Trading Into The Top Five

Photo: USA Today

By Thomas Harrington

For the first time since 1999, the Anaheim Ducks may not pick in the first round of the draft, as their first round pick went to Dallas in the Patrick Eaves deal. They do have two second round picks (50th and 60th overall), a third round pick (91st overall), a fourth round pick (122nd overall), and a fifth round pick (153rd overall). With no first round pick right now, there is little question that Bob Murray will be looking to move into the draft’s first round. With that in mind, I’ll look at all 31 first round picks and look at any potential deals that Anaheim could make.

As I go through these deals, I’ll only use Anaheim players who I think might to be traded. Players who have no movement and no trade clauses will not be included in any of these deals, so Ryan Getzlaf, Ryan Kesler, Corey Perry, Kevin Bieksa, Antoine Vermette, and Andrew Cogliano will not be included. While it’s possible that any of them could decide to waive their clause, going into convincing a player to waive their no trade or no movement clause is something I won’t be considering. Second, players who look like building blocks for the future will be left out, so Rickard Rakell, Jakob Silfverberg, Josh Manson, John Gibson, Cam Fowler and Hampus Lindholm will not be included in any of these proposals. That’s not to say these players won’t be traded, just that I don’t think they will be. If the Ducks feel like Fowler will not sign an extension on July 1st, then he could be dealt instead, but right now, it does sound like he will be extended. If Simon Despres ever gets healthy, he could also be dealt. However, with his health still such a question mark, he won’t be included in any deals either. I also won’t be too concerned about cap space since teams are allowed to exceed the salary cap by 10% in the offseason.

One thing to keep in mind: the Ducks may be wary of shipping a good player to a division rival, or even another team in the Western Conference. Of the last 10 trades that Anaheim has made, six were with Eastern Conference teams, and none were with a Pacific Division rival. This is being viewed as a weaker draft compared to the last couple, meaning that there isn’t going to be an Auston Matthews or Connor McDavid available, so Anaheim may be less likely to give up a valuable asset to land a first round pick. It also means that it’s incredibly difficult to determine who will still be available after the first five or 10 picks.

So, with those players out of the way, here are the players who I think could be used by Anaheim to get into the first round: Sami Vatanen, one of Shea Theodore or Brandon Montour, Clayton Stoner, Ondrej Kase, and Chris Wagner. Anaheim’s other five draft picks and some of their prospects could make their way into these deals. I expect Anaheim to deal at least one of their many defensemen this summer, and trading into the first round would be a good return, and would save a lot of cap space. I list Vatanen because he has a very high trade value and appears to be the odd man out on Anaheim’s blue line as Anaheim appears willing to listen to offers for him. (For more on the Ducks looking to trade Vatanen listen to our newest podcast: Vegas Road Trip). I don’t want to trade Theodore or Montour, and I don’t think Anaheim will. However, given the amount of defensive depth that Anaheim has, they could afford to trade one of these two, but only if the return was incredibly high. I like Kase and Wagner a lot, but if they can be used to bring in a first round pick, they could be good trade bait. If the Ducks can get out of Stoner’s contract, that will be a win. However, the Ducks may have to give up something else to get someone to take his contract.

New Jersey (1st Pick)

As a result of winning the draft lottery, the New Jersey Devils hold the first overall pick, jumping up from the fifth spot. They will have the choice of selecting either Nolan Patrick or Nico Hischier, the consensus top two picks. The Devils struggled a lot last season, but could be getting a huge boost next season if Ilya Kovalchuk returns to the NHL. If he does, the Devils could choose to trade him to get some good young players. Or, they could form a top line of Patrick, Kovalchuk, and Taylor Hall. Even if Kovalchuk does not come back to the NHL, either Patrick or Hischier will likely be too good of a player for the Devils to pass on. I don’t think there’s a deal to be had here. However, If the Devils were willing to trade this pick, this is one of the few deals that I would consider moving Theodore or Montour in.

Philadelphia (2nd Pick)

The Philadelphia Flyers may not have the first overall pick, but they were the biggest winner in the draft lottery as they jumped up from 13th to second overall. As a result, the Flyers will get to select one of Patrick or Hischier, and they’ll be quite happy to do that. Similar to New Jersey, I don’t see a deal that makes a lot of sense for the second overall pick. However, if Philadelphia was willing to trade this pick, this is another deal that I’d consider using Theodore or Montour in.

Dallas (3rd Pick)

In the draft lottery, Dallas jumped up from the eighth pick to the third overall pick. This is the first pick that I think Anaheim could actually make a deal for. Dallas was a disaster last season, but they are far from a rebuilding team. With Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin in their prime, they are a team that should be in the playoffs every year, but shoddy defense and poor goaltending did them in last season. They’ve already picked up Ben Bishop, so their goaltending should be improved. The next step for them is to improve their defense. Currently, Dallas has four defensemen under contract for next season: John Klingberg, Dan Hamhuis, Greg Pateryn, and Stephen Johns; only Klingberg is signed beyond next season. Clearly, Dallas needs to rebuild their defense, and given how strong their forward core is, they’d likely prefer to get established NHL defensemen rather than draft someone who won’t be ready for a year or two and won’t be a star for a number of years. Vatanen fits the bill perfectly. He’s a top four defenseman who plays well at both ends of the ice. With that pick, Patrick and Hischier would obviously be gone, but there are still a number of prized prospects who would be available: Gabe Vilardi, Cody Glass, Miro Heiskanen, Casey Mittelsadt, and Owen Tippett. Vilardi, Mittesladt, and Glass are great young centers, Heiskanen could help offset the loss of Vatanen, and Tippett could develop into an elite scoring winger.

There’s definitely a deal to be made here, but it could take a little more for both sides to be happy. Vatanen would be a great addition for Dallas, but they’d still need another defenseman to round out their roster. The Ducks would be more than happy to unload Stoner in this deal, but it’s doubtful that Dallas would take him without the Ducks offering up something else. Instead, the Stars would probably prefer one of the many defensive prospects in San Diego. Jaycob Megna could be a good fit for them; he made his NHL debut this season and had a very strong season for the Gulls. The Stars could also ask for Wagner, a player who could help the worst penalty kill unit in the NHL. However, if the Ducks were to trade Megna or Wagner, they’d want something else back. Dallas’ second first round pick would be too high, but their second or third round pick could work. So, the deal would be Vatanen and Megna or Wagner for the third overall pick and a second or third round selection. Some other tweaks could be needed, but that’s a decent start of a deal. It gives the Stars a bonafide top four defenseman and gives them a good young player. For Anaheim, this deal clears out significant cap space, lets them keep their best defensive prospects, and adds an elite prospect to their ranks.

Colorado (4th Pick)

Colorado is the unluckiest team that I have seen in years. They were far and away the worst team in the league this year, and they weren’t even tanking the way that Edmonton, Toronto, and Buffalo have in recent seasons. During the draft lottery, they had the best odds to get the first overall pick, but instead of winning, they lost big time, as three teams who were significantly better than them this year proceeded to take the top three picks. The Avalanche are in desperate need of some young talent, and I don’t think they’ll be trading the fourth overall pick to Anaheim. If anything, they could try to move up to the top couple of picks in this draft. I do think there could be a deal between Anaheim and Colorado, involving Gabriel Landeskog or Matt Duchene, but not one for the fourth overall pick.

Vancouver (5th Pick)

The Vancouver Canucks hold the fifth overall pick in the 2017 draft. They are a team about to enter a rebuild, and it’s unlikely that they would trade away their pick. However, these two teams do have a trading history, as evidenced by the Kesler and Bieksa deals in recent years. But even with that history, I don’t see Vancouver trading away the fifth overall pick, unless it was to trade down in the first round and acquire more picks. With Anaheim currently lacking a first round pick of their own, I just don’t see a deal working between these two teams.

Next up, I’ll take a look at any potential trades involving the teams picking from sixth to 10th in the draft.

Listen to our latest podcast below for more information on potential trades and the two upcoming drafts.

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June 7th, 2017