Our indefatigble leader asked his vast array of Tweeps earlier today if there was a draft subject that might be of interest as we head into the last week before the annual cattle auction, and it appears people are wondering what it would take for the Flames to add another first rounder or move up the order from 13th. It’s a decent question, and with the rather unsettled nature of this year’s draft, the possibility exists that a few teams might be willing to swap a pick if the right circumstances arose.
To get started, it seems reasonable to assess the current landscape. For movement to occur, the first condition that must be met would be to ascertain if there are any motivated sellers. That condition seems to be easily met this year, if recent reports suggesting that the Leafs, Blue Jackets and Islanders are willing to at least listen to offers for their picks have any merit. I don’t doubt that other teams would countenance a move of their pick if the chips fell correctly, but not every GM is willing to divulge that information quite yet.
Beyond any sort of secretive activity, history would suggest that once teams get away from the upper half of the first round, picks to tend to move about a bit more freely. Last year, 8 of the last 15 picks in the first round changed hands at least once, and in 2008, all but 3 of those last 15 selections were swapped at some point, with many of the moves, including two relatively famous transactions by Calgary, happening on draft weekend.
With that in mind, let’s examine the two scenarios mentioned earlier. First, it seems fairly clear to me that the Flames don’t have many chips that would get a first round pick on their own, and the ones they do possess are likely worth keeping. There doesn’t seem to be much point in trading Gio or Backlund, to my mind. T.J. Brodie and Max Reinhart are the next best young assets the club has, and absent someone in the top 5-10 losing their minds, Calgary has no business offering either of them up. Beyond that, if the Flames had any kids that could rate the acquisition of a first rounder, we’d have already seen them in Calgary.
Most of the veterans on the club aren’t likely to be the right bait for a lottery pick, either. Regher or maybe Bourque could well get a first rounder, but Regher’s age, Bourque’s indifferent 10/11 play and the duo’s movement clauses would likely prevent the haul from being much more than a pick falling quite a bit later than Calgary’s own selection at 13. Bouwmeester probably rates a high pick on merit, but his contract and shaky finish last year might make teams hold off. Frankly, even if those three were to go, the Flames should be looking for proper young forwards that are already in the league rather than simply acquiring lottery tickets in a middling draft, so a straight move of any of them for a pick doesn’t seem to be the proper resolution.
Otherwise, it’s pretty thin gruel, and to be blunt, most of the players Calgary would move likely require the Flames to add a sweetener to any deal just to get them the hell out the door. I can’t even see that adding a Sarich type to the 13th pick would get any traction in the market. Garth Snow seems to want a younger forward for that 5th pick, Scott Howson pretty clearly wants a top line center to be the return for the 8th selection, and as most us are all too painfully aware, Calgary isn’t exactly swimming in skilled young pivots.
The only other asset that could allow the Flames to move up would be the pair of second rounders they obtained from the Rangers in the Erixon deal. In 2008, the Leafs traded a second and third to move from 7th to 5th in order to draft Luke Schenn, and I suppose if Colorado at 11 or Minnesota at 10 were motivated to add picks, dropping a few spots might be worth it to them.
That scenario seems unlikely, though. The only top-twelve picks that have moved in the last two drafts were the two selections that Toronto sent to Boston in the Kessel deal, and although it pains me greatly to be fair to the Leafs, I’m compelled to note that Brian Burke didn’t expect his team to finish in the lottery two years running. In other words, no team has knowingly traded a pick in the top 12 since the aformentioned Leaf/Islander swap of ’08 for any sort of return. The flux surrounding the rankings of prospects in this draft could lead to a team changing it’s mind about keeping a top pick, but again, Calgary isn’t dealing from a position of strength here.
As I mentioned earlier, picks in the low end of the first round do have more mobility historically, and this is a situation where Calgary’s forced trade of Tim Erixon might offer them something to work with. In fact, last year’s draft offers an example of just the sort of move that could involve one of those two late Leaf picks. The Islanders acquired the 30th pick last year from the Hawks for the 35th and 58th picks, and although he’s stated that his preference is to move up, Brian Burke has made it clear that the 25th and 30th picks are in play. Calgary has the 45th and 57th picks, so they might need to make a larger deal to get another late first rounder, but there’s enough disagreement about the players after the top 8 that a GM may decide that two lottery tickets are better than one.
All in all, it’s hard to imagine a stand-alone player move that nets the club an extra first round choice next week in St. Paul, and a move up from 13th seems equally unlikely barring a major reshuffling of the current roster. With Feaster having commented earlier this spring that the club expects to operate at the cap, that possiblility seems remote as well, so if any movement occurs, the most plausible scenario might well involve packaging those two second rounders in some fashion to move into the last 6-8 picks of the first round.