Why would Edmonton trade the 1st Overall pick? The second Edmonton won the Draft Lottery everyone started to compare them to the Quebec Nordiques who also got the 1st Overall pick three years in a row. Quebec would win the Stanley Cup five seasons later as the Colorado Avalanche, guess how many of those 1st Overall picks were on that Stanley Cup winning team. If your guess was "a big fat zero" then you'd be right. In fact only one of them ever played a game as Colorado Avalanche, Owen Nolan, who played 9 games before being traded at the beginning of the season. Quebec/Colorado traded their top prospects for players that would help them win the Cup, for instance Sandis Ozolinsh who Colorado got from the Sharks for Owen Nolan, was the Avalanche's top defenseman when they won the Cup in 1996.
As this post season has shown that just because a team has the best players doesn't guarantee them playoff success. Pittsburgh might have the two best players in the game, but that didn't stop them from being bounced in the first round. Same goes for the Vancouver Canucks who have the Art Ross winners from the previous two seasons. Chicago touts three superstars in Toews, Kane, and Sharp, not to mention Marian Hossa who went down in game 3 of their series. But at they all faired better than the Tampa Bay Lightning, who boasted a 60 goal scorer and a 2011 MVP finalist in Steven Stamkos and Martin St. Louis respectively, who were left out of the playoffs entirely.
There is a very good chance that Taylor Hall, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, and Nail Yakupov are all going to be stars in the NHL. Jordan Eberle and Sam Gagner are also probably going to be very good players, if Eberle isn't already a star. Edmonton also has a few great offensive prospects in Magnus Paajarvi, Linus Omark, both of whom haven't played up to potential but are still great prospects, as well as Tobias Rieder who scored 84 points in the OHL this season and is having a "Girouxian" performance in the playoffs averaging nearly two points a game. That is nine great prospects all under the age at 25. There is just one problem: they are all basically they same player. They are small, or play small, with tons of skill. And with the exception of Ryan Nugent-Hopkins none of them are centers. None of them are big, Paajarvi is the biggest at 6'2, but he has only 40 hits over a season and a half. The Lottery Line of Eberle, Nugent-Hopkins, and Hall combined for 127 hits this season, by comparison Brayden Schenn totaled 136 in less games than any one of those players. These last few post seasons have shown that the Road to the Stanley Cup is marched by teams with size and physicality.
Nail Yakupov, the projected 1st Overall pick, is similar to the other forwards on the Oilers. He's loaded with skill but he stands only 5'10. Most of the forwards that are projected to go near the top of the 2nd round are also small, with the exception of a 6'3 center from a Connecticut High School, which while he looks perfect on paper (size and a center!) he is the riskiest player projected to go in the top 60 due to the fact he hasn't played against as high of a level of competition. A lot of people think Edmonton need to go out and draft all defensemen, they were projected to take the top defenseman available, Ryan Murray of the Everett Silvertips, when they were projected to pick 2nd in this years draft. But Edmonton has some pretty great defensive prospects in their system right now. The Oilers have six defensive prospects standing between 6'2 and 6'6, including two 6'6 defensemen. One of those 6'6 defensemen, Martin Gernat, put up 55 points in 60 games playing for the best team in the WHL. Another is Oscar Klefbom, their other 2011 first round draft pick who was the top defenseman during the World Junior Championship this past year. I'm not saying that Edmonton doesn't need help defensively, but they're not going to take Ryan Murray of Nail Yakupov because they need defensive help.
THIS IS WHERE THE FLYERS COME INTO THIS
I know I put the Flyers in the title and it took me four paragraphs to get to them, but the Flyers could put together a great package to send to the Edmonton Oilers in exchange for Nail Yakupov. The first big piece of that package would be James van Reimsdyk. JVR is a great prospect, JVR is a big physical player, and JVR was money in the bank last year in the Playoffs. JVR is also going to have a $4.25 cap hit for the next 6 years, and JVR's best season (scoring 40 points) would be Jakub Voracek's 4th best season (Voracek's rookie season he had 38 points). Why is that relevant? Next year JVR will make $2 million more than what Voracek made this year. Voracek is a Restricted Free Agent at the end of the season, if we want to keep him we will have to pay him at least $4.25 million a year. You can not justify paying Jakub Voracek less than JVR. Voracek has more points and plays on the penalty kill. And if your one of the people saying "JVR is young! He's still going to get better!", well Jakub Voracek went only 5 picks after JVR in the same draft, so he's just as young. There is a lot of upside to JVR, he's just in a really awkward position in Philly. The team can win without him and his contract is going to do more harm than good to the Flyers in the future. But he is exactly what the Edmonton Oilers need, a big strong forward who plays physical and has Stanley Cup experience.
Another player that would probably be involved in a trade for the 1st Overall pick would be Andrej Meszaros. Erik Gustavsson has proven he is an NHL defenseman, Grossmann and Coburn are both signed for the next four years, and Ryan Suter is still very much in the picture for the Flyers regardless of how well Nashville does in the playoffs. And if Pronger's career is done, though there is no guarantee that it is, Paul Holmgren will be on the prowl for another superstar defenseman. Not to mention Kimmo Timonen is still an All-Star. Andrej Meszaros is in a similar position to JVR in that the team shows they can win without him. Another problem is that Meszaros' style of play is different to where the Flyers defensive style is going. Meszaros was stud when the Flyers' defensive style was based on the D-men galloping out of the defensive zone and start the rush. Every defensive pairing had guy who could rush the puck. But now following the bevy of injuries on the blue line and the new acquisitions at the trade deadline the Flyers style has changed. The Flyers defense now stays at home and the offense now rushes the puck out of the defensive zone. Even guys who used to rush the puck like Timonen and Carle are standing back and playing more defensive hockey. This style works, the Pittsburgh series not withstanding, the Flyers were the best defensive team in the league during March, and will likely go back to being an incredible defensive team once again. I mean, even Andreas Lilja is playing well with this new style. Edmonton's defensive corp is big and slow, Meszaros provides them with the size and physical play their current defensemen do while providing other dynamics like speed and scoring.
So right now the deal is James van Reimsdyk and Andrej Meszaros for the 1st Overall pick. A lot of Flyers fans would cringe and say "we're giving up too much", while Edmonton fans are saying "that's not enough for the 1st Overall pick", and sorry Philly fans, but those fellas from Alberta are right. Flyers fans have an emotional connection to JVR and Mesz, so they value them more than other teams, who see their values decreasing because the Flyers can win without them. To get the 1st Overall pick I think the Flyers would also have to send two centers to Edmonton. The first is 2011 draft pick Nick Cousins, who was a top 10 scorer in the OHL this seasons with 88 points. Cousins is small, only 5'11, but he has a much more physical style of play than any of the players on Edmonton. The other center would Ben Holmstrom of the Phantoms. Holmstrom would have made the Flyers lineup this year as the teams 4th line center had it not been for Sean Couturier being such a strong defensive player. Holmstrom is a defensive forward and a leader, he wears the C for the Phantoms, and he could easily be Edmonton's 3rd or 4th line center next season.
Along with getting the 1st Overall pick from the Oilers, I believe the Flyers could pick up one of Edmonton's defensive prospects. Not one of their top prospects like Oscar Klefbom or Martin Gernat, but a player like Kyle Bigos. Bigos is 6'5, 230 lbs, and currently plays for Merrimack College in the NCAA. Bigos fits into the Flyers new defensive mold, playing in a similar style to Nicklas Grossmann.
This deal would help both teams involved get closer to the cup.
James van Reimsdyk
1st Overall pick in the 2012 Draft (Nail Yakupov)