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2015 NHL Draft: Could the Coyotes and the Jackets swap picks?

Could the Arizona Coyotes and Columbus Blue Jackets get together for a blockbuster deal?

Russell LaBounty-USA TODAY Sports

If Don Maloney is going to trade the Arizona Coyotes' third overall pick in the 2015 NHL Entry Draft, it's going to be for a big return. Perhaps the Columbus Blue Jackets are willing to make it happen.

Aaron Portzline of the Columbus Dispatch reported last night that GM Jarmo Kekalainen and the Blue Jackets may be one of the two teams making a serious push to move up to the third spot in the draft. Although Coyotes' GM Don Maloney has not stated any particular team has interest, he has suggested that a major return is involved:

So how suitable are the Columbus Blue Jackets for Arizona's needs? And do the Jackets have a powerful enough incentive to move up the pecking order in Florida this weekend?

Columbus' Needs

If the Jackets are in fact trying to move up, they're doing so for one reason and one reason only: Noah Hanifin. Despite late pushes from Dylan Strome and Mitch Marner, Hanifin remains the consensus third best player - and best defenseman - in the draft class this year.

For a team that is likely going to lose Mike Reilly to free agency this summer, Columbus could use a bona fide blue chip prospect to man their blue line in the future. Hanifin seems perfect for that role.

Columbus is a team whose draft position (#8 overall) is not indicative of their roster quality; the team was plagued by injuries to key contributors all season. They are primed to bounce back and bounce back quickly.

Arizona's Needs

The Coyotes by contrast could use help almost everywhere. Their defense was not particularly good, and their offense has only historically bad Buffalo to thank for avoiding the basement of the NHL. The team is still searching for a #1 center to stack up against the powerhouses in the Western Conference, and overall the Coyotes have forwards playing minutes they really shouldn't be.

Yet, it's difficult to argue that Hanifin is not the best player available at #3. Sure, Strome and Marner have incredibly high upside. But so do Matthew Barzal, Pavel Zacha, and Timo Meier. Should the Coyotes pass up on Hanifin to draft one of many talented forwards? Or do the Coyotes take Hanifin and leave their most glaring weakness unaddressed?

Suitable Dance Partners?

A Columbus-Arizona trade makes a lot of sense for both teams. The Coyotes need more picks, prospects, and players (a "plickspect", in the immortal words of Sean McIndoe). The Blue Jackets need a stud on defense to replace Reilly, but don't need him right now.

So what could an eventual package look like? It's tough to say, since the third overall pick changes hands very infrequently. But here's what I believe would be a possible deal:

Columbus Receives:

  • 3rd Overall Pick
  • 81st Overall Pick
  • Rights to C Mark Arcobello
Arizona Receives
  • 8th Overall Pick
  • 38th Overall Pick
  • 69th Overall Pick
  • LW Kerby Rychel
  • C Artem Anisimov
Arizona would add an extra second round pick, which they could package with their #30 and #32 selections to move up into the early 20s in the first round. They'd also get a left wing prospect that their system desperately needs in Rychel, as well as a center in Anisimov. And of course, they would still have the opportunity to draft a talented forward at #8 overall, or even a defenseman like Zach Werenski or Ivan Provorov if they wished.

Columbus would be able to grab Hanifin at the #3 spot, while spacing out their selections in the third round. Moving Rychel would also give 2014 first rounder Sonny Milano a chance to join 2013 1st rounders Alexander Wennberg and Marko Dano with the parent club.

Final Thoughts

A third overall pick is almost always a guarantor of an excellent prospect. There's a reason picks that high don't change hands very often. But Don Maloney owes it to himself to listen, and if Columbus comes calling with a huge return, then perhaps the Coyotes should make a huge splash before the Draft begins.