[size]16. Another UFA to watch is Tampa Bay’s Brian Boyle. You can see why playoff teams would be interested. Edmonton’s Peter Chiarelli went to see him in Minnesota last Friday. Columbus and Toronto are believed to be among other potential suitors. (The Maple Leafs tried to sign him as a free agent in 2014, although it was a different regime.)
Some tweeters were surprised I said during a radio interview he may fetch a first-rounder in return. It comes down to how much of a demand there is, but teams are not married to those picks in 2017. If one executive ever hears me getting wishy-washy on the topic, he texts a reminder: “How many times do I have to tell you that teams are going to trade their firsts? This draft is terrible!” I hope someone does so he stops yelling at me.
It makes sense that the Jackets are looking at Boyle; he is much the same player as Martin Hanzal who has also been linked to Columbus. They are both big centres who will help improve the bottom six. Boyle isn’t a great player but he has size, is a decent defensive player who can kill penalties and can score the occasional goal.
The issue I have with Boyle is what comes up in the second part of Friedman’s thought and that is the price. A first round pick for Boyle, is frankly insane, and if Tampa is able to pull that off they will be fleecing the other team. First round picks are always tossed around at the deadline as general managers are looking for that final piece to bolster their team and put them over the top. The question that needs to be asked when a deal like this happens is; was it worth it? If a first round pick is dealt for a rental player, unless that rental player is a star like a Sidney Crosby, it is usually not worth it. Here are three reasons why the Blue Jackets and other NHL teams should not be trading their first round pick for a rental.
1. The value rental players add is vastly overrated
The value of rental players is hard to grasp. If a player is acquired at the deadline they will play maybe 20 or so games for your team or about 25% of the season, plus playoff games. It’s difficult to have a significant impact on a team in that short of a time frame (with the expectation of a goalie). One skater can only do so much. Even in the playoffs it can be difficult. Looking back at some players who were dealt for first round picks very few of them were impactful playoff performers.
Last season Andrew Ladd was acquired by the Blackhawks for Marko Dano and a first round pick. The Hawks were defeated in the first round, where Ladd had two points in seven games. In 2015 there were three trades where a first was traded for a rental player. The Predators traded a first, Brandon Leipsic and Olli Jokinen to the Leafs for Cody Franson and Mike Santorelli. Nashville was defeated in the first round, Santorelli and Franson combined for three points in nine playoff games. The Kings traded a first and Roland McKeown for Andrej Sekara and then promptly missed the playoffs. The Blackhawks traded a first and Klas Dahlbeck for Antoine Vermette. The Hawks won the Cup so many say it was worth it despite the fact that Vermette had just seven points in 20 playoff games and spent most of the Cup final on the fourth line.
In 2014 the Blues acquired Ryan Miller and Steve Ott for a first, a third, Jaroslav Halak, Chris Stewart and William Carrier. The Blues lost in the first round where Miller had an .897 save percentage and Ott had two points in six games.
There were other deadline deals during this time which included first round picks. Those trades like the Keith Yandle trade or the Martin St. Louis trade, the players had extra years of control and were more than just rentals, thus a better use a first round pick.
2. The value of first round picks should be very high
This point ties into the first one about the value rental players provide. In today’s NHL with the salary cap, a player’s contract is just as important and in some cases more important than the player himself. When you trade a pick for a rental you are giving up on one of the most valuable pieces in the NHL today, young players. When you draft a player you have control of that player for seven seasons. The first three of those seasons will be at the league minimum (plus bonuses), due to the entry level system. After that teams control a players rights through restricted free agency. Players do sign large deals as restricted free agents but the contracts are much lower than what the player would be worth if he was an unrestricted free agent.
These young players are absolutely critical to a team’s success, particularly those on ELC’s. They can provide the same value as a veteran but for pennies on the dollar. Considering aging curves these players can be expected to improve and get better. The Jackets are great example of this. They got rid of overpriced veterans like Gregory Campbell, Jared Boll and Fedor Tyutin, and replaced them with younger, cheaper, and better players in Lukas Sedlak, Josh Anderson and Markus Nutivaara. Zach Werenski is another example of the value you can get from an entry level contract. Werenski has been a star for the Jackets, a top pair defencemen all for the lowly cap hit of just $925,000 per Cap Friendly. Even if you include bonuses the average annual value of his deal is just $1,775,000, which is an incredible bargain for how good he is.
Prashanth Iyer of Winging It In Motown had a great article on entry level contracts and exploiting the market inefficiency they provide. These players, especially those who were first round picks are extremely valuable to teams and trading them away for two months of a veteran player doesn’t make a whole lot of sense.
3. First round picks/prospects can be used in more significant deals in the off-season
If you are to trade your first round pick or a player picked in the first round, the time to do it is in the off-season. You can get much better players, and ones under contract for more than just the final 20 games of a season. Since the 2013-14 off-season here’s the type of players teams can get when they package their first round pick, or a player picked with a recent first round pick: Ryan Kesler, Robin Lehner, Dougie Hamilton, Ryan O’Reilly, Griffin Reinhart, Martin Jones, Phil Kessel and Frederik Andersen. Looking at it from a Blue Jackets perspective they were able to use a player they picked in the first round, Marko Dano to acquire Brandon Saad. They got that first from the Kings for Jeff Carter. These trades don’t always work out; the Carter trade obviously didn’t work for the Jackets, but more often than not when you trade a first in the off-season you are getting a good player and one you expect to be a key part of your team for a while.
Those are the three reasons I dislike the idea of giving up a first round pick at the deadline. There are three big counter arguments, which I will address.
Flags Fly Forever
This is the big argument for trading a first round pick. If you win the Cup it doesn’t matter what trades you made, you won. This is a fair argument, but it relies solely on hindsight. When you make a deadline trade you don’t know if you are going to win the Cup and even if you are a Cup contender so many things can happen, whether you run into a hot team or a hot goalie. Trades should be evaluated at the time with the information that is available and right now the information available is that trading a first round pick at the deadline is a bad idea.
The Weak Draft
This is brought up a lot when talking about this year’s trade deadline. This draft is considered a weaker draft class and teams may be more willing to deal their first round pick. Personally I don’t really think that is as big of an issue as people are making it out to be. The discussion of a weak draft is about how weak it is at the top. Nolan Patrick is a great player but is a step down from players like Auston Matthews and Connor McDavid. After you get past the top 10 players the rest of the first round looks pretty similar to that of other years. Is it a step down from years past, yes, but I think it’s being overstated due to the weakness up top. There looks to be some good players who will be available in the back-half of the first round.
From the Jackets perspective this is a good year to be giving up the second round pick they owe Vancouver for John Tortorella. It should be a late second round pick and of lower value. It’s not a good idea to forfeit that pick and trade away your first.
Prospects Can Bust
This is true, but even a busted prospect can be dealt for value if the team recognizes the player isn’t going to work out early enough. The allure of a “former first round pick” always sucks in General Managers. Buffalo was able to turn failed first round picks Nikita Zadorov and Mikhail Grigorenko into Ryan O’Reilly. The Isles were able to get serious value for Griffin Reinhart despite it being clear he was never going to live up to his fourth overall status.
The Blue Jackets for the first time ever are in very good position in the standings and will be legitimate buyers come the trade deadline. They have been linked to players like Brian Boyle, who might end up being traded for a first round pick. The Jackets should avoid moving their first in any sort of deal unless they are getting a player with more than a year left on his deal. The future value a first round pick provides in terms of a player selected is far too valuable to be giving up for a player who is going leave as a free agent at the end of the season. [/size]