Maple Leafs need to make deal with Oilers for top pick in 2012 NHL entry draft
We cannot say this for sure, but ever since Edmonton Oilers general manager Steve Tambellini said that the No. 1 pick he received in Tuesday’s draft lottery could be available for trade, you have to believe that the first call he received was from Maple Leafs general manager Brian Burke … or KHL president Alexander Medvedev.
The KHL could use Nail Yakupov — considered the top prospect — and they might get him if the NHL fails to negotiate a new collective bargaining agreement with the players before the start of next season. But the Leafs, who have the fifth-overall selection, truly need this No. 1 pick. Not so much because it will help the team, but because it will help erase the bad feeling in everyone’s mouth after a lousy second half to the season.
There might not be a whole lot of difference separating the first from the fifth overall selection in this year’s draft, but a No. 1 pick provides hope for the future. People throw draft parties and envision that the fresh-faced 18-year-old will develop into a franchise-saving star like Sidney Crosby or Steven Stamkos.
Yakupov could be that type of player. While he does not address Toronto’s need for a big centre, the dynamic winger appears to possess Pavel Bure-type speed and is the consensus top prospect in a draft that is lacking in “sure things.”
“For us, his skill-set stands out,” NHL Central Scouting director Dan Marr said. “He’s a very exciting player.”
That — perhaps more than anything else — is needed in Toronto right now. And unlike in 2009 when Burke was gunning for the right to draft John Tavares with the first-overall pick, the team might finally have the assets necessary to pull it off.
So what is it going to cost? Well, for starters, a defenceman. In the last five drafts, the Oilers have selected Taylor Hall (first overall), Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (first), Magnus Paajarvi (10th), Jordan Eberle (22nd) and Sam Gagner (sixth). Where they could need help is on defence. But the top defenceman in this year’s draft, Ryan Murray of the Everett Silvertips, might not go higher than fourth or fifth overall.