Coming down the stretch, it looked like the Minnesota Wild had a great chance at a Top-5 pick. They just needed to keep up their status quo of playing terrible hockey. A Top-3 pick was even possible, but a 6-4-1 record down the stretch moved the Wild back to 7th. While the wins were nice to see, there was still a strong contingent of fans that wanted a Top-5 pick to help the Wild with their youth movement.
Then, the Draft Lottery threw everyone a curve ball and graced the Edmonton Oilers with the #1 pick in the 2012 NHL Entry Draft. This gives Edmonton the #1 pick for the 3rd straight year. Yes, Edmonton, you are that bad. I hope insulting other fans and teams really helps you forget how badly your team sucks. I digress...
This year, the #1 consensus pick is Nail Yakupov. While he would make a great addition to any team, he doesn't make sense for Edmonton. They need a franchise defensman. They can get that in later in the 1st round, and gain some more picks. It's no secret that many think Edmonton should be looking to move down. Should the Wild move up and take a stab at #1? Make the jump as we take a look at the possibility of the Wild drafting #1.
Should the Wild be interested in #1?
In a word, yes. The Wild, for all the offensive improvements that will be filtering in, do not possess a top-tier scorer anywhere in their system. When Marion Gaborik walked, the Wild lost their one game breaker. Fletcher has tried to bring in a top-tier player, but hasn't found the mark yet. Martin Havlat didn't mix well with the atmosphere in Minnesota. The Dany Heatley trade brought in an aging "sniper" who can't create offense on his own apparently. Setoguchi has shown he's not a top-line forward. Fletcher has tried to find that one dynamic shooter, but has yet to come up big.
Considering the dearth of scoring that is Minnesota and their 30th-ranked offense, Nail Yakupov makes way too much sense. He would give Granlund that elite finisher to play opposite. He gives the franchise a goal-scoring threat for years to come. He would be another piece to help build a true contender. Nail would also allow Minnesota to move Heatley down a line and play a support role, where he may be most effective considering his age and decreasing skill.
Yakupov would also allow Fletcher and Yeo to be patient with the young guns. Yakupov is a guy who could step in and start playing in the NHL because of how far ahead of the curve he is. That gives Fletcher and Co. the options of remaining patient with the development of the incoming rookies. Phillips and Coyle probably need to play in Houston. Yes, they are dominating the Q, but that's considered the lower-tier of Canadian Juniors. A stint in Houston would help those two learn how to play against tougher and stronger competition. Yakupov would also give Fletcher the option of sending Zucker down to Houston. There were clear flaws in Zucker's game when it came to being in the right position as a professional. While The Zook has an opportunity to make the team next year, a top line of Granlund - Koviu - Yakupov basically gives Zucker the squeeze.
What would it cost?
It would be a high price tag for the #1 pick. It's hard to gauge full value based on precedent, though. Since 2000, there's only been one trade of the #1 pick. In 2003, the Panthers dealt the #1 pick and the #73 pick to Pittsburgh in exchange for the #3 pick, the #55 pick (2nd round), and Mikael Samuelsson. Assuming the price doesn't change much, that means the Wild would have to deal the #7 overall pick, the 2nd round pick that came with the Zidlicky deal, and a roster player that can help the Oilers. That player might end up being Kyle Brodziak. It's pretty steep, but Pittsburgh traded up for Fleury. The Wild would be trading up for an elite goal scorer.
Another big part of the equation is that the Wild wouldn't be the only team bidding for the #1 pick if the Oilers were dealing. If Columbus was dead set on Yakupov, they might enter the fray. Anaheim could put together a package with Bobby Ryan and a pick for the #1 just to clear some cap space while still getting back a good player. The Flames have to replace Iginla someday, and Yakupov could do that. I think you see where I'm going with this. There are plenty of teams that could use a franchise scorer and would be willing to deal if Edmonton puts #1 in play.
So let's say the Wild traded the #7 pick, their 2nd-round pick, and Brodziak for the #1 and Edmonton's 5th-round pick. There's a real chance that's not enough. Do they then add Zucker into the mix? Is Yakupov worth the #7, a 2nd round, Brodziak, and Zucker. He very well could be, and he very well could be a bust. It's a lot to gamble on a guy who's never played one professional game in his career; however, as the saying goes, "You have to give a lot to get a lot."
Should the Wild make the move?
This is where it really gets tough. Yes, the Wild desperately need a goal scorer. Yes, Yakupov is an instant upgrade over anyone on the roster. Yes, Yakupov would be the perfect compliment for Granlund for years to come. There's a lot to like about a deal like this. It just comes down to cost. How much are the Wild willing to give up?
Personally, I would deal #7, a 2nd-round pick, and Brodziak if it meant the Wild got to draft Yakupov. It would be tough to lose Brodziak and the 2nd, but a talent like Yakupov is rare. He's what the franchise needs to generate excitement. He can bring people back to the X and get people out of their seats with his dynamic ability with the puck. A Granlund - Yakupov pairing could rival anything that RNH - Hall can do for the next 10-12 years.
Your turn, Wilderness. Would you make a move for the #1 Draft Pick? What would you be willing to give up to move to #1? What wouldn't you give up?