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Trading out of the first round a possibility for Tampa Bay Lightning

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They’ve done it before and it’s worth considering again.

NHL: Stanley Cup Playoffs-Columbus Blue Jackets at Tampa Bay Lightning Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

While both of these trades were under Steve Yzerman, the Tampa Bay Lightning twice in recent drafts have traded down from the 28th overall pick in the first round. Julien BriseBois certainly had a hand in making both of those deals though. This year, the Lightning have the 27th overall pick so it behooves the team to consider trading down once again.

Why trade down?

Once you start getting towards the end of the first round, the difference between players becomes smaller and smaller. There is a very steep drop off that goes from the top two or three players, then through the top 10 and top 20. Once you get around pick 20, the value curve flattens out greatly. Draft boards also tend to be set up into tiers.

Let’s say that tier A is 1-2, B is 3-12, C is 12-25, and D is 25-50. Let’s say we get to pick #27 and the Lightning’s top 25 players are all off the board. That means that the difference in value from the top guy on their board to the end of that next tier is fairly small. The team could choose to take one of the top couple of players on their board from the tier, or they could trade back and get two players from Tier D.

In that kind of evaluation, the team is getting a lot more value by having traded back. On the other hand, if a couple guys from their C tier are left on the board, then it makes sense to stick with the pick and take that player instead of dropping down to the next value tier. Every team’s tiers are also going to be a little different. For a team trading up, they might have a player left from their C tier that they want and are willing to give up the assets to get that player that they feel has dropped in the first round.

The Lightning certainly don’t have to trade down. However, it would be a way for them to recoup the second round pick that they traded to the New York Rangers in the Ryan McDonagh/J.T. Miller deal. It’s also giving the scouting staff another opportunity to hit on a draft pick.

I should also note that in the Yzerman/Brisebois/Murray era, the Lightning have had the 27th or 28th pick of the draft four times. They’ve made two selections (Brett Howden and Vladislav Namestnikov) and traded down twice.

Previous Trades

At the 2014 NHL Entry Draft, the Lightning owned the New York Rangers’ 28th overall pick from the Martin St. Louis trade. The team had already used their own 19th overall pick to select defenseman Anthony DeAngelo. That one didn’t turn out so well, but that’s not why we’re here.

The Lightning traded down seven spots to the 35th overall pick in the second round with the New York Islanders and added the 57th overall pick in the second round. The Islanders ended up picking Joshua Ho-Sang, who has not worked out very well for the Islanders. The Lightning selected two defensemen in Dominik Masin and Johnathan MacLeod with the acquired picks.

Unfortunately, neither player has worked out with Masin playing in the AHL with the Syracuse Crunch. His development has stalled after it seemed like he took some promising steps forward as a sophomore professional, but then took a couple steps backwards this past season.

MacLeod went the NCAA route. While I heard a rumor that he was offered an Entry Level Contract after his junior season, he went back for his senior season where he struggled with Boston University. He was not offered an Entry Level Contract, and didn’t even sign an amateur try out with the Crunch after finishing his senior season. He spent this year playing for the South Carolina Stingrays in the ECHL putting up six points in 50 games.

One bright point for the Lightning is that forward Adrian Kempe, who went 29th overall to the Los Angeles Kings, was the best player taken between Ho-Sang and Masin. They didn’t miss on much there. Most of the second round from 2014 has yet to do much with Brandon Montour (55th overall) and Christian Dvorak (58th) being the best of the round.

The Lightning tried the strategy once more in 2015. They again had the 28th overall pick from the New York Rangers and traded with the New York Islanders. This time, they got the 33rd overall pick in the second round and the 72nd overall pick in the third round. The team had to settle for a lower pick as the extra pick and got a little less pick value than they did in 2014.

The Lightning could have taken Anthony Beauvillier, the player the Islanders took. Early on, it felt like this pick might have haunted the Lightning a little bit as Beauvilier stepped into the NHL as a 19 year old and scored nine goals and 24 points in 66 games as a rookie. He stepped up and added 21 goals and 36 points in 71 games the following season. He hasn’t broken out quite the way it seemed he would early, but at 21 years old, he’s still got time to shine.

With the 33rd overall pick, the Lightning selected Mitchell Stephens. Stephens hasn’t made his way to the NHL yet, but he was in the mix to make the roster last year out of training camp. Unfortunately, injuries cut into his time for the Syracuse Crunch this season as he only played 32 games, but managed to record 11 goals and 24 points. As a rookie in 2017-18, he scored 19 goals and 41 points in 70 games. Stephens should be in the mix for an NHL roster spot in 2019-20 and should be viewed as a potential replacement for Cedric Paquette on the fourth line.

The Lightning however did hit on a gem with their 72nd overall pick taking Anthony Cirelli. He made his NHL debut towards the end of his first professional season and was a mainstay of the Lightning’s third line in 2018-19. While he lacks the high end offensive capabilities of other prospects from the 2015 draft, he has turned into one of the best two-way centers and shows promise of being an elite third line center in the NHL.

At 100 games played, only three players selected after Cirelli have more games in the NHL. Columbus’ Markus Nutivaara is the only player drafted after Cirelli ahead of him in points (and only one point at that) for his draft class. Three first round forwards from 2015 have played more games in the NHL than Cirelli, but have less points.

Who Could We Trade With?

For someone to trade up to get the Lightning’s pick, they will need a first round pick after the Lightning or one of the early second round picks. Then they would need another second or a high third round pick to get up to the appropriate value. Below are a list of potential trade downs that could happen and would be close in value. This could also change throughout the first round as other trades happen that result in teams either losing these picks or other teams picking up picks that could be used in a trade.

All picks will be abbreviated as round-overall. So the Lightning’s pick of 1st round, 27th overall will be listed as 1-27. The 55th overall pick in the 2nd round will be listed a 2-55. Any trades that are close in value could end up including an extra later round pick that has minimal value like a 5th through 7th round pick to make up some of the value. Trades that are light in value on the trading up team’s side are less likely to happen, but could involve other picks. Or if it’s the best offer the Lightning get, they may take it.

  • Carolina Hurricanes - 1-28 and 3-90 for TBL’s 1-27. This trade is very close in value.
  • Carolina Hurricanes - 1-36, 2-59 for TBL’s 1-27. This trade could also include Carolina’s 3-90 as 1-36 and 2-59 are a little bit light in value.
  • Anaheim Ducks - 1-29 and 3-101 for TBL’s 1-27. This trade is a little light in value from the Anaheim side.
  • Buffalo Sabres - 1-31 and 3-67 for TBL’s 1-27. This trade is very close in value.
  • Boston Bruins - 1-30 and 3-92 for TBL’s 1-27. This trade is light on the Boston side and less likely to happen without another asset.
  • Los Angeles Kings - 2-33 and 3-64 for TBL’s 1-27. This trade would be fairly similar to the trade the Lightning made trading down from 1-28 to 2-33 and 3-72. The value is still a little bit light.
  • New Jersey Devils - 2-34 and 2-55 or 2-61 for TBL’s 1-27. The 1-34 and 2-55 would be about equal value, but I could see the trade ending up being for 2-61 instead of 2-55.
  • Detroit Red Wings - 2-35 and 2-54 for TBL’s 1-27. The trade value is about equal. However, with Yzerman’s history would he want to trade up, especially since he is trying to rebuild the Red Wings system and could use more picks.

Other trades would be possible to make, but would likely have to include other assets or future picks to make them happen. The rest of the teams I have looked at don’t have sufficient draft capital to be able to trade up to get to the Lightning’s 27th overall pick. It should be an exciting now and I can’t wait to see what happens.