PHILADELPHIA – Maple Leafs general manager Dave Nonis spoke to Florida Panthers boss Dale Tallon on Thursday morning about the prospects of trading up for the first overall pick in Friday's draft.
"But at this point," Nonis said a few hours after the conversation, "I don't think there's a deal there for us."
Despite interest in moving up the ladder of the first round – from where they currently stand at eighth overall – Nonis didn't believe the current price-tag fit the bill for his club, particularly if it meant sacrificing young talent.
The cost was simply too high.
"It is for us," Nonis said of the first overall pick. "It may not be for other teams. I know that Dale is serious about moving it – I think he's happy to keep it as well – but he's not going to give that pick away.
"There's been dialogue, but we haven't made any traction and as it stands right now, I would expect that we're going to stay at eight."
Having hoarded a slew of promising building blocks in recent years (including Aleksander Barkov with the second overall selection in 2013) and with the draft lacking in a consensus, slam-dunk superstar, Tallon is inclined to give up the rights for the top spot. But he's labeled the price for the pick as including a top young player, one who can step right into the Panthers lineup, and perhaps a pick or something of similar value.
"Somebody has to knock our socks off for us to make the move," Tallon told TSN recently.
In a different draft, Nonis might be prepared to pay that price. He was second in command to Brian Burke at the time of the 2009 draft when Burke spoke openly and aggressively about his pursuit of the first overall pick in a draft that featured star John Tavares.
"That price-tag is different than possibly moving up to take the player who's going to go [first] here," Nonis said. "It doesn't mean that the player who goes [first] is not going to be a great player, but those price-tags are different and I think every team in the league would tell you that. There's a number or a value that we place on moving up and it wouldn't include our top young players, no."
Beyond Aaron Ekblad, there's a definite aura of unpredictability at the top of this draft, making the possibility of the Leafs landing a quality asset at eight all the more likely. Toronto has demonstrated a strong inclination toward selecting North American players in recent years, picking just seven Europeans since 2009 and none in the first round since 2006 when Jiri Tlusty was picked 13th overall.
They may not be able to land the top centre they've long desired with the eighth pick – Sam Bennett, Sam Reinhart and Leon Draisaitl all figure to be off the board – but there's potential to add front-line skill at wing, perhaps in the form of Nick Ritchie or Jake Virtanen (Nikolaj Ehlers and William Nylander are both intriguing, but neither seem to fit the current Toronto mold).
"This [draft] may not have the superstar at the top, but I think most teams would agree there's some pretty good players in this draft that are going to be useful players on good teams," said Nonis. "It's important when you're picking at eight that you get one of those players."
Back in 2008, with Cliff Fletcher minding the helm, Toronto moved up two spots in the draft to land Luke Schenn with the fifth overall pick, sending their first round selection (seventh overall) to the Islanders along with picks in the second and third round.
The Leafs selected hulking centre Frederik Gauthier with their top selection a year ago (21st overall), adding Morgan Rielly to their young mix in 2012.