Burning Questions: Trading for Picks

Joel Auerbach

The second installment of this week's Offseason Burning Questions series, this post is about the merits of trading for draft picks.

Ottawa traded its first round pick in 2014 to the Anaheim Ducks as part of last summer's Bobby Ryan deal. In addition, Ottawa sent its fifth round pick to the Edmonton Oilers as part of the Ales Hemsky deal and its sixth round pick the Minnesota Wild when the Sens acquired Matt Kassian in 2013. The Hemsky deal also ensured that Ottawa's third round pick in 2015 was headed to Edmonton. Having traded four picks already, do the Senators need to make a deal to acquire picks? Does Ottawa need to acquire a first rounder for 2014?

I don't think the Senators need to trade for a first round pick in the 2014 draft. This year's draft isn't as strong as previous years and the price to move up to a lottery pick is too high. Management made its assessment of this year's class known when they included that first round pick in the Ryan trade. If the Senators can acquire a 2015 first round pick as part of a significant trade then the organization should make that deal, but not for this year's draft.

However, it would be in the organization's best interest to recoup some of the picks they've traded away over of the past year. Budget teams like the Senators rely on homegrown, economical talent from the draft to fill out the depth positions in its lineup. The budget-conscious franchise is already relying on mid-to-late round draft picks to fill out its roster. Out of the 26 forwards and defensemen who played at least one game with the Senators in 2013-2014, 10 of them, or 38%, were drafted in the third round or later by Ottawa. Mid-round picks Zack Smith (R3, 2008), Eric Gryba (R3, 2006), Derek Grant (R4, 2008), and Jean-Gabriel Pageau (R4, 2011), were  joined by late picks Mike Hoffman (R5, 2009), Mark Borowiecki (R5, 2008), Chris Neil (R6, 1998), Mark Stone (R6, 2010), Colin Greening (R7, 2005), and Erik Condra (R7, 2006). While there are still candidates from the 2011-2013 draft classes in the pipeline, a gap for a few years is a problem if almost 40% of your roster is a product of shrewd drafting.

Graeme Nichols at The 6th Sens recently praised Bryan Murray's drafted record and he's right, it is impressive:

"Their draft record speaks for itself. By my count:

  • 28 of 44 draft selections have played professionally at the AHL or NHL level (63.6%)
  • 14 of 44 draft selections have played at least one game in the NHL (31.8%)

These numbers will only continue to improve as prospects from the 2012 and 2013 drafts graduate to the North American professional ranks."

Getting picks for this year's draft need not be complicated. As Nichols suggests,

"There is also the chance the Senators could mitigate the cost to acquire Hemsky by trading his rights to another organization - similar to how the Islanders acquired Jaroslav Halak and now Dan Boyle's negotiation rights prior to July 1st - and fetching a mid-round pick in return."

Murray is no stranger to this kind of moving. He moved veteran defenseman Sergei Gonchar to the Dallas Stars in early June for a conditional sixth round pick in 2013. Hemsky is certainly a candidate for a move like this with Pittsburgh being the most obvious destination. Hemsky's strong finish to the season could secure the Sens a third or fourth round selection. Milan Michalek could also be dealt in a similar fashion, although should be considered a longshot to be traded because of his down year.

If the Senators trade Jason Spezza and initiate another rebuild on the fly, the future of veterans still under contract for 2014-2015 should be considered. Craig Anderson and Chris Neil could be flipped for second or mid-round picks in 2014 or 2015. Anderson's departure would leave a hole in the lineup, but an inexpensive veteran backup shouldn't be hard to find and would allow Murray and company to see what they have with Robin Lehner. Whether they move multiple veterans or not, it's an avenue Murray should explore.

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