Since the NHL salary cap was instituted after the 2005 lockout, it has become increasingly important for teams to hang on to their draft picks (hello, Toronto Maple Leafs) in order to build their team into a competitive force. However, if teams feel that they are just one piece away from contention, they could look to move a draft pick or two to push them over the edge.
With the recent rumour that multiple teams have inquired about Toronto Maple Leafs star Phil Kessel, including the Washington Capitals and the Carolina Hurricanes, it would seem a few teams are looking to make a splash. With the amount of talent available in the draft, it’s possible one team uses a valuable asset, such as a top-10 pick, to acquire a proven NHL player.
In past years, while rare, teams have parted with their picks in the top 10 of a draft to land a good NHL player or two in an attempt to push their team over the edge and into playoff (and possibly Stanley Cup) contention. Teams have also used multiple draft picks in trying to move up the draft’s pecking order and to get a better prospect, sometimes even a top-10 pick. With the draft less than a month away, and rumours swirling, it’s worth wondering what kind of player(s) or draft picks would have to be available for a team to part with their top-10 pick?
While still rare, teams have traded their top-10 pick in past seasons. Teams such as the Columbus Blue Jackets, Philadelphia Flyers, and Carolina Hurricanes have been part of blockbuster deals in recent years, proving a deal of such magnitude rarely happens in places you would expect. While many trades involving high draft picks often include the exchanging of multiple draft picks, sometimes these trades involve a star moving area codes. Here are a few deals involving top-10 picks and NHL stars that have been made in recent seasons.
Philadelphia Flyers trade Jeff Carter to the Columbus Blue Jackets for Jakub Voracek, 1st round selection in 2011 (Sean Couturier) and 3rd round selection in 2011 (Nick Cousins)
In this trade, the Flyers traded all-star forward Jeff Carter, coming off of a 36 goal, 66 point season, to Columbus, who were looking to build upon a 2010-2011 season in which they made tremendous strides and were eyeing a playoff berth in 2012. Voracek, the 7th overall pick in 2007, was a great young player with potential but underwhelming in his brief career, as his career high in goals up to that point was a mere 16. The Blue Jackets also moved their 3rd round pick in the upcoming draft in addition to the 8th overall pick they dealt to Philadelphia.
The Blue Jackets took a step backwards in 2012, as they plummeted down the standings and ended up trading Carter to the Los Angeles Kings after just 39 games and 25 points, receiving their (current) top defenseman in Jack Johnson and another first round pick in 2013. The Flyers drafted shutdown forward Sean Couturier with the 8th pick, and he has developed into the team’s best defensive forward in the years since. Nick Cousins, the player they drafted in the 3rd round, put up 56 points in 64 AHL games this season and looks to be a good player for the Flyers down the road. Voracek, however, has blossomed into a star forward, finishing 5th in the NHL scoring race this season and making his first All-Star appearance.
Pittsburgh Penguins trade Jordan Staal to the Carolina Hurricanes for Brandon Sutter, Brian Dumoulin, and first round selection in 2012 (Derrick Pouliot)
The Penguins, already sporting two elite centres in Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, traded 23-year-old centre Jordan Staal to the Hurricanes to be reunited with his brother Eric, the captain of Carolina. In return, they sent young centre Brandon Sutter, defense prospect Brian Dumoulin, and the 8th overall pick in the 2012 draft.
Staal didn’t help push Carolina into the playoffs, as they have missed the postseason in every year since this deal and are selecting 5th overall in the upcoming draft. Staal has produced in Carolina when healthy, but has failed to make the leap into “star” status that many expected of him upon his move to Carolina and subsequently signing a 10 year, $60 million contract. Sutter has been a solid player for the Penguins, providing a defensive presence to Pittsburgh’s forward group and serving on the team’s penalty killing unit. Dumoulin put up 33 points in the AHL this year and looks to be making a push for the NHL lineup this fall. After an illustrious junior career, Derrick Pouliot made the AHL All-Star game this season and is viewed by many to be Pittsburgh’s top prospect. Pouliot looks to have a very bright future ahead of him on the Penguins’ blueline.
Anaheim Ducks trade Bobby Ryan to the Ottawa Senators for Jakob Silfverberg, Stefan Noesen, and 1st round selection in 2014 (Nick Ritchie)
Bobby Ryan, coming off a disappointing 2013 season and with only 2 years left on his deal, was moved to the upstart Ottawa Senators in an attempt to add scoring punch to a team that had finished 26th in the NHL in goals scored the previous season. Silfverberg was a highly regarded youngster who was coming off an impressive rookie season with Ottawa. Noesen had been a first round pick in 2011, and was the leading scorer for an impressive Plymouth Whalers squad in the OHL. The first round pick ended up as the 10th overall pick in 2014, and the Ducks selected power forward Nick Ritchie from the Peterborough Petes.
Ryan has remained as the Senators’ top right wing, producing 54 points last season and making a trip to the NHL playoffs. Silfverberg has failed to put up huge regular-season numbers with Anaheim, but was an integral part of their run to the Western Conference Championships this season with 18 points in 16 playoff games. Noesen missed almost all of the 2013-2014 season with a knee injury and most of this season with an Achilles injury, but is still young at 21 years old and could put himself back in the Ducks’ future plans with a strong AHL season next year. Ritchie has blossomed into one of the best power forward prospects in the NHL, and won a gold medal with the Canadian squad at the 2015 World Junior Championships.
From recent trade history, it seems as if the common structure for a blockbuster trade involves a star player going one way for a top-10 pick, a good young roster player, and either a good prospect or another draft pick.
There are many rumours flying around this summer regarding star players and the draft, as the high-end talent available on June 28th in Florida rivals the legendary 2003 Entry Draft and many consider it an extremely strong draft class.
Obviously one of the biggest names on the trade market this summer, the much-maligned winger was one of the scapegoats of the Toronto Maple Leafs’ horrendous 2014-2015 season. Despite constant criticism, Kessel managed to put up 25 goals and 61 points, decent numbers but still a poor season from a forward as talented as the U.S. Olympian. The criticism facing Kessel involves his lackluster defensive effort (culminating in a -34 plus/minus rating last year) and high price tag, as he is signed for $8 million per season for the next 7 seasons. Kessel has his warts, but a constant 30-goal threat is rare in today’s low-scoring NHL, and should fetch a pretty price should Toronto decide to move him. A possible return for Kessel could include a high first-round pick, a young roster player, and a good prospect, similar to the trades consummated in recent years detailed above.
Possible Suitors: New Jersey Devils, Florida Panthers, San Jose Sharks
When theOilerswere handed the number one overall selection in the draft (and Connor McDavid), it signaled both the start of a new era in Edmonton and a
possible logjam of young, talented forwards. Former #1 overall picks Taylor Hall and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins look to be cornerstones of the franchise at this stage of their careers, and other players like Nail Yakupov have underwhelmed since he was drafted in 2012 and would not bring back the return of a star player like Eberle. He has reached 60 points in 3 of the last 4 seasons and would bring an instant boost of offense to any teams looking to improve a lackluster forward group. While Edmonton might not want to move a young, skilled forward like Eberle, if they decided he was expendable with the addition of McDavid then there would be suitors lining up to make an offer for the 25 year old.
Possible Suitors: Columbus Blue Jackets, Colorado Avalanche, San Jose Sharks
While it’s no guarantee that these star forwards will be traded, or even a blockbuster trade made at all, it’s still worth looking at what such a deal might look like. With the rumour mill hotter than ever leading up to the 2015 NHL Draft, keep an eye out for a potential blockbuster trade.
Joseph Aleong is an At-Large writer for THW from Toronto, Ontario. He is a graduate of Brock University in St. Catharines, ON. Follow him on Twitter @josephaleong11