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NHL draft trades: The price of moving up into the top ten picks

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A lot of people have been suggesting that the Flyers should trade up into the first 10 picks of this year's draft to get one of the top defensive prospects. However, I think people are overestimating how likely that is and underestimating the cost.

Let's take a look at the draft pick trades since the lockout.

The first thing that jumps out at me is that it just doesn't happen very often. There have only been four trades that involved a top-10 pick, plus the Phil Kessel deal which included two picks that ended up being in the top ten. It would seem that teams generally just aren't all that interested in moving down.

When they do move down, they generally don't move down very far. Unless a player like Kessel or Jeff Carter is involved -- and I don't think people are suggesting the Flyers should move Claude Giroux to get a top-10 pick -- no team picking as low as the Flyers has moved up even into the top half of the first round since the lockout.

So a team trading down that far would be rare, but the few trades that have happened still give us a view of what the cost might be.

  • 2008: Maple Leafs trade pick #7, a future second-round pick, and pick #68 for pick #5
  • 2008: Predators trade pick #9 and pick #40 for pick #7
  • 2007: Sharks trade pick #13 and pick #44 for pick #9

At that top part of the draft, just moving up a couple of spots costs something like an early-second round pick. Let's look at what the Flyers would have to give up to get into the range where an early-second could get them into the top ten.

  • 2008: Kings trade pick #17 and pick #28 for pick #12
  • 2008: Sabres trade pick #13 and a future third-round pick for pick #12
  • 2009: Islanders trade pick #16, pick #77, and pick #182 for pick #12
  • 2008: Senators trade pick #18 and a future third-round pick for pick #15
  • 2010: Kings trade pick #19 and pick #59 for pick #15
  • 2006: Sharks trade pick #20 and pick #53 for pick #16
  • 2007: Wild trades pick #19 and pick #42 for pick #16

So at #20, the Flyers should expect to give up a second-round pick to move to something like 15th or 16th, another second round pick to get to the 12th or 13th range, and another second round pick to get into the top 10.

Of course, with no second-round picks in this draft, that probably isn't the route they'll take, but the point is that getting into the top ten will cost them the #20 pick and something with value comparable to three second-round picks.

Given that late-first-round picks have often been traded for two second-round picks, I suspect that even the 20th pick and next year's first rounder wouldn't be enough.

People who are thinking that the 20th pick and Sergei Bobrovsky would be an enticing package for Tampa Bay at #10 are either wildly overvaluing a goalie who is 31st out of 39 in save percentage over the last two years or wildly undervaluing the cost of moving up in the first round. Very few teams have traded top-ten picks away at all, and if a team was tempted, it would certainly cost more than spare parts to move all the way up from 20th.