The draft order for 2022 has been determined, and with all but eight teams done for the season, we can expect to see trade talks start tp heat up. Ottawa Senators GM Pierre Dorion has made it clear that he’s in the market for a top 6 forward and a top 4 defenseman, and it’s not hard to figure out that their most valuable trade chip is their first round draft pick — which we now know will be 7th overall.
Dorion hasn’t ruled out the possibility of trading that pick, and reports indicate that he’s specifically very interested in acquiring Minnesota Wild forward Kevin Fiala. But just how valuable is that pick in a potential trade?
What does a top 10 pick get you?
There actually isn’t that much precedent for trading a top 10 pick after the draft order has been determined. When these picks change hands, it’s usually an accident, like the Sens giving Colorado the fourth overall pick in 2019 or the Sharks giving the Sens the third pick in 2020. According to Capfriendly’s Entry Draft Board, trades involving a guaranteed top 10 pick have happened only five times since 2010.
The most recent example is the Vancouver Canucks trading the 9th overall pick to the Coyotes last year in exchange for Conor Garland and Oliver Ekman-Larsson. They also gave up a 2nd and 7th in that trade, as well as a few of their bad contracts. So, a good young player (Garland) and a decent player on a bad contract (Ekman-Larsson) for some picks and bad players on bad contracts.
I’ve seen this trade brought up a few times in reference to the Sens, but I think it’s kind of hard to use it as a comparison considering that we are talking about the Arizona Coyotes; team who will happily take on other teams’ bad contracts and are actively trying to be bad. Not every franchise is more modern art experiment than coherent hockey team.
After that we have to go back to 2017, when the New York Rangers traded the 7th overall pick to Arizona along with Derek Stepan and Antti Raanta in exchange for Tony DeAngelo, who was at the time a top defensive prospect.
In 2013, the Devils traded the 9th overall pick to the Canucks for Cory Schneider. You may remember that this was the height of Vancouver’s goaltending controversy, with Schneider and Luongo having shared the net for several years. Schneider sustained his strong play for his first few seasons in the swamp, so that’s a pretty good return for New Jersey.
In 2012, the Hurricanes got Jordan Staal in exchange for the 8th overall pick, prospect Brian Dumoulin, and a young Brendan Sutter. Staal was a former second overall pick and a 20 goal, 50 point player, so this is the typical “player, prospect and pick” package that you normally see for top players.
Finally, in 2011, Columbus brought in a young Jeff Carter in exchange for Jakob Voracek - who had just scored 46 points in his third NHL season - as well as the 8th overall pick and a third.
Basically, guaranteed top 10 picks don’t get moved all that often, and based on this list, it’s not entirely clear that they’re more valuable than picks traded before the draft order has been determined. If the Sens want to land a top six forward or top four defenseman (let’s be honest, it’s most likely going to be the former), they’ll almost certainly need to throw in a prospect or two.
Is that the end of the world, though? The Sens have a lot of solid third line players and prospects who are likely to turn into NHL’ers but not superstars. If they have to move out a few of those in order to improve the top end of the lineup, I’ll take it right now.
Who are the potential trade targets?
Let’s get this out of the way first. Yes, Kevin Fiala is probably going to be available this summer, and yes, the Sens absolutely should go after him.
How much will he cost? A lot, probably. The Wild need to trade him in order to be cap compliant, but if reports are to be believed, there are lots of teams interested, so the Sens might find themselves involved in a bidding war.
If Fiala doesn’t work out, it may be worth asking Vancouver about Brock Boeser, who’s also been heavily involved in trade rumours. If the Flyers decide to scrap their “aggressive retool” plan and tear things down, Travis Konecny might be a guy to target. And if all else fails, I’m sure Dorion can find a “high character” guy that he believes will one day be a top six forward. Pierre, if you’re reading this, please don’t do that.
One team Sens fans should watch closely this summer is the New Jersey Devils. They’re the other team apparently very interested in Fiala, and they’ve said that they’d be willing to trade their first round pick for him — although I don’t know if that’s still on the table now that they’ve won the draft lottery. The Devils are on a similar rebuild timeline to the Sens, and also in a position where they need to add good players in order to reach the next level. Apparently, one of the areas where they want to add is on the wing. They’re definitely a more attractive free agent destination than Ottawa is, so maybe we should hope they go that route and drop out of the Fiala sweepstakes. Yes, I’m still focused on Fiala. He speaks five languages, dances in crop tops, and feeds his dog tortillas. When you have a chance to bring in vibes that good, you make it happen.
So, should the Sens actually trade the pick?
Even before the season ended, Spencer made the case for trading the Sens’ 2022 first round pick, and most of the points he made back then still stand. There are very good players available at 7th overall, but there’s no guarantee that those players will end up being as good as the players Ottawa might trade for, such as Kevin Fiala or Brock Boeser. The chances of the player they select being ready to contribute within the next two years are even slimmer.
Obviously, the best case scenario would be if the Sens could fill all these holes in their roster through free agency. However, it’s no secret that Ottawa is not an attractive destination for free agents. Even Claude Giroux might not want to come here if he doesn’t think the team is close to being competitive. Making a big trade might actually go a long way toward convincing players that this team is actually trying to get better, for whatever that’s worth.
Look. Everyone wants their team to bring in high-end players without giving up anything of consequence. Sens fans have seen this team overpay for Bobby Ryan and Matt Duchene before. I understand why there might be hesitancy when it comes to making big trades. But at the same time, this team has enough good players entering their prime right now that they could be a good team very soon if they just made a few key additions. Any realistic projection for the pick would have them impacting the team in two to three years at a minimum. Ottawa is five years into the rebuild and the core players are in their prime. Now is the time.