The 2019 NHL trade deadline was on pace to be one of the slowest on record until a furious last half hour led to a 23-trade day and a number of players changing addresses.
But while draft picks were the currency of the day, something continued to change around what the value of those picks is. While a 50-plus point rental winger used to go for a first-round pick as the primary asset in return, those now seem to be the price for centres or players with term.
Only three first-rounders were traded ahead of this deadline: Winnipeg gave one up for rental centre Kevin Hayes; Buffalo gave up one of their three for Brandon Montour, a 24-year-old top-four defenceman with one year left on his deal before becoming an RFA; and Toronto gave up theirs for Jake Muzzin, who has one more season on his contract.
But the rentals wingers (Gustav Nyquist, Marcus Johansson, Ryan Dzingel, Mats Zuccarello) went for a combination of later picks, some with conditions to improve the selection if the player re-signed. Not even Mark Stone – the best rental winger available, who agreed to re-sign for eight years with Vegas – got a first-rounder back for Ottawa. He did, however, retrieve a high-value prospect in Erik Brannstrom.
Another interesting wrinkle around the 2019 trade deadline was which years the traded draft picks came from. Starting from the Matt Duchene trade on Feb. 22, there was a total of 10 post-first-round picks moved from the 2019 draft and 11 from the 2020 draft (conditionals included). It’s an interesting indicator that, perhaps, teams aren’t as high on the depth available in the 2019 draft compared to projections for 2020.
Teams can, of course, still move some of the picks they hold before and while the NHL is in Vancouver for draft weekend June 21-22. At that point, everyone can exceed the cap by 10 per cent and has the fluidity to make more changes with their rosters.
Draft picks will be an important commodity to have, so who holds the most post-deadline? Let’s take a look.
|TEAM||# of draft picks||TEAM||# of draft picks||TEAM||# of draft picks|
This year, five teams come out of the deadline holding two first-round picks, but no team has more than that. The Sabres entered the weekend with three first-rounders but dealt one away for Montour. After last year’s deadline, seven teams held more than one first – two seasons ago only two did.
There is a team that could walk into draft weekend with three first-round picks, though. If the Tampa Bay Lightning win the Stanley Cup, they will send their first-rounder to the New York Rangers to complete last year’s Ryan McDonagh/J.T. Miller deal.
There are some conditions on these first-round picks. For the second year in a row, the Jets’ first-rounder in the Kevin Hayes deal is top-three protected, which will almost certainly not come to pass. Anaheim got St. Louis’ first from Buffalo for Montour, but that pick is top-10 protected so if the Blues end up missing the playoffs and being placed that high in the order after the draft lottery, Anaheim will get San Jose’s first-rounder instead (also held by Buffalo). If that happens, the Sabres would then get St. Louis’ 2020 first-round pick.
It’s also worth pointing out here which teams have the most picks in the earliest rounds of the draft.
|TEAM||# of picks in Rounds 1-3|
Taking it a step further, Detroit, New Jersey and the Rangers all have three second-round picks, but New York is the only one to hold two first-round picks. Jeff Gorton will have a lot to say about how the first two rounds unfold: if the Lightning win the Cup, his Rangers will hold three picks in both Rounds 1 and 2. That’s more than anyone made in the first two rounds at last year’s draft.
It’s interesting to see Vegas appear on this list, mostly propped up by the three third-round picks they hold. Although they have already traded two of the three prospects they chose in the first-round of the 2017 draft (Nick Suzuki and Erik Brannstrom), the Golden Knights will not only head into the 2019 draft with more early picks than your average NHL team, they also hold three picks in the first two rounds of the 2020 draft.