1. Kicking the tires
Word came out over the weekend, as it so often does at this time of year, that a number of teams have been in contact with the Florida Panthers about the possibility of trading for the No. 1 overall pick in this year’s draft. No surprise, especially because the Panthers have said they might be more willing than top teams usually are to part with it.
You hear that every year as well, of course. There’s always that “they might trade down” thing, and you have no way of really knowing how much truth there is to it. But the quotes coming out of Sunrise have all but hung a for-sale sign next to the pick, so here we are.
We have, consequently, seen a number of teams connected with it, and that’s nothing new either. Mediocre teams that might want to get aggressive, big-market teams, bad teams that have “A Guy” in mind. Those are the usual suspects when it comes to Who Might Trade Up. The Flames obviously fall into the latter category, and again, normally this wouldn’t be any kind of cause for belief that they might actually do it.
But then there was this: Brad Treliving saying that he has in fact reached out to Dale Tallon to ask specifically about trading up, and that’s something you see far less often. It’s an interesting prospect, obviously.
2. What would it cost?
The first question one would necessarily have to ask here is what the team is willing to give up in order to move up three spots in the draft. One imagines that the ransom would be substantial.
I don’t really like to get into this kind of thing because it’s a little too HFBoards-ish for my taste, but the Flames would certainly be asked to part with the No. 4 overall pick, as well as a mishmash of actual good roster players (no salary dumps, not to Florida anyway), and high-quality prospects.
Given how much young talent the Panthers have up front, too, you’d have to think that a good young defenseman would be a must-have in this deal, and that has TJ Brodie’s name written all over it. The Flames don’t really have anyone else that fits the bill in the same way he does, and he’d be a possession driver for them for years to come. Of course, that would leave the Flames with roughly one other possession-driving defenseman (Mark Giordano, obviously) and five guys who are simply not very good.
You’d probably also have to throw in a Johnny Gaudreau type, or some other high-quality prospect. Sven Baertschi maybe. Then a more B-level guy, like Tyler Wotherspoon or something, to round it out.
Even if those aren’t the exact guys Florida’s looking for, that’s probably about the caliber they’d want. So the question, then, becomes one of exactly who would be good enough to make the Flames move up in such a way.
3. Drafting Ekblad
The obvious answer is the enormous defenseman Aaron Ekblad, who most people seem to think should be the consensus No. 1 pick. Calgary, like every other team in the league, has need of a high-end defenseman such as him, because you really don’t succeed in the NHL these days without one. There is no chance at all that he’s there at No. 4 should the Flames not move up.
But again, there’s that cost to acquire him, and the impact it would have on the team as a whole. Would it hurt to lose Gaudreau or Baertschi? Sure. But the Kings aren’t Cup contenders without Doughty, and the Blackhawks without Keith, and the Rangers without McDonagh, and the Bruins without Chara. Ekblad has the ability to rise to their level, but to acquire him the Flames have to take a step back in this “rebuild” of theirs.
Forwards come into this league more ready to compete than defensemen, and thus if you think this is a “rebuild on the fly” (and the Flames’ management sure does) then moving up to get Ekblad is grounding the flight temporarily. In the end, it might be worth it, but that’s a calculated risk you have to take, especially because you, again, probably have to give up Brodie and thus set your entire D corps back considerably. The D corps is already not-that-good.
4. Drafting a forward
On the other hand, they might really like one of Sams Bennett or Reinhart, or Leon Draisaitl, or Michael Dal Colle, and want to make sure they get him and him alone.
This would not be a very good decision. The fact that you can look at so many drafts and see any one of those four guys as the top forward picked depending on the day and the source shows that there probably isn’t much in the way of separation there. The Sams seem to be slightly favored, but not by a lot, and the fact that both Dal Colle and Draisaitl are large men at 6-2/180 and 6-1/208, respectively, might pull them level in the eyes of a certain Calgary Flames executive who fetishizes size to a creepy extent.
Thus, trading up for any one of them likely serves little purpose. With so little separating them, why would you trade a raft of picks, prospects, and players to get someone who’s not that much better than the guy you’re going to be able to take at No. 4? The Flames might want Bennett at No. 1 overall, just as an example, but would (or rather, should) they really be gutted to get Draisaitl at No. 4 instead?
5. Should they do it?
This isn’t a draft with a clear, clear No. 1 guy. It’s not the Sidney Crosby draft. The guy you get at No. 1 likely isn’t going to be appreciably better any time soon than the guy you get at No. 4, so for the Flames it comes down to what they think the team needs.
The team needs everything, more or less. More forwards, more defensemen, more goalies. Trading away a bunch of what they currently have (not a lot) to get any one prospect would mean that they have a lot lot lot lot lot of faith that Their Guy is going to be a huge difference-maker. As far as I can tell, the only one on the list in that regard is Ekblad.
Even still, I’d be reticent to trade up for him. Is he going to be great for a long time? Yes. But there’s not a lot of reason to think this team will be competitive next year, and as such, given the depth of the 2015 draft class, do you really want to be putting all your eggs in this rather shallower basket instead? Probably not. (Though it must be said teams will be more intractable in their willingness to trade down with a Jack Eichel on the board, won’t they?)
Until then, just take the best player available.