Taking a look at all the 1st round picks that were traded this season and how it affects the team if the season is cancelled.
Originally, we all thought the NHL could be back after a month hiatus due to the Covid-19 pandemic, but to be honest, that is starting to look very unlikely. There is a very real possibility that the rest of the regular season could be scrapped in favour of a new look playoff format… in July? Maybe? Nobody knows for sure. Regardless, what happens to all the teams who were buyers at the trade deadline? It’s not exactly fair to those teams who loaded up in hopes for a long playoff run, then again life isn’t always fair. We will not be taking a look at all the trades that involve a 2020 1st round pick and how it may affect the teams who traded them away for one reason or another. Obviously, we won’t be able to answer the real question at the heart of this article which is, will the NHL compensate those teams who traded away their 1st round picks if in fact the season is scrapped? What we will try to do is analyze each trade and think of some of the ramifications of each trade in relation to a scenario in which there is no more hockey this year. Here are the remaining trades that include a first round pick:
5. The Trade: On February 21, 2020, the Boston Bruins traded away their 2020 1st round pick along with forward Davis Backes and prospect Axel Andersson to the Anaheim Ducks in exchange for forward Ondrej Kase.
Analysis: At first, similar to the Zucker trade, my initial thought was why is Anaheim helping out the league leading Bruins? Why do teams always seem to bail good teams out and do them solid favours? However, after looking into the stats a little more, Kase seems to be more of a mediocre player than I believed. I have to admit, I didn't really watch many Anaheim games, for a variety of reasons, but his career high in points was 38 points in 66 games during the 2017-18 season and has yet to come close to those numbers again. He has also yet to play a full season in his short career thus far, as 66 games played was also a career high. Digging even deeper, his Corsi For Percentage (the percentage of shot your team attempts while you’re on the ice) is as follows;
Those aren’t the greatest numbers, so let’s break this down a little further, is Kase worth a 1st round pick? Probably not, no, is he worth a mid-level prospect? Sure, I think an Ondrej Kase for Axel Andersson makes a lot of sense, maybe Kase could have fetched a little more than just that but it is certainly not far off. That is where the 1st round pick comes into play - Boston figured they could take this opportunity to acquire a young player with decent numbers to shore up their forward depth while parting ways with arguably their worst contract on the team. Again, we are seeing that Leafs-Hurricanes logic creeping in; for the Bruins to rid themselves of David Backes, who was a healthy scratch for majority of the season and even sent down to the minors for a while, and get his $6M off the books, they needed to pay the price. Boston ended up retaining $1.5M for this year and next which, although is not great, it definitely beats paying a healthy scratch $6M. In the end, Boston ended up saving $825,000 with this deal while acquiring a player who can actually have a positive impact for the club for the price of, what could very well have been the 31st overall pick and a mid-level prospect.
Final Thoughts: Similar to the Coleman deal, this one has similar implications but may work out better for Boston and I will explain why. Kase has an almost identical deal to Coleman, one more year on his deal after this season making just under $1.5M, so once again we are seeing a cheap player with some term moving for the price of a 1st round pick. Of course, Coleman is a much better player than Kase, but Boston’s main priority here was probably to move on from Backes and his contract for a younger player who will still be under team control as an RFA once his deal is done. This seems to be a great deal for both teams, Anaheim is rebuilding, and although Kase is young, it was time to move on by acquiring picks and prospects. With that being said, Boston was having a phenomenal season and were looking like the heavy favourites to win the cup. Although I don’t think Kase pushes them over the top, he certainly doesn’t hurt them and opens up a little more cap room moving forward. I think Boston would have tried to move Backes in the offseason anyways if this deal never happened, and that still would have cost them a 1st round pick in the process. This way the pick was almost guaranteed to be extremely late barring any real upsets (*cough* Tampa *cough*), whereas next year is an uncertainty.
6. The Trade: On February 24, 2020, the New York Islanders traded away their 2020 1st round pick (top 3 protected) along with their 2020 2nd round pick, and a conditional 2023 3rd round pick to the Ottawa Senators in exchange for forward Jean-Gabriel Pageau.
Analysis: Pageau was in the midst of a career year with the lowly Ottawa Senators, accumulating 24 goals and 40 points in 60 games before being traded to the Island. It was a steep price to pay for the 27-year-old considering he is a very strong 3rd line centre who can move up the lineup if need be. However, the Islanders are known for their defensive style game which in turn sees their lineup struggling to score goals on a nightly basis. Pageau brings an offensive punch to the team while also fitting in nicely to the Islanders style of play. Once the deal was completed, general manager Lou Lamoriella wasted no time locking up his newest acquisition to a six year $5M contract. Lou has a reputation for not overpaying for anybody, and although I wouldn’t call this an overpayment, it seems pretty expensive for a third line centre. If he was poised to play in the top six, then the deal would look much better, but they certainly aren’t going to push their young stud Mathew Barzal down the lineup, and Brock Nelson is a more established player down the middle of the ice for the second line. So, the cost for the Islanders to improve their centre depth cost them a 1st and 2nd, the 3rd round pick has a condition attached to it saying that it will be transferred if the Islanders win the Stanley Cup… that probably won’t happen.
Final Thoughts: With the cap projected to increase each and every year, I am sure that Pageau deal would start to look better and better with every passing year, but that may not be the case. That is another issue we won’t get into here (I did take a look at some of the ramifications that may occur if the cap was to go down due to the COVID-19 pandemic, you can check that out here). Pageau would have most likely fetched a lot more on the open market, something in the $6-7M range for similar term so this is not a bad deal for the Islanders at all. It may have cost them their 1st and 2nd but it may be worth it in the end, especially since they were able to lock him up for an additional six years. If the playoffs we’re to start right now, the Islanders would not have made it as they sit 6th in the Metro but are just one point back of Columbus for the final wild card with two games in hand. They easily could have climbed back into the playoff race and if that was the case, losing that 1st round pick would not seem all that bad. I think since Lou was able to turn Pageau into a core piece of the team moving forward with a playoff run, thereby making the loss of a 1st and 2nd worth it. Sure, maybe they could have saved their draft picks and tried to sign him in free agency during the offseason, but I would not be surprised if he took a more ludicrous deal elsewhere, so this seems like a win-win.
7. The Trade: On February 24, 2020, the Tampa Bay Lightning traded away their 2020 1st round pick along with AHL player Anthony Greco to the San Jose Sharks in exchange for a 2020 3rd round pick and forward Barclay Goodrow.
Analysis: Want to talk about overpayments? This deal, this deal right here. Goodrow? For a 1st? Why? Sure, Tampa got a 3rd round pick back that will be fairly high but still, why not just move your second then instead of trying to balance things out? Goodrown is not worth a 1st round pick, he is a bottom six forward that brings size and grit. There is no problem with bringing in toughness for a playoff push, but it should not be at the expense of a 1st round pick. He is in the middle of a career year with 8 goals and 18 points in 80 games played, that is not good. I honestly don’t understand this move by general manager Julien BriseBois. There isn’t much to analyze here, he is playing fourth line minutes for the offensively stacked Lightning averaging around 10 minutes a night, two assists with his new team and 22 hits. I repeat, not worth a 1st round pick.
Final Thoughts: I will make this one short and sweet, if the Lightning went on to win the Stanley Cup, then nobody would care that they spent a 1st round pick on a fourth line player. However, let’s just say they were upset once again early on, they would be disappointed and left without a 1st when they began the season with 2… yikes. Goodrow has another year on his deal before becoming an RFA, so in theory the Lightning have him under team control, which is great, but it is still Goodrow.
8. The Trade: On February 24, 2020, the Carolina Hurricanes traded away a 2020 1st round pick (the lower of either their own or Toronto’s pick) to the New York Rangers in exchange for defenceman Brady Skjei.
Analysis: Now this is a deal, one that benefits both teams tremendously. Although the Hurricanes always seem to have enough defence from the get-go, adding a young defenceman in Brady Skjei, who played top minutes in New York, is phenomenal. He is only 26-year-old and adds some stability on the already lethal backend, but it gets even better… after this season he has 4 more years left on his deal at $5.25M. That is a solid contract for a player of his calibre and the Hurricanes have Sami Vatanen, Joel Edmundson and Trevor Van Riemsdyk set to hit free agency this offseason. That would leave them with Brady Skjei, Dougie Hamilton, Jacob Slavin, Brett Pesce, and Jake Gardiner. They will then re-sign 23-year-old Haydn Fleury who has quietly had an excellent year in his first full season with the club to fill out the backend. That is an unreal defence core that will be good for a very long time, and Skjei becomes an integral part of the group for years to come. The Hurricanes obviously had a 1st to spare after acquiring Toronto’s in the offseason, so why not put it to use while? Especially considering that they had suffered some key injuries in Dougie Hamilton, Sami Vatanen, and Brett Pesce. On the flip side, Jeff Gorton continues to do an excellent job rebuilding (which I discuss in greater detail here) by acquiring another 1st round pick. Great job by both GM’s here to help their team move forward in their respective directions.
Final Thoughts: Here again we see another player moved at the deadline who has term on his current deal. The fact that the Hurricanes only had to give up a 1st round pick, and the later of the two at that, for a solid defenceman with that much term is really good work by general manager Don Waddell. This is a no brainer, and like some of the other deals mentioned above, the player received is very much worth the high-end draft pick that they gave up in order to get him. Even if this deal happened in the offseason, it would still be worth it regardless of missing out on having Skjei for that end of the season playoff push. All in all, I see no issue with Carolina moving one of their picks for a quality player like Skjei.
Something that is interesting to notice is how almost every player involved in these deals are not pure rentals. Only a few years ago was it extremely common to see teams chasing pending UFA’s at the deadline by throwing high end draft picks around like they grew on trees. Now we are starting to see a shift, general managers are getting smarter with how much they are willing to spend in order to bring in reinforcements. Had we seen more rentals go for 1st round picks at this year’s deadline, then I think there would be far more uproar by clubs wanting some form of compensation if the season is in fact done for the year. They would have then wasted that pick on a player who will most likely end up walking in the offseason, which would be extremely unfair. However, here we see that almost every player involved in the deals mentioned above has at least one more year left on their deals, meaning the team will still be able to reap the benefits of moving their 1st round pick for one more kick at the can.
Stats from eliteprospects.com
Contract Research and Cap facts from CapFriendly.com