Should the Predators acquire another high pick? That probably depends on your view of what is the Predators' window of opportunity? Has it opened now? Is it a couple years from opening? Will it close when Pekka hits 35 in 5 years? Maybe when Weber hits 35 in 8 years?
The window hinges on Weber being in his prime and the window MUST open within 3 years. We need players that will be lethal on the ice 3 seasons from now for this window to open.
Before getting to the draft, let's briefly look at our current roster players that will be the core in 3 years. In 3 years the top defensive lines would/should be Weber/Josi and Klein/Bartley. I like the promise here. The goalie would be Pekka. Got to love him! The top offensive lines would/should be Forsberg/Wilson/Hornqvist and ThisYear'sPick/Smith/Beck.
Hold up! That 2nd line has way too many unproven players on it. The 1st line isn't in much better shape and may be more of a 2nd line. There are probably about 4 more prospects that could conceivably fill a spot or two on those lines, but any way that it shakes out probably results in lines that don't really SCARE the other team. Hopefully, Wilson turns into at least a 2nd line Center. Those 4 other prospects are Budish, Leipsic, Cehlin, Aberg.
Let's go back to this "we need players to be lethal on the ice in 3 seasons." Not many prospects can develop into lethal players 3 years after the draft (See Wilson's development as Exhibit A for not quite making that time frame). There are probably 4 forward prospects that fit this bill. MacKinnon, Drouin, Barkov, Nichuskin. Looking at the draft, we are likely to have Barkov and Nichuskin as our best forward options at #4. I especially like Barkov's ability to fill the need at Center as a 1st or 2nd liner in that time frame. Nichuskin can probably fill a top line spot in that time frame too, but I feel Center is a much bigger need (Sounds iffy on whether Nichuskin can play center) and harder to find since there are more Wingers in the world than Centers.
Does sliding Barkov's name into the lines above make it look SCARY? No. If he is a Toews level player, then it starts to move in that direction. However, we need more and if we are to get it in the draft we need it NOW! The good news is that the Predators actually have an abundance of desirable assets to trade.
Prospect Assets: Ellis, Ekholm, Bartley, Budish, Leipsic, Cehlin, Aberg, Beck, Blum, Hellberg, Vesey
Roster Assets: Smith, Bourque, Spaling, Legwand, Kostitsyn, Halischuk, Gill, Klein
These are probably the most desirable assets that aren't must have core players. Losing 3 or 4 of these players won't hurt the team very much.
I've done some research to see what it might take to acquire another top draft pick. I still find myself very uncertain. It seems flipping next year's (2014) 1st round pick, a mid round pick this year (Maybe this year's 4th), and a roster player with potential might do the trick. Nashville may have to give up another roster player depending on which players are involved.
Which teams might be willing to part with their high pick in this loaded draft? The two targets I see are the Flames at 6 and Sabres at 8. These 2 teams are good targets because they both are high in the draft order and have multiple 1st round picks this year.
Using Cullen's off season game plan from TSN as a vague guide as to team needs, the Flames need two top six forwards, one top four defenceman, another defenceman, starting goaltender. The Sabres need two top-six forwards, two top-four defencemen, another defenceman.
For the Flames top pick the Predators give up their 2014 1st round pick, Ellis, Beck, and 2013 5th rounder.
For the Sabres top pick the Predators give up their 2014 1st round pick, Ellis, Beck and 2013 5th rounder.
Now we assume one of the above happens or something close. Maybe we need to give up significantly more, but it's still a workable trade even then. The Predators have plenty of assets to make this happen. This first trade is the part I feel most uncertain about knowing what to give up, but I feel it is something Poile could and should make happen.
It's this next part that seems more possible. If we get the #6 or #8 pick, then we use it to trade up to #1 or #2. It seems in the past you could possibly trade up from this spot by using the acquired first rounder plus a couple picks around round 3 and a decent prospect. I looked largely at details of how Burke acquired the Sedins in looking at this trade value.
Cullen's needs for Avalanche are: One top pair defenceman, depth forwards, starting goaltender.
Cullen's needs for Panthers are: Three top six forwards, one top pair defenceman, starting goaltender.
To get #1 from the Avalanche, the Predators trade the previously acquired #6 or #8 pick, 2013 3rd round pick, Kostitsyn, and 2014 5th round pick. The Preds might need to throw in Spaling. Another option might be the acquired pick, Hellberg, Kostitsyn, and a mid round pick.
Now, the question might be raised, let's say we now have the #1 and #4 pick...why do we need to go so high and get the #1 pick if we can get Barkov at #4? Why not go after #2 or #3? If we get the #1, then Nashville targets MacKinnon with it. This gives us an even better option at Center (probably) and leaves #4 to be flexible between Winger or still adding Barkov. I also believe the Avalanche are very open to trading down and taking one of the other top Defensemen that would still be available at #6 or #8 since defensemen are their biggest need. A defenseman such as Darnell Nurse may fit this bill for them.
You might also be looking at the players the Predators are giving up or the depth and thinking it's too much for the team to do and not sink. For the next couple of seasons we need to keep in mind that the Predators have too many of the "same type players" as Trotz and Poile have said. Well, time to use up some of those "same type players" in a trade. Here's an idea of what the lines might look like in 3 years if these trades happened.
Line 1: LW Wilson C MacKinnon RW Forsberg
Line 2: LW Leipsic C Barkov RW Hornqvist
Line 3: LW Bourque C Watson RW Aberg
Line 4: LW Clune C Gaustad RW Halischuk
Line 1 Weber/Josi
Line 2 Klein/Bartley
Line 3 Ekholm/Blum
Pekka and whoever as the backup.
Obviously, there could be some leftover veterans still around like Fisher or Leggy, but this gives you an idea of what players might be involved. Notice there could still be several other decent prospects like Smith, Cehlin, Budish, or Vesey that could step up or add injury depth plus whoever else we are able to draft over the next few years. Also note, Weber's actual cost starts to drop 4 seasons from now, so money becomes less tight then.
For the above reasons and a few others not touched on here (Ex: keeping Weber happy here) I feel the time is now for the Predators to be aggressive at the draft and acquire 2 of the top 4 forward prospects. This would open a very strong and long window of opportunity by at least 3 seasons from now and probably still have some chance even sooner.
I'm especially interested in hearing your thoughts on the trades. What do you think it would take to get the Flames' or Sabres' top pick? What do you think it would take to convert that pick into the #1 pick?