By virtue of winning the NHL’s 2018 Draft Lottery last night, the Buffalo Sabres just lifted themselves out from the distinction of having the worst luck of any NHL team. Sure, the Sabres have missed out on superstars like Aaron Ekblad, Connor McDavid and Auston Matthews during their nearly decade long rebuild, but with the opportunity to select franchise defenseman Rasmus Dahlin first overall in the upcoming 2018 NHL Entry Draft, the teams’ fortunes changed literally overnight. Ekblad, McDavid and Matthews have all single handedly changed the future forecast their respective teams, Dahlin is now in the position to do the same for the Sabres. Throw Jack Eichel and Sam Reinhart into the mix and you have the start of something pretty special. It’s amazing how the fate of a franchise can depend so much on the bounce of a Draft Lottery ping pong ball.
So, now that the Sabres have managed to rid themselves of their status as the NHL’s most unlucky team, who ascends to the thrown? It may very well be the hard luck Arizona Coyotes. Despite finishing with the third worst record in the NHL last season, the Coyotes were leap frogged by both the Montreal Canadiens and Carolina Hurricanes in the draft lottery, moving down from the third overall pick to the fifth overall spot. Ouch. The Coyotes suffered a similar fate last season when they were leapfrogged by the Dallas Stars and Philadelphia Flyers. Double ouch.
So, with no sure fire top prospect in their sights at this June’s 2018 NHL Entry Draft, what’s the plan? Trade, trade trade.
Coyotes general manager John Chayka was interviewed by the Arizona Republic’s Richard Morin this weekend, where he spared no details regarding his team’s offseason game plan.
“I’ll definitely be active,” Chayka said of trading around the draft. “There’s no doubt about that. I think that’s an opportunity to make some moves and it’s an opportunity for us to improve our group. … Ultimately, you need someone to say ‘yes.’
“As the draft comes, you try to be more active as well.”
Does this mean we could see another draft day blockbuster like the one that Chayka struck last year with the New York Rangers? You may recall that the Coyotes traded their 7th overall selection along with defenseman Anthony DeAngelo in exchange for Derek Stepan and Antti Raanta. Could Chayka have another trick like this up his sleeve?
“I’m not against anything but it depends where we are picking,” he said to ArizonaSports.com’s Craig Morgan. “I find it far-fetched to believe that I would trade two top-10 picks in back-to-back years, but you never say never.”
Could we finally see a solution to the Oliver Ekman-Larsson saga in Arizona? If Chayka were to put OEL on the trade market, there’s no doubt that he’d attract huge interest across the league. Then there’s the case of former top prospect Max Domi who seems to have taken a step back the past two seasons. Dylan Strome’s stalled development continues to hamstring a young Coyotes squad, as well.
There’s still lots of work to be done by Chayka in the Arizona desert before the Coyotes can ice a competitive team once again, but to his credit it doesn’t appear as though he has any reservations about making the necessary changes.