Ducks Trading for 2nd Top-15 Draft Pick Could Speed Up Rebuild

The 2019-20 season is over for the Anaheim Ducks and 23 other franchises across the NHL. With the Draft Lottery now complete, the order of the top-15 picks is established. Due to a little bad luck and a lot of bad play, the Ducks will draft sixth overall after finishing the season with the fifth-worst record in the league. This is just the fourth time in the last decade that the Ducks have had have a top-10 pick.

Anaheim has made 11 first-round picks in the last ten years, and yet they have picked in the top-15 only four times. The highest pick was in 2012 when they selected Hampus Lindholm sixth overall. The other three were Cam Fowler (2010, 12th), Nick Ritchie (2014, 10th), and Trevor Zegras (2019, ninth). Of the three we can reasonably assess, only Ritchie was a clear miss.

The Ducks’ other first-round picks from the last decade average out to the 27th pick. None of those picks have produced an impact player since 2013 (Shea Theodore, 26th overall) and Anaheim’s prospect pipeline has been void of elite talent; a fact that is underscored by Corey Pronman’s most recent organization rankings by prospects.

However, due to the fantastically abnormal way that this year’s lottery played out, there are a handful of teams who find themselves with draft picks higher up than their preseason aspirations might have predicted. Add in the fact that this draft seems to be quite deep at the top, and the Ducks have an opportunity to acquire a second top-15 pick in the upcoming draft.

Should they be able to do so, there are some quality prospects in that range that could bring a significant boost to Anaheim’s rebuild. To provide some insight into who the Ducks could target and what they could bring to the organization I have asked THW’s prospect guru Josh Bell to help.

Pittsburgh Penguins

Toronto Maple Leafs (15)

Is This Pick In Play?

Absolutely. It’s hard to think that Toronto acquired this pick for anything other than flipping it later for help. The Maple Leafs cleared some extra cap space when they traded Kasperi Kapanen to Pittsburgh for this pick. They already tried last season to fix their issues on the blueline, but neither Cody Ceci (shocking) nor Tyson Barrie (unfortunate) proved to be an answer.

Sure Frederik Andersen seems to turn into a pumpkin once the calendar strikes April. And sure it’s hard to win a series when your four best forwards combine for six goals over five games. Ultimately though, losing Jake Muzzin showed just how short on talent the Leafs blueline was beyond he and Morgan Reilly.

So, What Will It Cost?

Toronto is really the inverse of just about everyone else on this list. They have definite needs and should be willing to move this pick to do so. The issue is that the Leafs only have just under $8 million in cap space to fill nine roster spots.

The big chips they have right now are Mitch Marner, William Nylander, and this pick. Trading Marner and Nylander would be a pretty major move. Nylander’s AAV comes in just under $7 million, so packaging Josh Manson, Rickard Rakell, and the first-round pick from the Boston Bruins might get you there. But the Ducks aren’t anywhere close to contending, and bringing in Nylander now would be short-sighted and provide minimal benefits to a roster in need of an overhaul.

Josh Manson Anaheim Ducks
Josh Manson, Anaheim Ducks (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

So Anaheim’s best bet is to offer multiple players for as little cost as possible. Would Kyle Dubas be willing to move the 15th pick for Manson and Danton Heinen if general manager Bob Murray retained a little salary on both? Manson has two more years remaining on his contract at $4.1 million, while Heinen has one year at $2.8 million left. If the Samueli’s were willing to retain fifty percent salary on each contract, they could offer Toronto two players with a combined cap hit of less than four million. A deal like that, and they might even be able to get the Leafs to throw in another asset.

Who Could Ducks Target With This Pick?

Josh Bell: Looking at my own rankings, and keeping the concept of drafting the best player available (BPA) alive, I’d be looking at Dylan Holloway. The centreman (he could play left-wing as well) is a very intelligent player that makes good decisions both with the puck and without it. He never takes his foot off the gas and he battles hard.

Braden Schneider Brandon Wheat Kings
Braden Schneider of the Brandon Wheat Kings (Tim Smith)

However, looking at the Ducks’ recent drafts, they’ve taken a number of forwards that now carry their prospect pool and have started to impact the NHL. Zegras, Isac Lundestrom, Sam Steel, and Troy Terry are all centers, while Maxime Comtois, Brayden Tracey, and Max Jones are all left wingers. I’d be keeping an eye on a defender here for the Ducks, from a Kaiden Guhle (if he’s available) to a Braden Schneider (a slight reach that’s being discussed as a Maple Leafs target here). Both are more-defensive players, but that could be just what the Ducks need in their system.

Edmonton Oilers (14)

Is This Pick In Play?

Probably? The Oilers are in an interesting spot. They essentially rode dueling Hart Trophy candidates to relevance in perhaps the worst division in the league. On top of that general manager Ken Holland was only hired last May, so this summer will be his first with a full year of behind the scenes knowledge. If there is anything about Holland we can be fairly sure of, its that he’s never had a problem trading first-round picks for immediate help.

So, What Will It Cost?

Well, if Pittsburgh was willing to give up the 15th pick for Kapanen then it seems fair to assume Rakell at least gets you in the conversation. Unfortunately, the Oilers’ biggest weakness isn’t forward depth so much as it is defensive depth. Talk about damning with faint praise.

Jesse Puljujarvi, Edmonton Oilers
Jesse Puljujarvi (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Manson makes the most sense here as the make weight although, he alone might not be enough. If Anaheim was willing to take back Kris Russell’s expiring contract, that might get it done. If Murray wanted to throw in the Ducks’ second-round pick (36th overall) and/or Heinen, they might be able to pry away Jesse Puljujarvi as well.

Who Could Ducks Target With This Pick?

Bell: My BPA pick for this slot would be Seth Jarvis, a firecracker of a player that can do it all. He’s a well-rounded player that seems to simply do all the little things right. It wouldn’t surprise me to see him gone at this spot. As for best fit, this is likely around where the Guhle would go, in the 12-15 range I think, so I’d be watching him. He’s also the younger brother of Ducks defender Brendan Guhle, so there’s that aspect to watch as well.

Carolina Hurricanes (13)

Is This Pick In Play?

Almost certainly. After sweeping the New York Rangers in the Qualifying Round, the Hurricanes fell in five games to the Bruins. A significant part of that was due to losing star winger Andrei Svechnikov to a freak injury at the end of Game 3. But it should be noted that head coach Rod Brind’Amour had taken Svechnikov off the top line with Sebastian Aho and Teuvo Teravainen to try and balance out the scoring.

Add that to the Canes making a surprising deadline day deal for Vincent Trocheck and the offseason rumors surrounding a potential Ondrej Kase for Justin Faulk deal, paints a pretty clear picture of what Carolina considers to be an area of concern. The only potential hangup is that Don Wadell and company already traded away their own pick in this year’s draft. The only pick they have left is the pick they acquired from Toronto in exchange for taking on and then buying out, Patrick Marleau’s contract.

So, What Will It Cost?

Carolina has a little over $9 million in cap space for next season, which isn’t a ton. But, they have almost all of their principles under contract for at least another year. Anaheim could offer John Gibson up and try to inflate the return, but it’s hard to imagine an organization with as strong of an analytics presence as Carolina is going to take on a goalie with a massive contract.

They do, however, need to sign a goalie and they need to add scoring depth. James Reimer and Petr Mrazek both make north of $3 million next season on expiring deals. If Anaheim took one back in order to minimize the impact of the contract they sent the other way they could really create a situation where both teams can “win” the trade. Given the uncertainty around Ryan Miller’s future, bringing in a capable backup for Gibson makes a lot of sense.

Noel Gunler Lulea HF
Noel Gunler, Lulea HF (Photo by RvS.Media/Monika Majer/Getty Images)

To that end, the Ducks have three players that could be fits for the Canes. Rakell, Jakob Silfverberg, and Adam Henrique could all bring something to the Carolina lineup. Adam Henrique is the least likely given Trocheck and Jordan Staal’s presence on the roster, not to mention he carries the highest cap hit of the three Ducks forwards.

Silfverberg and Rakell, on the other hand, could bring much-needed depth to Carolina. While the two forwards aren’t like for likes, they’re both solid players who can provide offense, and in Silfverberg’s case, high-end defensive play as well. The 13th pick, Mrazek, and Brock McGinn for Silfverberg and the 36th pick seem like it could make a lot of sense for both teams.

Who Could The Ducks Target With This Pick?

Bell: My BPA option here is Swedish winger Noel Gunler, who would be an incredible addition to the Ducks forward group. He’s well-known for his incredible shot, but he’s an all-round offensive weapon. Imagining Zegras feeding Gunler is frankly pretty terrifying. As I’ve said for best fit, I still think Guhle would be someone to watch for, although this is starting to get into “reach” territory for me, and I think you still have to take BPA in this spot.

Florida Panthers (12)

Is This Pick In Play?

50/50. The Florida Panthers lost to the Islanders in four games, failing to make it out of the Qualifying Round. While that’s not great, it gets worse once you take into account the fact that they spent a ton of money last summer bringing in Sergei Bobrovsky, Anton Stralman, and head coach Joel Quenneville.

Joel Quenneville Florida Panthers
Joel Quenneville, Florida Panthers (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Their top two goal scorers from this season are about to enter unrestricted free agency, Jonathan Huberdeau is approaching the end of his prime, and Keith Yandle has a full no-move clause (NMC) until the 2022-23 season. Aaron Ekblad’s development seems to have plateaued significantly despite being only 24-years-old, and there doesn’t seem to be any real help on the way.

Dale Tallon was fired as general manager for failing to put this team in a position to succeed, again, just to put this whole thing right over the top. At this point, the Panthers are just as likely to try and blow it all up as they are to double down since Coach Q has a base salary north of $5 million for another four years.

So, What Will It Cost?

Florida has almost $21 million in cap space for next season. Unless the new general manager is looking to move out one of Ekblad or Yandle, it’s hard to see them looking for defense. And again, they just signed Bobrovsky to a 7-year, $70 million deal with a full NMC until 2024-25. Which shouldn’t present any issues down the line since he’ll only be turning 32 in September.

Kaiden Guhle Prince Albert Raiders
Kaiden Guhle of the Prince Albert Raiders. (Lucas Chudleigh/Apollo Multimedia)

Again, they’re about to see their top two goals scorers hit free agency this summer, and they just traded away their second-line center in February. So that brings us back to Anaheim’s holy trinity of mid-career, middle-six forwards. Henrique leading the Ducks in goals (26) and points (43), as well as being a more than capable defender, gives Anaheim a little extra leverage here. Henrique being a center and Rakell having the highest upside as a goal scorer should make them the two most attractive options for Florida should it decide to give it another go next year.

Who Could The Ducks Target With This Pick?

Bell: BPA for me here is a reach to some others in the industry, but he’s a player I’ve been very high on all season. Jan Myšák is a winger with great speed, high-end hockey sense, and a very accurate shot. Some question his ability to drive a line – I think he’ll be just fine. This is as high as I’ll go to consider Guhle, and from here on out it’s strictly BPA – although it always should be, right?

Nashville Predators (11)

Is This Pick In Play?

Not really, no. The only chance the Ducks have of getting their hands on this pick would require them to take on Kyle Turris’s contract. If they were able to move out Henrique without taking back any significant salary, then maybe a trade like this would make some sense.

But as of now everything is going great for the Predators and there seems to be no reason for concern given the number of high-end offensive players they’ve managed to bring in over the last few years.

Winnipeg Jets (10)

Is This Pick In Play?

For Anaheim, I think it might be. Winnipeg has seen Kyle Connor, Nikolaj Ehlers, Blake Wheeler, Connor Hellebuyck, and Josh Morrissey all sign major extensions in the last year and a half. Patrik Laine is entering the final year of his bridge deal that already sees him make $6.75 million. Mark Scheifele has four years left on an incredibly team-friendly deal, and every player mentioned above, with the exception of Wheeler, is under 30 for at least a few more years. If Winnipeg was going to move a top-10 pick now would be as good a time as any to do it.

So, What Would It Cost?

Winnipeg has only four defensemen under contract for next season, and of those four the only ones they should be motivated to keep are Morrissey and Neal Pionk. The situation on the Jets blueline got so bad that at one point they claimed Luca Sbisa, who was headed to San Diego, off of waivers from Anaheim to try and stop the bleeding. This is why if anyone was going to be able to pry that pick away from the Jets it would be the Ducks.

Manson and Lindholm make $9.3 million combined for two more years. Jack Roslovic is a good, young center in need of a new deal. Matthieu Perrault is a fine enough player making more money than Winnipeg can afford to pay him.

Rodion Amirov Team Russia
Rodion Amirov of Team Russia (Vincent Ethier/LHJMQ)

While it would certainly be a kick in the teeth for the Ducks to lose two of their three best defensemen, the potential return could make it worth it. If Murray could find a way to have Dylan DeMelo included in the deal that could help to try and mitigate at least some of the damage. Plus, Murray could flip Matthieu Perrault down the line to a contender since he’ll be a free agent at the end of the year and recoup another pick in the process.

Who Could The Ducks Target With This Pick?

Bell: My favourite Russian in this class, Rodion Amirov is the target here for me, although I’d consider Yaroslav Askarov (my No. 11-ranked prospect) as well to be the heir to John Gibson. Ultimately though, with Gibson in place, there’s no need to take a goalie this early, so Amirov is the right choice in my mind. A very well-rounded prospect in this draft, the left winger could be one of the next elite two-way wingers in the NHL. He’d be a perfect top-line guy with Zegras and a goal-scorer in the future.

Minnesota Wild (9)

Is This Pick In Play?

It shouldn’t be but it probably is. Bill Guerin has had the general manager job for just over a year, and he’s already managed to make seven signings worth $77.125 million. And while five of those contracts are ELC’s, Jared Spurgeon’s very much isn’t. While it’s worth noting that he inherited the Ryan Suter, Zach Parise, Matt Dumba, and Matts Zuccarello deals, he seems intent on remaining committed to the bit.

Bruce Boudreau was fired after 57 games, captain Mikko Koivu is a free agent, and four of the top five scorers on the team are over 30. Things could be about to get very weird in Minnesota and just about anything could happen.

So, What Would It Cost?

The Wild has a little over $16 million in cap room for next season. But this is also a top-10 pick, and while that shouldn’t necessarily drive value given the depth of this draft’s first round, it does. Maybe Rakell for Victor Rask and ninth pick. Maybe the Boston pick and Henrique for this pick. Hard to think there isn’t a deal that makes sense for both sides. The biggest issue, as always, is will the two general managers be able to find it in time. With this being goaltender Devyn Dubnyk’s last year on his current deal, Guerin may just have the motivation to get us there.

Who Could the Ducks Target With This Pick?

Bell: This player is one that I think the Ducks could be targeting at their own pick of No. 6 and that’s Alexander Holtz. Holtz and Zegras is the pairing we’re all dying for, with arguably the top playmaking prospect with the soon-to-be best shooter.

Alexander Holtz Djurgarden
Alexander Holtz, Djurgarden (Photo by ERIK SIMANDER/TT NEWS AGENCY/AFP via Getty Images)

It’s a perfect match that Ducks’ fans should be drooling over. On top of his wicked shot, he’s a very good skater, he sees the ice so well, often acting before others can react, and he has that never-give-up drive. He’d be a perfect Duck.

Buffalo Sabres (8)

Is This Pick In Play?

Jack Eichel certainly hopes so. The Sabres have a Hart Trophy caliber player in Eichel and yet still have not managed to construct a roster capable of reaching the playoffs. He is already in the second year of an eight-year, $80 million he signed in October of 2017, and they inked Jeff Skinner to a contract worth $9 million per season last summer.

Eichel has made his displeasure with their losing ways well known since the Sabres’ season ended yet again without a postseason birth to show for it. The Sabres roster isn’t necessarily loaded with talent despite drafting in the lottery for the last nine years.

Jack Eichel Buffalo Sabres
Jack Eichel, Buffalo Sabres (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

If they’re going to convince Captain Jack that they are fully invested in him that’s going to have to change. Dylan Cozens is on his way, hopefully, sooner than later, and Sam Reinhart and Skinner can certainly be contributors though perhaps not cornerstones. Rasmus Dahlin has reached 40 points in both his seasons in the NHL despite struggling at times. But the rest of the roster being comprised of fine enough players at best hasn’t made anything easier on anyone. New general manager Kevyn Adams hasn’t walked into the best of situations but that’s also the reason he got the job in the first place.

So, What Will It Cost?

Quality NHL players. Even with Skinner, Kyle Okposo, and Rasmus Ristolainen eating up over $20 million in cap space, the Sabres have over $34 million in cap room for next season. Now only having 10 players under contract for next season means they’ve got more than a few holes to fill. But for a first-year general manager, it’s harder to get much more of a clean slate than that.

Okposo’s production has fallen off dramatically since coming over from the Islanders, but his underlying numbers are still strong. Keeping him around shouldn’t be completely out of the question, but if Anaheim were looking to take on bad contracts, they could do a lot worse than Okposo. Plus, bringing a big contract like that back could allow the Ducks to move out more than one piece and increase their return. The Sabres had four players finish with at least 40 points and two of them need new contracts.

MArco Rossi Ottawa 67s
Marco Rossi of the Ottawa 67’s (Credit: CHL Images)

Would Adams be willing to trade the eighth pick, Henri Jokiharku, and Okposo for Henrique and either Silfverberg or Rakell? Hell, what would he be willing to package to get all three? With that one trade, he could basically fill out his top-six and allow Cozens to step into the league in a third-line role while he finds his footing. This might feel like a video game trade in a lot of ways, but the clock on Eichel demanding a trade is ticking. If the Sabres are going to convince him his future lies in Buffalo, they might need to start taking some big risks.

Who Could Ducks Target With This Pick?

Bell: If Holtz is on the board, I think he’s their guy, no doubt. If he’s gone, I think it could get interesting. If Lucas Raymond is on the board, he’s the guy (more on him at spot No. 5), but I think he will/should be gone. That might mean this spot could come down to Cole Perfetti, Anton Lundell, or Marco Rossi. All centres, all wonderful players. I’d take (in order) Rossi, Lundell, and then Perfetti. Jake Sanderson is more likely at this spot for them though, the second-best defender in this draft that could be off the board by now or be selected right in this spot. This is really a “take what falls to you” selection.

New Jersey Devils (7)

Is This Pick In Play?

Almost certainly not. New Jersey has hired a new general manager and head coach since the league was postponed in early March. Jack Hughes didn’t even sniff the Calder Trophy this season. The only players who have a deal that extends beyond the 2022 summer are Nico Hischier and Damon Severson, and they have four players of note who will reach unrestricted free agency after next season.

Now, Hischier is going to be in the first year of a seven-year deal that carries a cap hit of $7.250 million but there’s no reason to think they should start to feel pressure from that contract until it comes time to extend Hughes.

Anaheim Ducks (6)

Is This Pick In Play?

It’s hard to know for sure. Murray has a reputation for being the type of guy who wants to win every trade he makes, despite his many public exclamations about hockey trades. The Ducks have a lot of holes to fill on that roster and the sixth overall pick is as good a chance as any they’ll have to address them. And given the last two seasons in Orange County have been… challenging, it’s hard to see that pick being put on the block.

So, What Will It Cost?

As of now, it only cost the collective sanity of every Ducks’ fan in the world over the last two seasons. Well, that plus whatever shred of hope Gibson may have been holding onto heading into last October.

Who Could Ducks Target With This Pick?

Bell: Again, I think Holtz is the guy to watch here. I could see him going anywhere from No. 5 to 9, but I really think he’s high on the Ducks list. Going back to my defense thought with the Ducks though, I’d also keep an eye on Jamie Drysdale, the top defender in this class.

Jamie Drysdale, OHL, Erie Otters
Jamie Drysdale of the Erie Otters (Photo by Terry Wilson / OHL Images)

He might be gone to the Ottawa Senators with one of their two top-five picks, but the smooth-skating, offensive defender is definitely someone that Ducks could use moving forward.

Ottawa Senators (5)

Is This Pick In Play?

Theoretically. This is one of those things where the difference between what is possible and what is probable is about the same as the difference between seeing the moon and touching it. Of the two top-15 picks Ottawa has, this is the one that Anaheim’s front office would be most likely to get their hands on. The Senators have seven picks in the first two rounds of the draft alone.

Depending on how they feel about their scouting department in conjunction with their ability to get value later in the draft, they could certainly auction off this pick. But the Sens are not anywhere near competing for a playoff spot in a division that has Toronto, Boston, and Tampa Bay in it. If anything, Pierre Dorion is in a position to add picks by weaponizing the staggering $41 million in cap space he will have once this season officially ends.

So, What Will It Cost?

I’m genuinely not even sure why we’re even talking about this but it’s a pandemic and there are only so many times you can binge the Twilight Saga in a six-month period. Anyways. The best place to start is probably Bobby Ryan? The former Duck has two years left on his contract with a cap hit over $7 million. The irony here of trading for a player on a bad contract that you previously traded away specifically to avoid giving him that exact contract is really something.

Lucas Raymond Frolunda Indians
Lucas Raymond of the Frolunda Indians (Photo: Tommy Holl TT)

Ryan isn’t enough on his own. In addition to that, Anaheim would need to turn that cap space into something for Ottawa at the same time. Lindholm? Manson? Henrique? Heinen? Milano? Gibson? If the Ducks took on Ryan for a pick it would most likely be a combination of second-rounders or the Islanders pick that should fall somewhere in the early 20s.

Who Could Ducks Target With This Pick?

Bell: I think Drysdale here still, and they’d be happy to land him here. However, I’ll also mention Lucas Raymond, who I have as my No. 3 prospect, but is likely to slide a few spots after what some deem a less-than-stellar season.. in one of the top leagues in the world. Raymond is another left winger, sure, but he could be an elite, game-breaker that would drive a line on his own and dominate the league with Zegras in the near future.

Detroit Red Wings (4)

Is This Pick In Play?

No. Steve Yzerman just spent last season losing to every team except Montreal with the specific intent of securing a high draft pick. The fact that they were historically bad this season only to then see the singular light at the end of the tunnel ripped from their hands has surely left more than few people in the greater Detroit area with a sour taste in their mouth.

Steve Yzerman, Ken Holland
Ken Holland, former Detroit Red Wings senior vice president shakes hands with Steve Yzerman, executive vice president and general manager. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)

Fortunately enough, the Red Wings are still going to get a quality player at this spot. While the top three seems to have found a consensus, the 4-10 range seems to be largely open to interpretation. Yzerman has already shown a willingness to buck consensus when it comes to the draft. So while there is no way to know who he will take at 4th overall, it seems fair to assume it’ll be the guy he wants. Value be damned.

Ottawa Senators (3)

Is This Pick In Play?

Most likely not. While Ottawa has two of the first five picks in the draft, it would make far more sense for them to either use them to move up ahead of Los Angeles or to trade the fifth pick rather than the third. On top of that, the point of this exercise is to see if Anaheim can get a SECOND top-15 pick, and I have no idea what Anaheim could possibly dangle, other than perhaps Zegras, to pry this pick away from Ottawa without giving up the sixth pick. So while moving up from six to three is something Anaheim should be open to considering, that conversation is immaterial to this one.

Los Angeles Kings (2)

Is This Pick In Play?

Ha. No. Not even a little. Much to the chagrin of Anaheim fans, Rob Blake has proven to be exceedingly competent in his role as general manager of the Kings. Could he theoretically trade up for Lafreniere? Sure. Could he theoretically trade down to four if Detroit wanted to jump Ottawa for someone? Totally. Is he trading the second overall pick, and the chance to take either Quinton Byfield or Tim Stutzle, for the sixth pick? Not a chance.

The only way he even thinks about is if Anaheim gives up Zegras, and I simply can not stress enough how dumb that would be for Anaheim. The second overall pick is, as far as the Ducks are concerned, out of reach.

New York Rangers (1)

Is this Pick In Play?

So, this should be an automatic no. The chances that any team could make an offer for the first overall pick that would even be worth the time it takes the Rangers to pick up the phone is slim, to say the least. By all accounts, Alexis Lafreniere is not only as close to a lock as most prospects get, but he is also the only prospect in this year’s draft with a chance of making an NHL roster next season.

Artemi Panarin New York Rangers
Artemi Panarin, New York Rangers (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

The thing is though, the Rangers were only two points out of a wild card spot when the season was suspended. On top of that, they just signed Artemi Panarin and Jacob Trouba to seven-year contracts last offseason, as well as extended Chris Kreider for another seven years after this season. Trouba is the youngest of the three at 26, and all of them will spend a chunk of those contracts in their 30’s.

Adam Fox and Kappo Kaako won’t hit restricted free agency until the summer of 2022, and even with Kevin Shattenkirk’s buyout skyrocketing to over $6 million next season they are still slated to have $13 million in cap space. If any team was in a position where they could justify trading the first overall pick, it might just be the Rangers.

So, What Would It Cost?

This is the part where Anaheim fans might start to lose interest because this is going to hurt. First off, the Ducks need to walk in the door with both Lindholm and Rakell on the table. They need to be willing to eat salary coming back the other way, most likely Henrik Lundqvist and/or Brendan Smith. Then Anaheim needs to put Henrique, Steel, Lundestrom, and Groulx in play and pray they don’t ask about Zegras.

Rickard Rakell Anaheim Ducks
Rickard Rakell, Anaheim Ducks (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

Unfortunately, they probably do, because Lafreniere is THAT good, or at the very least has the potential to be. The problem there is the moment you subtract Zegras, and potentially the sixth overall pick, you immediately negate any benefits of acquiring Lafreniere. Now you have to go out and find another player to bring in to support Lafreniere instead of just keeping Zegras and trusting your scouting department to hit a home run with the sixth pick.

But if the Ducks have even a fraction of a sliver of a chance at acquiring the Rangers’ pick, then they have to look into it. Aside from Zegras and the sixth pick, everything should be on the table. And while they may hear nothing but laughter and a dial tone after Jeff Gorton answers the phone, it’s still worth looking into. The worst they can do is say no.

Who Could Ducks Target With This Pick?

*Bursts onto stage* I’m going to let Josh finish, but I just want to say that in a world where the Ducks somehow managed to pry this pick away from the Rangers they should run as fast as possible to the podium and just start shouting “Alexis Lafreniere” over and over until Gary Bettman has them forcibly removed from the stage.

Alexis Lafreniere Quinton Byfield Top Prospects Game
Alexis Lafreniere and Quinton Byfield at the 2020 Kubota CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game (CHL Images)

Bell: The only choice here is Lafrenière, despite my love for Quinton Byfield and my belief that he could challenge Lafrenière for the title of best NHL player to come out of this class. Lafrenière is the safer choice. I will add – I don’t think it happens. It will take a LOT for the Rangers to move the first-overall pick, it rarely happens, and I don’t think the Ducks or many other teams are going to be willing to pay that price, despite the reward at the end.