Trading Up At The Draft: The Top Five

By Thomas Harrington

By virtue of winning the Pacific Division and losing to the Nashville Predators in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, the Anaheim Ducks hold the 24th pick in this year’s draft. There is no doubt that there will be a good player available to them when the Ducks step up to the podium to make their selection, but I thought it would be a fun little exercise to take a look at the team’s drafting in front of Anaheim and see if there was anyone who Anaheim could make a deal with to move up in the draft. First up, it’s trading into the top five.

As I go through and look at potential trades, I’ll do my best to stick to players in Anaheim who are most likely to be traded. That means you won’t see players with no movement or no trade clauses, so proposals won’t list Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry, Ryan Kesler, Andrew Cogliano, or Kevin Bieksa. While it’s possible one of them is traded, going to convince a player to waive their no trade or no movement clause is something I won’t be considering. Second, certain players who look like potential building blocks for the future will be left out, so no Hampus Lindholm, Shea Theodore, Rickard Rakell, or Nick Ritchie. Sure, they could all be dealt in a trade, but it would have to be for a fairly significant return. The caveat to that would be if the Ducks can’t come to terms with Lindholm or Rakell, they could be traded, but again, that’s something that I won’t be looking at with this. I also won’t be too concerned about cap space since teams are allowed to exceed the salary cap by 10% in the offseason. So if a team were to go above the cap in the offseason, the draft makes a lot of sense since that will give them several months to become cap compliant before the season starts.

One thing to keep in mind: the Ducks may be wary of shipping any of their top defensemen or goalies to a division rival, and with four of the top 10 picks being owned by Pacific Division teams, that may make it a little more difficult for a trade to happen. Certainly not impossible, but it could make either side a little more wary in any deal.

Players Anaheim Could Trade This Summer

So, with those players out of the way, here are the players who I think are most likely to be dealt this summer: one of Frederik Andersen or John Gibson, one of Sami Vatanen or Cam Fowler, Clayton Stoner, and/or Simon Despres. The Ducks’ first round pick from this year or next will also find its way into some of these scenarios, as teams will probably not want to trade out of the first round entirely. You’ll notice there are no forwards listed, and that’s because most of the forwards signed long term either have some kind of no trade clause or wouldn’t fetch much in the way of a return. They could be used in a trade, but won’t be the centerpiece of a trade. The Ducks’ surplus is clearly in net and on defense, so the trade proposals will focus on teams who have a need there. So if a team is seemingly set on defense and in net, I’ll pass over them. That’s not to say there isn’t a deal to be made there, but it’s more unlikely for one to happen.

If not for the expansion draft most likely happening next June, I think the Ducks would try and keep Andersen and Gibson for at least one more season, but with the possibility of losing one of them for nothing on the horizon, I think one will be dealt and the draft makes a lot of sense. It would give Anaheim time to get another goalie either via trade or free agency. With Theodore knocking on the NHL door, and Brandon Montour and Jacob Larsson not far behind, the Ducks have some hard choices to make on defense. The Ducks will need to make room on their roster, and Theodore would most easily replace Vatanen or Fowler. Either of those two would fetch a significant return.

Personally, I’d trade Vatanen over Fowler for two reasons. First, given his shot and offensive pedigree, I think he could bring back more in a deal. Right handed shooting defenseman who can run a power play are at a premium in the NHL. Second, there has been so much change to Anaheim’s defense in the last several seasons that it would be nice to have some stability back there, and since Fowler is the longest tenured defenseman on the team, I’d keep him. That being said, I don’t view Fowler as untouchable and I could see him being dealt. Stoner brings a physical presence to the Ducks, but missed a large chunk of the season on IR. At this point, it’s fair to say that Josh Manson has capably taken over his role. Trading Stoner to free up both a roster spot and cap space would be ideal for the Ducks. Finally, Despres had a rough season after taking several hits to the head and missed time with multiple different concussions. At the start of the season I saw no reason to trade him, but with how he struggled in the playoffs, I feel the Ducks may try to move him. However, his trade value is on the lower side, so it may be best to keep him around and see if he can get his game back next season.

The Ducks Could Possibly Trade Up To The 4th Or 5th Pick

Toronto owns the top pick, followed by Winnipeg and Columbus. It’s incredibly doubtful any of the top three picks are traded in this year’s draft, so we’re going to skip them and begin with Edmonton at number four. At this point, it’s pretty much a given who the top three in the draft will be: Auston Matthews, Patrick Laine, and Jesse Puljujarvi.  After those three, the top prospects appear to be forward Matthew Tkachuk, defenseman Olli Juolevi, forward Pierre-Luc Dubois, forward Alex Nylander, and defenseman Jakob Chychrun. There are plenty of other potential picks that could go high in the draft, but those five seem to be among the most likely to go after the top three. Of those, the Ducks would probably be interested in any of the forwards, since their defensive prospects are so strong, and I think Tkachuk would be their top pick.

In order to guarantee that the Ducks get Tkachuk, they’d have to make a deal with Edmonton, who, according to rumors, are considering trading their first round pick and are also considering trading one of their core forwards. Four of the last six drafts have seen the Oilers pick first overall and they took a forward each time. Recently, the only times they’ve taken a defensemen in the first round were Oscar Klefbom in 2011 and Darnell Nurse in 2013. The Oilers have a ton of young talent up front but desperately need help on their backend. A quick glance at their prospect pool via hockeysfuture.com shows that Griffin Reinhart is currently their top defensive prospect. On their roster, the Oilers currently have Nurse, Klefbom, Adam Clendening, Brandon Davidson, Mark Fayne, Eric Gryba, Andrew Ference, Nikita Nikitin, Adam Pardy, and Andrej Sekera. Not exactly a Stanley Cup winning top six, but it’s a group not without talent. In net, the Oilers have Cam Talbot and Laurent Brossoit.

Photo: Sportsnet

Photo: Sportsnet

Trading Edmonton For The 4th Pick

There’s definitely a deal to be had here, so let’s take a look at what pieces Anaheim has that could fit in with Edmonton. Let’s start on defense, an area the Oilers have needed help in for quite literally years. They could take one of the top rated defensemen, but given that they’ve suffered a decade of losing, the Oilers probably would prefer an experienced NHL defensemen who can help them get back on the winning track sooner rather than later. Between Fowler and Vatanen, I think that the Oilers would be more interested in Vatanen. He’s not as good a skater as Fowler is, but Vatanen has a lethal point shot, is a power play quarterback, and is a right handed shooting defenseman, all things that the Oilers could use. In net, the Oilers have Talbot signed for over $4 million for the next three years, so they probably would have little interest in Andersen since he’ll probably want a healthy raise this summer. However, they’d probably be quite interested in Gibson who makes a little more than $2 million a season for the next few years. So, from the Anaheim side of things, they could be offering up a young top four defenseman and a starting goalie. Giving up both Vatanen and Gibson seems like a bit much for the fourth overall pick, but it could be the framework for a larger deal. While I’d love to see the Ducks pick up Taylor Hall, they’d have to increase their end to make that work. If the Ducks added in their first round pick, maybe it works.

So the deal would be Vatanen, Gibson, and the 24th overall pick for Hall and the fourth overall pick. It’s a bit of a steep price for the Ducks to pay, but it would give them a top line winger who is on a good contract several seasons, and a top draft pick. If the Oilers balk at moving Hall in this deal, Jordan Eberle or Ryan Nugent-Hopkins could work as well. Then again, if the fourth overall pick is in play, other teams could offer up similar deals with a better draft pick, so if the Ducks really want the fourth overall pick, they may have to overpay by a significant amount. The Ducks could add another player to the mix, but Stoner probably wouldn’t be enough and Despres’ concussion issues could scare off Edmonton.

I doubt the Ducks make this trade, simply because if the fourth overall pick is traded, I think a team with a better draft pick than the Ducks will end up making the deal. If the Oilers are targeting one of the top defensemen in the draft, they probably do not want to trade out of the top 10. That being said, the Ducks and Oilers do have some recent trade history, as the Ducks sent Patrick Maroon to the Oilers at this past trade deadline and Viktor Fasth there a couple years ago, so maybe something could happen here.

Photo: Sportsnet

Photo: Sportsnet

Trading Vancouver For The 5th Pick

After Edmonton, Vancouver has the fifth pick. Their core is aging, but there still could be some life left in it, especially with the Sedin twins still able to work some magic. Right now, the Canucks have a couple options. They can try and retool and get better and give it another shot with tweaks to their current roster, or blow it all up and start from scratch. Given their recent trade, where they sent Jared McCann, a 2016 second round pick, and a 2016 fourth round pick to Florida for Erik Gubranson and a 2016 fifth round pick, I’m going to assume that it’s the former. Also, given that they just traded McCann, it tells me the Canucks are either willing to trade young talent for immediate help or think they can get someone much better fifth overall and losing McCann won’t hurt them in the long run, especially with Gubranson in the fold. Again, I’m going to assume that it’s the former and that their could be a deal worked out between the Ducks and Canucks.

There are a couple of reasons why the Ducks would trade with Vancouver instead of Edmonton. First, if the Ducks are happy with any of Tkachuk, Dubois, or Nylander, then they don’t need to get all the way up to fourth. Second, if the Ducks think the Oilers will take a defenseman with their pick and would still have their pick of forwards at fifth overall. Third, if a deal with the Oilers just doesn’t happen because the Ducks can’t give Edmonton what they want or Edmonton trades with someone else. However, the Canucks are a little trickier than the Oilers to find the right trade.

In net, the Canucks have Ryan Miller and Jacob Markstrom. Both are signed for one more year, but Miller is on a $6 million contract, meaning they probably won’t be looking to take on another goalie unless Miller is moved. So, a deal could potentially work if the Ducks sent over Andersen, who would resign there for a nice raise but less than Miller, and Miller and Gibson would man the crease in Anaheim this season. Miller’s two seasons in Vancouver haven’t been great, so taking him off their hands could actually be beneficial to the Canucks, so the Ducks would want a little more back in this deal. On defense, Vancouver doesn’t have a stellar cast, but the addition of Gubranson should help solidify it for for at least this season. They also just have a lot of bodies back there, so there isn’t as desperate a need on defense as in Edmonton, although either of Fowler or Vatanen would significantly improve their backend. Again, Vatanen’s right hand shot makes him attractive trade bait, but a part of me feels like they’d want the smooth skating Fowler instead. The problem with this deal is the return. Fowler and Andersen for Miller and the fifth overall feels like the Ducks are giving up way too much, so Vancouver would need to kick something else into the deal. Since they’ve already traded McCann, it’s doubtful they’d trade another of their top forward prospects, though not impossible, and none of the forwards on their roster would add a ton to the trade.

Vancouver is also without a second round pick in this draft, which is something that would be nice for Anaheim to pick up. So a deal could be made here, but it would have to be a smaller one. Maybe just Fowler or Vatanen straight up for the fifth overall pick. Maybe goalies are involved and other assets get tossed in as well. But the core of the deal with Vancouver would be one of the Ducks’ defenseman for Vancouver’s first rounder. I think the Ducks would be more likely to make a deal with Vancouver since Edmonton could be asking for the moon for their pick, and since the Ducks could help improve Vancouver’s goalie situation. However, given the other issues involved in terms of what else the Ducks could pick up, I still don’t think that it’s a likely trade scenario.

Next up, we’ll look at the teams picking from sixth through 10th.

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