It seems like a fun game to play at this time of year to try and figure out what the management teams are going to do heading into the June entry draft. Lately the speculation that has occurred has been done primarily on the current draft position of each team rather than the top prospects involved. From a Maple Leafs perspective, this means that most analysis is centered on which player will be available in the five hole. To take a different approach, over the next week we will use central scoutings top rankings as of this week and speculate as to how Brian Burke could get that player on his roster. Without further ado, here is the projected #1 overall pick, Nail Yakupov.
Yakupov is of Russian descent, but has played a majority of his developmental hockey in the CHL. Drafted in 2010 second overall by the Sarnia Sting, he has been a lesson in quick development as well as he has for injury setback. His rookie season was spectacular posting 49 goals and 52 assists for 101 points, making him the highest scoring rookie in Sarnia history. His sophmore year was severely hampered by injury, but he was still able to score 61 points in the 42 games that he played.
Yakupov would help any team that he joins, a right winger by trade, but he could make a notable difference on the Toronto Maple Leafs. The Leafs have a noticable dearth of talent at the offensive ranks with only three legitamite top six forwards, the Leafs also lack size in their entire forward core. Yakupov brings that tough to find blend of size and skill that has evaded Toronto for far too long. That said, Yakupov is likely to move several spaces ahead of where the Leafs are selecting.
How it could happen
If Brian Burke truly wants to move up in the draft, he may be able to depending on what he wants to part with. The Leafs currently hold picks number 5, 35, 54, 66, 126, 156, 157, 186, and 209. They currently have a couple of restricted free agents that may be able to help in a return as well. The Oilers biggest needs are without a doubt on the back end. The Leafs have an abundance of defensemen, but as most will note, the quantity of defensemen and the quality are somewhat in question. The top four grouping on the team is not awful by any stretch, consisting of Dion Phaneuf, Carl Gunnarsson, John Michael Liles, and Jake Gardiner. Competing for spots in the bottom grouping for most of last season were Luke Schenn, Mike Komisarek, and Cody Franson. The issue with the grouping is not so much with the top four, but the bottom two where between the three players contributed to almost $9 million worth of cap. The drop off in talent at this point is also very clear.
Fact is that if Edmonton is to send the top pick to Toronto, they will not simply take back the Leafs junk. Of all the defensemen listed, Jake Gardiner is likely to be the most requested in any transaction, as unlikely as it seems for him to be moved. The more likely defensemen for Toronto to include in any trade would probably be Luke Schenn, who has struggled ever since an impressive rookie campaign. This alone would not be enough to get to the top spot.
The traditional formula for this type of move would start at a prospect, a pick, and a roster player. This trade would be no exception, so here is my best guess as to what the trade would look like;
2012 1st Overall Pick, G Nikolai Khabibulin
2012 5th Overall, Rights to Cody Franson, Carl Gunnarsson
This was a tough one to put together as It does not seem like the Leafs want to move any player not on the NHL roster for the return. Edmonton gets a very serviceable defensemen in Gunnarsson, as well as D-man that has not quite found his best game in Toronto. The Leafs are also looking to add veteran goaltending help, but have found a conundrum with the emergence of Ben Scrivens over the past year. With Reimer and Scrivens both somewhat unknown commodities, Khabibulin in a contract year could provide the stop-gap help that was not evident last year. This would prevent an unmitigated disaster that could happen if Burke or Nonis moved to acquire the eternal contract of Roberto Luongo, and the unknown cap penalties it could create in a new collective bargaining agreement. I can’t predict what kind of trade would occur between the two clubs, but in my estimation no trade between the two clubs ends without Khabibulin moving to Toronto.
Based on current ISS rankings, tomorrow will be a look at how the Leafs could maneuver into the second overall spot to Draft Swedish forward prospect Filip Foresberg.