Late first round picks don't carry much value

By Adam Gretz | Hockey writer
The Predators would get four first round draft picks if they don't match the Flyers offer for Shea Weber. (Getty Images)

It's probably fair to say that Paul Holmgren is one of the most aggressive and fearless general managers in the NHL, and he proved it once again in the early morning hours on Thursday.

Last offseason he surprisingly rebuilt his team on the fly by trading his two best players -- Mike Richards and Jeff Carter -- for a package of young players and draft picks that amounted to Brayden Schenn, Wayne Simmonds, Jakub Voracek, and Sean Couturier.

This offseason he sent another of his young forwards -- and yet another player signed to a long-term contract -- James van Riemsdyk to the Toronto Maple Leafs for Luke Schenn.

And then he made the biggest, most shocking move of the offseason when he dove head first into the restricted free agency pool and signed Nashville Predators defenseman Shea Weber to a whopping 14-year contract worth somewhere in the neighborhood of $100 million.

Weber signs Flyers' offer sheet
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We always complain about NHL general managers ignoring the restricted free agent market for a variety of reasons (inflating player contracts, some sort of unwritten general managers code, etc.) so when news broke early Thursday it was not only a surprise, it was in some ways a welcome sight (unless, of course, you're a Predators fan) to see a general manager explore all avenues to improve his team. Holmgren's willingness to make blockbuster trades and moves reminds me in some ways of Mike Milbury when he was running the Islanders and his constant desire to make the biggest, boldest trade he could.

The only difference between the two, of course, is Holmgren's moves haven't exactly crippled a franchise. So he has that going for him.

Nashville now has seven days to match Philadelphia's huge offer, and if the Predators refuse they will receive each of the Flyers next four first-round draft picks.

On the surface, this seems like a lot for Philadelphia to give up and a lot for Nashville to receive in return. But let's keep in mind that an already strong -- and young -- Flyers team is going to be adding one of the best defensemen in the NHL. Whether or not Weber will be worth that $7-plus million cap hit 10 years from now, let alone 14 years from now, is a question that will remain unanswered until we finally have to cross that bridge (it's a safe bet that he won't be). But in the short-term it no doubt makes the Flyers a better team and adds a No. 1 defenseman to a team that was clearly lacking one.

There's a good chance that most, if not all, of those draft picks are going to be near the back end of the first round where the chances of finding an impact player drop significantly. If nothing else you have to think those picks will at least come somewhere after the 20th pick.

Let's just take a quick look at what would be the worst case scenario for Nashville: the team chooses not to match the offer, takes four first-round picks, and the Flyers remain an NHL power atop the NHL and pick near the back end of the first round more often than not. Here's a look at the players selected with picks 26-30 between 1995 and 2008.

Players selected between 26th and 30th overall between 1995 and 2008
Year26th pick27th Pick28th Pick29th Pick30th Pick
2008Tyler EnnisJohn CarlsonViktor TikhonovDaultan LevelleThomas McCollum
2007David PerronBrendan SmithNick PetreckiJim O'BrienNick Ross
2006Leland IrvingIvan VishnevskiyNick FolignoChris SummersMatthieu Corrente
2005Matt PelechJoe FinleyMatt NiskanenSteve DownieVladimir Mihalik
2004Cory SchneiderJeff SchultzMark FistricMike GreenAndy Rogers
2003Brian BoyleJeff TambelliniCorey PerryPatrick EavesShawn Belle
2002Martin VagnerMike MorrisJonas JohanssonHannu ToivonenJim Slater
2001Jason BacashihuaJeff WoywitkaAdrian FosterAdam MunroDave Steckel
2000Brian SutherbyMartin SamuelssonJustin WilliamsNiklas KronwallJeff Taffe
1999Martin HavlatAri AhonenKristian KudrocMichal SivekLuke Sellars
1998Mike Van RynScott GomezRamzi AbidJonathan CheechooKyle Rossiter
1997Kevin GrimesBen ClymerBrad DeFauwScott BarneyJean-Marc Pelletier
1996Jesse WallinCory SarichPavel SkrbekDan LaCoutureJosh Green
1995Maxim KuznetsevMarc MoroJan HlavacBrian WesenbergMike McBain

Not exactly exciting.

Again, this would be worst case scenario, but it's common sense to realize that the further back you go in the first round the less likely you are to find an impact NHL player.

Last April Derek Zona at the Copper and Blue put together a post examining the value of a first-round pick and broke it down by how likely a team was to find a top player at each spot in the first-round. Once you got beyond the top-13 your chances took a significant hit.

Picks 14-25 had a less than 30 percent chance, while picks 26-50 were under 15 percent. So even if the Flyers are giving up picks in the middle of the first round the chances of Nashville landing an elite, impact player on the level of Weber are probably not in their favor.

The risks of signing a player to a 14-year contract and whether or not he'll be worth it for the duration of that contract aside, the Flyers may not be giving up as much as it would appear. Especially since they're getting a top NHL defensemen during what should still be the prime of his career.

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @agretz on Twitter and like us on Facebook.

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