The question might not be whom to select in Friday's NHL draft, but this: To trade or not to trade?
The combination of a relatively even distribution of talent among the first-round prospects, certain needs for teams selecting at the front end and a new collective-bargaining agreement looming has the potential for some big deals this week and into the weekend, when all 30 general managers will be in Pittsburgh, ostensibly to make their teams deeper through the draft.
Oilers GM Steve Tambellini said this past week he has no plans to trade the No. 1 overall pick, but he listened to offers, a new development from the past two seasons, when Edmonton did not hesitate to make Taylor Hall and then Ryan Nugent-Hopkins the top selections of 2010 and 2011.
So it might be more of a difference-making forward who gets dealt this week. Blue Jackets captain Rick Nash heads the list, having nearly been dealt at the trade deadline, although he still has a no-trade clause to determine where he'll go.
The Rangers could be the biggest movers this week. Nash, Bobby Ryan and Ryan Getzlaf of the Ducks, and defensemen Shea Weber of the Predators and Tobias Enstrom of the Jets could be targets, with the Rangers using their No. 28 pick and/or some of their deep prospect pool to swing a deal.
Under GM Garth Snow, the Islanders have refused to deal picks and/or young players for established NHLers. This year is no different, although Snow is trying hard to land a defenseman to shore up a thin mix. Only Mark Streit, Travis Hamonic and Andrew MacDonald will be back from the team's regular 2011-12 defense corps.
A restricted free agent such as the Canadiens' P.K. Subban would have gotten Snow to strongly consider dealing the fourth overall pick, but new Montreal GM Marc Bergevin isn't moving Subban, according to those who've spoken with him.
There are other defensemen available, according to two NHL sources, but they are veterans playing mediocre hockey on fairly unworkable contracts: the Flames' Jay Bouwmeester, the Canucks' Keith Ballard and possibly the Penguins' Paul Martin and Zbynek Michalek.
Once the new CBA is hammered out, depending on the new terms of the deal, teams could be shedding contracts. So trades could come right up to the start of the season, whenever that may be after negotiations wrap up.
But the trading could kick off in earnest this week, with some big names on the move.