was quick. It was set a little bit before the draft today, and then as some guys came off, we revisited it with Montreal.

Blake, on how he feels about the draft this year overall:
Like every team — great. No, I think we were really in unison as a group. Probably more than I had been in the past here, so I think that part of it and the preparation and everything – you try to cover every different move that could possibly happen and you never will, but I think we did a good job, and the way we set it up, the first three picks of guys that we had targeted in that round, and we came out with that, and that’s where Kaliyev was important.

Blake, on Jordan Spence:
I heard he’s got a dog named Doughty, too. Somebody just told me that. I don’t know how true that is, but real good shooter, though. We watched him at the U-18s. That was my viewing of him. The guys had obviously been watching him all along.

Blake, on Braden Doyle eventually headed to Boston University and Andre Lee to UMass-Lowell:
Yeah, going to get some time there. Obviously, Tony Gasparin and Ted Belisle have real good focus on those kids later in the draft. They’ve had a lot of success with those guys.

Blake, on his understanding of the salary cap situation:
I don’t know, it was called today, or this week, right? Not going to do much to us.

Blake, on if it was weird not going into the draft knowing the salary cap number:
It would have been a year ago, yes. This year not so much. I think we understood we’re up against it. Whatever the outcome was, it wasn’t going to affect us much. We’re not in a spot to add right now, anyways. The next couple years will be pretty tight that way for us.

Blake, on who will be at development camp:
I’m thinking everyone. Parik, the goalie, is going to come, too. I’ve got a feeling all the European guys will. A lot of these kids come with stuff. Sammy, I think Sammy just had skates, but I think everyone else had. But they’ll all be at development camp.

Blake, on how much work lays ahead in free agency:
Work’s been ongoing in getting these players signed, getting this draft signed, but as far as expecting a move in free agency, I’m not sure there’s any real need on our aspect right now. We’ve got our forwards and D in place.

Blake, on qualifying Brendan Leipsic:
Discussions will go on there. We’re not 100 percent sure yet on that. But all the other ones that we’ve probably discussed, Jeff will send them out in a day or two. I think you’ll know by Tuesday right, or something.

Blake, on whether Alex Lintuniemi and Brendan Leipsic will be sent qualifying offers:
Lintu, no. [Reporter: But the plan for Leipsic to qualify him to continue negotiations?] Discussions will go on there. We’re not sure 100% yet on that. But all the other ones that we’ve always discussed, Jeff will probably send them out there in a day two.

Blake, on Alex Iafallo and Adrian Kempe’s contracts:
Communication’s been starting with everyone, but it will take a little bit of a process. Jeff does some of the work here too at the draft with some of these guys.

Blake, on Jeff Solomon and the contract discussions:
He’ll get ‘em all done. He usually does. Eventually, yes. He’s very methodical.

— Lead photo via Dave Sandford/NHLI

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