It has been several days since the 2021 NHL Trade Deadline and we’ve already seen Boston go 2-0 since adding Taylor Hall, while Anthony Mantha scored in each of his first two games with Washington.
The deadline was quieter than usual with just 17 deals compared to the 31 we saw last season – the league’s salary cap situation was undoubtedly a heavy contributor to this – yet as is often the case several of the moves we saw unfold could end up having a significant impact down the stretch and throughout the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Certain teams mortgaged part of their future in the hopes a rental player or players will help contribute to a lengthy post-season run, while other clubs stockpiled assets for the future.
Twenty total draft picks were moved on deadline day, including seven selections from the 2021 draft, which is scheduled to begin on July 23.
With the deadline now in the rear-view mirror, here’s a look at which teams are currently in the best position when it comes to quantity and quality of picks held.
Total Number of 2021 Draft Picks
The Red Wings and Sabres being the lone teams with double-digit picks isn’t surprising considering where they are in the standings.
Detroit GM Steve Yzerman made four trades in the days leading up to the deadline, adding three additional 2021 selections. The Sabres added a pair of picks but as you’ll see below, the picks they currently have aren’t as top-heavy as GM Kevyn Adams would ideally want to see.
Then you have teams like the Maple Leafs and Avalanche at the opposite end of the spectrum. Both teams are positioned well for long-term success and chock full of young talent despite some question marks in the crease. They each currently hold just three picks in 2021.
Minnesota and Montreal are in envious spots with nine picks each even though they’re both on track to make the playoffs this season. The Blue Jackets, despite not being in playoff contention, have perhaps the most potential to make a splash in July.
Teams with Multiple 2021 First-Round Picks
Columbus: three first-round picks
Detroit: two first-round picks
New Jersey: two first-round picks
Minnesota: two first-round picks
The only 2021 first-rounder moved on deadline day was in the Mantha to Washington deal. Mantha wasn’t the traditional deadline rental player, though, since he has three more years on the contract he signed in November. This was more of a long-term investment from Brian MacLellan and the Capitals and it ended up being quite the haul for the Red Wings with Jakub Vrana, Richard Panik, a 2021 first and 2022 second coming back in return.
The two days prior to the deadline saw the Blue Jackets obtain a pair of first-round picks after moving David Savard and Nick Foligno to the Lightning and Maple Leafs, respectively. The Islanders sent their 2021 first, along with two players and a conditional pick, to New Jersey last week to bolster their roster with Kyle Palmieri and Travis Zajac. The Wild’s extra first was acquired from Pittsburgh in the Jason Zucker trade ahead of last year’s deadline.
One team absent from the group above is Buffalo. The fact the Sabres are where they are without having multiple firsts must be quite frustrating for fans in upstate New York. Buffalo wasn’t able to secure a first-round selection despite trading both Hall and Curtis Lazar to the Bruins. This season has been an unmitigated disaster for the Sabres. Adams also shipped out Eric Staal, Brandon Montour and Jonas Johansson for four combined picks leading up to the deadline, none of which were higher than a third-rounder.
Teams currently without first-round picks
The Capitals, Coyotes, Islanders, Lightning, Penguins and Maple Leafs are without a 2021 first-round selection after the trade deadline.
But wait, that’s six teams. Haven’t only five 2021 first-round picks been traded? What gives?
The one team minus a first-rounder for reasons other than a trade is Arizona after the Coyotes forfeited their 2020 second-round pick and 2021 first-round pick for violating the league’s combine testing policy during the 2019-20 campaign.
Teams with most 2021 picks through first three rounds
Detroit: seven picks
Buffalo: five picks
Los Angeles: five picks
Minnesota: five picks
Montreal: five picks
Calgary: four picks
Columbus: four picks
New Jersey: four picks
Ottawa: four picks
Yzerman and the Red Wings have the option of using some of this draft capital to accelerate the franchise’s ongoing rebuild. Will they use extra picks to acquire established talent via trade or might they use them to move up and select a specific prospect target? With a handful of pending unrestricted free agents set to come off the books at the end of the season, and only two players signed beyond next season (Dylan Larkin and Panik), this Detroit roster could look quite different by the start of next season. In addition to their two firsts (one of which will be a lottery pick) the Red Wings have three second-rounders plus two thirds, two fourths and two fifths.
Ottawa ended up making seven selections in the first three rounds last year. This year they don’t have as many picks but they’ve got an extra second-round pick stemming from the 2018 Erik Karlsson trade to San Jose.
Will Columbus hold onto all three first-round selections or potentially use one to acquire a roster player or trade down in order to gain additional assets? They currently don’t have a pick in the second round.
The Kings are in a similar position they were in 2020 with one first, two seconds and two thirds. L.A. took Quinton Byfield with the No. 2 pick last year and it’s possible they end up with another lottery pick despite hovering around .500 for much of this season.
Of course, plenty above is likely to change prior to the draft but overall it should set up yet another intriguing start to the off-season.