There were 18 trades made during the NHL draft last June. Some involved players and others just switched the order of selection.
There have been some blockbusters. But many seemingly insignificant moves made within a few minutes at the draft table can turn into important changes for an organization.
The New Jersey Devils moved up five spots in 2003 to pick Zach Parise 17th overall, surrendering the 22nd and 68th selections to Edmonton. Parise will soon become one of the best-paid players in the NHL and has 194 career goals -- even after missing a season with injury. The Oilers chose Marc-Antoine Pouliot 22nd and J-F Jacques at 68. They have combined for 30 goals.
There are plenty of rumors about teams wanting to move up and down this week. Will someone make that big splash at the 50th draft in Pittsburgh this weekend?
Plenty of pregame work is done by general managers. Some are more aggressive. Others prefer to use all their picks or even add to their stash.
Al Murray, the Lightning’s Director of Amateur Scouting, said there was hardly any talk about moving during the 2011 draft. The Bolts just didn’t have the tools to do it, without a third or fourth-round selection. All things being equal, GMs need a base of information before making the important decision.
“What most of the GMs I have worked for want to know is where the cut offs are,” said Murray, who worked more than a decade with the Los Angeles Kings and is in his second draft for the Bolts. “In every draft list, there are certain players that are interchangeable. They want to know which ones you value a lot more at a particular spot. If there are just one or two players left in that group, that’s when they are willing to move up.”
The Lightning currently own the 10th and 19th picks in the first round. They also have the 40th in the second round and a conditional pick at No. 53 -- if the Florida Panthers decide to pass on it -- then one pick each in the final five rounds.
Murray said he and his staff have identified 12-15 players that are high-level prospects. From the 10th to 20th picks, he said, anything can happen.
“We may get two players from our top group at 10 and 19,” Murray said. “Everybody sees it differently, so it only takes one player to slide down and we can get a second from our top group.”
Mistakes can be made going both ways. The Lightning traded the 25th pick in 2003 for a pair of second-round selections. Corey Perry, the 2011 Hart Trophy winner, went 28th. The Bolts selected defensemen Mike Egener (34th) and Matt Smaby (41st). Unfortunately, all stars Patrice Bergeron, Shea Weber, David Backes and Jimmy Howard were available later in the second round.
In 2001, the New York Islanders acquired Alexei Yashin from Ottawa for Zdeno Chara, Bill Muckalt and a first-round pick that ended up being all-star Jason Spezza. Yashin never won a playoff round in New York before being bought out.
Steve Yzerman spoke with media in his final pre-draft interview today in Pittsburgh.
One of the most active years was in 1999 when Brian Burke, Vancouver’s GM at the time, engineered multiple deals that allowed him to pick Henrik and Daniel Sedin second and third, respectively. The Lightning originally had the first pick that year.
If the Lightning chose to try and move up three or four spots, the price is normally a switch of positions and an extra second-round selection. However, sometimes it can take more than that to move up in the top 10. While GM Steve Yzerman has not ruled out deals on draft day, "Our best option right now," Yzerman said, in speaking with media today from Pittsburgh, "is to pick 10th and 19th."
“Those conversations go on all the time,” Murray said. “They are always kicking the tires to try and see what the cost would be to move up or move back. It only takes one team to really like a guy. If you like 12-15 players in the same hula hoop, you might not be willing to give as much to move.”
Murray said they had narrowed it down to three players for the 27th pick last year as their spot approached. One went just before they selected and one went soon after. The Lightning selected center Vladimir Namestnikov.
“I think we had a pretty good read where players were going to go last year,” Murray said. “We were comfortable where we were.”
In a draft with many players rated so closely, predicting what will happen is difficult this time around. But the Bolts are sitting pretty with plenty of options.