Time to forget about Connor McDavid
Let me begin by stating the obvious, i.e., why Toronto needs a sensible post-2015 NHL Draft Lottery trade strategy. The reason is because the Leafs, in all likelihood, will not be able to obtain C Connor McDavid via the trade route as he is virtually Edmonton-bound after the Oilers pulled off the seemingly impossible by winning the 4th Draft Lottery in the last 6 years on April 18, 2015–even though the hockey club only had a 11.5% chance (albeit the 3rd best odds among all non-playoff teams) of winning the McDavid sweepstakes.
Immediately after the conclusion of the 2015 NHL Draft Lottery, Edmonton’s Assistant GM Bill Scott told Elliotte Friedman that trading the pick would be “very tough to do given the circumstances of this draft but you never know what can happen.” Just hours (if not minutes) later, Oilers GM MacTavish followed up by being more emphatic when he stated that there is “zero” chance of moving the selection. This means that Edmonton will add to its recent strings of 1st-overall picks in Taylor Hall (2010), Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (2011), and Nail Yakupov (2012) by presumably drafting McDavid on June 26 to 27, 2015 at BB&T Center in Sunrise, Florida. Sorry, Leafs Nation!
MacTavish: "zero" chance the Oilers trade the No. 1 pick.
— Greg Wyshynski (@wyshynski) April 19, 2015
My trade proposal
Instead of daydreaming about how to go about acquiring McDavid, the Toronto may want to explore trade scenarios whereby they can maximize returns on their draft picks given that the Maple Leafs are undergoing a complete rebuild under the new regime led by Brendan Shanahan (President and Alternate Governor). If I were Kyle Dubas (Assistant GM) and Mark Hunter (Director of Player Personnel), both of whom are responsible for overseeing the 2015 NHL Entry Draft for the team, I would pick up the phone and call Carolina Hurricanes GM Ron Francis to explore the possibility of making a trade with them. Specifically, I would propose trading Toronto’s 1st-round selection in the 2015 NHL Entry Draft to Carolina for the Hurricanes’ 1st- and 2nd-round picks in this same draft.
Why the tender makes sense for Toronto
My rationale is straightforward. Recall that former Maple Leafs GM Dave Nonis previously traded G Ben Scrivens, RW Matt Frattin, and a conditional selection to the Los Angeles Kings for G Jonathan Bernier on June 23, 2013 with the condition being that Los Angeles will receive a 2nd-round pick in either the 2014 or 2015 NHL Entry Draft at Toronto’s choice. When the Maple Leafs subsequently traded its 2nd-round selection in the 2014 NHL Entry Draft to Anaheim, a condition that was converted on January 18, 2014 when C Peter Holland played in his 25th game in the 2013 to 2014 NHL season–Nonis had shipped a conditional pick in the 2014 NHL Entry Draft along with D Jesse Blacker to the Ducks for Holland and RW Brad Staubitz on November 16, 2013 with condition that the pick would be a 3rd round selection unless Holland plays in 25 or more games during the 2013 to 2014 NHL season in which case the pick would become a 2nd-round selection, the aforementioned conditional draft pick that Toronto owed the Kings automatically became a 2nd-round pick in the 2015 NHL Entry Draft (34th overall selection) by default. Interestingly, this selection now belongs to Columbus after Los Angeles traded the pick along with Frattin and a conditional 3rd-round pick in the 2014 NHL Entry Draft to the Blue Jackets for Marian Gaborik on March 5, 2014. This means that after selecting 4th (assuming that the Maple Leafs do not trade its 1st-round pick) in the 2015 NHL Entry Draft, Toronto will not have another pick of its own until the 65th selection (granted that the team does have a late-1st rounder that was previously acquired from Nashville when Nonis sent D Cody Franson and C Mike Santorelli to the Predators for C Olli Jokinen, F Brendan Leipsic, and the Predators’ 1st-round pick in this draft on February 15, 2015). For a franchise that is in dire need of young skilful players, this is not a good situation as several good young players (e.g., Duncan Keith of the Chicago Blackhawks and P. K. Subban of the Montreal Canadiens) were unearthed in the 2nd round of NHL Entry Drafts.
If the Maple Leafs were to trade its 1st-round selection in the 2015 NHL Entry Draft to Carolina for the Hurricanes’ 1st- and 2nd-round picks in the same draft, then Toronto would be able to replenish its 2nd-round selection since it would get the 35th overall selection from Carolina. Presuming that Edmonton chooses McDavid 1st overall in the 2015 NHL Entry Draft and that Buffalo follows by picking C Jack Eichel 2nd overall, the Maple Leafs would virtually be guaranteed to get one of D Noah Hanifin, C Dylan Strome, and C Mitch Marner even if Toronto were to make the trade with the Hurricanes using the factorial principle (3!).
Briefly put, here are the six possible scenarios. First, if Arizona end up picking Hanifin 3rd overall and Carolina follows by selecting Strome 4th overall, the Maple Leafs would still be able to pluck Marner (whom Hunter is very high on and arguably prefers over Strome) with the 5th overall selection. Second, if the Coyotes decide to take Strome 3rd overall and the Hurricanes follows by picking Hanifin 4th overall, Toronto could still select Marner with the 5th overall choice. Third, if Arizona chooses Hanifin 3rd overall and Carolina follows by selecting Marner with the 4th overall pick, the Maple Leafs would be a position to secure Strome with the 5th overall selection. Fourth, if the Coyotes were to take Marner 3rd overall and the Hurricanes follows by choosing Hanifin 4th overall, Toronto could still choose Strome with the 5th overall pick. Fifth, if Arizona takes Strome 3rd overall and Carolina follows by picking Marner with the 4th overall selection, then the Maple Leafs would be able to choose Hanifin with the 5th overall choice. Finally, if the Coyotes opt to take Marner 3rd overall and the Hurricanes follows by picking Strome 4th overall, Toronto would still be able to take Hanifin with the 5th selection.
The Leafs will come out a winner under all three scenarios
No matter how I look at the six hypothetical outcomes, the Maple Leafs would end up owning the drafts right of Hanifin, Strome, or Marner and be able to recuperate its lost 2nd-round pick in the 2015 NHL Entry Draft if Toronto were able to pull off my suggested trade with Carolina. For a franchise that lacks depth at virtually all positions, this would be the optimal result for Toronto since the Maple Leafs could not go wrong with anyone of the three prospects as Hanifin is the best defenseman in the entire draft, Strome (in spite of his suspect skating ability) is a bonfire number 1 centre having led the Ontario Hockey League in scoring with an impressive 129 points for the 2014 to 2015 season, and Marner (who despite being undersized for a centre) possesses dynamic offensive skills sets whom many (including Hunter) would potentially argue is actually better than Strome. At the end of the day, having Hanifin, Strome, or Marner and a solid prospect that come by way of the Hurricanes’ 2nd-round pick in the 2015 NHL Entry Draft will set Toronto off to its long overdue rebuild in the right pathway.
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