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Canadiens: Value Of Moving Down & Cost Of Trading Up At NHL Draft

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Montreal Canadiens Hughes

Every year there’s word that a team may consider moving up or moving down at the NHL Entry Draft, as was the case last season when some suggested the Montreal Canadiens were possibly going to trade out of the top 5.

We’re hearing the same rumblings this season, seeing as the Canadiens want to draft a forward and there’s a possibility they could still nab a high-end talent while accumulating important assets in a trade with a team intent on moving up.

Any general manager around the league will admit they’re willing to look into moving up or down, but that’s simply performing due diligence.

Pulling the trigger on such a deal is very difficult for many reasons. Teams will only move down if they’re paid a king’s ransom, while teams will only move up if they somehow manage to find value in a trade that offers little to no value.

As far as I can tell, the only general manager who intentionally traded away a top-three pick in the last 30 years was Mike Milbury, who sent Zdeno Chara, Bill Muckalt, and a first-round pick (2001 No.2 overall – Jason Spezza) to the Ottawa Senators in exchange for Alexei Yashin.

Suffice it to say, much like most of Milbury’s decisions as an executive, the trade represents one of the worst decisions in NHL history.

Top-5 Movement Is Rare

While there haven’t been any trades involving the top three picks in the NHL in the last 20 years, there has been one trade involving the fifth overall pick.

The Islanders moved the fifth overall pick to the Toronto Maple Leafs in 2008. In return, they received the seventh overall pick in 2008, the 68th overall pick, and the 37th overall pick in 2009. In other words, they received a mediocre third-round pick and a half-decent second-round pick to move down two spots.

Not bad, but far from great.

New York then turned around and moved the seventh overall pick to the Nashville Predators for the ninth overall pick and the 40th overall pick.

Once it was all said and done, they were essentially paid two second-round picks and a third-round pick to move down four spots.

That may fly when evaluating NHL draft value charts, but you’d be hard-pressed to find a Canadiens fan who would endorse adding relatively mediocre assets to the fold in exchange for dropping down several spots.

Of course, it all depends on the situation.

If someone like Berkly Catton projects to be available, moving down may be worth it, but there’s also a significant discrepancy in talent between someone like Catton and someone like Cayden Lindstrom, who is not expected to be available beyond fifth overall.

MUST READ: Cayden Lindstrom A Prime Draft Target For The Canadiens

For some teams, moving down makes sense.

But the Montreal Canadiens need elite talent, not trades that bring them slight upgrades on future assets that are unlikely to make an impact on the team’s long-term rebuild plans.

And if a team is willing to buck the trend and offer the moon to move up to Montreal’s spot, there’s probably a very good reason why they’re willing to make such a move.

That reason may be enough to convince Kent Hughes and Co. that staying put is probably the best decision.

The Cost Of Moving Up And Down At The NHL Draft

(Editor’s Note: Some parts of the article below were originally published last year. We are adding them to this article so fans can understand the suggested value of various picks in the NHL’s Entry Draft.)

There are a few existing Draft models that can give us a better idea of the cost involved in moving up at the NHL Draft.

The first, and most referenced, is the excellent work done by Michael Schuckers, one of the most respected data analysts in sports.

The value model is based on the first 215 players drafted during 10 consecutive drafts, running from 1988 to 1997.

Schucker Draft value Canadiens

Dom Luszczyszyn took it one step further, implementing newer metrics into the formula, including GSVA, which stands for Game Score Value Added. GSVA is used to project a player’s overall impact during a season.

Luszczyszyn concluded that Schucker’s model was inflating the value of late-round picks and that the mid-round picks could provide value, but much less than previously expected. He also opined that Schucker may have underestimated the gap between the top players in the first round.

His pick value chart differs significantly from Schuckers.

Trade Value

To better understand the actual cost associated with moving up, we can reference Curtis Isacke‘s pick value chart, which puts an onus on the price paid by NHL teams to move up in previous drafts rather than a player’s potential impact.

Canadiens draft pick trade chart

 

Montreal Canadiens Brass Tacks

Even though the charts suggested getting a second-round pick is enough compensation for moving down a few spots, I’d argue there’s very little point in trading down at this stage of the Canadiens’ rebuild.

The Habs need to draft the best player available. Full stop.

2024 may be the last time they have an opportunity to draft a top 5 talent in a very long time.

Accumulating draft capital is important, but it should never take precedence over drafting a player who could eventually become an impact presence in the lineup.

If teams are still interested in moving up in later rounds, there may be an opportunity to swing a few smart trades.

But in the first round, the name of the game for the Montreal Canadiens is quality, not quantity.

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Ghg55

Another useful article, thank you!

Couple things… why is everyone so down on catton? I get why demidov and lindstrom are ahead of him, but catton played on a mediocre to bad team and did something only 3 players have done in the last long while. He has crazy offensive production, including goal scoring, which is exactly what the habs need. Again, I’ll take lindstrom over him as it’s a great combo of size and skill, but getting catton would still be fantastic.

Next, I think most of the talk about trading down is basically only if lindstrom, demidov, and Levshunov are gone. Cuz from there the habs can get “the best player available” and fill a need PLUS pick up assets. And I put that in quotes cuz in this range, with those names off the board, everyone is pretty darn equal. There’s no consensus AT ALL after that. If you can get iginla, catton, eiserman, etc. down at the 8-10 range AND pick up assets, why wouldn’t you? Obviously you’d need great intel on the other teams, but they’d make sure they do lol. And if they didn’t, they don’t make the trade, and they take their guy even if it’s a bit “early” (again, there’s no consensus here).

With that said… the cost to trade up to 3 reallllly doesn’t seem high. We have a ridiculous amount of picks and prospects. Looks like we may be able to trade the avs and penguins 2nd rounders, maybe plus like a third, or even use one of the extra young Dmen who surely have more value as known commodities. Get one of the teams who are earlier in their rebuilds a young D men or more picks, and since they know we’re gonna take a forward there, they can see one of the top D men would still be available to them.

Standing pay is also good. I’d be a bit surprised if both demidov and lindstrom are gone in the top 4. The quality of D in this draft is great, and the importance of the position can’t be overstated. Good chance two of Levshunov, silayev, buium, Dickinson, Parekh etc. are taken. Heck, Buium outproduced hutson at a younger age and has much better size. Levshunov is the top D man in the draft in most rankings. Silayev is an absolute monster. Parekh is exploding with offensive talent.

Idk, I’m confident this draft pick at 5 will go well no matter what happens. Even if there’s no trade, and the forwards we want are all gone, that would mean one of these insane D prospects is there and allow us to trade from a massive position of strength in the future, or have an AMAZING D group.

Ghg55

Though I’ll point one thing out about getting a top end D man… a lot of ppl in their mock trades just have us trading our worst D out and keeping the best ones. Obviously that’s great if we can do it… but fit matters, and we need to remember that IF they all hit their ceilings (a big “if”) they won’t accept 3rd pairing minutes and money. So yes it would be great to get Levshunov etc, and maybe pencil in reinbacher to the second pair (insane D group)… but if Mailloux hits his ceiling, he’s a legit top 4 guy who runs a pp. He’ll demand a trade. So everyone saying things like “trade Barron!!”… he’s legit the perfect fit for that 3rd pair if he continues to not hit his full potential. Of course it’s way too early to say he won’t, and he has a lot of potential, but he has shown struggles while Mailloux has adapted very well to the pros and could very well over take him. A third D pair of xhekaj and Barron is well balanced, with people who might anctually accept 3rd pairing roles,, and would likely leave Mailloux as the odd man out.

john harmsworth

I think they’ll be very reluctant to trade Mailloux until they have a better idea of his ceiling. Size, skating and aggressiveness say he’s a keeper. Plus, I think they might run 7 Dmen until they’re sure Hutson can stay alive out there.I think that would be a good way to shelter him. Big minutes if we’re down late in a game plus PP time. Lesser minutes if we’re ahead. Hey! We could be ahead in games! It’s possible!

Ghg55

To clarify, I was talking a few years down the road. And I only mentioned trading Mailloux if we got Levshunov or something in the draft due to all the top forwards being gone (something I doubt, but you never know). As of now I see Mailloux as the second pair RD who runs PP2 (in a year or two of course).

Dana

100% Marc, we need high end top 6, needle moving, highly productive, smart and preferably tough to play against talent. History shows it can be had outside of the top 5 but it’s more often in the top 5. Hughes also designated “big game performers” as a very desireable attribute when he articulated the Slafkovsky selection decision. The pick likely begins to contribute in 2025/26 but maybe he makes camp out of training camp for a nine game trial or more as some of the draft targets are more advanced than others.

End of the day, you are correct, in my mind, in closing your piece by the draft decision need to be quality over quantity and I’d add also for any big trades or signings. Hughes is in big game hunting territory now

Ghg55

Agree with everything except that last line. “Big game hunting”… probably a year or two early, no? We need to clear a ton of roster space to make room for kids we have, and even if we bring in “big game” we are not contenders yet (unless it’s MULTIPLE pieces which would mean we’re just ending the rebuild now and going for it. I think that would be silly, personally). I get a trade for a young, high end offensive talent. One in the right age range. But it would be someone who hasn’t hit their potential yet and can grow with the team (it’s why I don’t want necas. He’s played with great players and hasn’t exactly been a big star. Plus he’s like 25 already). And “big game” in free agency would mean just a vet… who would likely demand a huge salary before we’re ready to truly compete, limiting other things we can do, and could potentially decline or be close to the start of it when the kids hit their primes. We could always trade them at that point. But I think a young player is better right now.

So if you just mean “young big game in a trade” (cuz you can’t sing them as they’re under another team’s control), then yeah, I agree. Otherwise, not quite yet.

Dana

To clarify and reiterate, it’s top quality we need, regardless of timing. Any move would be for a future or current premium player and not just a very good player like Necas or Rossi or Ehlers etc. I’ve stated on many posts it’s over the next 16 months to fill in the top 6, and I maintain that as the timeline- this draft and next plus trade deadline and teo free agency periods. One eventual top 6 this draft( or possibly two?) and one through trade or free agency when the right opportunity comes along. Big game hunters don’t settle for a decent specimen , they wait for a trophy so when that is available, that is when I recommend. I wouldn’t add stamkos as he won’t be there the player he is today when we are championship competitive, but if he was 5 years younger then yes. Patience required until it’s not. So if the play is to pay a reasonable or high price to ensure they get the guy they really want in this draft, I support it., same thing for a trade.

The other thing people need to understand is that just because you assemble the pieces now does not mean the team is ready to win now. It takes time for maturity, chemistry and shared experiences and to make sure it works, the time to experiment and tinker. So no, I don’t think it’s too early to assemble the roster. I have openly stated that we will likely miss the playoffs next year but we will be close. We will make the playoffs in 2025-26 and become an increasingly competitive cup contender in the following seasons. But there are always “issues” along the way- it’s not linear or smooth. Does that make sense?

I think you’re right regarding not drafting a defenseman in this draft for the reasons you mentioned as it demonstrates the foresight required to build a championship caliber team within the salary cap and also to keep players happy with their role. Covetousness is poison in the room, but so too is complacency.

Dave

If we have a trade lined up, We can still take a defenceman and trade a defenceman or two for a high forward.

If you could move to expensive forwards, Why wouldn’t you rather have Stamkos To help move the team along and compete.

Trevor Ferguson

Looking at top ten list from five draft experts (Pronman, Ellis, Consentino, Button, Mackenzie) as published in La Presse today, 3 place Berkly Catton ahead of Cayden Lindstrom, so I’d suggest that the gap between the two is not as great as you suggest and that Lindstrom is often NOT the front-runner in that speculation. 

Pierre B.

I did the same exercise, but with 43 published rankings. Lindstrom is preferred to Catton in 65.1% of them. That means, more than one in three prefer Catton. The outcome of the draft is not as predictable than most would believe.

john harmsworth

The only thing that makes sense to me is to offer up something to trade from #5 to #4, only in the circumstance of Lindstrom being available at that pick. This means Talking to Columbus in advance to see if they are willing to accept an offer that works for us. Either our late first round pick or possibly a Dman we don’t consider essential to our future. If Columbus wants Lindstrom badly this is probably not possible, but my assessment says Columbus needs a LOT of help, and a reasonably competent Dman would be a plus for them. They can still get a very good Dman at #5 so it looks like a win to me. If I’m Columbus I play it like that even if I was going to take a Dman anyway.
If that trade isn’t on for some reason then Hughes can look for a partner to take our #5 pick for a forward player or prospect of equal or even greater value, with or without a surplus Dman thrown in to grease the wheels. He is well versed in this kind of deal and our guys seem to have a very good idea of exactly who they want. Interested to see how this shakes out. Our management is very proactive at going out and getting what they’re after rather than passively waiting and hoping. I like it!

Tyrone

We have so many prospects and picks, yet a finite number of places to play them, which means there’s going to be a lot of guys we can’t use. I say be bold and throw a package teams can’t refuse to come away with the absolute best player we can get (either drafted or traded for) to slot into the few spots left in the lineup we need to fill. Last year I was willing to trade every pick we had in that draft and this draft to Chicago for the #1 pick. There isn’t anyone worthy of that this year (McKenna in 2 years would be) so the package doesn’t have to be that extreme, but why not trade every pick we have this year for Celebrini? Sure, it’s A LOT, but who cares? We add the best player available this year to our lineup. That’s what we need. We don’t need a good one, and a bunch of ok ones. We already have those. If you add the best player to your team every year, how can that not be considered a successful draft?

J.J

That still would not be enough to move up to get Celebrini

Tyrone

We have 11 picks this year, including 5 in the first 3 rounds. An 11 for 1 deal is a pretty good deal for a team like San Jose that has a bare prospect cupboard.

Dana

That would give the sharks 3 picks in each of the first 3 rounds this plus they have 2 first rounders next year I believe, plus they drafted Smith and Musty last year in the first round. That would accelerate the rebuild and they have huge holes on the blue line and this year offers a lot of quality blueliners. Sharks need both quality and quantity. It sounds crazy but …picking at 5,14, 26 could look like Parekh, Yakemchuk and Hutson. Solves how to generate offense from the back end for about 15 years or maybe take Silayev and have that 6’7” guy to anchor things. Interesting when you look at it that way.

Tyrone

Well, let’s get Grier’s number and get on this. We can do it. 😁

Dana

Totally agree!!

Pierre B.

What about being slightly less ambitious and go for #2 whose’s value is 726.59?
The sum of #5 (484.40) + #26 (173.80) + #57 (46.50) + #78 (23.38) = 728.08.
Would you take this risk to guarantee picking up Demidov?
If you’re Chicago and you’re tempted by a defenseman, could you wait until #5 to make your selection? If Chicago refuses and selects Levshunov, then why not go for #3 whose’s value is 602.54? I guess that Hughes could be busy making offers.

Tyrone

I thought about other scenarios for those players, but since my post was about adding the BEST player each year (and this year it’s clearly Celebrini), I just focused on that. After him, the gap between players isn’t as huge, so I wouldn’t be willing to give up the farm to get one over the other. If there was one player that the team coveted over another in the second tier, I’d be fine giving up some assets to get him, but I’d be less inclined to give up good ones in that case, which likely means it doesn’t get done. Lower picks, Laval forwards, sure. First rounders and/or certain D prospects, less so.

Last edited 20 days ago by Tyrone
Pierre B.

Many believes that Demidov’s ceiling may be higher than Celebrini’s. He’s just a riskier pick for many reasons. He’s Russian, thus on top of political and contractual uncertainties, it’s hard to ascertain a projection when the scouts haven’t seen him play “live”, and against known competitors. Then, one can wonder if Demidov could do what he does against tougher competition; thus how would it translate in the NHL.

Pierre B.

What would it cost according to this model to climb from #26 to #12? The value of #12 is 324.46, and that of #26 is 173.80. The difference is 150.66; or the equivalent of #29, a very late 1st-round pick. Who is worth that? Savard? Barron? Harris? Struble? The Canadiens have several later picks to make it work, if need be. So, yes that’s feasible assets wise, but Hughes still has to find a willing trade partner at #12 or close by.

Why would Hughes want to draft around #12? Because at #12, one of Iginla or Sennecke could still be available. If not, someone very interesting would have dropped. Perhaps Catton or Helenius because of their size; Eiserman because of his lack of involvement; Helenius because of his size; Parekh, Buium or Silayev because there’s only 11 picks before #12.

Why would one of NJD, BUF, PHI, MIN or SJS accept such a deal? Except for SJS, they all want to compete now for a playoff spot. A young NHL-ready defenseman could be appealing for some, a veteran could be also (if only for his value at the trade deadline if their bid to make the playoffs failed); most prospects outside the top-10 will not help the team for at least 3 years. A few GM might feel that they might not be there much longer if their team don’t make the playoffs sooner than that.

Xavier's Crown

Why not reference that the NYI ended up with Josh Bailey at #9 in 2008 whereas the Leafs ended up with Luke Schenn

Last edited 20 days ago by Xavier's Crown
habbernack

I think if Lindholm is taken they will pick Iggy