6 NHL Teams That Should Trade Their 1st-Round Picks to Win Next Season

Lyle Richardson@@SpectorsHockeyFeatured ColumnistMay 23, 2022

6 NHL Teams That Should Trade Their 1st-Round Picks to Win Next Season

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    Adam Hunger/Associated Press

    The top-16 spots in the 2022 NHL draft were decided by the draft lottery on May 10. The Montreal Canadiens won the rights for the first overall selection, followed by the New Jersey Devils with the second pick and the Arizona Coyotes with the third selection.

    Those clubs could receive trade offers from rival clubs further down in the draft order. Given the Canadiens' and Coyotes' status as rebuilding teams, it's doubtful they'll agree to part with their respective selections.

    The Devils, however, might be willing to consider it for the right price. On May 5, general manager Tom Fitzgerald indicated he'd be willing to entertain that possibility, regardless of where the selection was in the draft order, if it would bring in an impact player to help his club.

    Other NHL clubs could also consider shopping their first-round selections if it could help them win next season.

    Some, like the Devils, are teams that have been rebuilding for several years and still seek the missing piece to their playoff contender puzzle. Meanwhile, a club like the New York Islanders could be willing to shop their pick for a player who can help them bounce back as a postseason club.

    Here's our take on six NHL clubs that should consider trading their first-round selections for a return that helps them win next season. You can express your opinion on this topic in the comments section.

Columbus Blue Jackets

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    Joe Maiorana/Associated Press

    The Columbus Blue Jackets weren't expected to qualify for the 2022 playoffs after shipping out top defenseman Seth Jones and long-time winger Cam Atkinson last summer. While they did fail to make the cut this season, they finished with a respectable 81 points.

    That performance could give general manager Jarmo Kekalainen a reason to consider shopping his 2022 first-round pick for a quality player who advances his restart program. He can afford to do this because he also holds the Chicago Blackhawks' first-round selection. That pick is sixth overall, which is higher than the Jackets' at 12th overall.

    Kekalainen could receive more interest in the Blackhawks' pick from other general managers than in his own. However, he'll likely want to retain it to add more depth to his prospect pool. This 12th overall selection could also garner interest from clubs lacking a selection in the first round or from those wishing to move up in the draft order.

    The Blue Jackets could be in a good position here. They can use one pick to bring in an asset for their future and the other to add an established young player, such as a top-four defenseman, to provide help now and over the long term.

Detroit Red Wings

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    Mark Blinch/Getty Images

    The Detroit Red Wings have made slow but steady progress over the past three years of their rebuild under general manager Steve Yzerman. However, they've finished outside the playoff picture for the past six seasons. While they showed promising signs of improvement in 2021-22, it might be time for Yzerman to make a bold move to turn his club into a playoff contender next season.

    Since becoming Red Wings GM in 2019, Yzerman and his staff have done a fine job drafting and developing young talent. Defenseman Moritz Seider (sixth overall, 2019) is a Calder Memorial Trophy finalist. Winger Lucas Raymond (fourth overall, 2020) finished third among this season's rookie scorers. Promising players Simon Edvinsson, Sebastian Cossa and William Wallinder are waiting in the wings.

    The Wings, however, need to bring in some established talent if they're going to qualify for the 2023 playoffs. They lack an experienced second-line center and must bolster their blueline depth. Adding one or two skilled veterans via free agency or trades could provide a much-needed boost.

    With the eighth overall selection, Yzerman could use it to add another promising youngster to his already well-stocked prospect cupboard. However, it would be worthwhile using that pick as a trade chip on its own or bundled with a player or prospect to add a center or a quality top-four defenseman.

Los Angeles Kings

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    Ashley Landis/Associated Press

    Under general manager Rob Blake, the Los Angeles Kings have been rebuilding their roster with younger talent. After three seasons outside the playoff picture, they qualified for the 2022 postseason and threw a scare into the Edmonton Oilers before bowing out in seven games.

    Blake was rewarded for his efforts with a three-year contract extension. With a roster well-stocked with youth and a prospect pool ranked second overall by The Athletic's Scott Wheeler, the Kings GM could consider shopping his 2022 first-round pick for a player who can help his roster right away.

    Most of the Kings' promising youngsters, including Arthur Kaliyev, Tobias Bjornfot, Michael Anderson, Rasmus Kupari, Gabriel Vilardi and 2020 second-overall pick Quinton Byfield, were selected during Blake's tenure. With this year's first-rounder sitting outside the top 16, he can afford to use it as trade bait as part of a package deal for an established player.

    Blake's additions last summer of center Phillip Danault and winger Viktor Arvidsson helped the Kings reach the 2022 postseason. He could consider pursuing some help for his defense to take some of the burden off blue-line mainstay Drew Doughty. Perhaps he'll attempt to pry rearguard Jakob Chychrun from the rebuilding Arizona Coyotes by packaging that pick with a couple of his promising prospects.

New Jersey Devils

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    Adam Hunger/Associated Press

    As noted in the introduction, New Jersey Devils general manager Tom Fitzgerald said he's willing to trade his 2022 first-rounder for an impact player. Considering that pick wound up being second overall, Fitzgerald could be busy fielding calls from rival GMs interested in making a deal. On May 21, Sportsnet's Elliotte Friedman reported the Devils are compiling a list of players they would be interested in acquiring.

    The Devils have done well at the draft table in recent years. Since 2015, they've selected brothers Jack and Luke Hughes, Nico Hischier, Jesper Bratt, Yegor Sharangovich, Ty Smith, Dawson Mercer, Pavel Zacha, Mackenzie Blackwood and Alexander Holtz. All but the promising Luke Hughes were part of the Devils' roster last season.

    Despite their young talent, the Devils haven't reached the playoffs since 2017-18. Fitzgerald stated there would be no more excuses about being one of the youngest teams in the league. He's already made moves to add experience to his lineup. The most notable was last summer's signing of defenseman Dougie Hamilton.

    Fitzgerald stated he'd like to acquire someone to complement their core of young forwards. He could seek a top-six scoring winger who can play alongside a center like Jack Hughes or Hischier. Given Blackwood's recent struggles with injury and consistency, perhaps he's set his sights on an established starting goaltender.

New York Islanders

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    Michael Dwyer/Associated Press

    Expectations were high for the New York Islanders entering this season. They'd reached the Eastern Conference Final in 2020 and last year's semifinal before falling to the Tampa Bay Lightning in both series. However, a 13-game season-opening road trip while awaiting the opening of their new arena and a COVID-19 outbreak were among the factors that derailed their playoff hopes.

    General manager Lou Lamoriello also felt his players needed a new voice behind the bench, firing head coach Barry Trotz on May 9 after four seasons. That might not be the only move he has in store. On May 17, NYI Hockey Now's Stefen Rosner speculated Lamoriello could use this year's first-round pick (13th overall) as a trade chip to address his roster needs.

    Rosner speculated Lamoriello could bundle his first-rounder with a player, such as Anthony Beauvillier, and others to bring in a top-four defenseman or a top-six forward. He suggested it could even be used as a sweetener to entice a rival club to take on the remaining two years of Josh Bailey's contract.

    No one knows what the always-secretive Lamoriello has in mind. If he's thinking of a quick turnaround to get the Islanders back into Stanley Cup contention for next season, shopping his 2022 first-rounder for more immediate help could be a viable option.

Ottawa Senators

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    Matt Slocum/Associated Press

    Like several other clubs on this list, the Ottawa Senators have been rebuilding for some time. General manager Pierre Dorion and his scouts have added a number of talented youngsters who are giving hope to the club's long-suffering fans for a brighter future.

    Since 2017, Dorion selected team captain Brady Tkachuk, skillful winger Tim Stutzle, forwards Drake Batherson and Alex Formenton, and promising defenseman Jake Sanderson. While the Senators have shown promising signs of progress over the past two seasons, they still need some experienced help to become a serious playoff contender next season.

    On May 11, the Ottawa Sun's Bruce Garrioch reported Dorion has indicated his willingness to move his first-rounder if the Senators didn't win the draft lottery. While they could get another promising young talent with the seventh overall selection, he could entertain offers if it'll bring in a player who can boost their playoff chances.

    Garrioch indicated the Senators would like to find a right winger to skate alongside Stutzle. He believes there won't be a lack of interest in that pick. If so, Dorion might be able to use it to his advantage for the immediate and long-term future.


    Draft histories via HockeyDB.com, prospect pool information via The Athletic and trade info via Cap Friendly.


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