RW Nail Yakupov is one of the Oilers rumored to be on the way out of Edmonton.
Welcome back to my weekly Prospects Ramblings column!
Folks, I don't mean to alarm you. I mean to excite you. Today marks exactly seven days until the 2016 NHL entry draft begins.
To those of us in the scouting community, this is Christmas morning, New Year’s Eve, and April Fool’s Day all rolled into one. The cumulative sum total of several months’ worth of scouting, assessing, evaluating and prognosticating all coming down to one single event where a team’s future can be redefined and reshaped in the span of a few hours.
It should also serve as no surprise to those in the fantasy league community that this day has far-reaching implications.
On a personal level, upon entering my keeper league six years ago, I found my roster whole-heartedly underserved with talent. This lead to a complete teardown, culminating with a team focused on drafting and a roster that now boasts the likes of Aaron Ekblad and Connor McDavid. This year, though, represents a unique facet in the fantasy market – and that is the prospect of expansion.
With Las Vegas expected to join the NHL as soon as the 2017-2018 season, the potential value of existing roster players is in a state of flux. Today, I look at some of the rumblings in the trade market, as well as the potential UFA market with respect to negotiating rights.
* * *
Edmonton's First-Round Selection (4th Overall)
With Edmonton holding yet another top-five selection after another disappointing (read: predictable) season, the time is now for the Oilers to acquire a legitimate top-four defenseman who can help turn their fortunes around.
Who Should Acquire Edmonton's 4th Overall: The Anaheim Ducks
This would be a far more complex trade than just pick-for-player; rather, this would have to be a multi-layered transaction. Anaheim sorely lacks added scoring punch up front, and has restricted free agents waiting for their payday.
A deal involving the likes of the fourth overall pick, as well as the underwhelming Nail Yakupov, in exchange for Hampus Lindholm, Anaheim's own first-rounder (23rd overall), and a conditional pick (i.e. if Yakupov scores more than 40 points, Edmonton gets Anaheim's third-round selection in 2017) could bear fruit.
For the Oilers, they gain a very good defender on the back end while still adding a first-round selection this year (likely aiming at a blueliner as well – the likes of a Dante Fabbro, Cam Dineen or Logan Stanley potentially as a target). From the Ducks’ perspective, they get an offensive weapon in Yakupov who may find new life in a winning environment while adding a blue-chip prospect to their future who would likely play in their lineup next season to replace Lindholm. I personally think Olli Juolevi would fit well into a Ducks’ uniform, and plays a similar style to Lindholm.
From a fantasy point of view, this type of deal could prove boom-bust for a player like Yakupov, but should help the likes of Lindholm, as he would see a lot of ice with the Oilers. This would be particularly true on the power play, where the likes of McDavid, Draisaitl, Hall and Eberle would put him in place for a boatload of assists.
Who Will Acquire Edmonton's 4th Overall: The Edmonton Oilers
Let's face it – there are few, if any, established defenders who are both available and worth a fourth-overall selection … even in a trade-down scenario. Unless something shocking happens where a T.J. Brodie, Tyson Barrie, or Roman Josi becomes available, Edmonton would be wise to keep their hands on this pick and rely on other assets to acquire back-end help.
With this in mind, Edmonton would be remarkably foolish to use this pick on anything other than a potential top-pairing defenseman. Period. While some believe a forward like a Matthew Tkachuk would be beneficial, there is little question that it is in their own zone that the Oil suffer greatly. If a name other than Chychrun, Juolevi, or Sergachev appear on an Edmonton jersey at that selection, I believe they will have failed.
* * *
Arizona's First-Round Selection (7th Overall)
It isn't so much that Arizona needs to trade down from the seventh overall position… rather, it is that they should. With Shane Doan in the twilight of his career and only 11 players from last year's roster signed to return, the Coyotes have a bevy of holes to fill. This need not all be in one transaction – moving down for more picks would give them more assets with which to acquire existing roster players. Newly minted GM John Chayka undoubtedly knows this, as proper asset management has never been more important than in the age of analytics.
Who Should Acquire Arizona's 7th Overall: The Toronto Maple Leafs
With 28 selections in the next three drafts, as well as one of the most well-stocked prospect cupboards in the league, the Maple Leafs would do well to utilize some of this strength to acquire a more impactful selection in the first round.
While it is highly debatable if they have the assets to do it (or, rather, if they'd be willing to sacrifice the assets to do it), Toronto does not possess a prospect who can be seen as a potential legitimate top-pairing defenseman. While quality players can be selected later in the round, it is for this reason that you stockpile assets – to make impact moves. While the cost would undoubtedly include some combination of a package of picks including (but not limited to) the 30th and 31st overall, prospects such as Kasperi Kapanen, Brendan Leipsic and Connor Brown, it would be one worth at least exploring. Could Toronto's first-rounder in 2017 be a possibility? One can only speculate.
Offering a hot young stickhandler like Kasperi Kapanen could help the Maple Leafs move up in next week's draft after they use their first overall selection:
While one can debate if Toronto has the pieces to make a deal happen, given that names such as Marner, Reilly, and Nylander would end the discussion before it starts, but if the possibility exists it must be explored.
Who Will Acquire Arizona's 7th Overall: The Ottawa Senators
Arizona would be wise not to sell a seventh-overall selection for a quantity-over-quality transaction. With the Ottawa Senators picking at the No. 12 spot, they may be in a great position to slide up in the draft.
Ottawa's defensive depth is in fine shape. Boasting Erik Karlsson, Marc Methot, the emerging Cody Ceci and still-developing Thomas Chabot leaves little room to want at that point. While they have names like the remarkable Colin White in their system up front, they don't have true blue-chip talent with size to call their own.
Enter Logan Brown.
By moving up to No. 7, Ottawa would be near certain to have an opportunity to draft the behemoth 6-6 center from the Windsor Spitfires. Drawing many comparisons to the likes of Joe Thornton after a remarkable second half of the season, Brown has high-end offensive upside with a sneaky wrist shot and impressive vision. Adding a prospect such as this to their depth chart would be a boon for the Senators and fill a sore need.
From an Arizona perspective, they would still get an opportunity to draft a key piece on the blueline. From that slot, names such as Fabbro, McAvoy, and possibly one of Sergachev, Juolevi or Chychrun depending on how the chips fall. If they could procure perhaps a third-round pick and an Alex Chiasson, who is a restricted free agent and could slot into the Coyotes’ top nine, a deal may be amenable.
* * *
Though not a prospect … hey, can we really speculate about trades without speculating about Stamkos?
Let's be clear – with precisely two weeks until NHL free agency, the likelihood that Steve Yzerman brings Stammer back into the flock diminishes by the hour. While there is a plethora of teams who would love to add a 25-year-old offensive talent like the Markham, Ont., native (cough, cough, my hometown, cough), the precarious state of next year’s salary cap may prove too grand a hurdle to overcome. Given that he is more of a wild card given his free agent status, I will address his situation in terms of acquiring his negotiating rights.
Where Stamkos Should Sign: The Montreal Canadiens
The Canadiens should be the ideal landing spot for Stamkos. They are an Original Six team with a rabid fan base, in a world-class metropolitan city. They already boast two of the primary components required to immediately compete for a Stanley Cup – a world-class goaltender in Carey Price, and a bonafide No. 1 defender in P.K. Subban. The Achilles heel of Les Tricolore has been their inability to put the puck in the net, as was exposed when they were deprived of their star ‘keeper last season.
Stamkos represents the solution to many of the problems Montreal currently suffers from. He is a top-line center, which Tomas Plekanec is not. While Alexander Galchenyuk may develop into that, he is still a question needing answers. As a former 50-goal scorer, Stamkos is also elite when it comes to putting the puck in the back of the net – something the Habs have struggled with mightily.
The mitigating factor of all this is Montreal's cap situation. Simply put, with the likes of Alexei Emelin, David Desharnais, and Lars Eller (all three bottom-pairing or bottom-six options) occupying over $11 million of cap space, the Habs lack the cap space required to make this happen. However, if they could find a way to move out some of this cap space (likely by sweetening the pot with draft picks), an offer could be made. If Stamkos wants to win a Cup, Montreal represents a great way to do it. If Montreal wants to take advantage of the prime years of Carey Price, they owe it to themselves to make this push. While the dollars may be bigger elsewhere, Montreal represents the best of all worlds.
From a fantasy perspective, adding Stamkos would spread the wealth up front and allow for the entire forward corps to increase their output as defenders leave them more time and space.
Where Stamkos Will Sign: The New Jersey Devils
With the opportunity to live only an hour from Manhattan, combined with the same relative anonymity that he enjoyed in Tampa Bay, the New Jersey Devils seem the likely option for where Stamkos will put his name to a contract.
While lacking some of the required elements of a Cup Contender, such as a true No. 1 defenseman, the stellar netminding of Cory Schneider will give the Devils a chance to win every game. With the Devils selecting 11th overall next Friday, it is well within the realm of possibility that they draft a potential top-pairing blueliner in the form of the smooth-skating Mikhail Sergachev or Olli Juolevi – both of whom are distinct possibilities to play in the NHL next season.
Moreover, the Devils are one of the few teams with both the financial freedom and wherewithal to offer the young pivot fair market value – likely around the $11M per year over eight years (yes, eight years, as a team acquiring his rights before July 1 would be allowed to offer an extra year as per the CBA). While the Devils have other holes to fill before they can be a legitimate contender, the addition of Stamkos to a forward corps that already boasts the likes of Travis Zajac, Adam Henrique, and the resurgent Mike Cammalleri, launches them forward in a big way.
The greatest beneficiary of a Stamkos signing in New Jersey is likely to be one Mike Cammalleri, who would likely line up on his left side. While Cammalleri has shown great goal-scoring acumen, he is also an underrated playmaker who should be able to feed his new right-handed center in healthy fashion. This would likely also extend Cammalleri's production for at least one more season.
* * *
Thanks for reading this week! Next week my column will be posted live from Buffalo, where I will be attending the draft live, and where I will be putting together my own prediction of the first round. Will I nail it, or will I fail it? You'll have to check back to see.