The 2009 draft promises to be one of the most intriguing in years, with a deep talent pool and some legitimate debate over who will emerge as the best NHLer. Any team would froth at the opportunity to move up in the picking order, right?
Well, yes. But there are also a few teams that would do well to trade their first round selection in order to grab an asset or two that can put ink in the win column now rather than down the road. After all, you can only rebuild for so long before a dearth of experience and a logjam of expiring entry level contracts threatens to undo all that glorious stockpiling.
Plus, the draft is the new trade deadline; names such as Vesa Toskala, Tomas Vokoun and Olli Jokinen have all been dealt during the event in recent years and there’s no reason to think that trend will end soon. Simply put, the draft allows a GM to get a jump-start on his summer several days before free agency opens July 1. Plus, all 30 teams are in the house at the same time, which makes for maximum wheeling and dealing.
With that in mind, here’s a look at a couple teams that would do well to trade picks for players.
Los Angeles – To me, this is the no-brainer of no-brainers. The Kings are stacked with youth at all positions: Forwards Anze Kopitar, Oscar Moller, Wayne Simmonds and Andrei Loktionov are all less than 23 years old; as are defensemen Drew Doughty, Colten Teubert, Thomas Hickey and Jack Johnson. Even in net, Los Angeles has young’uns Jonathan Quick, Jonathan Bernier and Jeff Zatkoff; Erik Ersberg is practically a greybeard at 27.
With the No. 5 pick in the draft the Kings have a shot at Swedish playmaker Magnus Paajarvi-Svensson, a fine player to be sure. But Los Angeles needs veterans and, likely, an upgrade in goal. That fifth selection would be a tasty carrot for a team bereft of high draft picks and would provide at least one impact player in return.
Phoenix – Another Western non-playoff team with loads of young talent, but few veterans to bolster them. Let’s list the Baby Dogs: Kyle Turris, Peter Mueller, Martin Hanzal, Mikkel Boedker and Viktor Tikhonov are all on entry level contracts. Turris, in fact, is the second-highest paid forward on the squad right now (behind captain Shane Doan) and still needed a spell in the American League this year when his game went pear-shaped.
The Coyotes pick sixth overall and could move it in an attempt to begin icing a viable playoff team next year. Considering the dire financial straits and ownership uncertainty, it’s the least management can do for the good people of Glendale.
Chicago – What’s wrong with the Blackhawks? Nothing! That’s why people in Chicago had so much fun this year. But just because a team’s wave of the future is already in the present (Pat Kane, Jonathan Toews, Kris Versteeg, Dustin Byfuglien, Cam Barker…geez, this team is set), doesn’t mean Hawks management can be complacent.
In fact, if only for financial planning reasons (i.e. staggering when contracts come up), the Hawks should move the No. 24 pick for future considerations, perhaps simply for a 2010 or 2011 selection. Since Chicago will likely be in the upper echelon of the standings for the next few years, the Hawks could even luck into a high pick should their trading partner hit the skids.
The draft is becoming a franchise-saver in the NHL, but using it wisely is what separates the good teams from the bad.
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Ryan Kennedy is a writer and copy editor for The Hockey News magazine, the co-author of the book Hockey’s Young Guns and a regular contributor to THN.com. His blog appears Mondays and Wednesdays, his column – The Straight Edge – every Friday, and his prospect feature, The Hot List appears Thursdays.
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