The NHL Entry Draft is July 23 and 24 this year, just over two weeks from now. The Toronto Maple Leafs have three picks in that draft, their own second, fifth and sixth, set to be the 57th, 153rd and 185th overall. That’s exactly what you get when you go all in on the playoffs, and that strategy looked reasonable back in April. Now the paltry pile of draft picks looks very bad when it’s the price paid for a first-round exit.
Let’s not forget that the Leafs drafted 12 players last year, so they were laying the groundwork then for a thin crop this year. But it seems likely that Kyle Dubas will try to address this problem in the coming days, particularly since the Leafs only have three picks next year as well.
Every time a GM trades their only first-round pick, the talk starts up around replacing it. Lost in that conversation is that most first-rounders are extremely similar to most second-rounders in value. Last offseason, I think almost everyone was surprised that Dubas got a good first-round pick for Kasperi Kapanen. There’s only one serious way that’s likely to happen again. He would have to trade someone at least at the level of Morgan Rielly because the chances he finds a GM as interested in Kerfoot as the Penguins were in Kapanen seem low.
On the other hand Tampa has started paying first-round picks for everything. Reportedly, they gave someone a first for a used Dodge Ram to drive the Cup around this year. You get away with that when you have a cup to take on tour. Again.
It’s hard to guess what Rielly would return, but he’s not the sort of player who would bring back multiple good first-rounders. However, Jake Muzzin cost a late first and two prospects, and Devon Toews cost two second-rounders (for RFA signing rights, not a player under contract). Anaheim managed to get a very late first for Brandon Montour, who the Sabres moved on two years later for a third-rounder.
Trading either Rielly or even Alexander Kerfoot could net some kind of return, not necessarily just picks, that would have a good but not guaranteed chance of making an NHL impact in the future. This sort of move would free up cap space and allow for a retooling of the team that leaves the core four intact. The goal, however, is to not make the team worse now in a quest for picks for the future. This would need to be a side effect of other moves.
Trading down the second-rounder doubles the chances of a good player in a section of the draft where finding a Nick Robertson is not something you do every year. Both New Jersey and Montréal have two picks in approximately the right range, and they are teams who understand and will do pick trades, but usually in the other direction. Trading down is all about finding a GM who wants to trade up and is targeting a player he thinks he’ll lose. It’s almost always a bad idea for that GM, but taking advantage of someone else’s bad idea is what hockey is all about. Unfortunately the Penguins don’t have any picks in the right zone this season.
Other than those two trade options, it seems unlikely that Dubas can do much to make the draft exciting. Those 12 picks from last year and next year’s sad selection of a first, a second and a seventh might just have to do us.
I’ll break down the Expansion Draft timeline again soon, but remember there is a freeze on trades from July 17 to 22, so that gives GMs a short window now, and a shorter one after to make their pre-draft deals.
What’s your take on the draft?
Do you think the Leafs will add any draft picks before this year’s entry draft?
This poll is closed
No, this is going to be the saddest draft ever.
Yes, Dubas is going to move out someone big enough to get a good pick back.