Whenever a team makes a trade that involves a first round pick, the team that is getting that pick in return is often regarded as "the winner" of the deal because first round picks are something that is coveted among fans and GMs in the NHL. Draft picks are treated as currency during the trade deadline and the general idea around the league seems to be that a decent player will get you a mid-round pick, a good player will net a 2nd round pick in return and a great top-six player is worth a first round pick. At least that's how things seem to go around this time of the year. Whenever a deal involving a first round pick is made, the team that gave up the pick "overpaid" for a rental while the other team got a "great return." What a lot of people fail to realize is that teams giving up first round picks at this time of year are probably selecting in 17-30 territory and a first rounder there is completely different than one in the top five.
Let's take the recent three-way trade between the Avalanche, Red Wings and Lightning as an example. The Red Wings essentially gave up a first round pick (which went to Tampa) for defenseman Kyle Quincey, who is a free agent after this year. At first glance, this looks like an overpayment for the Red Wings because "Oh my god they gave up a first round pick!" but when looking at the deal closer, it makes a lot more sense for Detroit. The Wings are going to be picking late in the first round, have a decent prospect pool and needed a 3rd pairing defenseman better than Jakub Kindl. This is a team trying to win the Stanley Cup so a pick between #20-30 doesn't mean as much to them as it does to a rebuilding team.
That's the risk you take when you trade for only draft picks. None of them are sure thing and that's especially true with ones that come in the latter half of the first round. I'm not saying that draft picks don't have any value, but not every first round picks is going to be a star and teams who want to win now are fine with dealing those away if that's what it takes to acquire a player. I think this is why you're seeing more contending teams dealing their first round picks now.
To see what kind of value first rounders have, we're going to take a look at past trades involving first round picks and what they turned into. That will start after the jump.
#5 pick: Islanders - Raffi Torres (acquired in exchange for Kevin Weekes and Kristian Kudra)
#8 pick: Lightning - Nikita Alexeev (acquired from Rangers along with Dan Cloutier, Niklas Sundstrom & Igor Radulov in exchange for 1999 1st round pick)
#11 pick Blackhawks - Pavel Vorobiev (acquired from Canucks along with Bryan McCabe in exchange for 1999 1st round pick)
#14 pick Avalanche - Vaclav Nedorost (acquired from Hurricanes along with Nolan Pratt & 2 2nd round picks in exchange for Sandis Ozolinsh)
#16 pick Canadiens - Marcel Hossa (acquired from San Jose along with 1999 5th round pick, 2001 2nd round pick in exchange for Vincent Damphousse)
#22 pick Devils - David Hale (acquired from Avalanche along with Claude Lemieux and conditional pick in exchange for Brian Rolston & 1st round pick)
#23 pick Canucks - Nathan Smith (acquired from Panthers along with Dave Gagner, Ed Jovanovski, Mike Brown & Kevin Weekes in exchange for Pavel Bure, Bret Hedican, Brad Ference & 2000 3rd round pick)
#27 pick: Bruins - Martin Samuelsson (acquired from Avalanche along with Brian Rolston, Martin Grenier & Sami Pahlsson in exchange for Ray Bourque and Dave Andreychuk)
Raffi Torres, Marcel Hossa and David Hale ended up playing in the most games among the players listed and this shows how first round picks are never a sure thing. The Sharks gave up what looks like a big package to acquire Vincent Damphousse but all they missed out on was a few unproductive seasons from Hossa and Kiel McLeod. Damphousse went onto have a couple more 20+ goal seasons as a member of the Sharks. Then you look at the Pavel Bure trade and how the first rounder the Canucks got in that deal ended up being nothing. David Hale is regarded as one of the biggest draft busts of the last 15 years and he was involved in a deal involving Brian Rolston & Claude Lemieux. In short, no team here got much value for their first round picks.
#2 pick: Senators - Jason Spezza (acquired from Islanders along with Zdeno Chara for Bill Muckalt & Alexei Yashin)
#11 pick: Coyotes - Fredrik Sjostrom (acquired from Flames in exchange for Chuck Kobasew & 2001 second round pick)
#13 pick: Oilers - Ales Hemsky (acquired from Bruins along with Anson Carter and 2001 2nd round pick in exchange for Billy Guerin & 2001 1st round pick)
#14 pick: Flames - Chuck Kobasew (see #11)
#19 pick: Bruins - Shaone Morisonn (see #13)
#23 pick: Senators - Tim Gleason (acquired from Flyers in exchange for #27 pick, 7th round pick & 2002 second round pick)
#24 pick: Panthers - Lukas Krajicek (acquired from Devils in exchange for two second round picks)
#25 pick: - Canadiens - Alexander Perezhogin (acquired from Capitals along with Jan Bulis & Richard Zednik in exchange for Danius Zubrus, Trevor Linden & 2001 2nd round pick)
#27 pick: Flyers - Jeff Woywitka (see #23)
#29 pick: Blackhawks - Adam Munro (acquired from Red Wings along with Anders Eriksson & 2001 first round pick in exchange for Chris Chelios)
#30 pick: Kings - Dave Steckel (acquired from Avalanche along with Adam Deadmarsh, Aaron Miller, Jared Aulin & 2003 1st round pick in exchange for Rob Blake & Steve Reinprecht.
Unlike the last draft, a lot of the players traded for had pretty decent careers. However, the only top-end talents here are Jason Spezza and Ales Hemsky. The other names here had good careers but I'd be hard pressed to put any of them in a top class. Gleason is a great tough minute defender but has he ever been a top-30 d-man in the league? Kobasew, Steckel, Sjostrom, Krajicek and Morissonn all lasted in the NHL for a good amount of time but neither were stars or guys that you would want to build your team around. Also fo note that these five were outside the top 10.
#1 pick: Blue Jackets: Rick Nash (acquired from Panthers for #3 pick)
#3 pick: Panthers: Jay Bouwmeester (see #1)
#4 pick: Flyers: Joni Pitkanen: (acquired from Lightning in exchange for Ruslan Fedotenko & 2 second round picks)
#9 pick: Panthers: Petr Taticek: (acquired from Flames in exchange for 1st & 4th round pick)
#10 pick: Flames: Eric Nystrom (see #9)
#13 pick: Capitals: Alex Semin (acquired from Stars in exchange for 2002 1st & 2nd round picks & 2003 6th round pick)
#14 pick: Canadiens: Chris Higgins (acquired from Oilers in exchange for #15 pick and 2002 8th round pick)
#15 pick: Oilers: Jesse Ninnimaki (see #14)
#16 pick: Capitals: Boyd Gordon (acquired from Canucks along with 2003 3rd rounder for Trevor Linden & conditional 2nd roudn pick)
#20 pick Sabers: Daniel Pallie (acquired from Blue Jackets in exchange for Mike Pandolfo & 2002 first rounder)
#23 pick Coyotes: Ben Eager (acquired from Blues along with Ladislav Nagy, Michal Handzus & Jeff Taffe in exchange for Keith Tkachuk)
#26 pick Stars: Martin Vagner (see #13)
#30 pick Thrashers: Jim Slater (acquired from Blue Jackets in exchange for 2002 2nd & 3rd round picks)
Rick Nash and Jay Bouwmeester were essentially traded for each other, so they aren't really part of thist study. Pitkanen and Semin are the best players here that were traded for pieces and the latter was a mid-round pick. Other than that, this resembles the 2001 draft where most of the players listed were good role players for most of their careers but not studs. Boyd Gordon, Eric Nystrom Chris Higgins, Daniel Paille and Jim Slater are ones that stick out. Then you have Vagner and Ninnimaki who never played in the NHL.
#1 pick Penguins: Marc-Andre Fleury (acquired from Panthers along with 3rd round pick in exchange for #3 pick & 2nd rounder)
#3 pick Panthers: Nathan Horton (see #1)
#11 pick Flyers: Jeff Carter (acquired from Coyotes along with 2002 2nd round pick in exchange for Daymond Langkow)
#16 pick Sharks: Steve Bernier (acquired from Bruins in exchgane for 2003 1st, 2nd & 4th round picks)
#17 pick Devils: Zach Parise (acquired from Oilers in exchange for 2003 1st & 2nd round picks)
#21 pick Bruins: Mark Stuart (see #16)
#22 pick Oilers: Marc Pouliot (see #17)
#25 pick Panthers: Anthony Stewart (acquired from Lightning in exchange for two 2003 second round picks & a 6th round pick)
#26 pick Kings: Brian Boyle (see Blake/Reinprecht trade)
#27 pick Kings: Jeff Tambellini (acquired from Red Wings along with Sean Avery, Maxim Kuznetsov & 2004 second round pick in exchange for Mathieu Schneider)
#28 pick Ducks: Corey Perry (acquired from Stars in exchange for two second round picks)
We have a couple trades that worked out very well for the teams moving up. The Flyers got Jeff Carter for only Daymond Langkow & a 2nd round pick and the Ducks got Corey Perry for only two second round picks. These two were both outside the top 10, as well. We also see the risks in swapping picks. The Devils traded up to take Zach Parise at #18 and gave the Oilers their first and second round picks in return. Who did Edmonton take? Marc Pouliot and JF Jacques. Oops.
This draft has a few more busts than the last couple. Bernier, Stewart and Tembellini never lived up to their first round status and Mark Stuart's been mostly a 3rd pairing defenseman for his career.
#4 pick Hurricanes: Andrew Ladd (acquired from Blue Jackets in exchange for #8 pick and 2nd rounder)
#8 pick Blue Jackets: Alex Picard (see #4)
#19 pick Rangers: Lauri Korpikoski (acquired from Flames along with 8th round pick in exchange for #24 pick and 2nd rounder)
#20 pick Devils: Travis Zajac (acquired from Stars in exchange for #22 pick & 3rd rounder)
#22 pick Sharks: Lukas Kaspar (acquired from Stars along with 5th round pick in exchange for the 28th pick and a 2nd & 3rd rounder)
#24 pick Flames: Kris Chucko (see #19)
#25 pick Oilers: Rob Schremp (acquired from Flyers along with 2005 third rounder in exchange for Mike Comrie)
#27 pick Capitals: Jeff Schultz (acquired from Bruins along with Shaone Morrisonn & a 2nd round pick in exchange for Sergei Gonchar)
#28 pick Stars: Mark Fistric (see #22)
#29 pick Capitals: Mike Green (acquired from Red Wings along with Tomas Fleischmann and 2006 fourth rounder in exchange for Robert Lang)
Let's all take this time to remember that we essentially traded Alex Picard for Andrew Ladd, who later became Tuomo Ruutu. Just thought I should mention that.
The Capitals made good use of the picks they acquried in the Gonchar and Lang tradesr respectively by acquiring two defensemen who played a big part in their rebuild and success over the last few seasons. Then you have the Oilers who took Robbie Schremp with the pick they got for Mike Comrie. It seems that Edmonton has a problem with this kind of thing.
Overall, there's a lot of really good players here but a few duds as well. Zajac and Green have gone on to be very successful while others like Lauri Korpikoski have recently hit their strides at the NHL level. Outside of Green, though, it's tough to say that any of these teams acquired a franchise player through these trades.
#8 pick Sharks: Devin Setoguchi (acquired from Thrashers for #12 pick, 2nd round pick & 7th round pick)
#12 pick Rangers: Marc Staal (acquired from Thrashers in exchange for #16 pick & 2nd rounder)
#16 pick Thrashers: Alex Bourret (see #8 & 12)
#20 pick Panthers: Kenndal McArdle (acquired from Flyers in exchange for #29 pick & 2006 2nd rounder)
#27 pick Capitals: Joe Finley (acquired from Avalanche in exchange for 2 2005 2nd round picks)
#29 pick Flyers: Steve Downie (see #20)
All of these trades were for other draft picks and not players so this is in a different category. Still, it's interesting to look at the talent differential in each draft. Here, the best player acquired through a trade was Marc Staal. The next best is probably Devin Setoguchi, who is a great player but not top-tier at all. Aside from Downie, the rest are AHL fodders.
#16 pick Sharks: Ty Wishart (acquired from Canadiens in exchange for #20 pick & 2nd rounder)
#17 pick Kings: Trevor Lewis (acquired from Wild along with Patrick O'Sullivan in exchange for Pavol Demitra)
#20 pick Sharks: David Fischer (see #16)
#23 pick Capitals: Semyon Varlamov (acquired from Predators along with Kris Beech in exchange for Brendan Witt)
#25 pick Blues: Patrik Berglund (acquried from Devils in exchange for #30 pick & 3rd round pick)
#29 pick Coyotes: Chris Summers (acquired from Red Wings along with a 5th round pick in exchange for two 2nd rouders)
#30 pick Devils: Matthew Corrente (see #25)
That #30 pick was originally Carolina's but they traded it to St. Louis for Doug Weight. Seeing how the Canes won the cup that year and they only missed out on Matt Correntte, who is young but still hasn't been able to crack the Devils NHL roster, I'd say this worked out for them. That same year, the Oilers made the risk of trading their first round pick for Dwayne Roloson and they reached the cup largely because of him. All they missed out on with that pick was Trevor Lewis, a guy who has been a 3rd/4th liner for most of his career. The Wild ended up looking like geniuses for using that pick to acquire Pavol Demitra.
Here we see the Caps making good use of their assets again by taking Semyon Varlamov with the pick they acquired for Brendan Witt. Varlamov's status as an NHL goaltender is still up in the air but he played well in Washington and they turned him into another first round pick last summer.
As far as the talent goes here, there's still a lto of guys who have yet to become stars. Berglund and Varlamov are the only established players here. The rest haven't done much in the NHL yet because they are either too young or not that good.
#9 pick Sharks: Logan Couture (acquired from Blues in exchange for #13 pick, 2nd round pick & 2008 third rounder)
#13 pick Blues: Lars Eller (see #9)
#15 pick Oilers: Alex Plante (acquired from Islanders along with Robert Nilsson & Ryan O'Marra in exchange for Ryan Smyth)
#16 pick Wild: Colton Gillies (acquired from Ducks in exchange for #19 pick & 2nd rounder)
#18 pick Blues: Ian Cole (acquired from Flames in exchange for #24 pick & 3rd rounder)
#19 pick Ducks: Logan MacMillan (see #16)
#21 pick Oilers: Riley Nash (acquired from Coyotes in exchange for #30 pick & 2nd rounder)
#22 pick Canadiens: Max Pacioretty (acquired from Sharks along with Josh Gorges in exchange for Craig Rivet & 2008 5th rounder)
#24 pick Flames: Mikael Backlund (see #18)
#26 pick Blues: David Perron (acquired from Sharks along with Ville Nieminen & Jay Barriball in exchange for Bill Guerin)
#28 pick Sharks: Nick Petrecki (acquired from Capitals in exchange for 2nd round pick & 2008 second round pick)
#30 pick Coyotes: Nick Ross (see #21)
Here's a good draft to show the risks involved with the draft. The Sharks were given a first rounder for Vesa Toskala and they used that pick to move up to the #9 picks which they took Logan Couture with. Needless to say that gamble worked out for them. They also gave up a first round pick to get Billy Guerin and the Blues ended up taking David Perron, who is turning into a fantastic hockey player.
Then there's the downside...which is the famous Ryan Smyth trade for the Oilers. The Islanders gave the Oilers a first rounder as part of their package for Smyth which sounds like a good deal. That is, until you see that they used it on Alex Plante, who has 17 points in 73 games with the Oklahoma City Barons this year.
Couture, Perron and Pacioretty are the only players here who have established themselves in the NHL but there's a lot of young players here so that could change soon. Backlund has been playing well for the Flames and Eller has a ton of potential. We'll see how they turn out.
#3 pick Thrashers: Zach Bogosian (acquired from Blues in exchange for Keith Tkachuk & a 4th round pick)
#5 pick Maple Leafs: Luke Schenn (acquired from Islanders in exchange for #7 pick, 2008 third round pick & 2009 2nd round pick)
#7 pick Predators: Colin Wilson (acquired from Islanders in exchange for #9 pick & 2nd round pick)
#9 pick Islanders: Josh Bailey (see #7)
#12 pick Sabers: Tyler Myers (acquired from Kings in exchange for #13 pick & 2009 third rounder)
#13 pick Kings: Colin Teubert (see #12)
#15 pick Senators: Erik Karlsson (acquired from Predators for #18 pick & 2009 third rounder)
#17 pick Ducks: Jake Gardiner (acquired from Kings along with #28 pick in exchange for #12 pick)
#18 pick Predators: Chet Pickard (see #15)
#19 pick Flyers: Luca Sbisa (acquired from Blue Jackets along with third rounder in exchange for RJ Umberger & fourth round pick)
#21 pick Capitals: Anton Gustafsson (acquired from Devils for #23 pick & 2nd rounder)
#22 pick Oilers: Jordan Eberle (Acquired from Ducks along with Joffrey Lupul, Ladislav Smid & Nick Ross in exchange for Chris Pronger)
#23 pick Wild: Tyler Cuma (acquired from Devils in exchange for #24 pick & 2009 third rounder)
#24 pick Devils: Mattias Tedenby (see #23)
#25 pick Flames: Greg Nemisz (acquired from Canadiens along with 2009 second round pick in exchange for Alex Tanguay & 5th round pick)
#26 pick Sabres: Tyler Ennis: (acquired from Sharks along with Steve Bernier in exchange for Brian Campbell & 7th roudner)
#27 pick Capitals: John Carlson (acquired from Flyers in exchange for Steve Eminger & third rounder)
#28 pick Coyotes: Viktor Tikhonov (acquired from Ducks in exchange for 2 2nd round picks)
#29 pick Thrashers: Dualtan Leveille (acquired from Penguins along with Angelo Esposito, Colby Armstrong & Erik Christensen in exchange for Marian Hossa & Pascal Dupuis
A lot of picks were exchanged this year and we can see that there are some great young talentes here along with some guys who aren't playing hockey anymore. What sticks out to me is how the Thrashers got more value for Keith Tkachuk than they did for Marian Hossa and most of it is because of where they were picking. The #3 pick obviously has more value than the 29th. Then again, you also have good players like John Carlson and Tyler Ennis sitting in the bottom of the round, too.
#12 pick Islanders: Calvin De Hann (acquired from Wild in exchange for #16 pick, 3rd rounder & 7th rounder)
#16 pick Wild: Nick Leddy (see #12)
#20 pick Devils: Jacob Josefson (acquired from Flames in exchange for #23 pick & 3rd rounder)
#21 pick Blue Jackets: John Moore (acquired from Ducks in exchange for #26 pick & 2nd rounder)
#23 pick Flames; Tim Erixon (see #20)
#26 pick Ducks: Kyle Palmieri (see #21)
#29 pick Lightning: Carter Ashton (acquired from Red Wings in exchange for 2009 2nd rounder)
There really isn't much to say here because all of these players are still developing and all the trades were for other picks.
#2 pick Bruins: Tyler Seguin (acquired from Maple Leafs along with 2011 first rounder in exchange for Phil Kessel)
#13 pick Coyotes: Brandon Gormley (acquired from Flames along with Matthew Lombardi & Brandon Prust in exchange for Olli Jokinen & third round pick)
#15 pick Kings: Derek Forbort (acquired from Panthers in exchange for #19 pick & 2nd rounder)
#16 pick Blues: Vladimir Tarasenko (acquired from Senators in exchange for David Rundblad)
#19 pick Panthers: Nick Bjugstad (see #15)
#22 pick Canadiens: Jarred Tinordi (acquired from Coyotes along with 4th rounder ine xchange for #27 pick & 2nd rounder)
#24 pick: Blackhawks: Kevin Hayes (acquired from Thrashers along with Marty Reasoner, Joey Crabb, Jeremy Morin & 2nd round pick in exchange for Dustin Byfuglien, Ben Eager, Brent Sopel & Akim Aliu)
#25 pick Panthers: Quinton Howden (acquired from Canucks along with Steve Bernier & Michael Grabner in exchange for Keith Ballard & Victor Oreskovich)
#26 pick Coyotes; Mark Visentin (see #22)
#29 pick Ducks: Emerson Etem (acquired From Flyers along with Joffrey Lupul, Luca Sbisa and 2009 first rounder in exchange for Chris Pronger)
#30 pick Islanders: Brock Nelson (acquired from Blackhawks for 2 2nd rounders
Here's the draft with the famous Kessel trade. Burke's plan may have blown up in his face but he obviously did not anticipate for the Leafs to be so bad that season. You have to have some foresight as a GM but many saw the Leafs being a better team on paper than they ended up being. There was a lot of value given up in the Olli Jokinen trade too seeing how the Coyotes turned him into a future top 4 defenseman and more. Florida was also able to turn Keith Ballard into a nice piece in Quinton Howden.
It's hard to say how much value any of these players have, though because most of them are still developing. You can't really say that any of them are busts yet.
#8 pick Flyers: Sean Couturier (acquired from Blue Jackets along with Jakub Voracek & 3rd round pick in exchange for Jeff Carter)
#9 pick Bruins: Dougie Hamilton (see Kessel trade)
#11 pick: Avalanche: Duncan Siemens (acquired from Blues alogn with Erik Johnson and Jay McClement in exchange for Chris Stewart, Kevin Shattenkirk & 2011 second round pick)
#19 pick Oilers: Oscar Klefbom (acquired from Kings along with 2012 third round pick in exchange for Dustin Penner)
#21 pick Senators: Stefan Noesen (acquired from Predators along with 2012 conditional pick in exchange for Mike Fisher)
#22 pick Maple Leafs: Tyler Biggs (acquired from Ducks in exchange for #30 pick & 2nd round pick)
#24 pick Senators: Matt Puempel (acquired from Red Wings in exchange for 2 2nd round picks)
#25 pick Maple Leafs: Stuart Percy (acquired from Flyers along with 3rd round pick in exchange for Kris Versteeg)
#26 pick Blackhawks; Phillip Danault (acquired from Capitals in exchange for Troy Brouwer)
#28 pick Wild: Zack Phillips (acquired from Sharks along with Devin Setoguchi and Charlie Coyle in exchange for Brent Burns & 2012 2nd rounder)
#30 pick Ducks: Rickard Rakell (see #22)
Same as the last draft but you can see how much of a difference there is between picking at the top of the round and the bottom. The Flyers turned Jeff Carter into Sean Couturier, who is already playing a regular role in the NHL. Meanwhile, the Leafs turned Kris Versteeg and Tomas Kaberle into Tyler Biggs and Stuart Percy, respectively. Neither of those players have the same PROJECTED ceiling as Dougie Hamilton or Sean Couturier and they are just as likely to be full-time NHL-ers as they are busts. We don't know yet.
The value of a first round pick depends on how deep the draft is and the GM making the selection. Some GM's and scouts are clearly better than others (sup Detroit?) and have a knack for catching talent outside in later rounds. Let's say that Allen and Ruutu were traded to contending teams, who were picking in 17-30 territory. The odds of that pick being a stud are equally as likely of it being a role player or a bust. People get wrapped up with the "value" of a first round pick because rebuilding through the draft is how it's done nowadays but they fail to see that draft picks are never a sure thing, even if it is in the first round. For every Corey Perry there's a Marc Pouliot.