SabreNation is fixated on trading up for a top pick in this year’s NHL Entry Draft. But it may not be as easy as it seems.

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Yakupov, Grigorenko, and Galchenyuk

Yakupov, Grigorenko, and Galchenyuk

With the high expectations and uncertainly over this year’s top hockey prospects, the NHL Entry Draft in Pittsburgh on June 22 promises to one of the most interesting in years. And with a pair of first round picks and a bevy of prospects, the Sabres appear to have the assets and appetite to camp out the night before for what’s turned into Hockey’s “Black Friday” shopping frenzy.

From the moment Philadelphia’s Matt Read blew by Robyn Regehr and beat Ryan Miller to end the Sabres season on April 5, many in SabreNation have turned their thoughts toward trading up to grab an elite prospect in this year’s draft. Yakupov, Grigorenko, and Galchenyuk have become commonplace names in current Buffalo sports lexicon.

With Buffalo’s assets and stated objectives (a franchise that will win multiple Stanley Cups), it all seems so simple, right?  We’ll just send our two first round picks and maybe Mark Pysyk to Edmonton or Columbus and we get the next Stamkos, Malkin, or Ovechkin for a decade or so. Everybody wins, right?

Apparently not. Because when it comes to both parties in the transaction, historically this hasn’t looked like a win-win for the team with a top overall pick. They just don’t like to let them go. In fact, top 3 draft picks have been traded only four times in the past 20 years, and none (NONE) of those involved a team from outside the top 3 acquiring a secured top 3 overall.

Twice the picks were moved between franchises already selecting within the top 3.

  • In 1998, Tampa Bay, San Jose, Nashville essentially shuffled the top three picks with the Lightning drafting Vincent Lecavalier first overall.
  • In 2003, the Penguins sent Mikael Samuelsson and a 2nd round pick to Florida to move two spots from 3rd overall to draft Marc-Andre Fleury1st overall.

The only time a team without a top 3 pick got a ticket from outside was when they traded for rights before the value of the pick was known — basically, a team traded its first round pick and THEN tanked (the kind of move that absolutely destroys fanbase morale, btw), handing over the fruits of its misery to some other franchise.

  • In 2001, the Ottawa Senators drafted Jason Spezza second overall with a pick they previously acquired by trading Alexei Yashin to the NY Islanders.  (The Islanders also sent Zdeno Chara along with that pick for the pleasure of Yashin.)
  • In 2010, Boston selected Tyler Seguin with the 2nd overall pick they acquired previously when shipping Phil Kessel to Toronto.

With the Sabres holding the 12th pick, trading up for a top 3 pick appears, at least historically, closed to them.  But if they do, Sabres fans should give some serious credit to Regier and company for pulling off a maneuver that will be, at least over the past 20 years, unprecedented.

Astute observer, aspiring author, and student of the games.

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1 Comment

  1. “Yakupov, Grigorenko, and Galchenyuk have become commonplace names in current Buffalo sports lexicon.”

    WRONG. The Sabres HAD a shot at one of these guys BEFORE they blew it by making an ill-advised and ultimately failed push for the playoffs. “Oh boy, at least they tried!” say the koolaid drinkers. Face it, we blew it, we walked away with nothing. We spent the majority of the season in the basement, yet we’re not walking away with the lottery pick. Unbelievable. That’s the Toronto Maple Leafs recipe for mediocrity. Great job, guys.

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