Since I think it's been an interesting discussion, I feel like making one post that discusses my rationale for trading 9, Greene and something the Devils could do without if Carolina insists, for Carolina's number 5 and perhaps something they can do without, and also addresses the counterarguments I've been getting.
First though, let's get my assumptions and disclaimers out of the way. Except for J. MacIsaac, who's been MIA lately, none of us are scouts, so far as I know. I am going on what I've read about the prospects in this draft. And what I've read is that the players you could end up with at 5 -- Drouin, Barkov and Nischuskin -- would all have probably been number 1 overall picks in at least 2011 and 2012, which is when I started following the draft with something more than a passing interest. That's not sure thing territory, of course, but it creates a reasonable assumption that any of those three are future all-star top line forwards. No one can quantify the risk that they turn out not to be that, and how far from that they turn out to be. That's ultimatley in the eye of the beholder, and there's no sense in debating that point, other than to disagree with what you believe the potential is. As an off the cuff guestimate, I'll say that there's 30 percent chance they're in the territory of Pavel Datsyuk/Giroux/2012 Kovalchuk range, 40 percent that they're in the Kopitar/Nash/Parise range, 20 percent that they're MIke Richards/Jeff Carter and 10 percent that they turn out to be solid NHL players or something worse, which is what you would conclude is a bust.
Now, let's get to my team building philosophy as an armchair GM. The goal is to build a team that can be a consistent Stanley Cup contender sooner rather than later. That does not mean that if you're not that at the present time, you're rebuilding, but at the very least it does mean that you're missing a few significant pieces that you can't pull off the scrap heap, but pieces that are reasonably obtainable either from within or without. I put the Devils, from an organizational standpoint, in the latter category.
If we leave things as they are and keep the number 9 pick, the Devils are around as good or bad, depending on your point of view, for the next two years. Let's say that we can loosely predict the number 9 pick, if it's a forward, will have Mike Richards upside, Henrique/Josh Baiely (just to make Tri happy) potential in the middle range, and Steve Bernier or worse downside, each scenario being roughly a 33 percent probability. If it's a defenseman, let's say the reasonable prediction is Karl Azner, who I'm told is better than I'm giving him credit for. All things being equal, and giving realistic predictions for the prospects, I would say going into the foreseeable future, you might end up being as good as the Caps. A team you can always pencil in to make the playoffs, that might win a round two, and if everything goes absolutely right might win a Cup, a la Carolina in 2006. That's not a bad place to be, but it's not ideal either.
Now, let's assume that we make the trade. We are not going to be a better team next year, or at least I'll concede the point for purposes of the discussion. However, I do believe that one of Urbom, Gelinas and Merrill can step in next year and be a reasonably competent defenseman right off the bat. And, if all goes well, one of them, this coming year, can be about as good as Mark Fayne was towards the end of 2011. I'm not concerned with looking like a fool and missing out on a very high draft pick next year. That's water under the bridge. In two to three years though, you're back to having a defense corps that's at least as good as this past year's. And I think you can reasonably predict your forwards are much better than what you have now when you put together the sum of the parts. Elias will either be nearing the end, but still effective, Kovalchuk will have a 35 goal per year ceiling, and Zajac a 45 point ceiling. But Henrique ought to be better, Josefson might actually learn to score goals every so often, Matteau could give you a Brad Marchand upside, and you'll have a stud first liner with whoever you draft at 5, and maybe Reid Boucher can be a guy who you can pencil in for 15 goals. Or, it could go horribly wrong in the short term, but you'll have a good pick in 2015, and can start a steady improvment after that.
In the end, maybe it comes down to getting a number 1 pick type talent in exchange for a 30 year old Andy Greene and a guy with a 50/50 of being a second line forward. I think you have to do it, if someone will take it.