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Who Could the Stars Trade Up With at the Draft?

Many fans want Dallas to make a big splash on draft day by trading up in the first, but which teams would be willing to trade down?

2014 NHL Draft - Rounds 2-7 Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

The first round of the 2018 NHL Entry Draft is tomorrow (Friday, June 22), and the Dallas Stars are set to select at 13th overall. Given the deep nature of this draft, both throughout the rounds and at the top of the board, the Stars should get a good quality prospect at No. 13, and the team seems content at staying put.

But what if the Stars have their eyes on a bigger prize? What if one of the top forwards, such as Jesperi Kotkaniemi, Oliver Wahlstrom, or Brady Tkachuk start to slide? The Stars could make some big noise for their fans in Dallas if they were to trade up and grab one of these top prospects, not to mention that the player would instantly become their second best prospect behind last year’s third overall pick, Miro Heiskanen.

It takes two to tango, however, and not just any team is going to want to trade down with Dallas. For instance, we could probably eliminate the top five picks from contention, given how expensive it would be to move up at least eight spots. We can likely eliminate the Detroit Red Wings and Vancouver Canucks at No. 6 and 7 respectively; both teams could use more picks and prospects, but they’re also in need of a top prospect for their rather weak farm systems.

Finally, we can probably assume that the Stars won’t be trading with the New York Islanders, who pick at No. 11 and 12 right before them. The only reason the Stars would trade up with the Islanders is if they were afraid that another team would trade up with New York to leapfrog Dallas, not to mention that any of the aforementioned prospects would likely be gone by then. If not, then the Islanders would almost certainly stay put and select them themselves.

Keeping that all in mind, the trade-up range for Dallas looks to be in the eighth to 10th range, with those picks belonging to the Chicago Blackhawks, the New York Rangers, and the Edmonton Oilers respectively. So let’s take a look at reasons why those teams would or would not trade down with Dallas, starting from least likely to most:

The Edmonton Oilers (No. 10)

Why They Would: First of all, the Oilers have already expressed interest in trading their pick this year, ever since the results of the draft lottery were announced. The team had a hugely disappointing year that saw them fall out of a playoff spot and end up as the ninth worst team in the league, effectively wasting the final year of Connor McDavid’s entry level contract. The team wants to get better now, and as the Oilers themselves have admitted, they likely won’t land an immediate impact player at 10th overall.

The Stars also have young players the Oilers might be interested in, such as right-handed defensemen Julius Honka and Stephen Johns as well as rising forwards such as Jason Dickinson or Roope Hintz. If the Oilers are looking for immediate help, Dallas has skaters to spare.

Why They Wouldn’t: It seems that Edmonton is looking to trade out of the first round completely, not necessarily trade down. In fact if anything, they’d be more likely to trade up than trade down in an attempt to get a top prospect who might be able to play as soon as next year. The Stars don’t seem to be looking to add a second first-round pick, regardless of which selection it is, so it’s unlikely the Stars would cough up some of their best young players to get Edmonton’s pick.

Something to Consider: The Oilers have been actively shopping forward Milan Lucic, and the Stars are constantly linked as a possible trade candidate given their pursuit of Lucic when he hit free agency two years ago. Dallas would almost certainly not take on Lucic’s $6 million contract for the next five years just to move up three spots, but what if they landed the No. 10 pick without giving up the No. 13? Even if the Stars aren’t interested in acquiring a second first-round pick, it would give them extra ammunition in the pursuit of a trade target such as Artemi Panarin or Philipp Grubauer.

The Bottom Line: Edmonton is in the right pick range for where Dallas would look to trade up to, but given what the Oilers are looking for and what the Stars are willing to give up, a trade between the two on draft day seems unlikely.

The Chicago Blackhawks (No. 8)

Why They Would: Since their most recent Stanley Cup, the Blackhawks have not won a single playoff series, going from losing to the St. Louis Blues in seven, getting swept by the Nashville Predators, and failing to make the playoffs altogether last season. They’re also in salary cap purgatory at the moment, thanks to contracts such as Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane’s $10.5 million deals and Brent Seabrook’s $6.875 million cap hit.

In other words, Chicago probably won’t be contending for Cups anytime soon, which means it’s time to focus on the future. Getting extra picks and prospects in a trade down makes a lot of sense for the Blackhawks, considering their prospect pool is pretty bleak as is. And since they would only be moving down five spots, they would still get a quality prospect at No. 13, even if they wouldn’t necessarily be as good as the one they would have gotten at No. 8.

Why They Wouldn’t: It’s very easy to argue that the only reason the Blackhawks missed the playoffs this year was because Corey Crawford was injured for the majority of the season. And even though Kane and Toews take up huge cap hits, they’re still some of the better players in the NHL. So if anything, Chicago should be trying to push for one last championship while they still can, not give up and work for the future.

That’s where the eighth overall pick comes in. If a player like Whalstrom or Kotkaniemi is available, then the Blackhawks can take a player who could be playing as early as 2019-2020, if not sooner. Not to mention they would be on a super inexpensive entry level contract, which is huge for teams that are close to the salary cap ceiling. The Blackhawks would still get a quality prospect at No. 13, but it would likely take them a couple more years to develop, and at that point it might be too late.

Something to Consider: Would the Blackhawks even want to trade down with a divisional rival like the Stars? They had no trouble doing it last year when they traded with Dallas so the team could select goaltender Jake Oettinger, but that was late in the first round for a player who wouldn’t be on the roster until probably 2021-2022 at the earliest, not a top-end forward talent who could be an impact player within only a year or two. The Hawks might not even consider trading with Dallas, or at the very least ask for a greater return than usual.

The Bottom Line: In my opinion, it really boils down to how the Blackhawks view their team going forward. If they believe they can still be a potential Cup contender, they’re likely to stay put and select a player who will play sooner rather than later. If they don’t, then it depends on what they value more: a higher end prospect or multiple lower leveled ones.

The New York Rangers (No. 9)

Why They Would: Back in February, ownership sent out a letter to the fans that all but said, “We’re going to start rebuilding.” When the trade deadline came along, they proceeded to sell several of their players, including rental Rick Nash, JT Miller, and captain Ryan McDonaugh. The team holds three first-round picks this year and seem committed to building towards future success.

On top of that, 2017 was the first year since 2012 that the Rangers had a first round draft pick — they selected Lias Andersson at No. 7 and Filip Chytil at No. 21 — meaning their prospect cupboard, like Chicago, is pretty bare. Given their position, moving back just four spots to pick up extra picks and prospects seems like a no-brainer, especially when they’d be trading with a non-conference team.

Why They Wouldn’t: The Rangers are in a situation similar to that of the Canucks and Red Wings — they have a weak prospect pool, but they also lack any top-end prospects outside of Andersson. When you add in the fact that they have two extra late first-round picks, it wouldn’t be that surprising if the Rangers actually traded up in order to land an even better prospect than what they would find at No. 9, especially, if a player like Filip Zadina or Quinn Hughes starts to unexpectedly fall.

Something to Consider: Are the Rangers really that committed to rebuilding? As Down Goes Brown wrote the other day, they seem like a team whose window seems closed but could end up surprising everyone, especially if goaltender Henrik Lundqvist is sticking around. Add in the fact that New York tends to attract high profile free agents and potentially land players like John Tavares or Ilya Kovalchuk, and suddenly the Rangers seem like a team that could at least be back in the playoffs next year.

The Bottom Line: Out of all of the teams discussed, the Rangers seem like the most likely team to move down to No. 13. They could use the extra picks and prospects to build up their prospect pool, and the only potential downside of trading with Dallas is that their in-state rivals, the New York Islanders, would then have two picks immediately in front of them. If the Stars end up trading up with anyone on Friday, I’d put my money on the Rangers.