Tuesday, May 28, 2013

The Flames History of Trading Up (or Down) in the NHL Draft

Hyped as a showdown between the big three in the 2013 NHL draft rankings -- Seth Jones from Portland, Nathan McKinnon and Jonathan Drouin from Halifax, the Memorial Cup did not disappoint.

McKinnon -- who began the tournament the consensus No. 2 in the draft rankings behind Jones, capped a spectacular nine days in the national spotlight with a clutch two goal, three assist game for the Mooseheads in the final. It was a performance that has added some spice to the renewed debate over who should be No. 1. The other thing that was solidified is that these three guys really are the top three NHL prospects.

On that note, how agonizing must the Memorial Cup have been for Flames GM Jay Feaster to watch, knowing that Calgary was inline for its first ever top-three pick before a couple wins late in the year dropped them down in the draft order to sixth.

Getting Into the Top Three

Is it conceivable for Calgary to move up into the top three for this year's draft?  There was already a bit of chatter about this possibility prior to the Memorial Cup and you can bet this conversation topic just got a whole lot more heated now that Flames fans have had a chance to sit back and watch Jones, McKinnon and Drouin strut their stuff up close and in high definition.

Calgary has been one of the more active teams historically when it comes to moving its draft picks around, right before or during, the annual NHL entry draft. There have been instances where they've given up an asset -- a player or draft pick(s), to trade up. However, more often than not, they've been the team in which others have traded up with, producing the net result of trading down and adding an asset.

In this first in a series of articles I'm planning between now and the June 30 NHL Entry Draft in New Jersey, I look at the 12 most significant draft day trade ups or trade downs the Flames have been involved in since the franchise arrived in Calgary in the summer of 1980. By "significant", this does not necessarily mean good, it could be a move that backfired horribly. I've ranked these dozen deals from top to bottom based on the impact or outcome of the deal and what could have been, had the trade not occurred.

There are two basic formulas to the most common trade-up scenario.
  1. Trade two or more lower draft picks for one higher draft pick
  2. Trade a player(s) and a lower draft pick for a higher draft pick 
One key housekeeping item. There have been many instances where a player alone is flipped for a draft pick, or where multiple players are exchanged and draft picks are also included. However, I limited the scope of what I examined for the purpose of this article to what I'll refer to as the 'classic scenario' of trading an existing draft pick for a higher draft pick -- or vice versa, as defined in the two formulas above.

Flames Ups and Downs - A Retrospective Look

1. June 16, 1990 - Flames trade up to get New Jersey's 1st round pick, 11th overall pick
  • Flames GM: Cliff Fletcher
  • Devils GM: Lou Lamoriello
  • Scenario: Calgary traded two 2nd round picks (#29 and #24) and a 1st round pick (#20) to New Jersey in exchange for a 2nd round pick (#32) and a 1st round pick (#11)
  • Calgary selected G Trevor Kidd at #11, LW Vesa Viitakoski at #32
  • New Jersey selected G Martin Brodeur at #20, D David Harlock at #24, RW Chris Gotziaman at #29
  • Winner: New Jersey
  • Analysis: Just imagine how differently Calgary Flames history, as well as NHL history, would have been written had Fletcher not moved up nine places to ensure they got Kidd, the reigning CHL Goaltender of the Year and first goalie selected, and instead remained at No. 20 and 'settled' for Brodeur. Felix Potvin, 31st overall, was the only other goalie to go in the first two rounds. Kidd played four full seasons with the Flames beginning in 1993-94 when he backed up Mike Vernon. As the team's number one goalie the next three years, Calgary was a team in decline. They were eliminated in the 1st round of the playoffs in 1994-95 as well as 1995-96 -- a playoffs in which Kidd struggled and was replaced by Rick Tabaracci. After the Flames did not make the playoffs in 1996-97, Kidd was traded along with Gary Roberts to Carolina for Andrew Cassels and Jean-Sebastien Giguere.  Brodeur, meanwhile, what can you say. He's won three Stanley Cups, two Olympic gold medals and is the NHL's all-time leader in games played, win, shutouts. He's the only goalie in NHL history with eight 40-win seasons.  

2. June 15, 1985 - Flames trade up to get Minnesota's two 2nd round picks, 25th and 27th overall
  • Flames GM: Cliff Fletcher
  • North Stars GM: Lou Nanne
  • Scenario: Calgary traded C Kent Nilsson and a 3rd round pick in 1985, 1986 or 1987 (ended up 1986, #58) in exchange for Minnesota's 2nd round pick (#27) and a 2nd round pick in 1987 (#25)
  • Calgary selected C Joe Nieuwendyk at #27, LW Stephane Matteau at #25 (in 1987)
  • Minnesota selected D Brad Turner at #58
  • Winner: Calgary
  • Analysis: Nilsson, a fan favourite, was only 28 years old and coming off another great season for the Flames, his sixth with the franchise. He was Calgary's most exciting player its first five seasons in the NHL, finishing 3rd behind Wayne Gretzky and Marcel Dionne in scoring in 1980-81 with 131 points. He was coming off a season in which he was the runaway team leader with 99 points and tied Hakan Loob for the lead in goals with 37. The day after the trade, a Calgary newsaper wrote, "Joe Nieuwendyk for Kent Nilsson? It stinks.” But, Calgary moved him at the right time. Nilsson would only score 35 goals the rest of his NHL career. His numbers fell off in a season-and-a-half in Minnesota before he was dealt to Edmonton. Then, he returned to Europe. Meanwhile, after original Flames draft target Sean Burke got plucked at No. 24, Fletcher opted for Nieuwendyk, who scored 51 goals his first two seasons, leading Calgary to its only Stanley Cup in his second year. In eight seasons, the graduate of Cornell scored 309 goals for the Flames. Nieuwendyk would out to be the best player of that 1985 draft class. Matteau had a strong rookie season with the Flames but then was traded during his second season to Chicago for Trent Yawney.

3. June 21, 2003 - Sharks trade up to get Calgary's 2nd round pick, 47th overall
  • Flames GM: Darryl Sutter
  • Sharks GM: Doug Wilson
  • Scenario: San Jose traded a 3rd round pick (#97), a 5th round pick (#143) and a 6th round pick (#173) in exchange for Calgary's 2nd round pick (#47)
  • San Jose selected D Matt Carle at #47
  • Calgary selected LW Ryan Donally at #97, RW Greg Moore at #143, C Tyler Johnson at #173
  • Winner: San Jose
  • Analysis: The classic example of quantity not making up for quality. Carle went on to win the Hobey Baker Award in 2006, then signed with the Sharks and was named to the NHL's All-Rookie team in 2006-07. He was later traded to Tampa Bay in a multi-player swap in which the Sharks acquired Dan Boyle. Carle played only 12 games with Tampa Bay before being traded to Philaelphia where he was steady member of the Flyers blue-line for four years. Carle became a UFA and signed a six-year $33-million contract with the Lightning prior to the 2012-13 season.  He's been a reliable player, only missing two games in the last four seasons. In 519 NHL games in his career, he has 37 goals, 187 assists, and is a plus-56. Not one of the three players selected by the Flames appeared in an NHL game.

4. June 29, 1994 - Devils trade up to get Calgary's 3rd round pick, 71st overall
  • Flames GM: Doug Risebrough
  • Devils GM: Lou Lamoriello
  • Scenario: New Jersey traded a 3rd round pick (#77), a 4th round pick (#91) and a 5th round pick (#107) in exchange for Calgary's 3rd round pick (#71)
  • New Jersey selected D Sheldon Souray at #71
  • Calgary selected RW Chris Clark at #77, C Ryan Duthie at #91, RW Nils Ekman at #107
  • Winner: New Jersey
  • Analysis: Moving up six spots in the third round often isn't going to make much of a difference. Not true in this instance as New Jersey grabbed Souray, who would go on to establish himself as a top NHL defenceman with a wicked slapshot and an ornery side. Souray's best year was 2006-07 in Montreal when he scored 26 goals. He spent six seasons with the Canadiens after playing his first three years with New Jersey. He's been with six NHL teams in total, playing last season with Anaheim. He's played in 758 NHL games. Chris Clark would be solid role player for the Flames over five seasons, helping the team reach the Stanley Cup final in 2004 in his final year with the team. Clark really came into his own in Washington where he was captain for four of his five seasons. He scored a career-high 30 goals in 2006-07 playing on a line with Alex Ovechkin and Dainius Zubrus.  Ekman spent most of his time in Sweden and was eventually traded in November 1999 by Al Coates to Tampa Bay along with a 4th round pick in 2000 for Andreas Johansson. Ekman would later have a pair of 20-goal seasons with San Jose before returning to Europe and playing in hte KHL. He was forced into retirement at age 35 due to a heart condition.

5. June 25, 2004 - NY Rangers trade up to get Calgary's 1st round pick, 19th overall
  • Flames GM: Darryl Sutter
  • Rangers GM: Glen Sather
  • Scenario: NY Rangers traded a 2nd round pick (#46) and a 1st round pick (#24) in exchange for Calgary's 1st round pick (#19) and a 8th round pick (#247)
  • NY Rangers selected LW Lauri Korpikoski at #19, D Jonathan Paiement at #247
  • Calgary selected RW Kris Chucko at #24, traded the #46 pick to Columbus for a pair of third round picks (#70, #98) *See trade ranked No. 7 on this list
  • Winner: NY Rangers
  • Analysis: Chucko turned out to be another 1st round pick that did not work out for the Flames. A serious concussion in October 2010 limited Chucko to two games with the Abbotsford Heat in his second year with the Flames AHL affiliate. Due to the injury, he would retire from hockey at the end of the 2010-11 season. Korpikoski made his NHL debut in the 2008 playoffs for the Rangers scoring a goal on his first shot. He played the next season with New York before being traded to Phoenix where he's played the past four seasons. He has 113 points in 336 NHL games. 

6. June 26, 2009 - Devils trade up to get Calgary's 1st round pick, 20th overall pick
  • Flames GM: Darryl Sutter
  • Devils GM: Lou Lamoriello
  • Scenario: New Jersey traded a 3rd round pick (#84) and 1st round pick (#23) in exchange for Calgary's 1st round pick (#20)
  • New Jersey selected C Jacob Josefson at #20
  • Calgary selected D Tim Erixon at #23 and then bundled the #84 pick along with its 4th round pick (#107) and traded those to the Kings for their 3rd round pick (#74), which the Flames used to select LW Ryan Howse.
  • Winner: TBD
  • Analysis: At first blush, just seeing the name Tim Erixon, you'd think New Jersey has the instant edge. Josefson had a rough start to his NHL career tearing a tearing a ligament in his thumb in his first season, which required surgery. The following year in 2011-12, Josefson broke his clavicle and later in the season, fractured his wrist. The 22-year-old pending RFA remains a Devils prospect and is expected to be resigned this summer. He's spent the past three years split between Albany (AHL) and New Jersey and has played 91 NHL games, collecting 6 goals, 16 assists. Meanwhile, Erixon, son of former NHLer Jan Erixon, is now with his third NHL organization in Columbus. However, it's what GM Jay Feaster was able to subsequently do with Erixon two years later, which could ultimately swing this deal into Calgary's favour when we look back on it 10 years from now. When Erixon refused to sign rather than see him go back into the draft, Feaster dealt him on June 1, 2011, to NY Rangers for C Roman Horak and two 2nd round draft picks in 2011. Feaster used those picks to select RW Markus Granlund (45th) and D Tyler Wotherspoon (57th). Wotherspoon had a strong showing for Canada in the 2013 World Juniors, was a +62 with the Portland Winterhawks this past season, who lost in the final of the Memorial Cup. As for Howse, he seems to be drifting off the Flames radar. He followed up 51 goals for the Chilliwack Bruins in his final WHL season with six goals in his first year with Abbotsford (AHL). His goal total dropped to two in 40 games in 2012-13, a year in which Howse split time between the Heat and the Utah Grizzlies of the ECHL.

7. June 26, 2004 - Blue Jackets trade up to get Calgary's 2nd round pick, 46th overall
  • Flames GM: Darryl Sutter
  • Blue Jackets GM: Doug MacLean
  • Scenario: Columbus traded two 3rd round picks (#70, #98) in exchange for Calgary's 2nd round pick (#46)
  • Columbus selected RW Adam Pineault at #46.
  • Calgary selected LW Brandon Prust at #70, C Dustin Boyd at #98 
  • Winner: Calgary
  • Analysis: Drafting Prust made this a good trade for the Flames. Now, if Calgary had only hung onto him either of the two times they had him, then it would have been a great trade as Prust has established himself as a very useful NHL player. Boyd played four seasons with the Flames and also saw NHL time with Montreal and Nashville before signing in the KHL prior to the 2011-12 season and he remains there today. Boyd scored 32 goals in 220 NHL games. Pineault did not pan out for Columbus, only playing three NHL games in 2007-08.  

8. June 8, 1982 - Sabres trade up to get Calgary's 1st round pick, 9th overall
  • Flames GM: Cliff Fletcher
  • Sabres GM: Scotty Bowman
  • Scenario: Buffalo traded D Richie Dunn, G Don Edwards and a 2nd round pick (#37) in exchange for Calgary's 2nd round pick (#31) in 1983, a 2nd round pick (#30) and a 1st round pick (#9). Buffalo also accepted an option to swap 1st round picks in 1983. As a result, the Sabres got Calgary's 1st round pick (#10) in exchange for Buffalo's 1st round puck (#13)
  • Buffalo selected C John Tucker at #31 (in 1983), D Jens Johansson at #30, LW Paul Cyr at #9, RW Normand Lacombe at #10 (in 1983) 
  • Calgary selected LW Rich Kromm at #37, C Dan Quinn at #13 (in 1983)
  • Winner: Calgary
  • Analysis: Of the four draft picks Buffalo received, Cyr at No. 9 -- the highest of the picks, was a serviceable NHL player but he topped out at 22 goals in six seasons with the Sabres and more was expected. Lacombe at No. 10 the next year spent most of his time with the Buffalo organization in the minors. Tucker turned out to be the best of those draft picks. Edwards, 26, was supposed to be the key acquisition for the Flames as he had been great for Buffalo. But his three years in Calgary were disappointing and he ended up the back-up to Reggie Lemelin. It was a quick career decline for Edwards, who played his last NHL game at age 32. Unexpectedly, what swung this deal in Calgary's favour was the two draft picks it received and ultimately, what those draft picks turned into. Quinn was recalled for good by the Flames right from Belleville in the OHL early in the 1983-84 season. He was the league's leading scorer at the time with a scintillating 23 goals and 36 assists in 24 games. Quinn had three good years for Calgary including 30 goals in 1985-86 as Calgary made it to the Stanley Cup final. Early in his fourth year, the Flames traded Quinn to Pittsburgh for Mike Bullard and two years later, Bullard was part of the package shipped to St. Louis to acquire Doug Gilmour, who was an instrumental member of the Flames team that won the Stanley Cup in 1989. Similarly, Kromm had three good seasons for Calgary before being part of the package moved to the NY Islanders to get John Tonelli, who was a key contributor on that 1986 Flames team, which lost to Montreal in the final.

9. June 24, 2000 - Capitals trade up to get Calgary's 2nd round pick, 43rd overall
  • Flames GM: Craig Button
  • Capitals GM: George McPhee
  • Scenario: Washington traded LW Miika Elomo and a 4th round pick (#116) in exchange for Calgary's 2nd round pick (#43)
  • Washington selected LW Matt Pettinger at #43
  • Calgary selected G Levente Szuper at #116
  • Winner: Washington
  • Analysis: Pettinger, who played briefly in junior with the Calgary Hitmen, developed into a solid role player for Washington. In seven years with the Capitals, he peaked offensively in 2005-06 scoring 20 goals. He played 422 NHL games, his last appearance coming with Vancouver in 2009-10. He's spent the last three seasons in Germany. As for Miika 'Tickle Me' Elomo as he was referred to along press row at the time of the trade, he spent one season in the Flames organization and played that entire year in the minors before returning to Finland. Meanwhile, Szuper, the pride of Hungary. His professional career was not so 'szuper', never making an NHL start in three years with the Flames organization, spending all his time in Saint John (AHL).  

10. June 20, 2008 - Flames trade up to get Montreal's 1st round pick, 25th overall
  • Flames GM: Darryl Sutter
  • Canadiens GM: Bob Gainey
  • Scenario: Calgary traded Alex Tanguay and a 5th round pick (#138) in exchange for Montreal's 1st round pick (#25) and 2nd round pick (#49) in 2009
  • Calgary selected C Greg Nemisz at #25, later traded the 2nd round pick to Colorado to acquire D Jordan Leopold
  • Montreal selected RW Maxim Trunev at #138
  • Winner: Nobody (Loser: Calgary)
  • Analysis: The fact that Montreal didn't win this deal is of little consolation to Calgary. What stings for Flames fans is that Calgary didn't win the trade. Leveraging Alex Tanguay to get a 1st and 2nd round pick all went for nought when Calgary used that pick on Nemisz, who became a bust. Taken right after Nemisz at No. 26 was C Tyler Ennis to Buffalo. Washington chose D John Carlson at No. 27. Either one would have swung this deal in favour of the Flames big time. Making matters worse, the 2nd round pick was used up re-acquiring Leopold at the trade deadline, which didn't produce the end result desired as even with the veteran, Calgary was still knocked out of the playoffs in six games.   

11. July 30, 2005 - Flames trade up to get Buffalo's 3rd round pick, 74th overall
  • Flames GM: Darryl Sutter
  • Sabres GM: Darcy Regier
  • Scenario: Calgary traded its 4th round pick (#96) and its 3rd round pick (#87) in exchange for Buffalo's 3rd round pick (#74)
  • Calgary selected C Daniel Ryder at #74
  • Buffalo selected D Marc-Andre Gragnani at #87, D Chris Butler at #96
  • Winner: Buffalo
  • Analysis: Daniel Ryder was seven years younger than big brother Michael Ryder, whose been an NHL regular for the past nine seasons. Daniel, named MVP in the OHL playoffs in 2006-07, would never reach the NHL and his time with the Flames could be best be described as tumultuous -- twice getting suspended by the organization. He walked away from the game of hockey in 2009 and an indication of his personal problems off the ice came in 2010 when he turned himself in after committing an armed robbery in Newfoundland. Buffalo selected a pair of defenceman in Butler, who eventually was traded to the Flames for Robyn Regehr and Gragnani, 26, who has spent most of his time in the AHL, playing 74 NHL games with three different teams.

12. June 22, 2007 - Blues trade up to get Calgary's 1st round pick, 18th overall
  • Flames GM: Darryl Sutter
  • Blues GM: Larry Pleau
  • Scenario: St. Louis traded a 3rd round pick (#70) and a 1st round pick (#24) in exchange for Calgary's 1st round pick (#18)
  • St. Louis selected D Ian Cole at #18
  • Calgary selected  C Mikael Backlund at #24, D John Negrin at #70
  • Winner: TBD
  • Analysis: Thanks to a solid year by Backlund in 2012-13, which got his career back on track, the Flames have the early edge in this deal. As well, Calgary traded Negrin to acquire RW Akim Aliu so that may amount to something still, or may not. The Blues remain high on Cole, who's been splitting time between the AHL and NHL so far. He should be an NHL regular in 2013-14 and potentially a top four defenceman down the road. We'll have to revisit this one in a few years to see how the careers for Backlund and Cole (and Aliu) have turned out.  

Honourable Mention

13. June 22, 2012 - Sabres trade up to get Calgary's 1st round pick, 14th overall
  • Flames GM: Jay Feaster
  • Sabres GM: Darcy Regier
  • Scenario: Buffalo traded a 2nd round pick (#42) and a 1st round pick (#21) in exchange for Calgary's 1st round pick (#14)
  • Buffalo selected C Zemgus Girgensons at #14
  • Calgary selected C Mark Jankowski at #21, D Patrick Sieloff at #42
  • Winner: TBD
  • Analysis: Way too early to tell how this trade will work out as Jankowski, drafted out of prep school, is still a long way away. The 6-foot-3 centre just played his first year of college hockey scoring 7 goals in 34 games with Providence. The Flames did not have a second round pick and needed to stock the cupboard so adding that was deemed important and so far, so good on what they've seen from hard-hitting Sieloff, who won a gold medal at the most recent World Juniors representing the U.S.. Girgensons, who was born in Latvia but was drafted during his two years of USHL, spent last year with the Sabres AHL team in Rochester scoring 6 goals in 61 games.

1 comment:

  1. You missed the 1999 draft trade. Calgary trades:
    1st round, 9th overall pick (Jamie Lundmark) and Jan Hlavac
    NYR trades:
    Marc Savard, 1st round pick (#11 overall) Oleg Saprikin, 3rd round pick (#77 overall) Craig Anderson
    Calgary easily wins the trade but unfortunately mishandles the assets they received. Savard gets traded for virtually nothing and become an elite player. Craig Anderson is never signed by the Flames and becomes an elite goalie for Colorado. Oleg Saprykin plays three years in Calgary before being traded with Denis Gauthier for Damond Langkow who has a very successful run in Calgary.