Who should the Maple Leafs pick at the 2013 entry draft?
Maybe no one.
Or as Mel Lastman, a member of a long line of colorful Toronto mayors used to say: noooobody.
It’s a reach. Indulge me.
First, a proviso. This piece is for entertainment purposes only. Read it in the fun spirit in which it is intended. I like to spitball as much as the next guy.
Okay, here goes.
If Leafs GM Dave Nonis wants to flip choices to dramatically improve his draft standing he will likely have to trade a core young player: Nazem Kadri, Morgan Rielly or Jake Gardiner.
That makes no sense. Those three are among his premier assets.
Nonis has limited options to dramatically improve his team.
The current crop of unrestricted free agents is undistinguished. The list of restricted free agents, (Tuukka Rask, Alex Pieterangelo top the list) will certainly re-sign with their current teams, Boston and St. Louis and as we will soon see the price is prohibitive. With the flow of NHL players slowing from the Marlies, trading youth for established talent seems unlikely.
But what’s a 21st overall pick really worth?
While this year’s draft features remarkable depth and high-end talent, the quality of players chosen two thirds of the way through the first round is usually, to be charitable, spotty.
As the accompanying chart shows, you can argue the best player chosen at number 21 over the past 15 years was Tuukka Rask, the Leafs pick in 2005, and isn’t that a kick in the teeth?
|1998||Mathieu Biron||Defence||Los Angeles||253|
|2001||Colby Armstrong||Right Wing||Pittsburgh||476|
|2004||Wojtek Wolski||Left Wing||Colorado||451|
|2006||Bobby Sanguinetti||Defence||New York Rangers||45|
|2009||John Moore||Defence||New York Rangers||99|
|2011||Stefan Noesen||Right Wing||Ottawa||0|
While Nonis is not a member of the ultra-exclusive list of GMs who have traded their first-rounders, it’s interesting to note that he has traded his second-rounder four times, albeit for rental players at the trade deadline.
But what if Nonis traded this year’s number 21 for a pick in the 2015 draft?
A 2015 pick is worth substantially less than a 2014 pick and even less than a 2013 pick…unless you’re planning to deploy that 2015 pick elsewhere.
Ryan O’Reilly, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Justin Schultz, Claude Giroux, Gabriel Landeskog, Matt Duchene, P.K. Subban and Logan Couture become restricted free agents in 2014. Just saying.
As you probably know, competing teams are free to tender offer sheets to restricted free agents. The teams who hold the free agent’s rights can sign the teams at that dollar value or relinquish the player for compensation. They almost always do.
The compensation boils down to two first-rounders, a second and a third-rounder for an offer between $6.7 million and $8.4 million. Any offer over $8.4 million carries a prohibitive penalty of four-first rounders.
Teams signing free agents can’t trade picks acquired from other teams. Otherwise teams could raffle off players for future first-rounders and gleefully accelerate the bidding war for players.
But if you sign a prominent player and parlay this year’s pick to replace the one you lose in compensation, the essentially mediocre pick replaces a valuable one and therefore becomes in itself more valuable.
It’s high stakes poker, of course. Who knows where the team or teams you deal with will finish. Traditionally teams match offers for their stars but the Leafs only competitive advantage is the wherewithal to spend to the cap. There’s no doubt that overpaying for a star player would hamper the club in its own dealings with restricted or unrestricted free agents. Like I said, it’s risky.
But even if the Leafs’ can’t land a player, they still own a future first-rounder. They just have to wait a while longer before the harvest.
Maybe it’s worth a shot.
Here’s a sampling of projected 21st picks by internet outlets. For entertainment purposes only.
|mynhldraft.com||Frederik Gauthier (C)||Rimouski||G: 26; P: 38; PIM: 26|
|bleacherreport.com||Mirco Mueller (D)||Everett||G: 6; P: 31; PIM: 57|
|nhl.com||Morgan Klimchuk (LW)||Regina||G: 36; P: 76; PIM: 20|
|draftsite.com||Josh Morrissey (Defence)||Prince Albert||G: 15; P: 47; PIM:91|
|thehockeywriters.com||Zachary Fucale (G)||Halifax||GAA: 2.35; SV%: .090|