The trade winds, they are a-blowing.
Come Friday in Vancouver, keep an eye on the
five four teams that hold an extra first-round pick to use at the 2019 NHL Draft.
Last spring, four late first-round selections were swapped on draft night, starting at No. 22.
While hockey general managers, largely a conservative bunch, 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 tickets, especially for those teams with one in the bank, tend to be in play.
Use those extra Round 1 choices wisely, however, and your scouts can slam a home run.
Before breaking down the handful of clubs with bonus first-rounders this year, let’s look at some examples of late-Round 1 coups from the past five years:
• 2018: Toronto traded down from 25 (with St. Louis) and still stole Rasmus Sandin at pick 29 last spring. A teenage phenom in the American Hockey League this season, he’ll push to crack the big roster as early as next fall.
• 2017: All Montreal’s Ryan Poehling did was score a hat trick plus a shootout winner in his NHL debut last month. The Habs swiped the forward at No. 25. Chicago may have secured an even better steal, taking stud right-shot defenceman Henri Jokiharju at 29.
• 2016: The final first-round pick of this draft, centre Sam Steel, is poised to provide Anaheim with much-needed offence for years to come.
• 2014: Boston grabbed superstar David Pastrnak at No. 25. Beauty.
Here is a look at the teams with more than one 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 Pastrnak or Boeser of the 2019 class.
How did they get them? And how will they use them?
Poised to set up camp at the podium this weekend is the Avalanche, with a whopping five picks in first three rounds.
Upon his young club’s second-round playoff elimination, GM Joe Sakic vowed to be “more aggressive this year” regarding the talent he targets in free agency.
There’s no reason that aggressiveness shouldn’t spill onto the draft floor. Sakic is armed with a sweet cap cushion, his exciting roster is on the rise, and last year he smartly swung a draft-day trade with Washington to secure his new No. 1 goalie, Philipp Grubauer.
Colorado holds its own No. 16 pick as well as the fourth-overall selection, acquired from the Ottawa Senators as part of the three-way swap that sent forward Matt Duchene to Ottawa in 2017.
“We’re going to listen to all options,” Sakic said on locker cleanout day.
“To be honest with you, we’re comfortable at 4. We know we’re going to get a good player. We know we’re going to get a good player at 16. We have five picks in the first three rounds this year, so we’ve got to do our best to hit those. You don’t always have that opportunity.”
Although it took too long for the Kings to embrace a reset, GM Rob Blake’s January trade of core defenceman Jake Muzzin to Toronto for a first-rounder and a pair of enticing prospects signaled a concerted effort to get younger and faster. The recent buyout of a slowing Dion Phaneuf confirmed it.
With an incredible 10 picks at the Vancouver draft, including seven in the first four rounds, Blake is well equipped to stock the cupboards with young, fast talent.
His Kings have the fifth-overall pick as well as the Leafs’ No. 22 selection.
It will be intriguing to see if Blake, who oversees one of the NHL’s oldest rosters, dangles the 22nd pick in trade to help his Cup-winning core (Anze Kopitar, Dustin Brown, Drew Doughty, Jonathan Quick) or goes full-blown rebuild here. Either way, change is coming to L.A.
“A top-five pick regardless is huge,” Doughty said. “That can help turn around the franchise right off the bat.
“We have full confidence that with whatever changes are made, we can improve next season and make a run for the playoffs.”
Of all the teams on this list, we’re pegging Buffalo as least likely to trade a first-rounder — mostly because the Sabres don’t hold a second-round pick this year as a result of last summer’s Jeff Skinner deal. (They don’t own a fifth-rounder, either.)
In addition to selecting seventh overall, Jason Botterill will also benefit from the 31st-overall pick he obtained from Cup-winning St. Louis — a silver lining from the Ryan O’Reilly trade that now has the GM feeling the heat.
Despite having the dubious distinction of owning the NHL’s longest active playoff drought, Botterill did not sound like a man scrambling for a quick fix when he spoke last month upon hiring culture-changing coach Ralph Krueger.
“We’re looking long term here,” Botterill told reporters. “We can understand a fan’s perspective, but it can’t impact our decisions, our vision of how our team needs to eventually look.”
In Jack Eichel and Rasmus Dahlin, the Sabres have cornerstones at key positions. Despite re-signing 40-goal sniper Jeff Skinner, the Sabres are more than one or two bodies away from contending in a loaded Atlantic Division.
Bob Murray, on the other hand, sounds more like an executive gunning for a post-season return in 2020.
“This group should have competed for a playoff spot,” Murray said, following a disastrous Ducks campaign spiked with injury woes. The GM went behind the bench himself after firing Randy Carlyle mid-stream to dissect his roster’s issues.
“We’ve got a lot of work to do. We got three picks in the top 40, and I’m looking forward to that part of it. I think there are some very good players in the top of this draft.”
Anaheim holds the ninth pick as well as the Sharks’ 29th-overall pick, which Murray acquired from Botterill as part of his package for trading defenceman Brandon Montour to the Sabres in February.
Even with veteran Ryan Kesler (hip surgery) heading toward long-term injured reserve, Murray is so tight on salary cap space that he’ll be forced to buy out Corey Perry if he can’t find a trade destination for the veteran winger.
Flipping his extra first-round pick remains an option should he choose to help his roster contend for the playoffs in 2019-20.