Trading the 1st Overall Pick: Greetings from the Overlook Hotel
Is there a scenario whereby Sabres General Manager Kevyn Adams would trade the first overall pick in the draft this year? He certainly seemed open to the possibility.
“I assume my phone will be pretty busy,” Adams said following the lottery.
Well then, allow me to pick up my Fisher-Price Flintstones phone and make some trade offers! What follows is a completely bonkers plan to help the Sabres win in both the short and long-term by trading the first overall pick and several players to gain some other high-end assets in the process. A fake plan of this magnitude hasn’t been seen since Brian Burke and the Vancouver Canucks made several real deals to land the Sedin twins at 2nd and 3rd overall in the 1999 NHL Entry Draft.
The Sabres can make much more informed decisions on trades now that the first 15 draft positions are set following last week’s draft lottery than they could immediately following the season which will in turn allow for fake trade proposals that involve specific picks. The purpose of this article is to imagine a sort of mad scientist master plan for trades that includes other deals while proposing a deal that involves trading the first overall pick.
First off, let’s talk about why the Sabres might want to deal the 1st overall pick. The most obvious answer is that there is no consensus number one pick who is seen as a slam-dunk, can’t-miss, totally obvious pick. If this were a McDavid-type year, then we wouldn’t be having this conversation in all likelihood. The second reason is that the Sabres need much more than one player at one position if they are going to turn their fortunes around; the team needs multiple players at multiple positions. Finally, the Sabres desperately need to shake the dark cloud that has followed them around for the past ten years by making some bold and aggressive changes to the core of the team.
What follows is pure fantasy, obviously, but it’s fun to imagine the Sabres making multiple blockbuster deals. The plan is going to get progressively more insane like Jack Torrance in The Shining, and like Torrance, we’ll ramp up the insanity slowly. Alright, let’s get to it.
First up: we’re going to trade Rasmus Ristolainen. Just kidding. The Sabres will never trade Ristolainen.
First up, we are trading Sam Reinhart. Last we spoke of Reinhart, he looked absolutely miserable following the season and he really didn’t want to commit to anything Sabres-related going forward. Sam Reinhart: you will be missed, but I’m sending you home, buddy. The Sabres are going to pick up the 9th overall pick from the Vancouver Canucks, along with Nils Höglander and Tanner Pearson for Sam Reinhart. If the Canucks can convince Jay Beagle to waive his M-NTC, we’ll take that salary on as well for a future 3rd rounder if that makes them happy. Beagle has one year left on his deal. This one was mentioned previously in the “Trading Sam Reinhart” blog from a few weeks ago and now that the Canucks are set to pick 9th, the deal can have the final details. Reinhart will be glad to sign a max deal in his hometown and he can slot in nicely either as a top-6 winger for them or as a center behind Elias Petterson.
At pick 9, the Sabres will target either Michigan left wing Kent Johnson or Edmonton Oil Kings forward Dylan Guenther depending on who is left. Höglander, meanwhile, will seamlessly fit into the Sabres top-6 next year.
Level of Jack Torrance Madness: driving through the mountains talking about the Donner party on the way to the resort with an ominous grin on his face.
Alright, so the Sabres now have two selections in the 1st round, and we are going to go ahead and add another via a Jack Eichel trade. The Anaheim Ducks are at 3 and that’s a nice pick for the Sabres to target in a return for Eichel. Per the “Trading Jack Eichel” article, the Sabres will also look to acquire center prospect Trevor Zegras and another premium asset of a lottery-protected 2022 1st round pick. At 3 the Sabres will have a shot at either Matthew Beniers (see previous article) or defenseman Luke Hughes, depending on who gets selected at 1 and 2.
It’s still not clear if Eichel is tradable or if the Sabres do indeed intend to trade their captain. What we do know is that the Sabres and Eichel’s camp is seemingly at an impasse regarding the direction of treatment for Eichel’s neck injury. The Ducks are in a position to absorb Eichel’s cap hit with the departure of Ryan Getzlaf and his $8.5m cap hit. If they need to shed additional salary, the Sabres can help make that work, although the list of no-trade clauses on the Ducks is fairly extensive.
Level of Jack Torrance Madness: Staring blankly into the abyss while writing a “masterpiece.” All work and no trades makes Hank a dull boy. All work and no trades makes Hank a dull boy. All work and no trades makes Hank a dull boy. All work and no trades makes Hank a dull boy.
Alright, so now the Sabres have gutted their top talent and added a couple very nice picks and some grade-a prospects to help replace them down the line. What they need to do now is surround their-now incredibly young core with some proven talent to lessen the pressure and the workload. What the Sabres should not do is throw either Dylan Cozens or Casey Mittelstadt to the wolves by forcing either one into a first-line center position before they’re ready. But maybe there is a way the Sabres can add a bit of win-now talent to the team while also accomplishing the goal of insulating the young players. To that end, the Sabres are going to trade the 1st overall pick and the Boston Bruins 2021 2nd round pick to the Detroit Red Wings for the 6th overall pick and center Dylan Larkin.
Larkin had a down year and realistically he is a second line center on a good team, but he can provide cover for Cozens, Mittelstadt (plus my imaginary acquisitions of Zegras, Beniers/Guenther) while they develop so they aren’t overwhelmed. Larkin has two years left on his contract which is a perfect bridge length after which one of the aforementioned prospects can take the reins. Larkin would also help the team be at least watchable next year if he were on a line with Höglander and Skinner.
With the 6th overall pick the Sabres acquire from the Red Wings, they select goaltender Jesper Wallstedt. The 6’ 3” Swedish netminder is projected as a franchise goaltender and the Sabres could desperately use some more high-end organizational prospects. The Sabres have to give up the 2nd round pick acquired in the Taylor Hall trade to finalize the deal with the Red Wings due to Larkin’s status as a highly useful center. At the 33rd overall pick, I had hoped the Sabres may be able to snag goaltender prospect Sebastian Cossa but some mock drafts have him going perhaps 5-10 picks sooner so his presence would be no sure thing. No matter now. The Sabres shore up the position with Wallstedt and the Red Wings gain an additional 2nd round pick for their war chest
Level of Jack Torrance Madness: Yeah, he’s got the ax.
What hath my madness wrought? I traded the 1st overall pick, Boston Bruins 2nd round pick, Jack Eichel and Sam Reinhart for the 3rd overall pick (Beniers/Hughes), the 6th overall pick (Wallstedt), the 9th overall pick (Guenther), 2022 lottery-protected Anaheim Ducks 1st round pick, Nils Höglander, Trevor Zegras, Dylan Larkin and Tanner Pearson.
I think I need to go sit in the snow and cool down for a while. Maybe take a little nap.
Look, I know this is all pure fantasy but it’s fun to think about all the different possibilities the Sabres have with their 1st round pick and with the players under contract on the team. Now that I’ve gotten this all out of my system, I’ll get back to the actual work of looking at prospects in the coming days. By all means, post your proposals for trading the 1st round pick in the comments section. Thanks for reading and please: enjoy your stay at the beautiful Overlook Hotel.