Earlier today, we ran an interview between Andrey Osadchenko and Igor Larionov on this site. Larionov is the agent for two of 2012’s top draft prospects – Nail Yakupov and Alex Galchenyuk – and among other things he made the interesting suggestion that the Leafs might attempt to land both players (who are also teammates in Sarnia).
Is it possible?
Asked what the Oilers had told him about drafting Yakupov with the first overall pick, Larionov offered (in part) the following:
Tambellini told me: ‘We like him. We want him. But we’re going to make a decision the day before the draft’. I also know the Habs want to get one of my guys – either Nail or Alex [Galchenyuk]. So do the Leafs. It is possible that the Leafs are going to trade their draft pick and get both of them. There is a possibility like that. Nail and Alex went to New Jersey for Game 2 of the Stanley Cup Finals. After this they met Leafs GM Brian Burke. Then Nail met with the Habs.
It’s the same scenario that Robin Brownlee spit-balled a few days ago, except that instead of the Oilers making a move to land both players, it would be the Leafs.
Shades of 1999
While normally this sort of talk has a fantastic quality to it, every once in a while a general manager pulls this kind of deal off. Brian Burke did it at the 1999 NHL Entry Draft, where the Canucks emerged as the big winners of the first round, drafting twin brothers Henrik and Daniel Sedin.
How did they do it? The Canucks already owned the third overall selection, and they needed to land another pick inside the top three. They managed to get the fourth overall pick from Chicago in exchange for defenseman Bryan McCabe and the Blackhawks choice of Vancouver’s first round pick in either 2000 or 2001 (Chicago opted for the 11th overall pick in 2000). Then they dealt that fourth overall pick to Tampa Bay along with a pair of third round picks in exchange for the first overall selection.
With Atlanta eying Patrik Stefan – while now considered a bust, at the time Stefan boasted size and physical maturity; he was a point-per-game player in the IHL (roughly equivalent to the AHL today) in his draft year – the Canucks traded down from first to second overall, collecting a third round pick the following year in the process.
Chicago got a good defenseman and a first round pick. Atlanta got Patrik Stefan. Vancouver walked away with two-thirds of an elite first line.
What Would It Take?
The Leafs are in an interesting position because they have strength in areas where the Oilers are weak. It seems unlikely that top defenseman Dion Phaneuf would be on the table, but the Leafs have a quartet of other (relatively) young defenders that might intrigue the Oilers:
- 21-year old Jake Gardiner
- 22-year old Luke Schenn
- 24-year old Cody Franson
- 25-year old Carl Gunnarsson
Looking back to what the Leafs did in 1999, would the Oilers consider one of Schenn or Gardiner, Franson, and their choice of the Leaf’s first round pick in either 2013 or 2014 in exchange for the first overall selection this year? Schenn was a fifth overall pick a few years ago, plus he has a WHL heritage and the Oilers do love both of those things.
The Leafs pick next year could be a high one as well. Since 2008, the Leafs have by virtue of their regular season finish had the opportunity to draft seventh (they moved up to 5th overall and took Schenn), seventh (Nazem Kadri), second (Boston got the pick in the Phil Kessel deal and drafted Tyler Seguin), ninth (another pick lost in the Kessel deal; Boston drafted Dougie Hamilton) and then fifth overall next year. Based on recent history, next year’s first round pick will be a considerable asset.
There’s also the possibility that the Leafs could trade up to eighth overall and use that pick to barter with Edmonton. There has been speculation recently that the Carolina Hurricanes are willing to deal that pick for immediate help up front (h/t Lowetide). The Leafs have some options that might be appealing to Carolina, and could add a highly regarded prospect like Joe Colborne or Nazem Kadri in a package with an established forward.
If the Leafs managed to land the eighth overall pick, Edmonton might be intrigued by the possibility of trading down and landing a player like Griffin Reinhart.
Will it happen?
I very much doubt it. Burke often talks about moving up on draft day (as opposed to the Oilers, who let it be known that they would be interested in moving up, don’t move up, and then trade for the player five years later after whoever drafted him is willing to move on) but the reality is that deals like that are hard to pull off. People are loss-averse by nature and the prospect of moving a top pick can be nerve-wracking.
Still, sometimes strange things happen. I’d be surprised if Burke didn’t at least sound out Tambellini about that first overall pick.
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