Canucks interested in Sam Reinhart; should they trade for the first overall pick to get him?

The first overall draft pick has been traded just five times in NHL history. Somehow, the Florida Panthers have traded away three of them.

The first of those trades can be somewhat excused, as it came months before the draft, well before the Panthers knew they were going to win the 1998 draft lottery and select first overall. They traded their first round pick, along with Dave Lowry, to the San Jose Sharks for Viktor Kozlov. The Sharks eventually traded the pick to the Tampa Bay Lightning, who used it to select Vincent Lecavalier.

The other two trades were made on the day of the draft. In both 2002 and 2003, the Panthers traded down from the top pick to the third overall pick. In 2002, the Columbus Blue Jackets used the first overall pick to select Rick Nash. In 2003, the Pittsburgh Penguins used it to take Marc-Andre Fleury.

Once again, the Panthers hold the first overall pick and rumours are swirling that they are once again willing to make a trade. If they go through with it, it would be an astounding fourth time the Panthers have traded the first overall pick. The thing is, it actually made perfect sense to trade the pick in 2002 and 2003 and the same is true this year.

The rumour mill, in the meantime, has kicked into high gear, with Gary Mason of the Globe and Mail suggesting the Canucks are “desperate” to move up in the draft in order to select Sam Reinhart.

Mason’s source is a player agent rather than someone within the organization, so it’s fair to take the report with a grain of salt, but Jim Benning confirmed that the Canucks will explore moving up and spoke quite highly of Reinhart after interviewing him at the combine.

“He’s a real smart guy and he had these measured answers,” Benning said. “Halfway through the interview, I said: ‘It’s just like talking to your dad.’”

“We’re going to talk to the other teams and we’re going to see what the price is to move up,” Benning said.

“As we get closer to the draft, there’s going to be more dialogue with other teams. It just depends on the price on what it’s going to take to get higher.

Every year, it seems, the team holding the top pick broadcasts their willingness to trade the pick “if the right deal comes along” and every year the right deal fails to materialize. Either the cost is too high for other teams to pay or the team with the top pick has a near-guaranteed franchise player in their sights and refuses to budge.

This year might be different, however, simply because of the way the talent is distributed in the draft this year. There’s no consensus number one pick or even a two-man race, but instead a top-four group that lacks a true can’t-miss prospect like in previous years. There’s no Nathan MacKinnon, John Tavares, or Steven Stamkos in this draft.

After that top-four, however, there is a lot of depth in the first round, with little separating the players available. This is Benning’s assessment as well:

“Maybe the high end isn’t there with the big names, the scoring superstar,” Benning said. “But I think there is good depth there this year from the five pick through 30.”

That’s why it makes sense for the Panthers to explore trading away the top pick. If they have their eyes set on a player outside of the consensus top-four of Aaron Ekblad, Sam Reinhart, Sam Bennett, and Leon Draisaitl, there’s no reason for them to keep the number one pick. It’s the same reasoning that led to the Panthers trading away the first overall pick the last two times.

In 2002, the Panthers wanted to draft the top defenceman, Jay Bouwmeester. The two teams behind them, the Atlanta Thrashers and Columbus Blue Jackets, desperately needed a franchise goaltender and forward, respectively. Thus, the Panthers could be confident that trading with the Blue Jackets wouldn’t cost them the player they truly wanted.

That said, they made a mess of the trade anyways, failing to pick up any additional assets: the deal included an optional trade of first round picks the following year. Since the Panthers ended up with the first overall pick again, they chose not to exercise that option.

In 2003, it made even more sense, simply because of the wealth of talent available that year. The trade negotiations with Pittsburgh likely let them know that the Penguins were eager to draft Marc-Andre Fleury and, with the 24-year-old Roberto Luongo on the roster, the Panthers had no need for the highly-touted goaltender. Moving down simply meant they’d have second pick of the forwards available.

The Panthers took Nathan Horton with the third overall pick, one of 16 future All-Stars taken in the first round that year. You could argue that they should have kept the top pick and selected Eric Staal, who instead went second overall to the Carolina Hurricanes, but Horton was actually ranked ahead of Staal by International Scouting Services and hindsight is 20/20.

The situation is similar for the Panthers this year: if they can select the player they truly want –rumour has it they’re targetting William Nylander — with a later pick, they should absolutely trade down in order to pick up additional draft picks and roster players.

The question is whether it makes sense for the Canucks to be their trade partner. Sam Reinhart is certainly an interesting prospect, one who is expected to remain at centre in the NHL rather than move to the wing. He projects as better than Bo Horvat, potentially giving the Canucks a potent one-two punch down the middle for years to come. He’s also a local boy, born in North Vancouver, which would endear both him and the Canucks’ new General Manager to fans.

Reinhart is a clear step above many of the other projected first round picks, like Jake Virtanen, Nick Ritchie, Brendan Perlini, and Jared McCann. He tied for the most points among draft-eligible players in the CHL with Leon Draisaitl, but scored his 105 points in fewer games.

The gap isn’t quite as large when it comes to other players expected to be available to the Canucks, however, like William Nylander, Nikolaj Ehlers, Kevin Fiala, and Kasperi Kapanen. He’s certainly a more complete player, but is the edge that he has over these other prospects worth the assets it would take to get him?

The question comes down, as it usually does, to cost.

The rumour mill has churned out the idea that the Panthers are looking for a top-four defenceman, so Canucks fans are eager to suggest sending Jason Garrison back to Florida. The only problem is that he has a no-trade clause and asking him to waive it to return to his former team seems far-fetched. Besides, Dale Tallon is the guy who didn’t re-sign Garrison back in 2012, so he may not want him at all.

Who, then? Chris Tanev, who is just entering his prime? Alex Edler, who Trevor Linden just confirmed won’t be traded? Bieksa? Hamhuis? Somehow, I don’t see this happening.

Ben Kuzma suggests another route:

They could package the No. 6 pick in this draft and 2013 first-round pick Bo Horvat — projected as a third-round (sic) centre — to get the first-overall pick that the Florida Panthers are shopping. The Canucks can play centre Shawn Matthias on the third line. That concept would allow the Canucks to grab local centre Sam Reinhart.

This seems even less likely to happen than the Canucks trading a top-four defenceman. Benning seems very high on Horvat and likely sees him as having greater potential than simply a third-line centre. That’s a dramatic underselling of Horvat’s ceiling to make the idea of trading a ninth overall pick and a sixth overall pick for the first overall pick seem reasonable.

Here’s the final sticking point: the Canucks would be better off with Horvat and whoever they pick at 6th overall than with just Reinhart, and that’s assuming that Horvat and the 6th pick would be the end of the deal. A lesser prospect, like Nicklas Jensen or Brendan Gaunce, would be easier to swallow, but then other assets would almost certainly be involved.

Quite frankly, if the Panthers see so much value in picking outside of the top-five that they’re willing to trade down, then perhaps there’s no reason for the Canucks to trade up at all.

While Reinhart is unlikely to fall to 6th overall, there’s a chance that one of Bennett, Draisaitl, or Michael Dal Colle, the consensus fifth best player available, will. Even if they don’t, the Canucks will have their pick of Nylander, Ehlers, or Kapanen, all of whom project as first-line forwards and could wind up being the best player to come out of this draft. My personal preference would be Nylander, who also gets the nod of approval from none other than Markus Naslund.

Then again, if the Canucks don’t trade up, they may end up drafting Virtanen, Ritchie, or Perlani, all of whom, for various reasons, I am very wary. In that case, I can’t help but hope that Benning does make a deal, but to move down the draft rather than up. I would be far more comfortable with the Canucks picking that type of player further down in the first round, particularly if it meant picking up an additional first round pick to stock up the prospect pool.

22 comments

  1. Chris the Curmudgeon
    June 6, 2014

    Daniel, I agree with you 100% on this. The talent at the top of the draft is evenly spread enough that the 6th pick will still have good players available, while none of the players at the top are “can’t miss” guys. Reinhart would be nice to have, but I would be very happy with Dal Colle or Nylander or Bennett or Kapanen or Draisatl also, meaning that there will be a forward worth taking with the 6th pick still there at that time. The idea that the team might select Virtanen or Richie scares me, both of those guys have bigger bust potential in my view. If the Canucks want one of those guys, then they should indeed trade down, but picking a bigger but less offensively capable player in the 1st round is exactly the type of mistake I hope Benning is smart enough not to make. The 1st round should be for 1st line skill and top pairing defencemen, and the Canucks have the rare opportunity to get into that echelon for a change.

    3rd-line center was probably what some people were saying about Patrice Bergeron too (his draft year production was pretty comparable to Horvat’s, for example), and Ryan Kesler was also being treated as only 3rd line-worthy for a long time. Trading any of the team’s prospects seems really foolish right now, after they’ve finally built up a decent farm system and they have a chance to further do so this season. The idea that they would give one up when there’s no sure thing to be had is an even scarier thought.

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  2. Tim
    June 6, 2014

    “… if the Panthers see so much value in picking outside of the top-five that they’re willing to trade down, then perhaps there’s no reason for the Canucks to trade up at all.”

    It may not be the case that Florida sees a great deal of value after the consensus top 5; their stated aim is to add experienced blueliners to their young team, and to that end, they may have decided that they can trade down for the lesser talent from 6 to 30 if they can get better on the back end at the same time. So, it still might make sense for Vancouver to trade for the 1st or 2nd overall if they believe the top centres are a cut above anyone projected to be available at the 6th position.

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  3. Erik
    June 6, 2014

    I agree with Daniel here. Unless there was a Stamkos\Crosby\Mackinnon type prospect at the top, the Canucks should be looking for quantity because of how thin their prospect pool is.

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  4. J21
    June 6, 2014

    All the smarter analysts will point out that 3rd line centers are really just 1st-line centers who aren’t as good in the NHL as they were at more junior levels. When a player gets projected in advance as a “third-line center”, that always scares me, because it usually means a team went after size or defensive prowess rather than skill, which is increasingly understood to be at a premium.

    All of which to say, if Horvat is already being sold as a third-liner, I’m quite worried, and all the more uneasy with the Schneider trade.

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    • Daniel Wagner
      June 6, 2014

      From the start he was pegged as a Ryan O’Reilly/Patrice Bergeron-type, leaning more towards O’Reilly. Essentially, scouts projected him as a two-way second-line centre, the type that takes the tough defensive responsibilities to give a more offensively-minded first-line centre an easier ride. He actually compares quite well statistically with O’Reilly and Bergeron at the same age, who are both very, very good players.

      I’m pretty high on Horvat and see him as the kind of guy who could be a first-line centre, but would ideally be a second-line centre on a contending team. He has a lot of defensive ability, but he also has plenty of skill: very good hands, great vision, and a good shot.

      All that is to say that Kuzma is buying into the pessimistic view espoused by some folks (*cough cough* Rhys over at Canucks Army) that Horvat doesn’t have as much upside as others suggest.

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    • iain
      June 6, 2014

      Harrison’s recent post suggests Cory might be available in 2015 unless the Devils give him some starts. anyone want to play Back to The Future again?

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    • iain
      June 6, 2014

      PS. I mean Harrison’s recent post on puck daddy.

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  5. JDM
    June 6, 2014

    Kuzma is totally out to lunch; I don’t see how thinning the prospect pool by trading two for one makes any kind of sense.

    I don’t understand the rumoured price, however. If the Panthers want a top four guy for their pick, why not just take Ekblad? Are we saying a top 4 defenseman straight up or with a minor sweetener, or is it a top 4 guy plus one of the other top 10 picks in this year’s draft? Because if it’s the latter, no thanks; moving up a few spots isn’t really worth a roster player much less one capable of playing 20 minutes on your blue line. If it’s the former – i.e., if Kevin Bieksa and a 2nd gets it done, then I’d be inclined to ask for a NTC waiver.

    I honestly at this point have no idea how to assess the price of a pick like this but my instinct tells me that whatever it is is going to be more than it’s worth.

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    • Neil B
      June 7, 2014

      @JDM: Typically, it takes 4 years for a defenceman to develop. That’s time the Panthers don’t have; the clock is ticking on Luongo. If the deal is Edler for the 1st, or even Edler + our 2015 first rounder for the #1, I say take it.

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      • Oil fan
        June 12, 2014

        Yes please do that deal.

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  6. Chrìs
    June 6, 2014

    If the Canucks trade up, they better be taking ekblad. If Florida is willing to take edler or garrison, and they’re willing to waive their no move clause then I say do it. We need that stud d man, and ekblad has the opportunity to be that guy. Plus trading away one of our older roster d men isn’t that bad of an idea. Tanev deserves more ice time this year, and we need to take make room for corrado and weber. who I believe is under rated and could surprise Canuck fans given an opportunity.

    Go team rebuild!!! Trade them all!

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  7. akidd
    June 6, 2014

    well, it’s going to get interesting. i’d hate to see horvat go. he’s got pretty slick hands for a 3rd-liner. and playmaker vision too. and i do very much like the idea of getting local boy, reinhart though. there will be a lot of teams in the mix for any first overall pick. it’s going to come down to price. definitely don’t trade tanev. but how about hamhuis? had a decent season. hate to trade him too but you gotta give to get. he’s a smart dman who would immediately improve the panthers. plus whoever they like with the 6th pick. it could be win-win. plus, it’s the panthers. gotta trade with the panthers or the world stops spinning.

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  8. Stink Pickle
    June 6, 2014

    Does anyone else find it sad that Florida has “earned” five 1st overall picks in just over twenty years of existence, while Vancouver has had none in over forty? And Vancouver gets the privilege of cutting a cheque to the NHL every year to be partially redistributed to Florida.

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  9. Locky
    June 6, 2014

    Pretty sure the Horvat rumour is pure speculation – it doesn’t make sense for Florida.

    As to the trade, yes, yes and f%&ing yes. I would trade anything not named Horvat, Shinkaruk or Kassian for Reinhart. Reinhart-Horvat down the middle sets you up for 10 years.

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  10. BBoone
    June 7, 2014

    I trust Naslund more than Kuzma as an evaluator of talent. Unless there is a clear can’t miss superstar at number 1, history has shown that one very talented young man ( say Reinhart) is no more likely to succeed than another very talented young man ( say Nylander ) so to waste assets for one gamble over another is silly . I am for the rebuild. Trade Kesler for some combination of picks , prospects and young NHL players . Now that Laforgorella is no more I am sure that the dazed and confused Canuck vets will return to relative excellence. With their value restored, trade one of more of them at the deadline to a cup contender for more youth . Hire a new NHL coaching face whose has the skill set to lead a developing young team. That is a plan that I am sure Canuck fans would appreciate.

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  11. dizzzz
    June 7, 2014

    I get perturbed when people start suggesting they get rid of Bieksa, who is one of the few players that consistently go to the wall for the team; can he be inconsistent, yea he can just like a number of other players. The Canucks have been waiting on Edler for many years now, and I for one am tired of it. Talk about inconsistency, he has it in spades! If Kesler wants to go that’s fine, he can expand his number of teams so that the Canucks get something back that THEY deem reasonable otherwise he stays. Benning likes Reinhart; him and Horvat one and two sound intriguing. The real albatross on this team are the twin’s contracts both length and amount. I’ve always been a fan although they were slow to develop, but the league is all about speed now and they never had it. Imagine in two or three years, it will be like they are in quicksand. Mike never could forget that he used to be a player’s agent. It’s proven disastrous, that and Fransisco thinking he’s an astute hockey man (Jerry Jones anyone?). If the Canucks can trade up for the no. 1 and get a high no. 1 in a Kesler trade, great! Otherwise steady as she goes. There are some good players at 6.

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  12. surreal78
    June 7, 2014

    I’m really surprised no one’s mentioning trading up for the #2 pick from Buffalo instead of for Florida’s #1. Buffalo seems to be open to trading it as well, from Tim Murray’s various comments.

    Florida may very well take Ekblad (or Bennett, or Draisaitl) at #1, and while the risk of missing out on Reinhart with the #2 pick is higher, the cost of acquisition would undoubtedly be at least a little lower. I’m not convinced there’s a real need to trade up to #1 to get Reinhart.

    Thoughts?

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    • Neil B
      June 8, 2014

      The only reason to prioritize #1 over #2 this year is the pressure is on in FLA to get better faster, because of the Luongo trade. There is no corresponding pressure in BUF, where they have to all intents & purposes committed to sucking for another season. Thus, FLA would be more likely to take fewer assets, as long as they are vets, whereas BUF wants to gain younger assets. VAN has more experienced assets than young ones.

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      • arbkh1
        June 8, 2014

        The problem is, none of the veteran players who have any value can be traded to Florida. Kesler is, really, the only veteran worth anything who is willing to waive his no trade and he’s not agreeing to move to miami; or wherever they hell they play down there.

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  13. Canuckfanguy
    June 8, 2014

    Kesler should be traded for John Gibson.

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  14. MASTERGM
    June 18, 2014

    Florida did try to re-sign Garrison, and Garrison was trying to work out a new deal with them, but ultimately they couldn’t afford him with the old owners, they offered a low contract compared to what he knew he could get via UFA, so Garrison politely declined.

    IMO I think Garrison if asked would happily move back to sunny Florida, he has no kids to worry about, he has great chemistry with Campbell and of course Tallon knows that, sooo many reasons why this trade can work out.

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  15. chulookin
    June 21, 2014

    Trading Bo plus whatever for the first pick is a stupid suggestion…why not stick with the sixth pick this year and play the season out so you can get Connor McDavid next year… Were not even going to bother watching the NHL anymore if Rogers is handling the tv coverage…

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