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It is Draft Week…

This is one of my favourite weeks during the NHL calendar. I’ve covered the NHL draft since 2007, and it has changed a lot in the past 12 years. The draft itself has had some change (more on that later), but this lead up week has become one of the most active times for trades in the NHL. I realize the players who get traded have a difficult transition, but at least they don’t have to move right away and leave their family like during the season. Every player I’ve talked to who has a family agrees an off-season trade is much easier on the family dynamic.

Wheeling and dealing is one of the aspects I enjoy the most in pro sports. You get a glimpse of how teams view certain players and how their evaluation can be accurate or horribly wrong. I’ve seen a lot of the latter firsthand the past few years.

The one thing that doesn’t get me excited, is the annual “trade down, or trade up” scenarios that people discuss. Mainly because it is pointless and we rarely see teams trade up or down in the top-ten. The Oilers have been a mainstay in the top-10 since 2007. They selected sixth in 2007, 22nd in 2008, then went 10th, first, first, first, seventh, third and first between 2009-2016, 22nd in 2017, then 10th last year and they will pick eighth this coming Friday.

I’ve had ample time to study the trends and history of top-ten picks. You can waste a lot of time wondering if the Oilers will trade up, trade down or even trade out of the top-ten. It is extremely unlikely.

Here are trades involving top-ten picks since the 2007 draft.

2018: None
2017: Arizona traded the sixth pick and Anthony DeAngelo to the Rangers for Antti Raanta and Derek Stepan. Rangers selected Lias Andersson
2016: None
2015: None
2014: Anaheim traded Bobby Ryan to Ottawa on July 5th, 2013 in exchange for Jakob Silfverberg, Stefan Noesen and the 2014 first round pick. The Ducks selected Nick Ritchie.
2013: New Jersey traded the #9 pick to Vancouver for Cory Schneider. The Canucks selected Bo Horvat.
2012: Carolina traded the #8 pick, Brian Dumoulin and Brandon Sutter to Pittsburgh for Jordan Staal. The Pens selected Derrick Pouliot.
2011: Columbus traded the eighth pick, Jackub Voracek and a 2011 third round pick to Philadelphia for Jeff Carter. The Flyers took Sean Couturier eighth overall.
On September 18th, 2009 the Maple Leafs traded their first round picks in 2010 and 2011 and a second round pick in 2010 to Boston for Phil Kessel. The Bruins took Dougie Hamilton ninth in 2011.
2010: The Bruins selected Tyler Seguin second overall as part of the aforementioned trade of Kessel to Toronto.
2009: None
2008: The NYI traded their #5 pick to Toronto for pick #7 and the 68th pick in 2008 and the 37th pick in 2009. Toronto selected Luke Schenn. The Islanders traded the 68th pick as a part of a package to move up from #16 to #12 and select Calvin De Haan.
The Islanders traded down again. They moved the seventh pick to Nashville for the ninth selection and the 40th pick. The Predators selected Colin Wilson seventh, while the Islanders to Josh Bailey at #9 and Aaron Ness at #40.
2007: St. Louis traded down from #9 for picks #13 and #44 and a second round pick in 2008. San Jose took Logan Couture at #9.

We haven’t seen a team trade up or down in the top-ten since 2008. Maybe because the Islanders still ended up with a better player, Bailey, than Toronto or Nashville. Anything is possible, but I wouldn’t spend much time looking at trade up or down scenarios.

A trade of the eighth overall pick is more likely, but we’ve only seen one of those in the past five years during draft week. And if you analyze the teams who traded a player for picks, it worked out incredibly well for Boston getting Seguin and Hamilton for Kessel, and Vancouver did pretty well getting Horvat. Carolina got Staal, but the Penguins got Dumoulin who helped them win back-to-back Cups, and Columbus got crushed acquiring Carter for Voracek and Couturier. Especially when they traded Carter to LA for Jack Johnson and a 2013 first round pick (Marko Dano).

It might be boring, but I expect Ken Holland to retain the eighth overall pick. If the scouts do their job the Oilers will get a good player. It is hard to predict, because all it takes is one team to select a player you don’t expect, but my guess is the Oilers will draft Matt Boldy or Trevor Zegras.

THOUGHTS AND SHOTS…

1. The draft really starts with the third pick. Jack Hughes and Kaapo Kakko will be the first two selections, but what will the Chicago Blackhawks do at #3? If I was them I’d take Bowen Byram. I think he is going to be an elite defenceman.

2. Various scouts have told me Peyton Krebs Achilles injury won’t change how they view him. Many scouts are really high on him. Between Byram, Krebs, Kirby Dach and Dylan Cozens the WHL will be represented very well in the top half of the first round.

3. I’m hearing Trent Yawney is close to signing with the Los Angeles Kings, but the Kings and Oilers are just discussing/negotiating how much of, if any, Yawney’s salary they will pay. It isn’t always as cut and dry as we think it should be.

4. With the Sharks re-signing Erik Karlsson, the UFA defenceman class got even weaker, and that might be a good thing for the Edmonton Oilers. Kris Russell and Andrej Sekera have value, and both are due less money than their cap hit. Russell is owed $6.5 million over the next two seasons while carrying an annual $4 mill cap hit, while Sekera has a $5.5 mill cap hit, but is owed $4.5 mill in cash each of the next two seasons. Russell has a list of 10 teams the Oilers can trade him to without his permission, while Sekera has 15. Russell’s ability to play both sides, lower cap hit and being a year younger have more teams interested in him. But those reasons, combined with the Oilers’ lack of a right defence, are why he is more valuable to Edmonton as well.

5. Ken Holland doesn’t have to trade either of them, but to get some cap flexibility they are the most likely options. I keep hearing Jujhar Khaira’s name as a possible trade option. Granted, I’ve heard that from sources outside the Oilers, but it is interesting. I’d be leery of trading him.

6. I vividly remember being at the 2009 draft in Montreal and on day two the Oilers traded Kyle Brodziak to Minnesota for two mid-round picks. The Oilers essentially choose Marc-Antoine Pouliot over Brodziak, and it was a bad decision. Khaira isn’t as proven as Brodziak, who had 31 and 27 point seasons, but I would not trade Khaira for picks. Khaira had 21 and 18 points the past two seasons, but he hasn’t had much consistency in what role he was asked to play. Give him a defined role as a bottom-six left winger, and PK guy. Khaira has to accept that role, and not worry about points. If he does I think he could be a valuable bottom six forward for Edmonton.

7. Another way the Karlsson contract could help the Oilers is signing UFA forward Joonas Doonskoi. He has had 36, 17, 32 and 37 points in his first four NHL seasons and he’s scored 27, 12, 26 and 32 at 5×5. He is a solid even strength contributor. His FF% has been 53%, 53%, 55% and 54%. His GF% has been 55%, 44%, 57.9% and 55.9%. He has had more offensive zone starts, 631, to 403 defensive zone starts, but his underlying numbers combined with his point production show a solid third line player. The one knock is he doesn’t kill penalties. How much more will he command than what Carl Hagelin, $2.75million/year for four years, signed for? Hagelin has 89 5×5 points the past four years to Doonskoi’s 97. I suspect Doonskoi comes in just over Hagelin.

8. Another Sharks free agent forward, Gustav Nyquist, is likely too pricey for the Oilers, unless Holland can sweet talk his former Detroit Red Wing forward and sell him on the idea of playing with Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl or Ryan Nugent-Hopkins.

9. I understand why people get so fired about offer sheets, but in reality we rarely see one. Are the Sharks vulnerable after signing Karlsson? Yes, but I don’t think there is anyway they wouldn’t match a Timo Meier offer sheet, unless someone offers him more than $8.55 million (Compensation would be two 1st, a 2nd and a 3rd). Anything under and the Sharks will match, even if it was the max of $8.54 million at the compensation of a one first, a second and a third. Meier is very good, and Sharks GM Doug Wilson has proven he will keep his good players.

10. A team might be better off to target Kevin Labanc. He turns 24 in December and has scored 20, 40 and 56 points in his three NHL seasons. He had 33 points at 5×5 this past season. He shoots right and with the Sharks in a cap crunch, you could offer him $4,227,437/year and only give up a 2nd round pick. The Sharks couldn’t trade him for a year, so if they matched the offer, then they would have to trade someone else to free up cap. I’m skeptical anyone submits an offer sheet, but I see them having a better chance of landing Labanc than Meier. And not because the Sharks dislike Labanc, but if they are paying big money I believe they’d rather do it for Meier than Labanc.

11. During Wilson’s conference call about the Karlsson signing he said this… “There’s been more conversation and communication between GMs in the last month than maybe ever since I’ve been a GM.” I hope this leads to a lot of trades over the next two weeks.

12. I also have no issue with the Sharks giving Karlsson an eight-year deal. He is an elite defenceman, and even when he was banged up he still drives possession numbers. It is fair to be leery of signing players who are 29 to eight-year deals, but Karlsson is elite and if his game slows down the final years he will still be better than most. I’d much rather have him for eight years than Jeff Skinner. Skinner is a good player, but not elite.

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  • Jordan McNugent-Hallkins

    It’s highly unlikely a team trades their top 10 pick, but it’s happened in 8 of the last 12 drafts? I feel like I misread something here.

    • TruthHurts98

      Highly unlikely they trade down is probably what he was referring to. I doubt anyone does in the top 10. The ask is steep and there will be a lot of future NHLer’s coming out of the 2nd round. It’s deeper than the past two drafts I think.

    • Kevwan

      It is rare enough that it’s not probable. However Holland did trade down with Detroit’s pick in 2016. Holland is on record saying while it’s unlikely he’d move up he’d listen to offers to move down.

      I don’t think it’s nearly as improbable as Gregor believes it to be.

  • TruthHurts98

    I think they will be crazy to pass on Caufield if available. He’s a true sniper on a level that Yamamoto isn’t. Sure he’s small but if he’s better than deBrindecat it would be crazy to pass on him since we have Connor and Leon. I’ve been following other teams and Buffalo seems intent on Zegras if he’s available. The wings like Byram but he won’t be there. I’m guessing they take Dach or Zegras. All just a guess of course, this should be a fun draft with lots of surprises. I hope the Oilers draft the best player available at 8 regardless. He should be a good one, this draft is pretty deep with forwards. Exactly what they need most!

    • We can worry whether him and Yamamoto together will cause lineup issues in the future when they both make it to the league full time, the most important thing right now is to continue to fill the cupboards with quality prospects and rack up potential future assets. If we have to trade one of them down the road then that won’t be a problem.

  • OriginalPouzar

    I can’t agree that Russell is more valuable to the Oilers than Sekera. Yes, of course, risk of decline with Sekera but he started as such a better dman than Russell – let’s recall how valuable this player was not too long ago.

    I am confident he will show in October just how much he helps the defensive group.

    • nicolas10

      The oiler’s def has been atrocious for the last two years because Sekera was injured & what do people want to do? Trade him. The one big difference between the playoff oilers & the bottom dwellers was Sekera being out of the lineup. Yet, let’s trade him! Seriously trade Russel & Benning and get one good RDman to replace them both.

    • Glencontrolurstik

      Plus, it’s too small a community to screw other teams over. Adversity is more common than success and favours are banked, if you know what I mean?
      One incident that comes to mind is when the Ottawa goalie’s wife had cancer & suddenly had to take a leave. A team (forget? Florida, I think) came to the rescue with Condon, for basically nothing. He did carry the team until Anderson returned. That’s more likely to happen between teams, you bank favours, not create enemies.

    • Kepler62c

      It’s sad really — for me it’s less about the elite/great players (like Nylander last season, Marner, Trouba, Connor, Laine, Meier, Rantanen, etc.), teams will always match on those guys and they are way more high profile that their agents probably wouldn’t even suggest going that route. But for the 2nd teir RFAs it could be a really useful tool for rebuilding teams and those with cap space, offer sheet guys like Johnsson, Kapanen, Labanc, Roslovic, and you’ve got a useful middle 6 player. Sure, it’ll bite teams once in a while when they give a Jujhar Khaira $4M when he deserves maybe $2M — but should keep things interesting.

    • FISTO Siltanen

      If the players and owners were smart in the next CBA they’d move the draft to mid-July and start the rest of the offseason when they currently do. The NFL starts free-agency before the draft and this creates many more offer sheet opportunities.

  • Randaman

    How much you want to bet that if the Russian is available, we take him. I hear that he could be the steal of the draft if you can get past him being contractually obligated for the next two years?

  • Hickster94

    Great article Jason, really enjoyed that especially points 4 & 8. Would life to see Nyquist with Nuge and (knock on wood they sign) Puljujarvi……Think a team like Tampa would like more shot blocking defencemen?

  • ed from edmonton

    For the Oil to be in play for any significant FA dumping either Sekera or Russel is needed. If Holland can’t manage this, the Oil will need to spent much of their available cap space on a goalie with little left over for much else.

  • BR

    Draft the BPA – even if they think its Broberg, I have no issue with that. Someone always slides down – Just think the US kids may be slightly overvalued (just slightly) due to overall team streangth? Hopeing they take a canadian winger who can skate like the wind and shoot.

  • Kelly Youngblood

    Nyquist is a versatile winger in that he can play either side but for how much? I’d roll the dice on a guy like Brandon Pirri or Tyler Ennis. Risk/Reward.

  • goodtobelucky97

    Over the past 6 draft years, how many U.S. born players going the NCAA route have stayed in school for 3 years and became UFA’s? (Asking the question because I don’t know)

    Considering the above question;
    If the Oilers select a U.S. born NCAA bound player at 8, I wonder what are the chances of that player ever signing with the Oilers?