Trading Up From The 7th Overall Pick
Not unlike the build up to most Entry Drafts, it seems as though many Oilers fans are clamoring for the team's management to trade up. The only time I can remember the Oilers trading up in the first round was the 2007 draft, when Edmonton traded the 30th (Nick Ross) and 36th (Joel Gistedt) picks to Phoenix in exchange for the 21st pick (Riley Nash). Even though the Oilers haven't moved up all that often in the past, I do think it's reasonable to wonder if Edmonton's at least a little more likely to move up this year based on one of GM MacTavish's answers regarding the upcoming 7th overall pick, given during a season ticket holder's conference call (transcription from that conference call courtesy Dan Tencer).
Our wish list in the draft would be to draft a centerman and/or a defenseman with that pick in that area. The higher end centermen, not to divulge too much about where we're ranking players, but if you look at the public rankings like Red Line or Central Scouting, there are really three very high end centermen available in this draft. Nathan MacKinnon from Halifax, Monahan from Ottawa and also Barkov, who played in the Finnish men's league. I think that those three centermen, relative to some of the public rankings, we would finish just out of the realm of getting one of those three centermen if we didn't move up.It's hard to know exactly what to make of those kinds of comments, just how much might be gamesmanship, or the truth laced with gamesmanship. I don't doubt that their "wish list" might include a center or a defenceman at 7, but that doesn't necessarily mean they won't draft a winger if the BPA happens to be someone like Nichushkin. It's not that hard to imagine MacTavish, when sitting with the TSN panel a couple minutes after their selection, saying something like "Sure, ideally we would have liked to have picked a center or a defenceman, but when it was our turn to pick we felt the best player available was Drouin/Lindholm/Nicushkin, and by enough that it didn't make sense to pass on him and draft by positional need." I also don't doubt the Oilers have interest in the 3 centers listed, but would be somewhat surprised if they didn't also have interest in C/W Lindholm, conspicuous by his absence in MacTavish's quote. Lindholm seems to, mostly, fit the type of player that MacTavish has talked about adding - high hockey sense, versatile, plays with sneaky grit. I think his absence is telling, in that Edmonton may be more interested in him than they are hinting. However, it's also possible that they see him more as a winger going forward, and that was the reason for his omission in the above quote.
Anyways, enough meandering, back on topic. To my mind, this could be EDM's last shot at landing another elite talent to supplement the core; it makes no sense to trade that opportunity away for more depth picks. If the core performs as expected, depth players will want to sign with the Oilers. Filling in those 3rd and 4th lines should become progressively easier from this point forward, it likely doesn't make sense to pass on an elite talent to add a 2nd round pick or two. I say "likely" because it really depends who they would pick at 7. I would be relatively fine with EDM just sitting at 7 and picking whoever is left. However, IF Edmonton is going to trade down, or pick someone who isn't Nichushkin/Lindholm in the case that Monahan, MacKinnon, and Barkov are all gone before 7, then I would rather them pay the price to move up and secure the player they want. But what is that price?
We can look at past trades to give us a rough guideline. There aren't many trades involving moves up and down within the top 10; just how much we can take from past transactions is open for debate. But it at least represents a starting point, so here are two examples, both from the 2008 draft:
- The cost for Toronto to move up from 7th to 5th* was the 68th overall pick plus a 2009 2nd.
- The cost for Nashville to move up from 9th to 7th was the 40th overall pick.
Ultimately, the price is dependent on the situation, driven by the tiering of talent and the expectations of the teams involved in the deal. When I write about the "tiering of talent", what I mean is that the price to move from 7 to 5 can be different from one draft to the next. If players 5, 6 and 7 are seen as roughly equivalent, the price to move down is likely to be a bit smaller than usual. If player 5 is seen as significantly better than players 6 and 7, then the price might be inflated (relative to an average year), if not so high that no deal can be agreed upon. If Carolina wants someone at 5 that they wouldn't expect to be available at 7, then the price they would demand is likely considerably higher than if they'd expect that player to still be there at 7. So if they are looking to take a D at 5, or have the 3 remaining forwards likely to be available rated more or less equally, then a 2nd round pick might well be enough for them to move down from 5 to 7. If they are particularly interested in a player, and think that either Edmonton or Calgary would likely take that player before they pick at 7 should they trade down, then they either demand a higher price, or choose to stay at 5.
I would guess the cost for EDM to move up from 7 to 5 would probably be something like the 37th overall pick, or ANA's 2013 2nd along with EDM's 3rd in 2014**. If CAR is asking for more than that, they probably aren't really interested in moving down, and the cost would likely be prohibitive when compared to just sitting at 7 and taking whichever of the top 7 is still available. Personally, I would be willing to move both 2nds, even to only move up to 5, if the alternative is drafting a player not in my top 7 at 7. However, that doesn't mean I prefer that scenario to trading down a couple times from 7 and ending up at 15 or so, ending up with 4 2nd round picks, or 3 2nds and maybe a 3rd and 4th. But we'll get to that in the next post.
Moving up from 7 to 4 (or even higher) would probably cost more than both of Edmonton's 2nds, potentially requiring prospects and/or roster players. This might be heresy to some, but I would consider moving Gagner in such a deal, depending how contract negotiations are going with his agent. Keeping Gagner is likely the goal for the Oilers, it wouldn't be ideal to move a guy just as he's reaching his prime, but the reality is he's gone in a year unless the Oilers sign him to an extension. Without Gagner under contract (not only signed, but signed for reasonable price and term) he's an expendable piece in acquiring a cornerstone player, in my opinion. It's an open question whether or not another team would want to trade for Gagner in such a deal if they have the same issues, but from Edmonton's standpoint I think it's reasonable to consider moving him if we're talking about moving into a position to select one of the top end players in this draft.
Like MacTavish, I don't really believe in untouchables, but there are certain players less likely to be traded than others. I'm not sure I would consider it likely Edmonton would move any of their 1st overall picks for a top 3 pick in this draft. Personally, I would consider moving pretty much anyone else in a deal for a top 3 pick, and if you could strike two deals to land two top 4 picks, I can see the argument for that even though doing so almost certainly means you'd be moving a player like Eberle, Gagner, or Schultz as a part of at least one of the packages. I don't know if that sort of manoeuvring would make the Oilers better in 2013/14, but if the overriding goal is competitiveness over the next ten years, as opposed to competitiveness next season, I can see the argument in favor of being that aggressive at the draft this June.
If I had to guess, I'd consider it more likely that the Oilers trade down than up, but it's hard to tell with a new GM looking to be bold. An aggressive move into the top 5 might represent Edmonton's best chance to balance their forward group***, to add a C in a player like MacKinnon or Barkov (or even potentially Monahan or Lindholm). I'm of the general belief that overpaying for cornerstone, building block talent is acceptable (to some degree), it will be interesting to see if Craig MacTavish is of the same belief. That might be what it takes.
* Actually, as part of the deal the Islanders were given the option between the 60th overall pick and a 2009 3rd, or the 68th overall pick and a 2009 2nd. They chose the latter package.
** I would be pretty reluctant, personally, to include the 2014 3rd in a deal to move up, because it would potentially be needed in the event the Oilers go the offer sheet route this summer. If you need to include that type of value in the deal to make it, that's fine, but not that specific piece if possible.
*** If that's something that matters to them, I'm sure it matters less to me than it does to most fans - I'd have absolutely no problem with EDM moving up and taking Drouin notwithstanding the fact that it would be "another skilled, smaller winger", and even if they didn't make any other trades.