The NHL is in a Vegas state of mind these days. The league is headed there for Wednesday’s awards show, and it will reportedly announce its intention to stick around, finally confirming the long-rumoured expansion team that will become the city’s first major pro sports franchise.
After that, it will be on to Buffalo for the entry draft. But Sin City is a town that tends to stick with you for a while, so with that in mind, let’s introduce a little Las Vegas flavour as we look ahead to the weekend. Here are a half dozen stories to watch at the draft, along with some betting odds just in case you feel like making a friendly wager or two.
Over/under on trades involving the top seven picks: 0.5
There’s plenty of trade talk heading into the draft, with the rumor mill ramping up and speculation that some of the high picks could be in play. Would the Columbus Blue Jackets really trade the third pick? Could the Edmonton Oilers move the fourth pick to acquire immediate help, particularly on the blue line? Are the Calgary Flames trying to move up from No. 6? And are we completely sure that the Arizona Coyotes won’t make one last Hail Mary attempt to jump up to number one and land local boy Auston Matthews?
It all makes for an intriguing build up. But there’s a problem: we go through this sort of speculation every year, and it almost never amounts to anything. It’s exceedingly rare to see a high pick traded in advance of the draft. According to prosportstransactions.com, we haven’t seen a known top-seven pick traded since 2008, when the New York Islanders and Toronto Maple Leafs flipped the fifth and seventh picks as part of the deal that saw Toronto move up to take Luke Schenn. (Picks like the number two overall in 2010 have been traded, but only well in advance, before their position was known.)
That one trade marks the only time that known top seven picks have been traded during the salary cap era; you have to go back to 2004 to find another example (when the Carolina Hurricanes moved up to number four to take Andrew Ladd). As for the sort of deal the Oilers and Blue Jackets are rumoured to be seeking, one that would see them trade the fourth pick primarily to get back a veteran player who could help right away, we haven’t seen that sort of move since 2002, when the Tampa Bay Lightning traded the number four pick to the Philadelphia Flyers for Ruslan Fedotenko and two seconds.
Before the cap, it was relatively common to see high picks dealt; even the first overall pick was traded on the draft floor three times in five years starting in 1999. But as the salary cap took hold and young players on entry level deals emerged as the best value in the league, teams have held onto those high picks. Oh, teams still talk about pulling the trigger on a trade. But then the draft arrives and they never do.
Add it all up, and we’ll probably get all sorts of smoke over the next few days, but our odds of finding any actual fire are slim. Maybe this is the year the dams burst and we get some deals. But for now, take the under on this one.