By virtue of their finish in the regular season (and their lack of it in the playoffs), the Calgary Flames will draft 26th overall in the 2019 NHL Draft. That is, barring trades. Considering the Flames have been very active in the trade market under Brad Treliving, this begs the question: what would it cost to move up or down in the first round?
A quick history lesson
Over the past five drafts, there have been 11 trades involving teams changing their first round position.
The 2014 Draft
The Blackhawks traded down from 20th to 27th overall (also throwing in the 189th overall pick) and gained the 62nd overall pick from the Sharks.
The Lightning traded down from 28th to 35th overall, and gained the 57th overall pick from the Islanders.
The 2015 Draft
The Leafs traded down from 24th to 29th overall, and gained the 61st overall pick from the Flyers. Then they traded down again from 29th to 34th overall, and gained the 68th overall pick from the Blue Jackets.
The Lightning traded down from 28th to 33rd overall, and gained the 72nd overall pick from the Islanders.
The 2016 Draft
The Devils traded down one spot (from 11th to 12th overall), and gained the 80th overall pick from the Senators.
The Red Wings moved down from 16th to 20th overall as part of a larger deal where the Wings added Joe Vitale and the 53rd overall pick in exchange for the Coyotes taking on Pavel Datsyuk’s contract.
The Flyers traded down from 18th to 22nd overall (also throwing in the 79th overall pick), gaining the 36th overall pick from the Jets in the swap.
The Capitals traded down from 26th to 28th overall, adding the 87th overall pick from the Blues.
The 2017 Draft
The Blackhawks traded down from 26th to 29th overall, gaining the 70th overall pick from the Stars.
There was also a trade between Vegas and Winnipeg, where the Golden Knights moved up from 24th to 13th (and adding a 2019 third round pick) in exchange for taking Chris Thorburn in the expansion draft.
The 2018 Draft
The Senators traded down from 22th to 26th overall, gaining the 48th overall pick from the Rangers.
The Leafs traded down from 25th to 29th overall, gained the 76th overall pick from the Blues.
What can we learn?
Well, the general mechanics of draft pick trades are typically like this: a team has a player they really want on their draft board, and they become terrified that a team will pick them before they get a chance to. So they try to trade up and do what they can to move up to get their guy.
There appears to no real set value for moving up, which makes sense because a lot of it is situational:
- The Lightning got the 57th pick for moving down seven spots in 2014, but only got 72nd overall for moving down five spots in 2015.
- Some trade downs gained a late second rounder, while others netted a middle third rounder.
Teams with picks in the first half of the first round more often trade those picks away for players than trade up or down in the draft order.
The general prices
If the Flames wanted to move up from 26th overall, they would likely need to spend a late second round pick or a third round pick – and they’d probably only be able to move up to around 20th overall. (They only have a late third round pick – 88th overall – so trading up seems unlikely.)
If the Flames wanted to trade down, they could probably net a third round pick for moving within the first round or potentially a second round pick for trading into the early second round.
All things considered, if the goal of the 2019 NHL Draft is for the Flames to restock their shelves a bit, it might make sense to trade down and give their scouts an extra kick at the can in the early rounds. They selected zero times in the first 100 picks in 2018 and just once in 2017, so it seems prudent to make as many picks as they can early in the 2019 draft.