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Can the Sabres trade up in the draft?

June 17, 2012

Entering this weekend’s draft, Darcy Regier is expected to be working the phones to continue shaping the Sabres roster.

After last year’s splash there seems to be some expectation that Regier will be quick to pull the trigger at the draft yet again. I took a little time to mull over the potential for acquiring Jordan Staal previously and I am now moving on to yet another popular topic; trading up in the first round.

The Sabres currently have four picks in the first 60 picks of this week’s draft and there is a growing opinion that Regier should package those picks in order to draft in one of the top five spots in the draft.

As of right now, the Edmonton Oilers will pick first, followed by the Columbus Blue Jackets, Montreal Canadiens, New York Islanders and Toronto Maple Leafs.

If there is one player the Sabres are likely targeting at the top of the draft, it is Alex Galchenyuk.

You can immediately rule out the Leafs and Canadiens as potential trade partners, as the expected bounty for one of the lottery picks is expected to aid the receiving team for the present and future. The Oilers might be the easiest team to coax out of their current position, but the first pick is expected to come with a higher price tag. The Islanders are likely to stand pat with their lottery pick and the Blue Jackets would likely entertain a number of offers but may not want to get stung like they did with the Jeff Carter trade last summer.

I like the idea of trying to move up to one of the lottery picks in this draft. Buffalo has four picks to play with and I think it would be very realistic to think that those four picks could be turned into two, or possibly three selections. Obviously, one of those selections would end up being in the top three or four.

Personally, I think the only two teams really worth talking to will be the Islanders and the Oilers. I don’t see a world in which Scott Howson trades away another top ten pick. However, this is Scott Howson we are talking about and anything is possible.

The Islanders could certainly be interested in acquiring additional picks plus one or two additional players that would help round out their roster. The only drawback regarding this scenario is that the Isles are picking fourth and the player the Sabres want may not be available at that time.

Edmonton represents a very real possibility, in my opinion. This is a team that does not need another gamebreaking forward. While that statement is riddled with inaccuracy (every team needs another game breaking forward), the Oilers appear to be interested in building their blueline and could use a trade to expedite that process.

Depending on how the chips fall, Nail Yakupov could bump down a pick or two from number one.

This assumption actually factors on two levels. First, it could mean the Oilers stand pat and draft Ryan Murray first overall, bumping down players like Yakupov, Grigorenko, Galchenyuk and Forsberg. Second, they could be interested in acquiring additional picks plus a NHL-ready defenseman to go along with whichever blueliner they pick in the first round.

If the Sabres were to dangle their first round selection (12th) with an NHL defenseman like Andrej Sekera or Brayden McNabb (more likely) plus another pick between round one and two, they might just have enough to move into the top three picks. More so, if Regier were to offer both first round selections plus a NHL-ready defenseman, I think he would certainly have a deal.

I think it is safe to assume that none of the teams picking in the top five would want Sekera, he just fits in the young, NHL-ready mold.

On a side note, the same could be said of the Blue Jackets if the right goaltender was available along with NHL-ready offensive talent in terms of a trade package. The Jackets have to be ready to stand pat and draft a franchise player at number two, but offering a pair of firsts plus a player who can step onto the roster immediately would be hard for them to ignore.

The only roadblock here is that the teams the Sabres will be hoping to trade with will likely be asking for a large ransom in order to fork over one of these picks. One question that needs to be asked is: Is it worth it to sacrifice a pair of first round picks and at least one player or prospect for a shot a one of the draft’s top players?

I am a little leery about trading away so much to get a shot at one of these kids. I openly admit that the top portion of the draft is becoming far more stable in terms of projected talent, but I would side with packaging picks for a young center who has a few years of NHL experience under his belt. While I don’t always welcome the safe option, I think that chasing a player currently on an NHL roster is slightly more logical than trading up in the draft.

At the end of the day, if Regier isn’t able to pull off any trades, drafting Cody Ceci and Stefan Matteau wouldn’t be a bad way to go. Regardless, Thursday and Friday evening ought to reveal some very interesting wrinkles in terms of trades among all 30 NHL teams.

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