By Thomas Harrington
Now that I’ve gone over the first 25 picks in the NHL Entry Draft, it’s time to turn our attention to the final six picks. With Vegas’ addition to the NHL, the first round will now consist of 31 picks. The next six teams represent some of the best teams in the NHL this past season. They all either made it deep in the playoffs, won their division, or traded for a second first round pick. As a reminder, you won’t see Ryan Getzlaf, Ryan Kesler, Corey Perry, Kevin Bieksa, Antoine Vermette, Andrew Cogliano, Rickard Rakell, Jakob Silfverberg, Josh Manson, John Gibson, Cam Fowler, Simon Despres, Hampus Lindholm, Shea Theodore, and Brandon Montour in any of these proposals. The players who I think Anaheim would most likely deal are Sami Vatanen, Clayton Stoner, Ondrej Kase, and Chris Wagner, as well as any of their picks and a number of their prospects.
The Chicago Blackhawks had one of their best regular seasons in recent years, as they finished with the best record in the Western Conference and third-best in the entire NHL. However, they ran into an incredibly dangerous Nashville team and were swept in the first round. They hold the 26th overall pick. Chicago has a very deep defensive core, led by Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook, and Niklas Hjalmarsson. They also just signed defenseman Jan Rutta out of the Czech Republic. At forward, the Blackhawks are loaded with talent, but it’s expensive talent. They also have 13 forwards already signed for next season, as well as two restricted free agents to sign. I think Chicago will potentially make a number of deals this summer, but I think that it’s more likely they deal players for picks, rather than deal picks for players, so I don’t really see a deal working out between these two teams.
The St. Louis Blues hold the 27th overall pick. It was originally Washington’s, but they dealt it to the Blues in the Kevin Shattenkirk deal. This is St. Louis’ second first round pick; they also hold the 20th overall pick. For that pick, I put forward a deal centered around Vatanen. Several picks later, and I don’t think the Blues could get Vatanen with the 27th pick as the key piece they’d give up. The Blues are pretty deep at forward, so I don’t think they’d have any interest in Kase or Wagner. However, if there is someone available at 27 who the Ducks really like and they think will be gone by the time the Ducks pick at 50th overall, they could trade both of their second round picks to move up to the first round. They did this back in 2003 when they sent two second round picks to Dallas for the 28th overall pick. The Ducks selected Corey Perry with that pick. Given how unpredictable this draft is looking, this deal could work for both teams. The Blues would get another pick, while the Ducks would get a late first round pick, a place they have drafted very well at in recent seasons.
As a result of losing in the Eastern Conference Finals, the Ottawa Senators have the 28th overall pick. Ottawa was a team that people counted out during the preseason, throughout the regular season, and in every round of the playoffs. Erik Karlsson was probably the best defenseman in the playoffs this year, and Craig Anderson looked like a Vezina caliber goalie most nights. They have seven defensemen signed for next season, but only three of them are signed beyond that: Karlsson, Dion Phaneuf, and Marc Methot. They currently have nine forwards signed for next season, though they do have a number of restricted and unrestricted free agents to re-sign and bolster that number. Bobby Ryan, Mike Hoffman, Derick Brassard, and Kyle Turris lead Ottawa’s forward group. I think Ottawa would be really interested in Vatanen, but I don’t think the Ducks would be interested in giving him up for the 28th pick. However, given how much turnover could happen with their forward group, I do think they’d be interested in Wagner. He’s not a big time scorer, but is responsible defensively and could help Ottawa improve its penalty kill unit, which finished 22nd in the league this season. Wagner alone wouldn’t do it, but another pick probably could do it. So the Ducks could trade Wagner and one of their second round picks for the 28th overall pick. The Ducks might need to offer something else up to get Ottawa to move out of the first round, but this could get the conversation going between these two teams.
Dallas holds the 29th overall pick, which they received from Anaheim as a result of the Patrick Eaves deal and the Ducks making it to the Conference Finals. Unless there is a player the Ducks really like who is available at 29th overall, I don’t think the Ducks will reacquire their first round pick. It could happen, but I just don’t think it will. I think Anaheim will try and get Dallas’ first pick in the draft at third overall instead.
The Predators made it all the way to the Stanley Cup Final for the first time ever, but lost in six games and have the 30th overall pick. As Anaheim fans know all too well, Nashville has one of the best defensive cores in the league, so they’ll have very little interest in Vatanen. Up front, Nashville has a good mixture of veterans and young players, led by Filip Forsberg and Ryan Johansen. They might have some interest in a player like Kase, but I don’t think there’s a deal to be made between these two teams.
The Pittsburgh Penguins are the first team to repeat in the salary cap era and have the 31st overall pick. Pittsburgh has been without Kris Letang since late February, and he’s missed a ton of time over the last few seasons. They also have only three defensemen signed for next season, though they do have a couple of restricted free agents to sign and potentially bring that number up to five. Safe to say that the Penguins would be very interested in the services of Vatanen, but it would definitely take more than a pick at the end of the first round to make this deal happen. However, Pittsburgh doesn’t have a ton of other pieces to add to this deal. Their prized young forward Jake Guentzel isn’t going anywhere after leading the league in postseason goal scoring. Maybe Anaheim would be interested in one of their young prospects, but I don’t see a lot in Pittsburgh that the Ducks would be interested that could be available. If Pittsburgh really wants Vatanen, I think they’d have to give up several draft picks. I don’t think Pittsburgh would be willing to do that to get Vatanen, so I don’t see a deal working out between these two teams.
It’s likely that Bob Murray will be doing his best to get the Ducks into the 1st round of the draft. There’s a possibility that one of the many scenarios that I have presented happens, but if a deal happens, it will most likely end up being an unexpected deal. And of course, the upcoming expansion draft will change things up in ways that no one can predict. Despite the fact that the season is over, things could be very exciting leading up to and including the NHL Entry Draft.
If you missed the other articles about trading into the top twenty-five then check them out below.
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June 13th, 2017