An Exploration of Trading the Second-Overall Pick for the 2019 NHL Draft

What would it take for the Rangers to pass up the opportunity of a lifetime?

When Jeff Gorton takes the stage at the 2019 NHL Entry Draft on June 21st, he will do something that no Rangers General Manager has done in over half a century; announce the second-overall pick. But for the sake of speculation, what if he decided to trade that pick or more importantly; what would it take for him to do so? More on that a little later.

The last time the New York Rangers held the No. 2 overall pick for an NHL Draft, it was still an amateur draft and there were only four rounds. The player the Blueshirts selected in 1966 was this kid from Toronto, Ontario named Brad Park, who turned out to be pretty OK.

Over the next five decades the Rangers went on to see varying degrees of success and failure, but they never were quite bad enough to secure a first or second-overall pick. It’s quite impressive actually — especially when the NHL introduced the Draft lottery in 1995 — that the Rangers didn’t win the lottery or were bad enough to secure high enough odds to get those ping-pong balls just right.

Now, though, the Rangers do have that second overall pick and have the distinct pleasure of selecting whoever the Devils don’t choose between Jack Hughes and Kaapo Kakko. Both players are “franchise altering picks” who can fundamentally change the course of the Rangers’ rebuild, and selecting either will be the easiest, and likely the best move the Rangers will make this offseason.

Number two overall picks don’t grow on trees, and the players you get from those picks generally turn out to be pretty damn good who sometimes end up being the best player from their draft year.

We’ve all seen the immediate impact guys like Patrik Laine, Andrei Svechnikov, and Jack Eichel have had on their respective teams, and that is what the Rangers are hoping to get out of the American center or the Finnish winger.

However, as always happens this time of year, people like to speculate what it would take for a team to either trade for or trade away their first or second-overall pick. It happens every year and it’s one of the more sysphysian debates you’ll have in the offseason because that boulder will never reach that hill, but everyone does it anyway; including me in this article.

Jason Botchford, from The Athletic’s Vancouver portal, recently wrote a column exploring the idea of uniting the Hughes brothers in the Pacific Northwest (Jack Hughes’ brother Quinn was taken by Vancouver seventh overall last year). In that piece, Botchford mentions that Vancouver has reached out to both New Jersey and New York about trading up from 10th overall and if it is possible, what the asking price would be?

Let’s think about that a little bit, shall we?

Historical Comparison of Second-Overall Picks

As Scott mentioned in his article embedded above; the second-overall pick has an incredible amount of value. The hypothetical drop off from second to 10th would mean that the team acquiring the No. 2 overall would have to really ante up a lot for that swap, and keep in mind; we’re just talking about swapping draft spots, not players, so the hypothetical in Botchford’s article of “the Lindros package” wouldn’t be a great foundation for a couple of reasons.

First, that trade is over 30 years old at this point, and secondly that was a player selected by a team refusing to play for that team and forcing a trade. What we’re talking about here is a trade of a draft slot, and the opportunity select someone. The next hypothetical that Botchford mentions includes a bundle of picks. “Three or four” first or second-round picks is a lot of quantity, but is it quality? Keep in mind that offer sheet compensation for top RFAs like Mitch Marner or Brayden Point is that package.

Here’s the current offer sheet compensation chart via Cap Friendly.

A package of first and second-round picks for one pick seems like a lot, but that’s the value that we are talking about here. These top picks are the picks you use to build a dynasty around. There’s a reason why a first or second overall pick hasn’t been dealt in 16 years.

It’s the 2003 NHL Entry Draft, in Nashville and Florida has the first overall pick and they were looking at draft that featured Eric Staal, Dustin Brown, Ryan Suter, and Nikolai Zherdev as some of its top ranked players. The Pittsburgh Penguins, perhaps with an eye on the next couple of drafts, had the third-overall pick and dialed up the Panthers.

The trade broke down like so: Florida trades the No. 1 overall-pick and No. 73 overall to Pittsburgh for No. 3 overall, No. 55 overall, and Mikael Samuelsson. Pittsburgh then used the first-overall pick to select a kid out of the QMJHL that would go on to become a cornerstone of their dynasty, Marc-Andre Fleury.

Interestingly enough, this was the second year in a row in which the Panthers trade No. 1 overall, having swapped picks with the Columbus Blue Jackets in 2002. Columbus went on to select some fella named Rick Nash from the London Knights.

2003 was the last time a first or second overall pick was traded, and it was also the last time a goalie was selected 1st overall. These types of trades just don’t happen anymore, but if one did, what would it look like? What would it take for the Rangers to willingly pass up on either Jack Hughes or Kaapo Kakko?

It’s a tough question to answer because of how important that pick is. Any team trading it would need to get back a player that they can build around for the next 8-10 years and teams don’t usually pass those guys around for mystery boxes. I think any package to the Rangers for the right to draft Kakko or Hughes has to, at the minimum include this year’s and next year’s first round picks and a young, cost-controlled, top line player. From the Vancouver hypothetical above? I think it would have to be 10th overall, 40th overall and/or a 2020 first, and one of Elias Pettersson or Brock Boeser.

There’s no way Vancouver does that trade in a million years, though I think it would take them a second. Another hypothetical could be a team like Edmonton looking to really shake things up and they go out of their skull and offer Leon Draisaitl for No. 2 straight up. It would be an absurd trade, the likes of which the NHL hasn’t really seen before and that is what makes this all the better for the Rangers. Winning the lottery and getting that second-overall pick puts them into some rather uncharted, but rather fun waters.