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:
Talk for a potential trade package for #Coyotes' third pick has run the gamut: NHL-ready players, prospects and picks, Maloney said.— Sarah McLellan (@azc_mclellan) June 23, 2015
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?
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.
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:
- 3rd Overall Pick
- 81st Overall Pick
- Rights to C Mark Arcobello
- 8th Overall Pick
- 38th Overall Pick
- 69th Overall Pick
- LW Kerby Rychel
- C Artem Anisimov
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.