The Trade Debate: Draft Preview Part I

Blue Jackets' GM Scott Howson

As the offseason embarks, “The Cannon” will feature a six part draft special leading up to our picks in the 09 selection show.

The first of the six topics will be regarding our first round pick. There are rumblings in CBJ fandom that the first round draft pick should be on the trade table. The belief is that if we could add an NHL ready piece. We would improve our team for next year and the mid-first rounder may not impact for 4-5 seasons. There is some logic in that, but I believe it is flawed logic. We have to keep this pick.

If it hasn’t been noticed, Columbus is a small market franchise. We will never concern ourselves with the cap, because we have our own internal budget. We operate under a completely different set of rules than bigger market teams.

Our first and best way to acquire talent is through the draft. These players save dollars over UFA and save assets in trades. We have to draft well to succeed. EVERY team has to draft well. Simply look at the Detroit roster and check out their loads of draft picks. San Jose is a similar story. If you look at the recent drafting of St. Louis, you’ll see how they turned it around.

FACT: We have already dealt the second round pick along with Pazzy for Vermette. Can you imagine missing the first two rounds? I know it seems easy to dismiss the value of the draft because in a lot of ways it is a crap shoot, but it will always be this way. We cannot afford to miss the first two rounds this year. What happens if we roll around to the trade deadline next year… could we then trade our first rounder after skipping the 09 draft? No way. Scott Howson understands this.

The way you will have long term success in a cap league is to a flowing pipeline of young cheap talent. Having great contracts is also a tremendous success. We know Datsyuk, Lidstrom, and Hossa are great players… but they are not way Detroit is a great team, it is Franzen at 900K, Hudler at 1.015, Ericcson at 900K and then Zetterberg was signed at 2.65. This is how you can afford to stock your team with big ticket talent. The problem comes when these cheap players want new contracts. They will need a new batch of Franzen, Hudler, and Ericcson to continue to have success.

In my opinion, next year is a huge year for the Hawks. Kane and Toews will be on their last year of their first contracts. That is their last chance to bubble around them some short term big deal contracts. We’ve seen teams like Tampa, Ottawa, and Colorado fall flat because they quit producing these young cheap players.

All of this is intended to emphasize the importance of economics of the game. You will only get the cheap contracts from the draft.

I’d even suggest that we need to trade down in this draft to try and pick up a second round pick. Only a handful of great players are selected in the top 10. The vast majority of great players get claimed later. Once Filatov graduates from our prospect pool, it looks surprisingly thin.

Ask yourself the following question: In our series against Detroit, did it show that we were a couple players away or a couple years away? I think it is obvious we were not just a couple players away. Dealing for a vet would not improve us enough to make up that difference. Adding the vet’s salary would not help us in the long run. We need to be patient.  We need to allow Brassard, Filatov, and Voracek to grow and mature. That is where we will find success.

We will need the next batch after Russell, Mason, Voracek, Brassard, Filatov, and Dorsett get off of their entry year deals. We need to keep the pipes fresh. We need the cheap contracts to be competitive. Food for thought,  Mason +Russell + Voracek +Brassard +Filatov + Dorsett = Martin Havlat’s salary. Moneyball folks, Moneyball folks.

With ALL that said, if the pick does happen to be on the table. What could we be looking at? We’d likely be looking at a player like Umberger last year. An RFA on a team close to the cap. We all would agree that Umberger deal worked out well, but after scanning the RFA lists for this year, the only player that I see that could be of interest would be Brandon Dubinsky. I’d maybe perk up a bit if it came to that, but he’s the only one on those lists.

Keep the pick. Make the pick and wait till March next year to debate 2010 pick.

Fire Away. What would you do with the pick?

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