Should the Calgary Flames trade up in the 2024 NHL Draft? (And what would it cost to do so?)

Ryan Pike
1 month ago
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Folks, now that the National Hockey League’s draft lottery is completed and we know the draft order for much of the first round, we’ve seen a flurry of mock drafts start to unfold. (Spoiler: We’ll have one up in a few days.) One of the more interesting mock drafts every year is done at The Athletic, where they have their beat writers take on the roles of the various team general managers when conducting the draft. (They do a few different incarnations of this during the run-up to the draft.)
We won’t spoil too much, but a trade was conducted in the mock draft between the Calgary Flames and the Montreal Canadiens in their mock draft that saw the Flames move up to fifth overall to draft University of Denver blueliner Zeev Buium. (Headed to Montreal as part of the trade were the Flames’ two first-round picks, ninth overall and whatever Vancouver’s pick ends up being.) We heartily encourage you to head over to their site to check out the full rationale for the trade and pick, because our pal Julian McKenzie did a strong job.
But it made us think: Should the Flames be trying to move up in the draft? And if so, what would it cost to do so?

The price

It goes without saying that everybody around the Flames would love to have a pick higher than ninth overall. The challenge, and likely the thing that frames a lot of preferences for teams and fans alike, is the price to land such a pick.
Right now, the Flames have six picks in the first three rounds of the 2024 NHL Draft. Tentatively – and subject to what happens with Vancouver and Dallas in the playoffs – they’re slated to select ninth, 29th, 41st, 64th, 74th and 84th. Six picks in the first 100 isn’t anything to sneeze at, especially if you’re aiming to load up with young talent as the retool/rebuild/reconfiguration kicks off.
There are a few different models in terms of draft pick valuation regarding trades. Over at PuckPedia, they have the Perri Pick Value Calculator. It’s a neat tool, where you plug in the pick(s) you want to acquire and they propose what picks would be of sufficient value. To get fifth overall, the calculator projects it would cost ninth overall and 27th overall, roughly equivalent to what The Athletic’s mock proposes.
If you’re like me, you see the six picks the Flames have in the top 100 and go “Oh boy, they can get a lot of stuff!” If you want them to move up from ninth to fifth and not give up Vancouver’s pick, well, say goodbye to the rest of the picks. Based on the calculator, it would take adding both seconds and both thirds to ninth overall in order to move up to fifth overall without giving up Vancouver’s pick.
(We also ran the numbers using Sound of Hockey’s recent pick valuation model and the results are pretty much the same. Their valuation suggests that the Athletic’s proposed package would match historical pick values, and to avoid giving up Vancouver’s pick, the seconds and thirds would all need to be included.)
It’s worth noting that, probably due to the price tag it would likely cost to do so, nobody’s traded up into the top five in the past 10 drafts. As former Flames general manager Brad Treliving was fond of saying: teams go through a lot of pain to land high draft picks. As a consequence they’re not exactly giving them away once they have them.
If your goal is to have your cake (getting a top five pick) and eating it, too (retaining their depth of picks later in the draft) this may be the play.

The reward

The big question is this: do the Flames need to trade up to get the player they really want in the 2024 NHL Draft? Over at TSN, the great Bob McKenzie characterized the 2024 draft as potentially “unpredictable” after Macklin Celebrini goes first overall.
As one scout put it, “Celebrini is going No. 1, but the next five or six teams [picking after No. 1] might all get the No. 2 prospect on their [respective] lists. There’s that much varied opinion [on the top prospects after Celebrini].”
The lack of clear consensus beyond Celebrini — from No. 2 through to No. 10 and beyond — would be unprecedented. I’ve been doing draft rankings like this one for more than 35 years, and I don’t recall a year where the Top 10 is such a hodgepodge of opinion.
The Flames have been a team that’s emphasized the “make your list and stick to it” philosophy in their drafting since around 2011, back when Craig Conroy joined the club’s hockey operations group. And based on McKenzie’s intel, there are a lot of different ways that the top seven picks could unfold. The Flames may not necessarily need to trade up to land the player their collective hearts desire. But they may also be in a situation where they they feel like they have to.
It all depends on what they think they need from this year’s draft, and the price they’re willing to pay to get it.
The 2024 NHL Draft could end up being a fascinating few days in Las Vegas for the Flames at the end of June.
Do you think the Flames should trade up in the 2024 NHL Draft? Why or why not? Let us know in the comments!

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