It was 14 years ago this summer that Brian Burke - then general manager of the Vancouver Canucks, made perhaps the biggest splash in his career and in NHL draft history.
A young roster player in Bryan McCabe, three third round draft picks, and shuffling first overall picks. That and a lot of talk (both constructive and profane) is what it took Burke to land the Daniel Sedin and his brother Henrik - the prizes of the 1999 draft class.
That price has easily proven to be worth paying for the amount of production the Sedins have given the Canucks in their careers thus far. The 473 goals and 1077 assists combined in 1846 games played in Canucks uniforms far surpasses the total of games played and points by every player (as a draft pick or a trade cog) moved in order to complete this deal..
The complication, besides assets to move in the transactions, was having to work with three different organizations and having to assuage three distinct personalities in opposing GM's and three distinct sets of needs for each organization.
Knowing that two teammates from the 2013 Memorial Cup winning Halifax Mooseheads are expected to go within the top five (or more likely, top three). The teammates dynamic gave me a what if...?
What if one team or another in the NHL wanted to keep Nathan Mackinnon and Jonathan Drouin together? What would it take for someone to pull that off and draft both?
Two points to address:
- Mackinnon, Drouin, and Portland Winterhawks defenseman Seth Jones have all been labeled "potential franchise cornerstones" (usually without "potential" in front of that description). They've shown the tools and the talents to impress scouts and accolades. Hell, they played with and against each other in the Memorial Cup this year, as well as the World Junior Championships during the winter (Jones played on Team USA while Drouin and Mackinnon were on Team Canada). There's a huge amount of earned speculative hype around these guys as a trio of NHL superstars in the waiting.
- Draft picks, especially three consecutive draft picks at the top of the draft chart, rarely live up to the hype that precedes the draft. One need only look at the aforementioned 1999 draft and the oohing and ahhing over eventual #1 pick Patrik Stefan and eventual #4 pick Pavel Brendl. Both failed to come close to expectations and are out of the NHL at this time. It's a repeated story year after year, but a douse of cold water does not help in promoting the draft, so you don't hear about failures so much.
The idea, to keep Mackinnon and Drouin together on a team isn't a bad one but it is risky in immediate costs. Yet, for a franchise in need of a pick-me-up, having two young stars growing with each other, growing with the fan base... To try to pull off something like this would show that, even with risk, a franchise is going to take a stab at not just being winners at the draft but winners on the ice too.
The concept (to keep Mac and Drouin together) isn't so farfetched (it's happened before with the Sedins, it's happened with a pair of friends who played for Rimouski Oceanic in the 90's in Vincent Lecavalier and Brad Richards (the difference being they were drafted in the 1st and 3rd rounds, respectively, and made their NHL debuts years apart) but it is dependent on either (or both) players living up to expectations.
There are three teams that you'd have to potentially target in talks if you wanted to try to pull this off, they being Florida, Tampa Bay and Nashville. I say three teams because if speculation holds true, Tampa may be just fine drafting Valeri Nichushkin instead of either Mackinnon or Drouin. If that happened, you'd need to get the 4th pick (Nashville) to get the other Halifax forward.
Appeasing Dave Tallon would be tough, and I don't expect appeasing Yzerman or Dave Poile would be any easier.
It'd be difficult, but not impossible unless you can't or won't pay what it'd take to pul it off.
(To clarify, I'm not speculating about the Lightning trying to pull this off even though this blog is about the Lightning primarily. Tampa Bay isn't in a position where they'd need or want to acquire both Drouin and Mackinnon... And for the sake of saying so, Steve Yzerman said at the Combine on Thursday that the Bolts don't have enough chips they're willing to deal to move up to #1, so that scenario isn't being mused about here either.)
I can't personally help but look at the Calgary Flames as the team that wants to move up for one of Mackinnon or Drouin... But would Calgary GM Jay Feaster attempt the coup of the decade and try to swing a pair of deals to get both forwards?
The conservative response to this (I'd think) from a Flames fan perspective isn't an outright "No" but a "Why?" Why would the Flames do something so brash as to move up in the draft to select both Mackinnon and Drouin? The franchise is largely rebuilding right now, with more needs than a huge draft day splash a move like this would provide.
It's not that they wouldn't try to accomplish this to land one fo the two, but both?
With Jarome Iginla gone and Mikka Kiprusoff possibly retiring this off season, the franchise lacks a true face at the moment. The sell-off of Iggy and defenseman Jay Bouwmeester at the 2013 NHL trade deadline sort of sealed that. The moves were made for the sake of the long-term.
...And the assets acquired (picks, prospects) are part of how the Flames could pull this off. I'm not suggesting they'd even contemplate it, but with three first round draft picks (#6, #22 (St. Louis) and whatever the Pittsburgh Penguins pick ends up being), as well as latter round picks could be parlayed into a move.
That brings me back to one point I made earlier about hype and reality. It's a strange point to make but it's something that can't be denied either: A lot of the time, fans (and even media types) overvalue the worth of players or even draft picks in situations like this... Meaning it'd be less costly to try to move up than we think...Just remember that value is imperative in trades, and GMs have to find value they're willing to give in order to get...
Just who sees enough value in having both Mackinnon and Drouin that they'd explore the possibility of acquiring both at the draft?