The 2018 NHL trade deadline has come and gone, and although it was the least-busy last day of trading in the past six years, first-round picks were more in play than ever.
Picks, of course, are the real currency on deadline day as most sellers want to pile up these lottery tickets in a bid to rebuild or retool, while contenders who are aiming to bolster their lineups will give them up only in the right conditions. Vancouver Canucks general manager Jim Benning, who had a rental scorer in Thomas Vanek, could only get a prospect and not a pick for the veteran.
“We pretty much talked to every team in the league,” Benning said Monday. “We would have preferred getting picks back. That wasn’t available to us. What we did, we think we did the next best thing, getting a good, young player that our scouts like.”
First-round picks, however, come at a premium. Even top teams are reticent to move those pieces of gold in an NHL where young players are more important to have than ever. But after going two trade deadlines in a row without a first-round pick being moved at all, we saw a record number dealt in 2018.
All these moving picks, especially the firsts, set the table for what should be another busy trade season around the NHL draft. Some of the picks moved on deadline day could again be flipped before the Dallas-hosted draft on June 22. The teams that have the most picks will certainly have some trade leverage around that time when the market opens again.
So which teams hold that currency? Here’s a look at the franchises that came out of deadline day holding the most draft picks.
(Data from CapFriendly.com)
|TEAM||# of Draft Picks|
Because so many first-round picks were moved at the deadline and in other deals this season, there are many teams who have more than one first-rounder. After the 2017 trade deadline, only two teams had more than one first and none held more than that. This season, seven teams come out of the deadline with no first-round picks at all, while seven others have multiple picks — the New York Rangers, in fact, hold three first-round picks, which is just as many as the expansion Golden Knights had in their first draft.
There are some conditions on those first-rounders, though. For example, the Flyers hold their own pick plus St. Louis’s, but if the Blues selection ends up in the top 10, it will stay with St. Louis and the Flyers will get a first-rounder in 2019 instead. Same goes for Colorado with the Ottawa pick they hold from the Matt Duchene trade.
The funniest conditional pick was Winnipeg sending their first to St. Louis in the Paul Stastny trade with the caveat that if it ends up being in the top three, the pick will slide to 2019. The Jets are 10 points clear of even being in the draft lottery.
|TEAM||# of Picks in Rounds 1-3|
|Colorado||5 (if they keep OTT 1)|
It’s also worth pointing out the teams that have the most picks in the early rounds. While the Red Wings hold the most selections overall, Montreal and the Rangers pick most often in the first two rounds: New York will hold five of the first 62 picks at least, while Montreal (which holds an NHL-high four second-rounders), will also picks five times across Round 1 and 2.
One final tidbit: as the Detroit Red Wings continue to retool, draft picks have become more important to them. This is the second year in a row the Wings could pick six times in the first three rounds, but it’s almost unprecedented for Detroit to hold multiple first-round picks. Remember, in the 16 NHL drafts from 1997 to 2012, Detroit didn’t pick in the first round at all 10 times.
This year, they acquired Vegas’s first-rounder in the Tomas Tatar deal. If Detroit keeps it (which you have to believe they will), the Wings will pick twice in the opening round of the draft for the first time since the 1978 amateur draft. At that point in the league’s history, the draft age was 20 instead of 18, it was called the amateur draft as opposed to the entry draft, and ’78 marked the last selection process before the NHL-WHA merger.