But good news for you fans of bad teams: It sounds like the Stars want to move that third pick. Here’s Stars general manager Jim Nill talking to SiriusXM NHL Network this week, as reported on by Stars writer Mark Stepneski:
“I have talked to other teams already about possibly moving that pick, getting an established player back,” Nill said during an interview on SiriusXM NHL Network. “It gives us lots of options.”
“We know there are lots of choices at three. It’s not like the top five or six are set in stone. Everyone has talked about the top two and then after that there is probably a group of ten players,” Nill said. “I think it is going to come down to team’s personal preference. Are you looking for a big, strong centerman? Are you looking for a scoring winger? Are you looking for a power forward? There are lots of different options there.”
Well that’s interesting. Also unlikely. I’m not buying it yet.
But for the sake of fun, baseless speculation, let’s figure out what a trade for the third overall pick would look like.
I went back through the 2011 draft to see what trades were made for top picks. Note that I only looked for picks in the top 15ish of the first round and trades that were made after the draft lottery or on draft day. That’s how the Stars will move their pick, so that’s the criteria.
Oddly enough, there was a handful of notable deals!
- 2016: Devils trade 11th overall to Senators (Logan Brown) for 12th overall (Michael McLeod)
- 2015: Bruins trade Milan Lucic to Kings for 13th overall (Jakub Zboril), Martin Jones (who they traded to San Jose) and Colin Miller
- 2015: Bruins trade Dougie Hamilton to Flames for 15th overall (Zach Senyshyn)
- 2015: Islanders trade Griffin Reinhart to Oilers for 16th overall (Barzal)
- 2013: Canucks trade Cory Schneider to Devils for 10th overall (Bo Horvat)
- 2012: Penguins trade Jordan Staal to Hurricanes for Brandon Sutter, Brian Dumoulin and 8th overall (Derrick Pouliot)
- 2012: Capitals trade Semyon Varlamov to Avalanche for 11th overall (Filip Forsberg)
- 2011: Flyers trade Jeff Carter to Blue Jackets for eighth overall and Jakub Voracek and a third rounder
Note that the highest pick traded over the last five years was eighth overall in 2011. It’s been so long since a team traded the third overall pick or higher after the lottery, that I got bored looking for the last instance and stopped around 1990. So if the Stars do trade this pick, it’ll be unheard of. At least in the last two decades.
But if they do, they already have history on their side. Lucic, Staal, Hamilton, Schneider, Varlamov, and Carter all qualify as the kind of “established players” Nill says he’s looking for.
The question is: Which teams can meet that criteria right now? And why would they try, particularly in this draft?
With Ben Bishop in the fold, you can eliminate most teams with starting goalies to dangle. The Penguins are out. The Capitals and Philipp Grubauer are out. Maybe. More on that in a bit.
Let’s start with a scenario. Let’s say the Avalanche fall in love with one of Nolan Patrick, Nico Hischier, or Miro Heiskanen. Patrick and Hischier are considered the consensus best two players in the draft, while Heiskanen is rising steadily. Everyone after that is a ¯_(ツ)_/¯. A well-scouted guess and a prayer.
Let’s say the one they love falls to the Stars at third overall. That Devils-Senators trade last year proves trading up one spot isn’t out of the question in the NHL. If the Stars covet an Avalanche player like Tyson Barrie, perhaps they work out a deal.
I doubt that happens, though, for two reasons. First, I just can’t see Central Division bunkmates making a trade like that. Second, I’m not sure Barrie (or any of the Avalanche defensemen) is the kind of guy new Stars coach Ken Hitchcock or Nill want.
A better fit might still be the Capitals, depending on which free agents they choose (or can afford) to bring back. Kevin Shattenkirk is almost certainly gone, and it’s doubtful T.J. Oshie leaves D.C. — and even more unlikely he decides to play in a Hitchcock system again.
Defenseman Karl Alzner might be a good fit for the Stars, though, and it could be possible for the two teams to swap first round picks to give his negotiating rights to Dallas. Though any trade for an impending free agent is risky. I doubt Dallas traded for Bishop without assurances he’d sign with them, and even then the team only gave up a fourth-round pick. This is third overall we’re talking about.
Talk has centered around Jordan Eberle’s future in Edmonton after another so-so season. The 27-year-old could replace Patrick Sharp on the wing, though he comes at a hefty cap hit ($6 million) for two more seasons.
I thought about including the Rangers as a match here before I read that Brendan Smith sounds pretty excited about testing the free-agent market for the first time. As I said before, any team trading a high draft pick for negotiating rights would need to be almost certain that player will sign with them. Doesn’t sound like Smith is certain at all about where he’s playing next year; he’s more excited about the uncertainty.
A dream scenario for Dallas might be landing Niklas Hjalmarsson from Chicago during a Blackhawks salary cap purge. But yeah. No. Zero chance. L. O. L.
Outside of those names, I’m having a hard time thinking of other potential suitors worthy of the third overall pick. I think there’s two reasons why.
1) “Established player” usually = “Missing piece”
Look again at those players traded for top-15 picks. Most of them were sent to contenders looking for the final piece of a Stanley Cup roster puzzle or just to fill a gaping hole for years to come.
Bishop serves as both a missing piece and a solution for Dallas’ goalie conundrum. What the team seeks this offseason now is a scoring winger or a defense-first defenseman.
The problem is so few of those assets are out there (that we know of). You have to stretch to consider Smith, Eberle, or Alzner a missing piece to a championship team. Then again, you probably did for Lucic as well.
2) Doesn’t a “weak draft” make a trade difficult for everyone?
To be fair, this is a shallow draft in the sense that there aren’t any Connor McDavid or Auston Matthews types who can step in and change your franchise next year. Anyone picked in the first round in June will still probably be solid NHLers for years.
But that still presents a couple of issues. If there’s no consensus third-best player, are any teams going to be desperate enough to trade for third overall? Is trading someone like Alzner or Eberle worth someone like Gabriel Vilardi or Heiskanen? I can’t imagine the Stars’ phones ringing off the hook when they jump on the clock.
And if the top of the draft is already a crapshoot, imagine the gamble the Stars will be making by trading back further in the draft. That second first-rounder Dallas owns from Anaheim helps alleviate things, sure. But it seems tough to justify trading back from third overall in an iffy draft class unless you’re getting something truly special in return.
So with that in mind …
Don’t expect this to happen, but totally expect it to happen
Nill has shocked the hockey world before with the Tyler Seguin and Jason Spezza trades. If anyone can sweet-talk his way into a lopsided trade, it’s Dallas’ GM. But at this point, maybe it’s worth thinking of Nill’s comments this week as an invitation for trade offer calls rather than a declaration of intent. I’m skeptical about the quality of those offers on the other end of the line.
I will update this post as soon as Nill makes me look like a fool with a massive trade. Probably within days.