For a handful of teams, the 2013 NHL Draft—now less than a week away—may not be as cut-and-dry as it will be for others.
Sunday's selection process will feature a extremely highly-touted class of young prospects. Whether those top prospects will grab the afternoon's biggest headlines, however, remains to be seen.
The potential for a plethora of blockbuster trades is the highest it's been in years.
Four franchises hold multiple first-round picks and several others have been heavily mentioned in rumors in the draft's lead-up. Will those clubs all pull the trigger right around 3 p.m. on June 30? A number of factors indicate that they just might.
A breakdown of five teams most likely to trade a first-round pick falls on the coming slides.
Sabres GM Darcy Regier, holding two of the top 16 overall picks, has a number of options to consider.
First-Round Picks: No. 8, No. 16
For the first time in 10 years, the Buffalo Sabres will have the opportunity to make a top-10 pick in the NHL Draft.
With the fifth selection in 2003, the Sabres chose a deer-eyed 18-year-old by the name of Thomas Vanek. Now, one decade later, the Sabres hold the eighth pick in a draft class often compared to that historic 2003 crop.
But will they hold on to it? That's not entirely certain, given that the team has openly mentioned their desire to get an even higher selection.
Sabres' director of amateur scouting Kevin Devine, per John Vogl of The Buffalo News:
The preliminary talks are that everybody’s talking about our young players to move up. It’s a difficult conversation, but if you’re really honed in on one guy and he can be a franchise changer, then you have to look at it.
We’re really trying to move up.
Another alternative for Sabres' GM Darcy Regier could be to package both the eighth and 16th picks together in one deal. By this logic, that pair of choices could almost be enough to land the second overall pick.
Either way, Buffalo has plenty of options to consider entering Sunday's event.
Flames GM Jay Feaster (at right) needs to improve his aging franchise quickly.
First-Round Picks: No. 6, No. 22, No. 28
While the search for mascot Harvey the Hound's body continues, the Calgary Flames have a wealth of assets in this year's first round to use carefully.
After all, GM Jay Feaster's franchise hasn't made the playoffs since 2009 and hasn't won a series since 2004. With the squad essentially on the verge of a complete restructuring, the decisions made with the sixth, 22nd and 28th picks could decide the Flames' fate for years to come.
According to CBC's Elliotte Friedman, Feaster isn't interested whatsoever in holding onto all of them. "Calgary offered all three of their first-round draft picks...to the Colorado Avalanche for the No. 1 overall selection," he reported back on June 15. "Colorado said, 'No thanks, that's not going to be enough.'"
Even if that swap never works out, it seems like Feaster is eager to pull off a blockbuster exchange of some sort. The Flames have never used three selections in the first round of any draft in their history. Will this be the first time, or do they have a different plan in mind?
Hurricanes GM Jim Rutherford may be actively shopping Carolina's No. 5 pick.
First-Round Pick: No. 5
The Carolina Hurricanes' apparently aren't too enamored with occupying a top-five pick—and perhaps for good reason.
GM Jim Rutherford is actively seeking a solid, shutdown-caliber top-four defenseman to fortify a defense that allowed the most shots against in the NHL last season. He's not believed to be willing to outright trade the Hurricanes' lone first-round selection (like he did last year in the Jordan Staal deal), but trading down is a different story altogether.
Per Chip Alexander of the Raleigh News & Observer via Twitter:
Hearing Canes could trade No. 5 pick and move down on draft day if their draft target is taken in top four picks. Unlikely Canes to move up.— Chip Alexander (@ice_chip) June 21, 2013
Given that some experts have reported the 'Canes aren't high on projected fifth-ranked player Valeri Nichushkin (and haven't drafted a Russian since Igor Znyazev in 2001), moving down the order and taking a defenseman like Darnell Nurse or Nikita Zadorov would make a lot of sense.
Blue Jackets GM Jarmo Kekalainen will have to weigh the pros and cons of trading one of Columbus's three first-round choices.
First-Round Picks: No. 14, No. 19, No. 27
Blue Jackets' general manager Jarmo Kekalainen, known by many as a draft guru, will shoulder the responsibility of three first-round picks in his first as a GM.
But he's not planning to play it safe.
"Every draft is different, not just the players available but the conversations between clubs," he told Aaron Portzline of the Columbus Dispatch yesterday. "We’re going to be active and aggressive."
That suggestive comment comes after an intriguing previous report by Portzline last week:
Like the aforementioned Flames, the Jackets have never made three separate picks in a first round. In fact, they've never even made more than one.
We'll have to wait until Sunday to see their strategy for this year.
Leafs GM Dave Nonis (left) has stirred up a number of trade rumors this June.
First-Round Pick: No. 21
Just one day after the long-awaited acquisition of Jonathan Bernier, it has become increasingly obvious new Leafs GM Dave Nonis is far from finished on the trade front.
Sounds like Toronto expects to be busy on the trade front in the week ahead. Still eager to add a young centre and top 4 D.— Darren Dreger (@DarrenDreger) June 23, 2013
Some rumblings Phaneuf may be in play. Nonis says he will trade just about anyone, but says no one has called on the captain...yet. #TSN— Darren Dreger (@DarrenDreger) June 23, 2013
@dstaples A real stretch for me to imagine 7 overall for any of those players...maybe, just maybe, if Toronto's pick comes back, too.— Dan Tencer (@dantencer) June 20, 2013
The expected chaos of Toronto's offseason activity makes it also impossible to speculate on any specific trades that could occur.
We're not too afraid to venture, however, that the team's valuable 21st overall selection could be included in at least one of them.