Important disclaimer for this and all posts on draft prospects: I do not track prospects closely in real time and from live viewing. I see only highlight reel type stuff and some international tourney games for these players. My assessments of players are mostly the compilation of how the experts are evaluating these players.
It is a bit early to start figuring out what to do with draft picks, but with another long summer in front of us boredom eventually leads to speculating and brainstorming. And with the order now determined for the non-playoff teams (and also a few of playoff teams that already lost), I guess the ball is on the tee to start brainstorming about Ron Francis’ options.
The biggest upshot from the draft lottery was probably Edmonton landing at #4. In that position, they missed out on the first tier of players (Auston Matthews, Patrik Laine and Jesse Puljujarvi) who are probably too good to pass up. Instead the Oilers landed right at the top of the next tier. There is some variation, but the most common view is that the second tier will see 3 more forwards taken (Matthew Tkachuk, Pierre-Luc Dubois and Alexander Nylander). But with those 3 players not thought to be as elite and NHL-ready as the top 3 and the Oilers desperately needing both current and future help on the blue line, it is thought (with legitimate reason) that the Oilers could trade the #4 pick to move down and select a defenseman or possibly to add an NHL defenseman. Current analyst projections show about 6 defensemen being part of the next tier of draftees from 7-15.
And therein lies the first possible move to consider for the Canes. The Hurricanes certainly have what the Oilers would be asking for in a still reasonably high draft pick and right shot blue line help of all varieties ranging from veteran (Wisniewski) to younger but with experience (Pesce, Murphy) to promising prospect (McKeown) to draft pick still capable of netting 1 of top 2016 defensemen in draft at #13.
But I would be surprised to see the Canes trade up for the #4 pick for a couple reasons. First, the king’s ransom required for these deals is why so many are talked about but so few actually happen. From what I read, the top 3 is probably where the cut line is between “elite” and “good” prospects. Surely, the player picked at #4 would rate higher than the player picked 5, 10 or 15 slots lower, but it seems like both would fall into a similar category and it is not clear that #4 is that much of an upgrade from #13. This is especially true if a bunch of defensemen go off the board from #7 to #12, and the best forward available at #13 is only 3-5 slots lower at the position that the #4 pick. With Francis’ goal of stocking the system and becoming deeper, I do not see Francis trading 2-3 picks for a modestly better first pick.
Probability: 5%. While I do think Francis will deal at the draft this year, I think this deal is unlikely.
I actually think this is more interesting depending on how enamored Ron Francis and the Canes scouting staff are with the forward options available at #13. If there is no player that they love at this slot, I could see Francis moving this pick for 2 reasons. First, it obviously fits with Francis’ goal of adding more depth to the system especially if he uses a couple other picks as part of other deals. Second, I think there is some potential that the #13 pick could have significant value to some teams. Current expert rankings have forwards likely to go 1-6 and then 5-6 defensemen to be selected in the next 7-9 picks. Interestingly, there seems to be little consensus on the order for those defensemen. The result is that it is reasonably possible that a defenseman that some teams rate as #1 or #2 in the entire draft actually slips to #13 because the teams in the 7-12 slots that pick defensemen have them ordered differently. If that happens, there could be a couple teams who can get their #1 pick on defense in the #13 slot with a fairly modest trade up. Though with less value, the same thing could happen with the #21 pick especially if the Canes get who they really want at #13 and see value in the second and later rounds (which could be the extra picks added by trading down from #21)
Probability: 15%. I think the chances of moving down are significantly higher than moving up, but still a fairly low probability. There are a couple promising forwards who slot at about #13. Also, if this deal were to happen, it would be on the draft floor after the #12 pick. The value of the #13 pick only rises if a specific player coveted by another team is still available after the #12 pick.
Trade a first round pick for a player?
I do think that Francis will do a deal or 2 for a roster player at the NHL draft. Per my previous blog HERE, it will be challenging and expensive to add the impact players that the Canes need (IMO) at forward via free agency. Last summer the bulk of Francis’ work was via trade adding 2 players (Lack and Wisniewski) in 2 trades at the draft and 2 more (Versteeg and Nordstrom) in another trade just before training camp. I expect more of the same this summer. And I expect that spending from Francis’ stockpile of draft picks will be part of it. That said, I think it will be balanced with the long-term plan of building a deeper system.
–Trading #13 pick: 10%.
–Trading #21 pick: 30%.
–Trading both first round picks: 2%.
–Trading some amount of other later-round picks: 70%.
Best guess is that Francis will prefer to keep his first-rounders and use later picks but would be willing to part with 1 but not both of his first-rounders for the right deal.
Plan is to not post for Saturdays in the summer but possibly, hopefully, maybe to post first installment of something new for Sunday morning.