Senators deal first-round pick for Swedish prospect



LOS ANGELES — The Ottawa Senators traded their 16th overall selection in Friday’s NHL draft to the St. Louis Blues for Swedish defenceman David Rundblad.

Rundblad, who has played on the Swedish world junior team the past two years — skating alongside current Senator Erik Karlsson during the 2008-09 tournament — was originally drafted 17th overall by the St. Louis Blues in the 2009 draft. Rundblad is expected to play another season in the Swedish Elite League, but the Senators believe he will be ready to step directly into the NHL for the 2011-12 season.

While the Senators have always liked the smooth-skating, offensive-minded defenceman, they didn’t come into the draft with their eyes on making such a swap.

But when a long list of the players in the current draft were selected among the top 15 choices — all six of the prospects the Senators brought to Ottawa last week for physical tests and interviews were gone early — general manager Bryan Murray went to a Plan B.

Enter Rundblad.

“There was a player, a forward, that we were looking at, but when he (was selected), we thought this was an opportunity to get another high end defenceman, and thus, the trade,” said Murray, refusing to divulge the name of the prospect selected earlier.

“(Rundblad) is real smart, a good puck mover, a playmaker, one of the players who fits today’s game, I feel. Obviously, St. Louis wanted to get a forward. When you look at their roster, they have a couple of young defencemen coming in that they obviously like as well, and they felt he was the one guy who they could afford (to trade).”

What makes the trade intriguing is that Senators amateur scout Anders Forsberg will be the head coach of Rundblad’s Swedish team, Skelleftea AIK, next season. Forsberg steps down as a Senators scout Saturday to take on his new job.

Forsberg, who has known Rundblad for five years, says that he can be a top four defenceman in the NHL.

“He’s a power play guy, he reminds me a lot of Erik Karlsson,” said Forsberg. “Except bigger.”

Forsberg also says he was surprised the Blues allowed him to get away. He signed an entry level contract with the Blues three years ago.

“I was a little bit shocked,” said Forsberg. “He has a really good future in the NHL. And I don’t know why they would make the decision to trade him. He plays so well, I’ve known him for five years, I know just about everything about him.”

At 6-2 and 189 pounds, Forsberg says Rundblad needs to get a little bit stronger before he’s ready for the NHL.

Murray says he had considered other options, including trading to acquire a second-round pick, but figured Friday’s decision puts them a year ahead, because Rundblad should be ready for the NHL next season.

Earlier Friday, there were rumblings the Senators could pick up an additional draft pick by shipping soon-to-be unrestricted free agent defenceman Anton Volchenkov to the Vancouver Canucks.

Such a move would have given the Canucks exclusive rights to negotiate a contract with Volchenkov until the free agency period opens July 1.

Throughout the day, there were also suggestions that the Edmonton Oilers and Calgary Flames had at least talked to Murray about the asking price for centre Jason Spezza.

Murray, however, says he wants to put all the speculation to rest, claiming he will speak with Spezza in Ottawa as soon as possible to iron out any differences between the two.

Ottawa Citizen

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