Predicting the Top NHL Draft-Day Trade Scenarios for 2016
We are a long way from draft day, but things are coming into view. The race to the top of the standings is no longer the goal for several teams—the race for the bottom is on full bore after the trade deadline.
The slotting of draft picks for the first round won't be known for several weeks, but we know the teams destined to be drafting early. This year, we could see some movement at or near the top, depending on who wins the draft lottery.
Here are seven draft-day trade scenarios we could see at the 2016 edition.
Arizona Coyotes Trade Up for Auston Matthews
The Opportunity: He was born in Scottsdale, Arizona, which makes him an enticing player for the Arizona Coyotes to ponder. The opportunities in terms of exciting the fanbase could be enormous—and that is important for a franchise that is still trying to sell the game in its market.
Will It Happen? The Coyotes are near the bottom of the league again, but unless they win the lottery outright, a trade seems necessary. If the Toronto Maple Leafs wins the lottery, the Coyotes' long and substantial list of prospects may be enough to sway them. If the Edmonton Oilers win the lottery, they would probably seek a top-flight defender. The Coyotes would be foolish to entertain dealing franchise defender Oliver Ekman-Larsson, though.
Calgary Flames Trade Up and Get Cap Relief
The Backstory: The Calgary Flames will enter the offseason with a substantial list of restricted free agents who need to be signed. The biggest challenges will be the contracts of Sean Monahan and Johnny Gaudreau.
The Opportunity: One area the Flames can find some relief is on defense. For 2016-17, four defensemen—Mark Giordano, T.J. Brodie, Dougie Hamilton and Dennis Wideman—will collectively earn more than $22 million. It behooves management to cull that group to ease cap trouble.
Will It Happen? The Flames grabbed Hamilton from the clutches of their provincial rival Edmonton Oilers last summer. Could the two teams work out a trade that includes a switch of draft picks and a substantial asset going to Calgary? It is possible we see that kind of deal at the draft.
Edmonton Oilers Trade Down for an Impact Defenseman
The Backstory: The Edmonton Oilers are poised to finish low in the standings for 2015-16. That means a good chance at a lottery pick and another valuable player from the top of the draft.
The Opportunity: Oilers general manager Peter Chiarelli may decide to trade down or out of the first round, as his search for an impact defenseman continues. That means that NHL teams that are searching for a franchise player may get a chance to draft him this summer.
Will It Happen? Among the items we can talk about that could happen on draft weekend, Edmonton trading its first-round pick for a defenseman is probably the most likely. If the St. Louis Blues, Arizona Coyotes, New York Islanders and others are willing to sacrifice a top defender, the Oilers may send a lottery selection for that player.
New York Islanders Trade Travis Hamonic
The Backstory: Travis Hamonic requested a trade closer to his Manitoba roots in the offseason, but the New York Islanders have been unable to accommodate. An update on the situation recently surfaced from Russ Hobson of Global News Winnipeg.
The Opportunity: When the summer arrives, the Islanders may be able to make a deal—possibly at the draft. One of the issues for GM Garth Snow? Hamonic has a cap-friendly contract, so the return must be substantial.
Will It Happen? There are two excellent opportunities for New York. The Winnipeg Jets may make defender Jacob Trouba available, and the Edmonton Oilers badly need someone like Hamonic and would probably pay in full. Edmonton's first-round pick will come early, or a player like Jordan Eberle could also be in play.
Tampa Bay Cashes in Jonathan Drouin for a High Draft Pick
The Backstory: The Tampa Bay Lightning and Jonathan Drouin are at a crossroads, and the trade deadline did not find a solution to the problem. As Michael Traikos of the National Post reported, it doesn't look like the player and team will resolve this during the season.
The Opportunity: A team that is looking for an immediate impact from its first-round draft pick might be convinced that Drouin is a better bet than taking someone from this year's talent pool. The Lightning might accept a longer-term prospect in return for Drouin if the potential is there.
Will It Happen? Drouin is likely to be dealt in the summer, and the draft is a good place to do it. Lightning GM Steve Yzerman may prefer a return that can offer more of an immediate help, but there is a lot of quality at the top of this year's draft. At the very least, it is an interesting scenario.
Toronto Maple Leafs Trade Up for Auston Matthews
The Backstory: The Toronto Maple Leafs are in full rebuild mode, and the 2016 draft offers some big forwards who can be used as part of the foundation. Auston Matthews, Patrik Laine and Jesse Puljujarvi are all skilled and have size. All three would be excellent additions.
The Opportunity: Toronto's draft list features two undersized forwards in William Nylander and Mitch Marner. The 2016 draft group features three men at the top who project to be big offensive players. The Maple Leafs could change the look of their prospect list by switching out a smaller player for a bigger one.
Will It Happen? The Maple Leafs have enough assets to satisfy the ask for a trade of this type, but it remains to be seen if another team is willing to trade out of the top three. Their best chance might be the Edmonton Oilers, but Toronto doesn't have an impact defenseman at the ready. There is also a good chance the club wins one of the lottery spots and upgrades without a deal.
Winnipeg Jets Trade Jacob Trouba in a Package
The Backstory: The Winnipeg Jets are a team with an internal cap and follow it closely. A story that broke in December—covered by Tim Campbell of the Winnipeg Free Press—gave specific details about contract demands by Dustin Byfuglien, Andrew Ladd and Jacob Trouba. Byfuglien signed, Ladd was traded, and we wait for details on Trouba.
The Opportunity: Since the Jets are a cap team, the ask from Trouba—reported at the time as more than $56 million over eight years—is likely too dear. As it happens, Winnipeg is one of the strongest drafting teams in the NHL and has an impressive procurement track record. We could see the team shop Trouba at the draft, possibly in an effort to move up in Round 1.
Will It Happen? The opportunity exists for a trade with the Edmonton Oilers, who are lower in the standings. If the Jets could slide inside the top three overall, a deal might be in the cards.