ESPN's Pierre LeBrum reported via Twitter on Friday night that besides the Vancouver Canucks, the Philadelphia Flyers and Tampa Bay Lightning made pushes for the #1 overall selection in the 2014 NHL draft. Then, Saturday during day two of the draft, Tampa Bay Times beat reporter Joe Smith verified with the club that discussions did take place between the Florida Panthers and the Bolts for the #1 pick.
LeBrum followed up yesterday with a tidbit that, by itself, continues the what if? element of speculation:
Panthers GM Dale Tallon said he was close on one particular offer to trade away the No. 1 overall pick Friday night.
And while Philadelphia and Vancouver made strong pitches, the club that made Tallon think the most was Tampa Bay, a source said.
Imagine if the two Florida clubs had gotten together for that kind of blockbuster.
There was a remark form Steve Yzerman to Tampa Bay sports radio host Steve Demuig (repeated by Tampa Tribune Lightning beat writer Erik Erlendsson) that may answer what it would have taken to move up in the draft; a cost that just wasn't worth it in a talent comparison:
Yzerman tells @BigDogwdae in order to move up into top part of the draft would require Drouin or Vasilevskiy, "not an option for us''— Erik Erlendsson (@erlendssonTBO) June 26, 2014
To me, trading players from the first round of the 2012 (Andrei Vasilevskiy) or 2013 (Jonathan Drouin) NHL entry drafts for the #1 overall pick in 2014 would be the equivalent of trading 1st round, #1 overall talent in 1997 (Joe Thornton) or 1998 (Vincent Lecavalier) for the #1 overall selection in 1999 (Patrik Stefan). Perhaps that's selling Aaron Ekblad short on what he is capable of doing in the NHL, but the talent level of the 2014 draft was not considered deep.
While the Bolts need defense, a lateral youth move just delays getting productivity from 1st round draft picks from the last three years. Vasilevskiy will be playing in North America this coming season; Jonathan Drouin will be making a serious push for a roster spot. Would you expect Ekblad to step in immediately in Tampa Bay? Not with how the club has given its top draft choices, and generally defensemen prospects, a longer timeline to gestate and develop.
On a short deduction - if Drouin or Vasilevskiy were requested in trade, Slater Koekkoek very well may have been part of Yzerman's offer to Dale Tallon (and / or former 1st rounder Brett Connolly). Koekkoek was the other first-round selection by the Lightning in 2012, who will be going pro come the fall.
Still, the club had to see something in Ekblad that they didn't see in Seth Jones. With the #3 overall selection in the draft last year, Tampa Bay opted for Drouin over Jones. They were willing to part with assets (what assets, we don't know) in order to grab Ekblad. With the thinner talent field this year, it does stress how Ekblad was the standout of the crop.