The trade winds are blowing.
Come June 24 in Buffalo, keep an eye on the five NHL teams, two of them Canadian, that hold an extra first-round pick to use at the 2016 NHL Draft.
Last spring, a whopping seven first-round picks were swapped on draft day, starting at No. 13. So while general managers are loathe to part with a high first-rounder at the risk of missing out on an elite talent (or ticking off their owner or their fan base), those mid-to-late Round 1 picks, especially for those teams with one in the bank, tend to be in play.
Use those selections wisely, however, and your scouts can hit a home run.
Before breaking down the handful of clubs with bonus first-rounders this June, let’s look at some examples of late-Round 1 coups from this decade:
- 2014: Boston grabbed David Pastrnak at No. 25. Too good to be kept in the American Hockey League, the winger was called up, scored 27 points in 46 NHL games and was a top-six Bruins forward by the following season’s end. St. Louis nabbed Robby Fabbri at 21, and the young forward has 10 points in his first 13 playoff games this year.
- 2013: Columbus drafted Marko Dano 27th. He scored 21 points in 35 games as a Blue Jackets rookie and is an intriguing prospect in the Jets’ system.
- 2012: Pittsburgh nabbed Olli Maatta at 22 and Los Angeles scooped Tanner Pearson at 30. Gems.
- 2011: Anaheim scooped 20-goal scorer Rickard Rakell with the 30th pick.
- 2010: Tucked way behind Hall and Seguin in the crazy-deep Taylor-Tyler draft, at least five first-rounders picked between 19th and 30th — Nick Bjugstad (Florida), Riley Sheahan (Detroit), Kevin Hayes (Chicago), Evgeny Kuznetsov (Washington), Brock Nelson (New York Islanders) — are either 20-goal scorers already or on their way.
Here is a look at the teams with a second first-round pick this year — a sweet bit of currency that could be used to trade for a roster player, exchange for multiple later-round picks, or used to pluck the Kuznetsov or Maatta of the 2016 draft class. How did they get them? And how will they use them?
The Maple Leafs could build a Lego castle from all the draft picks they’ve stockpiled this spring. Starting with a lottery-gifted No. 1 pick they’d be crazy to trade — even for Oliver Ekman-Larsson, right? — Toronto has 12 picks total and six in the first three rounds.
We’d be shocked if the Leafs actually use all of those picks and don’t package some in trades for an actual roster player or two.
The Leafs acquired Pittsburgh’s very late first-rounder (No. 30) as a condition of last summer’s Phil Kessel trade.
Because Toronto’s draft master, Mark Hunter, has two second-rounders to fall back on, don’t be surprised if GM Lou Lamoriello puts that Pittsburgh pick in play. Remember, this is a man who, when with New Jersey, traded the ninth-overall pick in 2013 for a starting goaltender in Cory Schneider. Among other parts, Lamoriello again is in need of a proven goaltender.
“Where we’re at right now, everything has to be considered, no matter what it is,” Lamoriello told Jeremy Roenick’s podcast last week.
That Andrew Ladd trade looks OK now, doesn’t it, Jets fans?
In addition to securing the No. 2 pick — a.k.a. the Finnish Wing Special — in a significant lottery jump, Winnipeg also traded for Chicago’s Marko Dano and the Blackhawks’ first-rounder (No. 22 overall) back in February.
GM Kevin Cheveldayoff has received at least one pitch for No. 2 but is unlikely to trade what should be a dynamic, play-now NHL forward. That 22nd pick, however, is a different story.
Cheveldayoff had two first-rounders (17 and 25) in 2015 as well. He kept both. This time, he smartly wasted no time putting a call out for offers on his extra Round 1 choice.
Winnipeg has one of the league’s deepest prospect pools — Dano, Kyle Connor, Connor Hellebuyck, Nic Petan, et al. — and would be wise to find some immediate help and get back into the post-season.
“We’ve got a second first-round pick that we’ll put a lot of focus on,” Cheveldayoff told Hockey Central at Noon, “with potentially some options maybe on the trade side or maybe on the draft side.”
What a time to be a 26-year-old GM. Arizona’s new-fashioned front office will be put to the test on June 24. After whiffing on the post-season four years in a row, ownership — which is now part of management — wouldn’t mind seeing some playoff gate revenue.
The Coyotes hold the seventh and 20th (via the New York Rangers in the 2015 Keith Yandle deal) overall picks. Arizona would love to package both those picks (plus, plus) and swing a blockbuster to land Auston Matthews, but we just don’t see it happening. Though the pieces John Chayka & Co. could put in play — Max Domi, Dylan Strome, Anthony Duclair — are intriguing.
Note: Former GM Don Maloney said Ekman-Larsson was off the table, but he’s gone now.
“Auston is a special player, and for us he’d be a great player. But right now, we’re picking seventh, and I don’t expect him to be there at seven,” Chayka told Sportsnet 590 The Fan.
“I hope 29 teams try to make a pitch for No. 1, or at least make that call. On some teams it’ll make sense more than others. I think you could certainly use the logic to say if there’s a deal to be made then maybe it would make sense, but it’s all a hypothetical until you see what’s going on.”
Matthews is the pipe dream, but it is realistic to see the Coyotes dealing picks and/or prospects for some NHL-ready talent at the draft.
In addition to their own No. 13 selection, the Hurricanes also acquired No. 21 from Los Angeles as condition of the February 2015 Andrej Sekera trade. Carolina secured this pick when the Kings failed to make the post-season in ’15.
Carolina has an enviable crop of young defencemen but, with Cam Ward likely heading to the open market, needs to shore up if crease and find more scoring if it is to take another step.
That Carolina also has two second-round picks and three third-round picks in this draft makes a trade even more likely. Oh, and don’t forget that owner Peter Karmanos wants to sell. Fact: It’s easier to sell a winner.
Expect the Hurricanes to turn some of its high picks into players. They only have $39.5 million committed in contracts for 2016-17 and will need some signings and acquisitions to reach the salary cap floor.
Oilers forward Nail Yakupov has been rumoured as a fit here. Carolina (deep on defence) and Edmonton (weak on defence) do make logical trade partners.
After flaming out down the stretch and missing the playoffs for a second consecutive season, the Boston brass stated that it wants to rebuild on the fly. The Bruins want to follow the Detroit model of being a perennial playoff team and don’t have the appetite for a Toronto-style teardown.
So with Don Sweeney holding his own No. 14 pick and No. 29 from San Jose (thanks to the Martin Jones trade), there will be pressure on him to shore up a soft blue line.
Sweeney was active on the floor at last spring’s draft, trading for both L.A. and Calgary’s first-rounders, and should be again.
Again, Edmonton could make a good partner. The Oilers are willing to deal No. 4 overall, and Boston would love to get its mitts on a top defensive prospect like Jakub Chychrun or Olli Juolevi, neither of whom will be hanging around at 14.
“I’ve already had four or five teams call me,” Chiarelli told 630 CHED. “I’ve made it known we would look to trade down if the right deal is there.”