The Edmonton Oilers seem likely to come away with another high pick at this summer’s NHL Entry Draft. If that selection is inside the top 10, it will be the club’s eighth consecutive top 10 pick and ninth in the last 10 seasons.
Edmonton has not traded away any of those top 10 picks; in fact, the only pick moved during that run was the No. 12 overall selection in 2008, which went to Anaheim (and eventually to Buffalo) as compensation for the signing of restricted free agent Dustin Penner. Should the Oilers consider moving this selection?
Not at the Trade Deadline
I’ve seen comments and received emails from those who would like to see Edmonton move the pick at this spring’s trade deadline.
It’s probably a bad idea.
The biggest reason is relative value. Draft picks tend to be worth a lot more at the draft than at the trade deadline.
It makes sense; at the deadline, the focus is on winning a playoff round or the Stanley Cup within the next few months. Every NHL’er who can actually play sees his value increase, because even teams that feel comfortable with their rosters either have injuries or are worried about getting injuries. Additionally, there are a small pool of teams that are willing to sell, and the teams that are willing to buy bid against each other for the limited selection of available players.
In the summer, on the other hand, player values fall. Free agency is right around the corner, so the pool of available players is wide open and in many cases good ones are available for nothing but money. In a lot of cases, teams have to extend players who were on cheap deals at higher price-points, and that forces them to move out expensive veterans which they would otherwise retain.
Additionally, there’s a lack of certainty with any pick in the early spring. Come draft day, the location of that pick is known, and teams can evaluate it fairly. In January or February, there are a range of potential outcomes with that pick.
For a team that can make some playoff noise this year, trading a pick at the deadline often makes sense both because there is an immediate payoff and because playoff success devalues the pick, pushing it lower. For a team unlikely to make playoff noise, the immediate payoff is less interesting and there’s a risk of the pick increasing dramatically in value, particularly now that the NHL has made the draft lottery system more random than it once was.
When I look at Edmonton’s position in the standings, I see the latter. Connor McDavid is going to help, but the defence is a mess and the apparently long-term loss of Oscar Klefbom only makes that mess worse.
On Draft Day? Sure.
I don’t subscribe to the “the last thing Edmonton needs is another 18-year-old” line of thinking because it’s always valuable to have young cost-controlled players in the system, pushing for jobs. However, there’s no question in my mind that the Oilers need to make forward progress immediately, and an established veteran is almost always going to be more useful in that regard than a new draft pick.
Peter Chiarelli evidently agrees. It’s why he made every effort to acquire defenceman Dougie Hamilton from the Boston Bruins at last year’s draft. It’s why, having failed to land Hamilton, he next went after Griffin Reinhart. We can argue about whether the latter trade was good value for the Oilers, but what we can’t argue with is the idea that the manager was trying to accelerate Edmonton’s rebuild. He was, and he seems likely to try once again.
The key point here is that the time to do it is at this summer’s draft, rather than at the deadline. It will be cheaper, the number of available options will be increased, and the chance of acquiring a long-term piece rather than a rental player goes up dramatically.
It’s frustrating to be sure, but there’s a big difference in cost. At the deadline, Tampa Bay had to move a first-round pick, defenceman Radko Gudas and a third-round pick to get Braydon Coburn. In the summer, Calgary only paid first, second and third-round picks for Hamilton. Those are pretty similar packages for pretty dissimilar players.
Edmonton needs to make sure that whichever defenceman it pays for can play a major role both next year and down the road. It would be nice if that defenceman landed on the roster immediately, but it’s far more important to land the right defenceman than it is to make sure he’s playing games no later than March.