Trading for picks? Seller beware.



One trade that caught my eye over the last week was the move of Kris Versteeg to the Flyers for two draft picks. I suspect that most people, seeing a Leaf team in the dumper, think that getting a first and third rounder for a second/third line type like Versteeg was a good return. Was it really, though? Pension Plan Puppets has a good look at players drafted in the first round from 1997-2004 here, but I wanted to also look at players of a more recent vintage, as well as having a look at the potential for a payoff from the third rounder.


Moving Versteeg for picks always struck me as odd, since he’s going to be a RFA when his current deal runs out after next year. The Leafs had a competent NHLer accounting for roughly 1/20th of the team’s cap space in hand that would have at least some drag on his salary for a few more seasons, and most players that get shunted off for picks at this time of the year are UFAs-to-be, so his case isn’t all that normal.

Still, getting two picks including a first rounder seems like a decent haul for a middling player, right? Well, maybe, or maybe not. It seems that given Philadelphia’s likely finish in the standings, the Leafs will get picks somewhere between 25-30 and 85-90, so I thought I’d look at all the players drafted in that spot since the league went to 30 teams for the 2000, up until 2008. I’m leaving out the two most recent drafts because those players are junior-eligible, so we’d have nothing but projections for any of them. For everyone else, we have at least some professional work to consider.

 First, here are all the players picked from 25-30 over those 9 years:


  2000     2001     2002  
25 Steve Ott     Alexander Perezhogin     Cam Ward  
26 Brian Sutherby     Jason Bacashihua     Martin Vagner  
27 Martin Samuelsson     Jeff Woywitka     Mike Morris  
28 Justin Williams     Adrian Foster     Jonas Johansson  
29 Niklas Kronwall     Adam Munro     Hannu Toivonen  
30 Jeff Taffe     Dave Steckel     Jim Slater  


  2003     2004     2005  
25 Anthony Stewart     Rob Schremp     Andrew Cogliano  
26 Brian Boyle     Cory Schneider     Matt Pelech  
27 Jeff Tambellini     Jeff Schultz     Joe Finley  
28 Corey Perry     Mark Fistric     Matt Niskanen  
29 Patrick Eaves     Mike Green     Steve Downie  
30 Shawn Belle     Andy Rogers     Vladimir Mihalik  



  2006     2007     2008  
25 Patrik Berglund     Patrick White     Greg Nemisz  
26 Leland Irving     David Perron     Tyler Ennis  
27 Ivan Vishnevskiy     Brendan Smith     John Carlson  
28 Nick Foligno     Nick Petrecki     Viktor Tikhonov  
29 Chris Summers     Jim O’Brien     Daultan Leveille  
30 Matt Corrente     Nick Ross     Thomas McCollum  


Not exactly a murderer’s row, is it? Of the players that have some time under their belt, Kronwall, Ward, Perry and Green are players that I suspect most would take ahead of Versteeg without reservation. From 2005 onwards, I’d consider Berglund, Perron, Ennis and Carlson to have a good chance to equal or outstrip Versteeg. That’s 8 players out of 54, or about 15%. Justin Williams is likely an equal, and guys like Ott, Jeff Schultz, Downie and possibly Schneider if he gets a team of his own are at least in the argument, but even with those players included, that’s 13 of 54, or just under 25%.

Of course, there’s another group of players as well that should be considered, and that’s the players drafted in the 85-90 spots, since that is part of the return on the trade. Here are the 54 players picked in those spots, with the years in the same order as above:


85 Ramzi Abid     Aaron Johnson     Ahren Nittel  
86 Yanick Lehoux     Drew Fata     Jonas Fiedler  
87 Jan Bohac     Per Mars     Frans Nielsen  
88 Kurt Sauer     Nicolas Corbeil     Dominic D’Amour  
89 Libor Pivko     Tuomas Nissinen     Tomas Troliga  
90 Jean-Francois Racine     Owen Fussey     Matthew Lombardi  


85 Alexandre Picard     Brian Gifford     Ben Bishop  
86 Shane Hynes     John Lammers     Robby Dee  
87 Ryan Potulny     Peter Regin     Marc-Andre Gragnani  
88 Zack Fitzgerald     Clayton Barthel     T.J. Hensick  
89 Paul Brown     Jeff Glass     Chris Lawrence  
90 Juha Alen     Justin Pogge     Dan Collins  


85 Tom Sestito     Brett Sonne     Steve Quailer  
86 George "Bud" Holloway     Josh Unice     Ian Schultz  
87 John Armstrong     Corbin McPherson     Geordie Wudrick  
88 Jonas Ahnelov     Joakim Andersson     Scott Winkler  
89 Aaron Marvin     Corey Tropp     Tomas Kundratek  
90 Aaron Snow     Louie Caporusso     Max Nicastro  


Yikes. Frans Nielsen, Matthew Lombardi and Kurt Sauer if he had a fully operational brain at this point would be the only players in range of Versteeg. So even with a fairly generous interpretation on my part, that’s 16 of 108 or 14.8%, and almost all of those players would have come from the first round pick. I don’t doubt that there might have been plenty of compelling reasons to fire Kris Versteeg over the side, but recent history suggests that it’s no lock the Leafs will even get an analougous player at any point from those picks, let alone a better one. Throw in the fact that Versteeg wasn’t leaving as a UFA for at least a few more years, and the idea of casting him off for a couple of lottery tickets seems even stranger. If Versteeg needed to go, the Leafs should have held out for a roster player of some sort. Otherwise, they might have been better served by holding on to him, at least until his current deal expired.

  • I hadn’t considered that Versteeg was a pending RFA. As you say, the Leafs could have had him under wraps for a few more years at a decent price without much issue.

    Selling off UFA’s for a return before the bolt is one thing…selling off useful players who can be retained at a value price is another.

    • Robert Cleave

      Right. Even though Mike Fisher had two more years on his contract, that move makes more sense for Ottawa. He’s an older player that looks like he might be fading slightly, and given that his wife didn’t have any intention of moving to Ottawa, he was likely gone in two years no matter the circumstances on the ice. Versteeg didn’t have those sorts of options or compelling reasons to bolt, and the players that the Leafs are building around (Phaneuf and Kessel) are in his age cohort.

  • Resolute

    Well, its coming out that Versteeg and the Leafs had problems with each other, so this move smacks of addition by subtraction even before you get into the draft picks.

    I just commented on M&G myself about late first rounders and the Glencross situation. As a pending UFA who will get a big contract, grabbing a late first rounder for him would be great. Anything less, and I’d rather take my chances on winning a playoff round or two with him.

    Incidentally, there are *a lot* of former Hitmen on that late third rounder list.

    • Robert Cleave

      That stuff about Versteeg not fitting in has the whiff of post-facto justification. Mirtle and Friedman had a back and forth on Twitter in the wake of the trade that suggested that it was the team looking to move him rather than any problems Versteeg had with the club.

      Even with that in mind, a late first and third rounder for an asset you’ll control for a few years smacks of something that the Oilers would do, and that’s no compliment.

    • As a pending UFA who will get a big contract, grabbing a late first rounder for him would be great.

      Yeah the Glencross situation isn’t quite comparable because it’s entirely possible he’ll walk at the end of the year as free agent, either because he wants to test the waters and/or he’ll be priced out of the Flames comfort zone. As such, converting on his current hot streak is potentially sensible, even as Robert points out that draft picks are basically lottery tickets.

      • Robert Cleave

        If the Flames got a high offer for GlenX, i.e. a first rounder or a good prospect, they should consider it if they have the sense he’s likely leaving no matter what. That said, we haven’t seen the market for UFAs-to-be set for this year. Last year, the price was almost always second round picks, which might not be enough to justify losing a useful player for the stretch run. If the Flames really slide on this next home stand, then obviously that calculation changes.

  • Resolute

    I agree, Versteeg is only going to get better not sure what direction Burke is taking, but I didn’t think Versteeg was the guy to move. I thought the Leafs were looking to add depth?

  • icedawg_42

    Versteeg’s gotta be the happiest guy on earth today. He’s going to be a very very good fit in Philly. Losing Ladd and Versteeg are what hurt the Hawks the most. I dont care what anyone says about big Buff.

    • icedawg_42

      If Millions is correct it looks like Hagman is sitting tonight. I cant say I disagree but am surprised they would actually put Buoma in over Hagman, it’s a nice change to see reward and punishment handed out fairly since Dutter left.

      I wonder what the Flames could get for Hagman. Wasn’t he like 1 of 2 players who didnt get a point against Colorado? That is unacceptable for a player of his ilk. If Chris Kelly gets a 2nd Hagman might be worth similar. He doesnt fit here but some teams could really use him for the stretch run I’m sure. A second to get his salary off the books seems like a win-win to me from any angle. A third rounder should be considered as well.

  • Resolute

    …trading Versteeg for picks at this point doesn’t make much sense to me either (he has one more year on his contract and will be a RFA at that point), unless Burke has his eye on a bigger fish and needs the first rounder as trade bait.

  • icedawg_42

    Toronto might even have been better off just keeping the players they dealt for Versteeg. I don’t know how good the other two prospects they sent to Chicago are, but there’s probably a better chance one of them becomes an NHLer than the 3rd round pick. And what are the odds the 1st rounder becomes a player even as good Stalberg? 50%? That might even be generous.

    • Robert Cleave

      “Essentially the only way to have a top 20 forward in the year 2010 was to have been lucky enough to draft a forward within the first eleven picks of an Entry Draft.”

      Your words, not mine. The pick Philly is giving up won’t even be in the top 20.

      • There are a number of exceptions that occur in the second half of the Entry Draft. Keep in mind also, this paper quantifies elite level status as being a top 20 point or goal scoring forward, other people may choose to use a different definition of elite.

        Sometimes it is worth the risk, and I don’t think Versteeg was a lot to give up, especially since his offensive output will be replaced by Lupul anyway.

        • Robert Cleave

          Respectfully, Dan, it was you that brought up the premise of elite while pimping your piece in the process. Over the nine years I highlighted, there are exactly 3 players out of 54, or less than a 6% chance, in those first round spots that could even be remotely classified as elite: Perry, Ward and Green. Carlson might get there, but that’s still only 4 of 54. There’s no purpose served by talking about the “second half of the draft”, either. Stick to the actual pick range that Toronto’s selection will finish in (25-30) and it’s a different matter. If a team wants to take a chance, that’s their prerogative, but the numbers suggest it’s a gamble with very poor odds and suggesting otherwise doesn’t match with reality.

  • Quick aside to the trading for picks discussion:

    Any word on supplementary discipline for Dupuis from that knee-on-knee? It doesn’t seem like there will be any…

    The NHL is a joke. If that had been Kostopolous doing it, or had it been done to someone like Crosby, easy 3 game minimum. Instead, it’s a nobody on a losing team, down 5-0, and he gets away with a 5-minute major and a game misconduct.

    • Robert Cleave

      Nope. Cam Barker’s in the same boat. Once they accepted their deals, it was like all that stuff never happened. Interestingly, Clarke MacArthur is RFA as well, even though he was UFA last summer after Atlanta walked on his arbitration award.

  • Derzie

    Thanks for this analysis. I never understand trading players that can be part of your future for picks. Picks are a crapshoot. A proven player is just that. Burke messed up again with this one and is really making a case for his demise.
    This is why it makes me nuts to hear the fan960 guys pitching getting rid of Glencross while the value is high. Do you really think he is not a fit for the future? Really? He is the definition of what we want. The future does not include Hagman, Staois, Mikkelson. That is the low hanging fruit. Value is in subtraction, not selling assets you actually want to keep (and pay for like Glencross). The ‘blow it up’ argument has passed so keep your future, hedge your rentals, and keep your core with an eye to building to replace them later. Daryl has left a mess with no picks and no farm. Drastic measures won’t help. It will take a lot of time and building a culture of hard work, fun and winning is a huge part of that future. You don’t do that without guys like Glencross.

    • Matty Franchise Jr

      Picks are crapshotos is the song of the loser scout who got his job through nepotism.

      Drastic measures are needed, for exactly the reasons you state.

      Glencross is on a streak, you don’t judge a player or a team for that matter based on a streak. His history shows he’s inconsistent. Remember, early this year Bourque was being crowned as the heir apparent to Iginla due to his play and where is he now?

      Also, Glencross will most likely want more than Calgary can afford to pay.

  • Parallex

    “I never understand trading players that can be part of your future for picks. Picks are a crapshoot. A proven player is just that.”

    Proven players also get tend to get progressively more expensive and provide less value/$ over time, draft picks/prospects that pan out are cost controlled assets. Really in this case I think Versteeg with another year on his contract is more valueable then a Versteeg with an expiring contract. I think Burke got his maximized return considering that I very much doubt that the Leafs will be in a position to “win now” during the life of Versteegs contract.

    Random related question: What would you rather have Philly’s 1st and 3rd this year or Viktor Stalberg, Christopher Didomenico, and Philippe Paradis?

  • Matty Franchise Jr

    Yeah, stick it to that Oiler-lover!

    Any who, here’s a wacky thought: The flames have 5 picks in 2011 (I think), a first and 4-7. The first will be a mid-rounder at best.
    They could try to trade ALL of the 2011 picks to a team or teams for higher picks in upcoming drafts, ’12 or ’13, whichever is projected to be better.

    They wouldn’t really be losing anything by not drafting this year if they have better picks next time. Does it matter if you only have 19 and 21 year olds but no 20 year olds?

    And by 2012 or 2013, they might actually have a scouting department worth using.

  • Matty Franchise Jr

    Perhaps some GM might think that gaining 5 picks this year is worth 2 next year, say a first and second or 2 seconds.

    I did say it was a wacky thought.

    I just think that this draft is a bit of a write-off anyway, with having only 1 pick (+/- 20th) in the first 100. Maybe scrap this draft altogether in favour of improving the next draft.

  • Matty Franchise Jr

    While the RFA argument makes great sense, Versteeg was just plain not working out there and base don his comments to the media he probably needed to go. In that sense, the return was fair, though by no means a slam-dunk winner.

  • Parallex

    Yeah with regards to Glencross I only want to get him back if he’ll continue to provide value in excess of his contract. If he likely can only meet or fall short then he should be traded for the best we can get.

  • Bob Cobb

    Curtis Glencross is not worth a first round pick, you guys in Calgary are morons. When people doubt whether or not Dustin Penner is worth a first round and he’s a 30 goal, 60pt player, how on earth is a guy in Glencross whose never scored 20 goals and had 40pts once worth a first? Glencross is worth a mid 2nd or 3rd round pick at best.

    • mikeecho

      A player is worth what the market will bear. Fisher and Versteeg aren’t really worth it either, but they fetched that and more.

      The only reason Penner is debatable is because he lacks heart and commitment. He’s working down his man boobs, so that’s a step in the right direction. Given the option, I’d take his brother Pat over him any day and I don’t think he’s played competitive hockey since the mid 90’s.

      • Bob Cobb

        Idiotic comment, makes sense coming from a Flames fan, and Penner is a better player than both Versteeg and Fisher, has a cup to boot, and played for a far worse team than either last year and was a 30 goal and 60 point player. Bottom line, put Glencross in the position Penner was in last year and he doesn’t put up 15 goals and 30 points. To reiterate, Glencross isn’t worth a first and wouldn’t get one.

    • Its not so much that everyone thinks Glencross is worth a 1st. BUT, after Ottawa got a 2nd for Chris Kelly, everything is out the window. He is on pace for 26 goals. I wouldn’t expect an offer of a 1st (more likely a 2nd), but the debate began by saying ‘Would you trade Glencross for a 1st’, and some saying they wouldn’t!

  • Resolute

    Gotta love fans of a last place team trolling…

    Nobody is saying that Glencross is worth a first round pick. What I, at least, am saying is that if a team is willing to overpay that much for him, make the deal. Otherwise, I am fine with the risk of losing him to free agency in search of a playoff spot.