Tuesday, 7 June 2011
06/07/11 34.0 Trading for the Eighth Pick
With franchise relocation once again a reality in the NHL, teams in the bottom-third of the league in both performance and revenue have to start finding ways to win - now. The Columbus Blue Jackets are one such team. The Blue Jackets would like to avoid a similar fate to what happened to Atlanta's former team, and to do that is going to take winning. General Manager Scott Howson is an astute man, and he's aware that this year's 8th overall pick is not as valuable to his team as an established player would be. There simply isn't any more time to wait for an 18 year old to develop. Howson knows that he has to make something happen next season, or his job and the stability of the franchise could both be gone. The 8th pick in this draft is therefore in play.
What Columbus Needs:
Despite Rick Nash and Steve Mason and a number of other youngsters who could potentially turn into something, this team is a long way from being a contender. We'll ignore the bottom six forwards and bottom-pairing defensemen because the 8th pick isn't moving for those anyway. Here's how the top-end breaks down:
At left wing, Columbus is more or less set with Umberger and Huselius. They have Antoine Vermette and Derick Brassard at center, but obviously the team's real hope is that last year's 4th overall pick Ryan Johansen will have a strong training camp and not only make the team, but make an impact. On the right wing Columbus has Rick Nash and Jakub Voracek. Voracek hasn't really worked out as the Jackets hoped, and there were rumors at the deadline that he could be traded, so obviously the organization doesn't feel that he's the solution. Chris Clark and Scottie Upshall are both UFAs on July 1, and may not be back.
The acquisition of Upshall at this year's deadline is very interesting, because it shows that management was looking for more scoring punch, even if it came on the right wing where Nash is king. The Jackets shipped off Rusty Klesla to get Upshall, and Klesla has been in Columbus from the very beginning.
Columbus is going to need to replace Upshall if he walks; preferably with a player that is an upgrade offensively.
The Jackets also need a scoring type of defenceman and they have for some time. Now the problem is that stay-at-home stalwart (as well as past and hopefully future Oiler) Jan Hejda is unrestricted and could walk away.
If the Oilers are in the conversation for the 8th overall pick, then it won't be an Oilers defenceman who is traded for it, since the Oilers can't upgrade Columbus' defence. At all. That leaves the forwards.
And the one forward that Columbus will want is Ales Hemsky. Hemsky, Hemsky and more Hemsky is the only way that the Oilers could get a deal done for that 8th pick. It won't be a pie in the sky combination of draft picks and prospects. It won't be Sam Gagner because Gagner (0.59 ppg over his career) isn't necessarily an upgrade over Voracek (0.56 ppg over his career). It probably won't be Linus Omark because he isn't a known commodity yet (which is good reason not to trade him and not to trade for him). Columbus needs someone who can help them now, and Howson will be willing to sell a little of the future for the chance to compete.
So do the Oilers trade Hemsky a decade after drafting him? It comes down to whether or not the right player is available at 8th overall this year, and maybe whether or not Hemsky is willing to re-sign in Edmonton.
The latter was something that was discussed at this year's trade deadline, and the implication from the Penner trade was that the Oilers had long term plans with #83. On the other hand, the right deal may not have been available for Hemsky at the deadline and Tambellini may have been waiting to use his biggest bargaining chip at the draft. If that was the thinking, it wouldn't be terrible not to have traded Hemsky at the deadline. If Columbus traded their first round pick for Hemsky at the deadline, he could have helped them finish higher in the standings. It's a safer and better idea to trade Hemsky once the draft order is set and you're assured of a top-ten pick.
And if you're going to wait to see the draft order, why not wait to see the order of the actual picks before you make your decision? If a player the Oilers covet falls to number 8, then they can try and make the deal. If not, they can stand pat and still have a good draft. It's a reasonable proposition.
Then again, that might be giving management too much credit for a plan. We won't know until the draft. But Tambellini has said openly that he is interested in moving up and getting a second top-ten pick, so it could happen.