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Draft: Trading Into The Top Five
By Thomas Harrington
The Anaheim Ducks have the 23rd overall pick in the upcoming NHL Entry Draft. After the first round, the Ducks will have the following picks: 54th overall, 79th overall, 85th overall, 116th overall, 147th overall, and 178th overall. While there will be a number of good prospects available when Anaheim makes their first pick, the Ducks could be interested in some players who will be chosen earlier in the draft. While it’s incredibly rare for a top pick in the draft to be traded, there’s always a chance that a deal could be made. In fact, since 2013, only two top 10 picks have been traded during draft weekend. With that in mind, as in years past, I’ll look at every team with a pick before Anaheim does, and examine if there is a deal to be made. Also, not every team will be willing to trade their pick or be interested in what Anaheim has to offer. If I don’t think there’s a deal to be made, I’ll say so and move on to the next team.
As I go through these deals, I’ll only use Anaheim players who I think might be traded. Players who have no movement and no trade clauses will not be included in any of these deals so Ryan Getzlaf, Ryan Kesler, Corey Perry, Patrick Eaves, Ryan Miller, and Andrew Cogliano will not be included. While it’s possible that any of them could decide to waive their clause, going into convincing a player to waive their no trade or no movement clause is something I won’t be considering. Second, players who are core pieces of the team will be left out so Rickard Rakell, Cam Fowler, Josh Manson, John Gibson, Adam Henrique, and Hampus Lindholm will not be included in any of these proposals. That’s not to say these players won’t be traded, just that I don’t think they will be. This is also assuming that the Ducks are expecting to extend Henrique sometime this summer after July 1st. If they feel that an extension won’t get worked out, then he could be used in a deal.
I also won’t be too concerned about cap space since teams are allowed to exceed the salary cap by 10% in the offseason. One thing to keep in mind: the Ducks may be wary of shipping a good player to a division rival, or even another team in the Western Conference. Of Anaheim’s last 10 trades, six were with teams in the Eastern Conference, and only one was made in the Pacific Division, and that was the deal with Vegas before they even had a roster.
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So, with those players out of the way, here are the players who I think could be used by Anaheim to get a higher pick in the first round: Brandon Montour, Ondrej Kase, Jakob Silfverberg, Nick Ritchie, and Korbinian Holzer. I don’t think that Anaheim will trade Montour; in fact, I think that it would be a mistake. However, he’s an RFA and not signed long term, unlike Fowler, Manson, and Lindholm. As the team’s fourth defenseman, he’s the most expendable blueliner who has significant value. Again, I don’t think he will be traded, but in order to bring back a high-quality pick, quality does have to go the other way, and Montour is a quality player. Kase had a breakout year, scoring 20 goals for the first time in his career. However, his scoring can be inconsistent, so the question is: can he do it again? If Anaheim thinks Kase will be a consistent 20 goal scorer, the likelihood of him being traded drops dramatically. However, if there are concerns that he can replicate this past season’s success, he could be part of a package that brings a significant return. Silfverberg is part of Anaheim’s vaunted checking line, but he struggled this past season and wasn’t great in the playoffs, his usual bread and butter. He’s a free agent in a year, and if Anaheim feels like he won’t re-sign a team friendly deal, he could bring back a significant return. Ritchie took a big step back this season. After scoring 14 goals in his first full NHL season, his total fell to 10 this past season, and he just didn’t have a lot of good games. He had some chemistry with Henrique and Kase, but a change of scenery could be what he needs to reignite his NHL career. As a former first round pick, he’s got some decent value, especially when he brings his physical play. Holzer won’t fetch much in return, but he’s become largely superfluous in Anaheim because of the many young defensemen pushing for ice time with the Ducks.
If any of these players sign a long-term deal with Anaheim before the draft, then they will, of course, be taken out of this section and put with the players who I don’t expect to be traded. Anaheim’s other picks, especially one of their two third rounders, could also be in play, as could a number of their prospects. If Anaheim wants to land a top-five pick, then I believe that any of their prospects could be traded, especially if the Ducks feel like the drafted player could step into the NHL next year. Even Sam Steel, Max Jones, or Troy Terry could be traded if it meant the Ducks were bringing in a top-five pick. However, the later the pick, the less likely Anaheim will be to trade one of their top prospects.
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While this likely won’t go down in history as the strongest draft of all time, some great players will come out of it. The pretty much universal consensus first pick will be Rasmus Dahlin, who many have compared to a young Nicklas Lidstrom. After Dahlin, there’s a trio of young forwards who could all be taken second overall: Andrei Svechnikov, Filip Zadina, or Brady Tkachuk. It wouldn’t be surprising to see all four of these players in the NHL as early as next season. After that, things get a little murkier in terms of who will be taken, but there are several prospects who could go fifth overall, if not jump into one of the top four selections: Noah Dobson, Evan Bouchard, Quintin Hughes, Adam Boqvist, Oliver Wahlstrom, and more. Basically, after the first few picks, this draft becomes very wide open, and a number of different players could be picked from fifth to 15th. After that, things get even more convoluted. With the background out of the way, I’ll focus on the first five picks in the draft, and examine the later picks in the future.
Top Pick – Buffalo
After missing out on the Connor McDavid lottery, the Buffalo Sabres retained the top pick in the 2018 NHL Entry Draft after having the worst record in the league. There’s almost no chance they trade their pick, as they have their sights set on Dahlin. The Ducks will not be trading for the top pick in this year’s draft.
Second Pick – Carolina
Carolina was one of the big winners of the draft, jumping from 11th to second overall. Initially, I didn’t think that there was a chance of Anaheim acquiring this pick, but it sounds like Carolina is willing to listen to offers. However, if the Ducks do make this trade with Carolina, it would take a ton of assets to make it happen. For starters, Anaheim’s current first round pick would have to be included, as well as a top prospect, like Steel or Jones, and likely another prospect as well. Finally, an established NHL player would need to be included. So the deal could look something like this: the 23rd overall pick, Steel, Marcus Pettersson, and Silfverberg. Even that might not be enough, but that could be the start of the conversation. Carolina has a ton of cap space right now, so they’d likely be able to extend Silfverberg before he becomes a free agent in a year’s time. It’s a lot for Anaheim to give up, but if they could land Svechnikov, Zadina, or Tkachuk, the Ducks would have an elite young winger in their system, the type of player that they currently do not have. Personally, I don’t think this happens, but given that Carolina is open for business, I do think a different deal with them could work, possibly something involving Jeff Skinner.
Third Pick – Montreal
Montreal holds the third overall pick in the draft. The Canadiens were a disaster this past season but did finish first in their division in both the 2016-17 and 2014-15 seasons. As long as they have Carey Price, they definitely have a chance to rebound. With that in mind, the question becomes do the Canadiens want to do a full rebuild, or try and get back into the playoffs this coming season? If they opt for the rebuild, there’s no deal to be made here. However, if they want to try and make the playoffs this coming season, then a deal could happen. Given that it’s the third overall pick, Anaheim would be looking at pretty much the same three forwards available as the second overall pick. However, Montreal’s needs are a bit different than Carolina’s. After trading away PK Subban and Mikhail Sergachev in recent seasons, the Canadiens could use some help on the blueline. Therefore, I think a potential deal with them would look something like this: the 23rd overall pick, Jack Kopacka, Jones, and Montour. It would be a huge blow to lose Montour, but in order to land one of these top forwards in the draft, he’d probably be going the other way.
Fourth Pick – Ottawa
Ottawa had the second to worst record in the regular season, but have the fourth overall pick in the draft. With the Senators, it all comes down to Erik Karlsson. He’ll be a free agent next summer, and if the Senators think he’ll leave, he’s likely traded and the full rebuild will begin. However, if the team thinks that he’ll re-sign, then they’ll be looking to get back to the playoffs. Keep in mind that they made the Eastern Conference Finals a year ago and pushed the eventual Stanley Cup Champions to seven games, so they may not be as far off as they look. There’s also a bit of a trade history between these two teams, as the Ducks sent Bobby Ryan to the Senators several years ago. In order for the Ducks to obtain the fourth overall pick, the deal would be similar to the previous ones: the 23rd overall pick, Andy Welinski, Jones, Kase, and their second-round pick.
Fifth Pick – Arizona
The Arizona Coyotes hold the fifth overall pick in the draft. At this point, it’s likely, though certainly not a guarantee, that Svechnikov, Zadina, and Tkachuk would all be gone, and Arizona would be looking at selecting from a wide range of prospects. If any of the three top forwards are still available, then the Ducks could try to trade up. However, if they are all gone, I think it’s less likely the Ducks try to trade up here and instead look to trade up at other points in the first round. The Coyotes have struggled for years, and the question is will Oliver Ekman-Larsson sign an extension? If yes, the Coyotes could be open for trades to try and improve now to entice him to stick around. However, if the answer is no, it’s unlikely that a deal could be worked out. Given the uncertainty around Ekman-Larsson and the unlikelihood of Anaheim trading with a division rival, I don’t think that there is a deal to be made with Arizona.
Next up, I’ll take a look at any potential trades involving the teams picking from sixth to 10th in the draft.
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May 31th, 2018