The 2023 NHL draft will be held on June 28 and 29 at Bridgestone Arena in Nashville, Tennessee. This year's prospect pool features potential future stars such as Connor Bedard of the Western Hockey League's Regina Pats and Hobey Baker Award winner Adam Fantilli of the University of Michigan.
With such a promising draft class, one would assume teams would retain their first-round picks.
Since the 2022 NHL trade deadline, however, 11 teams—the Boston Bruins; Dallas Stars; Edmonton Oilers; Florida Panthers; Los Angeles Kings; New Jersey Devils; New York Islanders; New York Rangers; Ottawa Senators; Tampa Bay Lightning; and Toronto Maple Leafs—traded their 2023 first-rounders.
The teams made those moves to add established players to address immediate needs. Several other clubs might consider the same tactic before or during the first round of this year's draft.
Perhaps a team that's close to becoming a playoff contender following a long rebuild, like the Buffalo Sabres, will entertain that option. Maybe a squad like the St. Louis Blues could do so to spur a quick turnaround after missing the playoffs this season.
We've listed five teams that we believe should trade their 2023 first-round pick and the reasons why. To be clear, we are referring to their own first-rounders and not those that they acquired from other teams.
Do you agree or disagree with our choices?
Over the past two seasons, Arizona Coyotes general manager Bill Armstrong has been rebuilding the roster by trading veterans for draft picks and promising young players. Logan Cooley, Dylan Guenther and Conor Geekie are among their most promising prospects with the potential to become future Coyotes stars.
Finishing this season with the sixth-worst record, the Coyotes have 7.5 percent odds of winning the 2023 draft lottery. Should they do so, Armstrong will retain that pick and use it to select Connor Bedard, who is ranked as this year's top North American prospect by NHL Central Scouting.
If the Coyotes remain sixth overall, Armstrong should consider using it as trade bait to bring more immediate help to his roster. They also hold the Ottawa Senators' first-rounder from the Jakob Chychrun trade. If the selection remains 12th in the draft order following the lottery, Arizona can still get a high-value prospect with that pick after trading its own.
The Coyotes possess good young roster talent such as Clayton Keller, Barrett Hayton, Lawson Crouse, Matias Maccelli, J.J. Moser and Juuso Välimäki. Nevertheless, to speed up their rebuilding process, they could use an established scoring forward or a top-pairing defenseman in his mid-to-late 20s under a long-term contract.
That type of deal will be difficult to find, but it would be worthwhile for Armstrong to consider. It would provide some hope to the long-suffering fanbase if the team is willing to invest in a star who can move it closer to becoming a perennial playoff contender.
After years of fitful rebuilding, the Buffalo Sabres almost reached the playoffs this season for the first time since 2010-11. Inconsistent goaltending and sloppy defensive play, however, proved to be their undoing.
Despite falling short, there's a reason for optimism for the Sabres, who were among this season's top offensive teams. Addressing their shortcomings during this offseason should turn them into a serious playoff contender in 2023-24.
With $19.5 million in projected cap space for next season and 20 roster players under contract, the Sabres have the ability to add an established starting goaltender and a solid top-two defenseman. Using their 2023 first-round pick as trade bait could help them land one of those players.
Buffalo already has a roster of good young players, including forwards Tage Thompson, Dylan Cozens, Casey Mittelstadt and Jack Quinn; former first overall picks Rasmus Dahlin (2018) and Owen Power (2021) on defense; and goaltender Devon Levi. Their deep prospect pool features Matthew Savoie, Jiri Kulich and Noah Östlund.
With 2.0 percent odds of winning the draft lottery, the Sabres will likely hold the 13th overall pick. They can afford to part with it to bring in a suitable player who can provide immediate help.