Calgary Flames general manager Brad Treliving has been known to be very active at the NHL Entry Draft. Whether it is monster trades like acquiring Dougie Hamilton in 2015 or trading down twice to acquire Connor Zary, Jeremie Poirier and Jake Boltmann last season, Treliving has done some of his best work at the draft.
One thing that he has done a lot of is trading down in the draft, but he has only traded up once—acquiring the pick that became Oliver Kylington in exchange for two third-round picks. This would be the year for him to do it again, but this time in the first round to take Dylan Guenther.
Why the Flames should trade up in the first round
Barring the Flames winning the NHL Draft Lottery, the Flames will almost certainly be drafting 12th (Arizona forfeits their first round pick this year). Not a bad spot, but not spectacular. This year’s draft is very defense-heavy, with four of the top ten players being defencemen in TWC’s consolidated draft rankings. However, in that top 10 is Dylan Guenther, a player who projects to be a top line winger in the NHL and is ranked fifth.
Coming off a season in which he averaged two-points-per-game, Guenther looks like the real deal. We broke down everything you need to know about him, but the long and the short of it is he looks legit. On top of that, he is a right-shot winger, something that the Flames desperately need.
Finding high-end talent in the NHL is tough. This season, the NHL UFA pool is incredibly weak, and this is especially true at right wing. A handful of players who are heading into UFA years, like Alex Ovechkin, will likely opt to remain with their long-time clubs. Because the supply is low, the prices will be sky-high, with teams using what little cap room they have to acquire anyone who may come available.
This season was also not great for most Flames’ players, and their trade value is likely also lower. Players like Sean Monahan and Mark Giordano struggled mightily, and while they might have fetched a pretty penny a couple seasons back, they looked like a shadow of their former selves. It will be hard to get their full potential value this offseason, making the price to acquire the winger that the Flames desperately need that much more expensive.
On top of that, the type of player that the Flames need is the type of player that every team needs—a strong top line wingers. Not only do these players rarely come available, they are rarely traded for, as the price to move them is astronomical and they often have no-trade or no-movement clauses in their contracts. The long and the short of it is trading for the type of player that the Flames have needed for the last seven years is going to be incredibly difficult.
While a player like Guenther may take a season to develop into an NHL player, he is the type of player that could fill a role on this Flames team for a generation. There are only a handful of right shot players in the organization, and outside of Matthew Phillips, there are big questions as to whether any will even become impact NHLers. There is an organizational hole on this side of the depth chart across the board, and this is the year for the Flames to make a move at the draft.
What will it cost?
There have only ever been ten trades at the draft that have resulted in a team moving a top-ten pick since 2000. Here they all are:
|2017||Arizona Coyotes acquire|
|New York Rangers acquire|
Arizona’s #7 pick (Lias Andersson)
|2013||New Jersey Devils acquire|
|Vancouver Canucks acquire|
New Jersey’s #9 pick (Bo Horvat)
|2012||Carolina Hurricanes acquire|
|Pittsburgh Penguins acquire|
Carolina’s #8 Pick (Derrick Pouliot)
|2008||Nashville Predators acquire|
Islanders’ #7 pick Colin Wilson
|New York Islanders acquire|
Florida’s #9 pick (Josh Bailey)
Florida’s #40 pick (Aaron Ness)
|2008||New York Islanders acquire|
Toronto’s #7 pick (Colin Wilson)
Toronto’s #68 pick (Shawn Lalonde)
Toronto’s 2009 #37 pick (Mat Clark)
|Toronto Maple Leafs acquire|
Florida’s #5 pick (Luke Schenn)
|2007||San Jose Sharks acquire|
Saint Louis’ #9 pick (Logan Couture)
|Saint Louis Blues acquire|
San Jose’s #13 pick (Lars Eller)
Toronto’s #44 pick (Aaron Palushaj)
Toronto’s 2008 #87 (Ian Schultz)
|2007||Florida Panthers acquire|
|Nashville Predators acquire|
Florida’s #58 pick (Nick Spaling)
Florida’s 2008 #9 pick (Josh Bailey)
Florida’s #40 pick (Aaron Ness)
|2005||San Jose Sharks acquire|
Atlanta’s #8 pick (Devin Setoguchi)
|Atlanta Thrashers acquire|
San Jose’s #12 pick (Marc Staal)
San Jose’s #49 pick (Chad Denny)
San Jose’s #207 pick (Myles Stoesz)
|2004||Carolina Hurricane’s acquire|
Columbus’ #4 pick (Andrew Ladd)
|Columbus Blue Jackets acquire|
Carolina’s #8 pick (Alexandre Picard)
Toronto’s #59 pick (Kyle Wharton)
|2001||New York Islanders acquire|
|Ottawa Senators acquire|
Islanders’ #2 pick (Jason Spezza)
This broadly breaks down in two ways: one as a trade for a player with picks coming the other way, and the other as a pure picks deal. Let’s break them both down and see what the Flames could do with each.
Trading players for picks
Of the ten picks, five have involved moving players for some combination of players and picks. The three most recent picks that have involved moving a top 10 pick have also involved moving a major player for each team. While two of the three most recent moves have involved a netminder, if this is the demand, then the Flames do not have one to give.
Where they do have some abundance is at centre, with Elias Lindholm, Mikael Backlund and the aforementioned Monahan filling the team’s top three centre roles. This is a lot of money down the middle, and moving one of these for some top line help may be the best way forward.
With Lindholm forming a formidable line with Johnny Gaudreau and Matthew Tkachuk in the final few games this season and Backlund being the team’s best two-way centre, Monahan seems like the player surplus to requirements. This seems right as the Ottawa Sun has reported that the Flames are listening to offers on their former sixth overall pick.
This past season was not a good one for Monahan, who was playing injured and was much less effective than usual. The graphic below from @JFreshHockey tells the tale.
Monahan has fallen from being the team’s top centre to being a very good second line option. While he has had a rough couple of seasons, he clearly has the tools to be good again, and may need a change of scenery to make that happen. There are a number of teams ahead of the Flames that may be looking for a top-six centre including the Buffalo Sabres and Columbus Blue Jackets.
However, the Flames would no doubt need to sweeten that deal to find their way to the the top end of the draft. This would start with this year’s first-round pick and potentially also a later second-rounder or a blue-chip prospect. This is a high price to pay no doubt, but the Flames would be trading into the highest echelon of the draft, and teams are very very reluctant to move those picks.
No team has ever moved from a double digit pick to a top-five pick, but with the draft being as up-in-the-air as this one, there is a chance that the Flames could snag Guenther somewhere between five and eight. Moving into this area with a package that involves Monahan and a couple of picks could turn out to be tidy work by GM Brad Treliving.
Trading picks for other picks
This gets a bit dicey. Short of the Flames outright winning the lottery, it will take a lot to move up to the five to eight range that they will need to be in order to have a chance to select Guenther. Like the trade with Monahan, this will no doubt include this year’s first and second round picks, and likely will even include next year’s first round pick and potentially even another later pick like a fifth rounder. That is two years of first round picks plus two more selections in order to select one player.
There is zero doubt that the price would be high. But in 2008, the price at minimum to move up just two spots was a first and a second, and that was in an era when draft picks were not as highly coveted as they are right now. In 2019, to move up from 14 to 11 cost the Arizona Coyotes their first and second round picks that season, and that did not even get them into the top ten. The cost to move up to at least eight will be astronomical, and will likely take more than just picks.
Is it worth it for the Flames to mortgage their future for a player ranked fifth overall? Maybe, maybe not. It really depends how he turns out. But if he turns out to be as good as he projects to be, the cost will absolutely be worth it. If the Flames are looking to be in win-now mode at least for the next three years under Coach Darryl Sutter, making a move to help shore up the right side for a long time going forward seems like a smart decision. One way or another, the Flames need to make a move on the right side and finding a strong right handed option with high NHL potential may be the smartest way to do so.
Would it be worth it for Calgary?
GM Treliving does his best work at the draft, and has not hesitated to play with the team’s first-round picks. The team’s biggest moves under him have all happened at the draft, and many of them have indeed involved using first-round picks as trade chips. And while most of his moves have involved either moving down in the draft or trading away for an established NHLer, this is the year to move up into the first round to select Guenther.
The Flames need a big skilled winger. The type of player who can score and create chances in the offensive zone, and someone who is close to NHL ready. The Flames’ two first round picks project to be NHLers, but both are left shot forwards. The right side has been an issue for the team since Gaudreau and Monahan broke into the league, and while Treliving has tried hard to fill the void, none of the options have worked out. Guenther feels like a great option for the Flames, and someone that they can grow into being the right wing option that they need going forward.
While it will cost a pretty penny, Treliving needs to make a splash on the right side to show that he believes in this team. Guenther may be the move to do it.