Contenders deal high draft picks at NHL trade deadline

By JOHN WAWROW, AP Hockey Writer
Red Wings general manager Ken Holland has suddenly come to appreciate how valuable first-round draft picks are when a team’s not in playoff contention at the NHL trade deadline.
“I’ve been on that on the other side,” Holland said, recalling Detroit’s heydays in the late 1990s and early 2000s, when the Red Wings were competing with Dallas, Colorado and New Jersey in vying to add top talent to strengthen their playoff run. “When those teams made a move, we were aware of it.”
The Red Wings were far from that position, sitting in a tie for 12th and five points out of contention, when the trade deadline struck on Monday afternoon. Though Holland wasn’t discounting Detroit’s chances of making a late-season push, he wasn’t exactly dealing from a position of strength.
Rather than adding a player, the Red Wings subtracted . They traded established forward Tomas Tartar to the Western Conference-leading Vegas Golden Knights for three draft picks, including a first-round selection.
“This wasn’t a rental in this case,” Holland said of Tatar, a three-time 20-goal-scorer with three years left on his contract. “But the trading of the first-round picks speaks to those teams that have had great years and feel that they’ve got to do something that really impacts their team.”
The Golden Knights weren’t the only contender giving up high draft picks on a day 18 trades were completed.
Six first-round selections — two of them conditional — were dealt Monday, the most to move on the final day of NHL trading since at least 2008, according to league figures. And no first-rounders had moved on each of the previous two trade-deadline days.
San Jose Sharks general manager Doug Wilson attributed the amount of first-rounders dealt to how tight the playoff races are, particularly in the Western Conference. Before games on Monday, six points separated the Sharks, who sit second in the Pacific Division standings, and Colorado, which was 11th in the West.
“It’s supply and demand of those players that can make a difference,” Wilson said after trading a conditional 2019 first-round pick to acquire Buffalo’s Evander Kane . “Some people would say pricey, but it almost always is pricey at this time of year when you have competitive juices flowing.”
The East-leading Tampa Bay Lightning traded a 2018 first-round pick, a conditional 2019 first-rounder and three players to acquire Rangers captain Ryan McDonagh and J.T. Miller, New York’s second-leading scorer.
The Winnipeg Jets gave up a first-round pick to add even more offense to the NHL’s fourth-best scoring team in acquiring Paul Stastny from St. Louis.
Nashville parted ways with a first-round pick to land forward Ryan Hartman from Chicago.
Those deals don’t include the first-round pick the Rangers acquired as part of the trade that sent Rick Nash to Boston on Sunday. And Pittsburgh gave up a first-round pick last week as part of a three-team trade to add Ottawa’s Derick Brassard.
Rangers GM Jeff Gorton was the big winner as far as accumulating top draft picks to help spur an overhaul of New York’s aging roster.
“There’s a lot of opportunity to grow as a team and make our team better,” he said. “I feel like we’re just starting.”
The Rangers now have three first-round picks and seven over the first three rounds, leaving Gorton with the option of using some of them in trades.
“Whatever it takes,” he said. “We’re looking forward to it. Having three picks is exciting.”
Some executives found the price of parting with a first-round pick too steep, which prevented them from making moves. They included the Columbus Blue Jackets, who gave up a third-round pick and role players in acquiring defenseman Ian Cole from Ottawa and forward Thomas Vanek from Vancouver.
“I guess we were out of that competition because we kind of established our position from the start that we don’t want to give up a first-round pick,” GM Jarmo Kekalainen said before noting the Blue Jackets dealt their 2017 first-round pick to Vegas as part of the NHL expansion draft last June.
“I can already feel the effects of the one-year hole, I definitely didn’t want to feel the effects of the two-year hole in the depth chart,” Kekalainen added. “That was a non-starter.”
AP Hockey Writers Larry Lage and Stephen Whyno, sports writers Josh Dubow and Mitch Stacy, and freelance writers Denis P. Gorman contributed to this report.
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