The NHL’s 2020 trade deadline has come and gone, with a total of 31 trades comprising the final day before the cut-off.
Now, rosters are set and teams begin either their climb to the Stanley Cup Playoffs or their road to the NHL draft. For the first of those groups, deadline day brought the chance to load up for a deep run, with clubs like Edmonton and Pittsburgh bolstering their forward corps to fill out their depth as much as possible. For the second of those groups, though, the deadline was just as impactful, as draft picks remain the currency required to snag talent off of bottom-feeding rosters.
Twenty-six draft picks were swapped on the day, with teams focused on the future looking to bring in as many draft-day chances as they could. While Tampa Bay and Boston unloaded first-round picks ahead of deadline day – in deals for Blake Coleman and Ondrej Kase, respectively – a total of only three first-rounders were moved on Feb. 24 itself.
The Islanders moved theirs – along with two other picks – to Ottawa to acquire Jean-Gabriel Pageau, the Hurricanes shipped one to the Rangers to bring in Brady Skjei, and the Lightning went as far as moving their second first-rounder, plus Anthony Greco, to the Sharks for Barclay Goodrow and a 2020 third-rounder (the first-round pick moved to New Jersey was the one Tampa Bay acquired from Vancouver in the J.T. Miller trade).
So, with the deadline in the books, who’s best set up for the 2020 NHL Draft in June? Here’s a breakdown of how things shake out after Feb. 24, starting with how each team ranks in terms of their total number of 2020 draft picks.
Total Number of 2020 Draft Picks
Appropriately, the overall list generally reads as a ranking ranging from teams in rebuilding mode to teams in the hunt for a Cup right now, but there are certainly some interesting names in interesting places. Montreal, for example, initially appeared to be a team in the playoff hunt but fell well out of the race. The deadline didn’t seem to solve many of their problems, but it seems they’ll have a good chance to chip away at them at the draft given they enter with the most picks of any team in the league.
Teams closer to playoff mainstay or even contender status – like Tampa Bay, Toronto and Carolina – look to be in a good spot organizationally, given they have a good chance of competing come playoff time but also enter the 2020 draft among the top half of the league in terms of total chances to gamble on young talent.
But, as seen in the draft-day deals for the biggest names that moved in recent trades, what’s most important is who holds the cards in the first round. So who’s leading the charge in that regard? Here are the clubs that now enter the draft with more than one first-rounder after deadline day.
Teams with Multiple 2020 First-Round Picks
Ottawa: 3 first-round picks
New Jersey: 3 first-round picks
N.Y. Rangers: 2 first-round picks
Minnesota: 2 first-round picks
Anaheim: 2 first-round picks
Senators GM Pierre Dorion did what he needed to do at the deadline, dealing to bring in draft picks, and getting a notably great haul for marquee trade chip Jean-Gabriel Pageau. They now head into the draft with three first-rounders – their own, the Sharks’, and a conditional first from the Islanders (the condition being that it’s top-three protected).
Given where the Senators and Sharks sit at the moment, and given the Islanders’ pick likely doesn’t wind up a top-three selection, there’s a good chance the Senators will be able to use all three this June, and that at least two of them will sit high enough to add a couple of game-changers to their pipeline.
The Devils are the only other club with three first-rounders – their own, along with conditional picks from Arizona and Vancouver. The Coyotes’ pick is top-three protected, while the Canucks pick moves to a 2021 first-rounder if Vancouver fails to make the playoffs (they currently sit third in the Pacific). So, the Devils’ trio likely doesn’t land as high in the order as Ottawa’s, but they still have the potential to bring in some names who can help be part of the future core alongside recent No. 1 picks Jack Hughes and Nico Hischier.
Looking past the first round, a few teams among the above total-picks list are deceiving, given how many of their picks are grouped in later rounds. That being the case, let’s take into account the clubs that have done a good job of accruing second- and third-rounders too, and look at the teams who’ll enter the 2020 draft with the most picks through the opening three rounds.
Teams with Most 2020 Picks through First Three Rounds
Ottawa: 9 picks
Montreal 6 picks
Los Angeles: 6 picks
Detroit: 6 picks
Nashville: 5 picks
Carolina: 5 picks
Florida: 4 picks
N.Y. Rangers: 4 picks
Anaheim: 4 picks
Once again, the value in Dorion’s work ahead of the June event becomes clear, as Ottawa not only enters with three first-round picks in 2020, they also have four second-rounders and two third-rounders, giving them an absurd nine picks through the opening three rounds. So far, they’re not in too bad a position for 2021 either, with five picks through the first three rounds of that year’s draft.
Marc Bergevin has set the Canadiens up to do some work at the draft as well – though the team picks only once in the first round, they have three second-rounders to work with, and six total picks through the opening three rounds, level with Los Angeles and Detroit, who arguably have a far greater need to hit on as many of those picks as possible.
Taking stock of the situation above in its entirety, the team that seems to have done the finest work at the deadline is Carolina. Not only did Don Waddell and Co. bring some exceptional pieces to an already talented team – adding dynamic centre Vincent Trocheck, and a couple solid blue-line talents in Brady Skjei and Sami Vatanen to off-set the loss of Dougie Hamilton – they also could potentially pick five times through the first three rounds in 2020, depending on what happens with a couple of conditional picks.
The task at hand is climbing back into the post-season, as the ‘Canes currently sit a couple of points out of a wild-card spot. But regardless, with the majority of their talented core locked up for the foreseeable future and plenty of picks in the bag for this upcoming June, Carolina’s trajectory seems to only point upwards moving forward.