The first round of the 2011 NHL Entry Draft is just three days away, and rumors of high-profile trades to come are flying fast and furious.
With the event almost at hand, first-round picks are, as would be expected, often the headlines of these potential deals. Six of the 30 selections to come on Friday evening have already changed hands at least once, and plenty more exchanges will likely occur before the week winds down.
We take a look at several teams who are in the best position to move their first-round pick, whether they're claiming several other selections in the draft, acquiring picks for upcoming drafts, taking on already-developed prospects, or even landing a much-needed veteran in return.
They'll be sacrificing the addition of a potential future star to their franchise, but, as it is often the case for a handful of teams, there are quite a few looming holes to fill that must take priority.
Here are the five franchises with the biggest reasons to shop around their first-round pick this year.
Pick: No. 2 or No. 11
When a team has two first round picks, they are always in a good trade position to get a top prospect and land an already-established NHL player. When those two picks are both among the first dozen selections in the first round, the situation grows even brighter.
The Colorado Avalanche are in that position this June, as they hold their own pick, second overall, and the St. Louis Blues' choice at 11th overall. Add into the first round surplus the fact that the Avs are the youngest team in the NHL and have just one player age 30 or above remaining under contract (John-Michael Liles), and it is clear that Colorado needs talented, experienced veteran players more so than top-notch prospects.
With Brian Elliot and Peter Budaj heading their separate ways without much grief on the part of the Avalanche and very few free agent options available at the position, Colorado will probably look towards the goaltending front in shopping their eleventh—or even perhaps second—overall pick.
They reportedly are interested in acquiring Cory Schneider or Jonathan Bernier, but, with those two names being top targets, they might want to look more towards even more capable options like Semyon Varlamov and Tuukka Rask.
Pick: No. 4
The Devils were the huge winners of the draft lottery and are likely looking to rebound this season following last fall's crash rather than begin a multi-year rebuilding project.
This could lead to a win-now-not-later approach for New Jersey, who have a huge trading item with their top-five pick. A number of teams would love to have the spot as they hope to trade up for Gabriel Landeskog, and GM Lou Lamoriello has expressed openness to dealing the Devils' fourth overall choice away.
With just four reliable returning 'D'-men, New Jersey seems to be after an elite blueliner this summer, such as Brent Burns of Minnesota or Matt Carle of Philadelphia. Ottawa, who has clearly stated that they'd like to move up in or gain another pick at the top of the draft board, could dangle Sergei Gonchar or even Erik Karlsson. That first-round pick would be a massive clincher on any blockbuster trade of that kind.
Pick: No. 8
As veterans Chris Clark, Ethan Moreau, Samuel Pahlsson, Jan Hedja, Craig Rivet and Mathieu Garon all hit the market as UFAs this summer, the Blue Jackets will be left without much of anything in terms of experience as they search for their first playoff berth since their surprising sixth place finish in '08-'09.
While a first-round pick would certainly be a step in the right direction, this year's eighth overall pick is just on the edge between the Class A prospects and the massive Class B group. Columbus may want to send it away to a more interested team in exchange for someone who will be a difference-maker much sooner.
Edmonton, looking to acquire yet another top 10 pick, has reportedly talked with Columbus this month about the possibility of sending Andrew Cogliano to the Jackets. Although Cogliano would fill a big gap on Colombus' roster, he alone would not suffice. Perhaps the Oilers would also be willing to part with Kurtis Foster who, at 29, would be of greater use with his offensive skills in Ohio than in Alberta.
The Blue Jackets may also look into acquiring Tim Connolly from the disgruntled Sabres or Carle or Coburn from the close-to-the-cap Flyers.
Pick: No. 20
With Brygalov gone for sure and two second-round picks to fall back on, the Coyotes, who should be aiming to finally break through completely and make a run for the Conference title, have a desperate need for a young goaltender as well as the trade means by which to acquire one.
Phoenix is definitely in the running for Schneider, Bernier, and other solid goalies, yet their first-round pick may add more to the table.
GM Don Maloney may also be after a long-term first-line forward since Lee Stempniak wasn't as great as expected. As every single Phoenix forward under contract this summer will still end up being a free agent just a year from now, the 'Yotes, with the third most cap space in the league, could trade this pick for a top player that simply no longer fits on a pressed-for-cash team.
Candidates include Dany Heatley from San Jose, Martin Havlat from Minnesota, and either Alexander Semin or Nicklas Backstrom from Washington.
Pick: No. 25 or No. 30
The Toronto Maple Leafs, always in the epicenter of NHL rumors at any time of the year, are once again back in the spotlight as GM Brian Burke tries to either trade up, trade down, or trade around at the 2011 draft; in essence, they simply want to do something.
With two selections in a six-pick range late in the first round, Toronto may be open to trading one—or both—choices for a solid, reputable star centerman to be wedged beween Phil Kessel and Joffrey Lupul on the top line. Possible trade items include Jeff Carter (who would be worth both picks and perhaps more), Nicklas Backstrom, and Stephen Weiss.
Also high on the acquiree list would be scoring defensemen like John-Michael Liles, Dennis Wideman, Brent Burns and Alex Goligoski. If the Leafs are reaching for the bigger targets but don't want to surrender both picks, the addition of Mikhail Grabovski or Mike Komisarek to the trading block will add a second dimension to these deals as well.