In a previous article, we explored some of the options available to the Montreal Canadiens ahead of the 2018 NHL Draft. With the amount of picks they possess there are plenty of them, including the simple option of doing nothing on draft day but picking players at the spots they pick.
One of the more intriguing options is packaging picks or players and attempting to move back into the first round to snag a highly touted prospect who may still be available. This comes with a cost, as does every trade in the NHL, but is it a cost that Marc Bergevin is willing to pay to land another top talent?
There are a handful of models that break down the value of picks over the course of the draft, and by using them we can see just what it will cost to land back into the first round. Obviously the values will have tweaked slightly with the addition of a 31st NHL team joining the league, but overall it provides a rough framework for a potential deal.
Schuckers’s model provides a value starting at 1000 for the top overall pick, and slowly declining in value until it levels out around the middle of the draft. Based on this chart, the overall value for the Habs third overall pick is 809, while their 35th and 38th overall picks are quite valuable in round two. They also have the 56th and either the 61st or 62nd overall selections (depending on the outcome of the Stanley Cup final).
The Canadiens have the pieces to make a move up the board easily if they can find a willing trade partner.
To break it down simply, if the Canadiens want to trade for a certain pick in round one, their package of picks and players has to be in the rough vicinity of the value of the pick they are trading for. With that in mind the overall value of the Habs picks in the draft is as follows 3rd (809), 35th (152), 38th (150), 56th (112), 61st/62nd (104/101), 66th (96), 97th (67), 102nd (64), 122nd (53), 128th (51). That is a lot of picks that can be packaged up on their own to move up in the draft, but is it worth surrendering a lot of picks to land one player versus keeping them and widening the Habs chances of landing some quality prospects as the draft goes on?
This article by Andrew Kerison points out that first round players will likely make their NHL debut within one to two years, and will play a full (around 80 games) season by their fourth year after being drafted. By comparison, players drafted in rounds two to three often don’t see regular NHL time until five-to-seven seasons after the draft. For Montreal, that almost makes it seem like a slam dunk to trade up and draft a quality player who will be ready for professional hockey sooner, rather than later.
However, looking at Montreal’s needs as a whole and taking into account what Trevor Timmins mentioned in his interview at the Draft Combine, trading up may not be the best move for the long-term interests of the team.
Timmins specifically mentions not wanting to have a quick fix, and says he wants to get players who are going to build this team into an annual contender, not just a one or two year run.
Looking at the depth of the prospect pool in Montreal raises the question of whether or not it’s worth sacrificing potential quality over assured quantity in picks. Montreal came away with a ton of solid players in their first three rounds last year, something that has been hit and miss in prior drafts. If we take Timmins’s words as the plan going forward, then trading up might not be the ideal situation, as it can end up robbing the Habs of picks they can use to build the future foundation of the organization.
There’s no guarantee that every single pick is going to be a hit, but for a team with a thin prospect pool, Montreal cannot afford to pass up the chance to improve that depth overall. There are talented pieces, but not enough that they can trade away picks for a chance at one player versus two or three others.
Each side has its pros and cons, as does any trade that will happen in the coming weeks. The answer lies with those in charge of pulling the trigger on a deal, and it’s up to them whether or not they want multiple whacks at potential hits, or one higher percentage chance at a player.
But if Marc Bergevin and Trevor Timmins see a player they really like sliding down the first round of the draft, unlike in previous years, they have the capital to make a potential move.