Tampa Bay Lightning general manager Steve Yzerman has shown a penchant for being willing to trade up and down in the NHL Entry Draft to get the players he wants. While he hasn’t traded up in the first round before, he’s had some other opportunities in the third round and later to trade up. The most prominent example of that was in 2015, trading up one spot to guarantee the selection of Brayden Point.
More often though, he’s shown a willingness to trade down in the first round. This year is a bit different since he owns the 14th overall pick, and the past two times he traded down from a first-round pick he owned the 28th overall pick. Several years ago, a writer for our SBNation sibling site Broad Street Hockey by the name of Eric T. wrote an article about draft pick values. He’s since gone on to work for the Carolina Hurricanes. However, his article gave a framework for pick values.
I’ve since taken Eric T.’s idea, and working with a much more mathematically inclined friend, recalculated the pick values with the added information from the past few years of draft. That has allowed me to put together a program on my computer to evaluate potential draft pick trades.
Without getting too deep into the methodology, the trades used in the data set involved only trades made when the exact positioning of all draft picks were involved. That means only trades involving the current years draft and after the playoffs were over and draft positions finalized. If a trade involved a player or a future draft pick, then that was left out of the data set.
While Steve Yzerman will have more assets than just his 2017 draft picks to work with, we’re only going to consider using our 2017 draft picks. The goal of this article is to get an idea of the possibilities of what Yzerman could do to maneuver with the picks he owns. My opinion on accepting any of these trades is entirely dependent on the player available at the pick and their potential impact compared to the lost or gained picks in the case of trading down.
In general, the team that is trading up will have to pay a premium on top of the pick values to move up. In most of the below cases, I’ve tried to keep the pick values as close as possible while also maintaining some common sense about what is most likely to happen.
Nomenclature for all picks will be Round-Overall. For example, 1-14 is a 1st round pick, 14th overall. 6-162 means sixth round, 162nd overall.
Trading Up in the First Round
- TBL trades 1-14 and 2-48 and 3-76 for DET’s 1-9
- TBL trades 1-14 and 2-48 for FLA’s 1-10
- TBL trades 1-14 and 2-48 for LAK’s 1-11 OR TBL trades 1-14, 2-48, and 3-76 for LAK’s 1-11, 3-72, and 4-103.
- TBL trades 1-14 and 2-48 for CAR’s 1-12 and 3-67
- TBL trades 1-14 and 2-48 for VGK’s 1-13 and 2-62 OR TBL trades 1-14, 2-48, and 3-76 for VGK’s 1-13, 2-62, and 3-65
As you can see, the cost to move up for almost every one of these picks is a second-round pick. In some cases, though, it means trading up in the first round and trading up or down in later rounds. The further up you’re trying to move, the more it costs to do so. But the second-round pick has enough value that if Tampa is trying to move up only a pick or two with Carolina or Vegas, it means swapping around some later picks too. The scenarios with a multitude picks like with Los Angeles or Vegas seem less likely, but represent better value for Tampa Bay. In almost every scenario though, Tampa is losing a little bit of pick value.
Trading Down in the First Round
- TBL trades 1-14 and 3-76 to VGK for 1-15 and 2-62
- TBL trades 1-14 to TOR for 1-17 and 2-59
- TBL trades 1-14 to BOS for 1-18 and 2-53
- TBL trades 1-14 to SJS for 1-19 and 2-49
- TBL trades 1-14, 2-48, and 3-76 to STL for 1-20 and 1-27
- TBL trades 1-14 to ARI for 1-23 and 2-35
You’ll notice here that there are a few picks in the range that are missing. The Calgary Flames own the 15th pick but lack second- and third-round picks to use to move up. The New York Rangers likewise lacked second- and third-round picks to move up with the 21st pick. The Edmonton Oilers with the 22nd pick also lack a second-round pick and their two third round picks are not valuable enough.
The St. Louis deal is one of the more intriguing for me. Yzerman could potentially move back to 20th in the draft and also have another pick at the end of the first round in the 27th while upgrading his second-round pick. However, he would lose the third-round pick and not draft again until the sixth round.
Trading Up in the Second Round
Frankly, there is a pretty big drop off in the value of picks after the third round. That means that to move up in the second round, generally you need to use a third-round pick or a low second-round pick to do so. Or you need to be able to swap seconds and thirds so that you move up in the second and move your third down to later in the third round.
The handful of teams ahead of the Lightning are not positioned very well to do that, making it more difficult for the Lightning to complete a trade up in the second round. There’s only two possibilities and both involve the Lightning giving up their third-round pick to move up only two or three spots in the second round.
Trading Down in the Second Round
- TBL trades 2-48 and 3-76 to ANA for 2-50 and 2-60 OR TBL trades 2-48 to ANA for 2-50 and 3-91
- TBL trades 2-48 and 6-169 to CAR for 2-52 and 3-73
- TBL trades 2-48 to BUF for 2-54, 3-89, and 4-99
- TBL trades 2-48 and 3-76 to VAN for 2-55, 3-64, and 4-95
- TBL trades 2-48 and 3-76 to MON for 2-56 and 2-58
If Yzerman wishes to recoup a fourth-round pick, there’s some options for him here. There’s also some opportunities to move the third-round pick either up higher in the third-round like with the Vancouver trade or even to the end of the second-round like with Anaheim and Montreal.
There are far more trades that could potentially happen later in the draft as well. Trading down in the third round even just a few spots would net the Lightning a fourth-round pick in most cases. The team could also use both of its sixth-round picks to trade back into the fifth-round if there was a player there that they wanted to select.
With the Lightning having so many picks in the past two drafts, it’s a toss up of weather Yzerman wants to improve the quality of his picks or to acquire more picks. That determination, as well as the players available when negotiating trades, will impact which way he ends up going in the draft. If he can trade down and still get the player that he wants, then that’s a net positive as he’ll have picked up extra picks or improved his current picks.
Tonight will be an exciting night as there are bound to be at least a handful of trades made involving first-round picks. Tomorrow will be even more active as the draft moves into the second- through seventh rounds.