Over the years, Nashville has sat out the first round three times because of trading away their first pick, and almost made it a fourth. Sometimes this has turned out better than others, sometimes it didn't go very well at all until it came around again in an indirect way.
What was the consequence of those trades? What did the players that were acquired do with the Predators, and what did those picks turn into for the other team?
The 2006 Draft
In 2005-2006, the Washington Capitals were almost ready to come out of their rebuild, and a fresh-faced 20-year-old Russian named Alex Ovechkin was just starting his NHL career. But after 10 seasons with the Capitals, Brendan Witt wanted a better chance to play for the Stanley Cup, and he let the Washington brass know.
McPhee was disappointed when Witt went public with his desire to be traded rather than endure one or more noncompetitive years in Washington as the Capitals rebuild. Still, McPhee agreed to trade him, but only when the right deal came along.
It took until March of 2006 to grant his wish. David Poile acquired Witt for a first and Kris Beech. He played only 17 games for the Predators, scoring no goals, three assists, and amassing 68 penalty minutes. Nashville was bounced out of the playoffs in the first round, losing to the San Jose Sharks in five games. Witt walked in the summer to sign a three-year deal with the New York Islanders.
To make matters worse, the Capitals picked future Vezina finalist Semyon Varlamov 23rd overall with Nashville's pick. Varlamov went on to play 59 games for the Caps, becoming a starter for a time and taking the playoffs by storm in his rookie season. He dethroned Jose Theodore, won a round, and made one of the best saves on Sidney Crosby that's ever happened.
However, contract disputes and threats to bolt for the KHL led the Caps to trade him to the Colorado Avalanche for a 1st and 2nd. As we've discussed before, this became very important for the Predators, because with Colorado's pick (11th overall) the Capitals selected Filip Forsberg in 2012.
Talk about a long play.
The 2011 Draft
To gear up for a playoff run, Nashville dealt for Mike Fisher ahead of the 2011 Trade Deadline. The center had spent his entire career with the Ottawa Senators, but gave the Preds a productive center they were going to need to win a round or two. That's exactly what they did when they vanquished the Anaheim Ducks to win the first-ever playoff series in franchise history. Though they would fall to the Vancouver Canucks in six games in the Western Conference Semifinals, Fisher did his part by producing three goals and four assists in 12 games.
Considering Fisher was signed for another two years after that spring, and they re-signed him for two years after that contract was done, giving up a 1st and a conditional pick (3rd round) has paid dividends. With the 21st pick in 2011, Ottawa selected forward Stefan Noesen, who never played a game for them. He was dealt to Anaheim, (along with Jakob Silfverberg and a first of their own) in the trade that sent Bobby Ryan to Ottawa.
As far as the conditional pick, they chose Jarrod Maidens in the 3rd round of 2012. Unfortunately, a concussion he sustained as a 17-year-old with the Owen Sound Attack of the OHL derailed his career. The now 21-year-old has hung up his skates for good.
The 2012 Draft
In another move to bolster the roster for a deep playoff run, Nashville dealt its first pick for the second year in a row. This time, the return was Paul Gaustad and a 4th in 2013. It was thought of as a sever overpayment at the time and, in many ways, it still is. Though despite the insane contract extension he was signed to at the end of that year, Goose is still a pillar of the Predators roster.
The pick ended up being 23rd overall, but Buffalo sent that and the 42nd overall to Calgary in exchange for 14th overall. With that pick, the Sabres selected Latvian superstar Zemgus Girgensons. Calgary then used Nashville's pick to take Mark Jankowski, who is still playing in the NCAA for Providence. His debut may be on the horizon.
It's still too early to tell whether Jankowski will make an impact on the NHL or not, but the Preds may have plucked a jewel out of the fourth round with the pick Buffalo gave them. Nashville took Juuse Saros 99th overall in 2013. The Finnish netminder could possibly be the one to supplant Pekka Rinne when the time comes.
The 2007 Draft
This would have been another year the Preds twiddled their thumbs, were it not for the Philadelphia Flyers. Nashville sent a haul to pry an aging Peter Forsberg out of Philly, which included a 1st and 3rd round pick, Ryan Parent and Scottie Upshall, both of whom were former 1st round picks. Forsberg lasted all of 17 games, and another five in the playoffs before going back to Colorado the next year.
Thankfully (?) the Flyers weren't done, and sent the first round pick back to Nashville in exchange for fan favorites Scott Hartnell and Kimmo Timonen. They seized the opportunity and took Jonathon Blum 23rd overall. So, um... yeah.
Without sacrificing three picks, Nashville wouldn't have Fisher, Gaustad, Saros, and in a very, very indirect way, Filip Forsberg. (Of course, they wouldn't have had 17 games each of Witt and the other Forsberg either.) So far, Varlamov has been the only one of the players chosen with their former picks to make an impact in the league. Who even knows who the Preds would have taken in those spots, and that's thinking for another time.
Giving up the 2015 pick has already gone down as a failure because of the on ice performance of the return. While Toronto may get a talented player, at least we've seen that picks in the mid-20s don't automatically haunt the deal.