Comparing the Regehr and Burns Trades



I’ve been asked by a number of emailers and commenters to take a look at the Robyn Regehr and Brent Burns swaps since the draft. The comparison seems like an apt one: both are top-four defenders exchanged in the same market to teams looking to shore up their defensive depth. The Sharks have also been interested in Reggie for years and reportedly made a play for him, so it’s fair to ask whether Calgary could have gotten a similar package to what Minnesota demanded for Burns.

There are similarities between the two players in that both can play in almost any team’s top-four rotation. There are a lot of differences too, however, making a straight-up comparison difficult. Burns is younger, brings more offense to the table, but hasn’t played the shut-down role as consistently as Regehr. Burns is also marginally cheaper this season ($3.55M), but only has one year left on his contract meaning he is in line for a raise next summer.

Before we press on, here’s a summary of the two deals:

1.) Robyn Regehr for Chris Butler and Paul Byron (we’ll exclude the Kotalik/second round pick portion for the sake of simplicity)

2.) Brent Bruns for Devin Setoguchi, former first round pick Charlie Coyle and a first round pick.

I don’t use the GVT statistic here very often, but in this case it’s a useful tool for comparing the two players. For those unaware, GVT stands for "goals versus threshold" and it measures the amount of goals an individual player would be worth over a replacement level player given the amount of minutes he plays and in what game state, etc. Both offensive and defensive contributions are included in GVT, making it possible to compare a defense-first type like Robyn to a hybrid player like Burns. We’ll take their last four seasons worth of GVT for the purposes of this comparison:

Robyn Regehr:

2007-2008 1.5 6.1 7.6
2008-2009 -2.5 6.4 3.8
2009-2010 -1.3 6 4.8
2010-2011 0.2 6.2 6.4
Total -2.1 24.7 22.6
Mean -0.525 6.175 5.65

 Brent Burns:

2007-2008 8.2 5.7 15.1
2008-2009 3.7 2.7 5.7
2009-2010 1.8 0.8 2.6
2010-2011 8.5 3.8 12.3
Total 22.2 13 35.7
Mean 5.55 3.25 8.93

The tables show GVT in terms of offense, defense and total. The totals don’t completely line-up with OGVT and DGVT each time because they include a small shoot-out portion which I excluded here.

Burns is so far ahead in terms of offense that it makes him the better option overall, although Regehr’s the better defensive player despite consistently difficult assignments. Burn’s 2007-2008 season was a doozy though and I figured him for a future Norris candidate at that time, but a series of injuries seriously derailed his progress for a while. He’s been injury prone his entire career, but when healthy has been able to contribute at both ends of the ice pretty capably.

Through this analysis, we can see why Burns might be worth the better package: he’s five years younger than Regehr and has a higher ceiling because of offensive abilities. Keep in mind however that his biggest OGVT seasons were helped along by SH% of 9.5 and 10% respectively…a rate that is difficult to hold for even the most potent shooters on the back-end. Last year, only 10 defenders who played more than 30 games shot at 10% or above for instance.

Regehr doesn’t play on the PP very often, so his OGVT is always going to be fairly limited. His DGVT is remarkably stable, however, which where his true value comes from. Being six goals better than replacement level while playing the toughs is an impressive feat – one that Burns only once approached (back in 2007-08) in this sample.

I’d say it makes sense to pay a bit more for Burns who was a about +3 average GVT better Reggie over the last four years. That said, the Setoguchi package strikes me as a lot more than "a bit", suggesting an overpay on the part of the Sharks vs. what the Sabres gave up for Regehr. That was probably spurred by Burns’ 17 goal campaign last year which was a career high. We all know teams are more apt to pay for offensive counting numbers and even if the Sharks were aware of his probably unsustainable 10% SH%, they would probably be induced to hike the price thanks to the anchoring effect.

In short, a healthy Burns is the better player by a few goals above replacement per year, but the Sharks probably gave up more than they should have because of a career high shooting percentage.

  • The Calgary trade is probably closer to Butler, Byron, and $3M of cap space which is the equivalent of a second round pick. I would have found other methods to dump salary than through and asset like Regehr, but I think that the biggest factor limiting the return Calgary received is because they did not want to take any salary back in the trade.

    • What irks me, and I think a lot of other people, is that instead of just saying ‘we didn’t get anybody back because we traded for cap-space’ (which they didnt have to, but Edwards is cheaping out), Feaster and the organization are going around trying to sell Byron and Butler as a decent return in and of itself.

      • Reidja

        Are you saying that either not buying Kotalik out or stashing him in the minors is “cheaping out”? Having someone pay that freight just seems like good business (even though we lost a 2nd rounder, which has a small chance of translating into an NHLer, in the process).

        I think we’ve been over-valuing Reggie for a while, but I’m not the first to say so.

  • thymebalm

    I think the stats on both these players look pretty good. They both project to be good players as far as their history goes. I think the judgement is a little premature, considering at their ages there is no way they’ve played the best years of their careers. No “game-changing players” but let’s face it, neither of us can remember the last time Robyn Regehr put the team firmly on his back and won the game for us either.

  • Kent,

    I think this is a really good analysis of the types of players going out, but I am having a much harder time weighing the return.

    The Flames get Butler and Byron. While I know some (like Domebeers) paint him as a 4th rounder because that is where he was drafted in 2005, this is unfair because he is clearly a bona fide pro with 155 games under his belt at this point. If we had traded for Sasha Pokulok or Joe Finley no one would be touting the “first round pick” we got. I count only 9 defencemen with more professional games played out of that draft. So really, we may have got the 10th best defenceman in the 2005 draft. So we aren’t really talking about a prospect here, but a roster player. But, he is an RFA – so his value is undetermined until we see what kind of a contract he gets.

    Byron may be a 6th round pick, but only 4 of those 6th round picks, and 13 of the players drafted from rounds 5-7, have played any games in the NHL. He was the 4th leading scorer on the Buffal AHL team last year and went from 33 to 53 points in his first two years in the AHL. Again, a dice roll, but a pretty good one at this point. Far better odds than just a 6th round pick.

    San Jose on the other hand gave up Setoguchi on a $3 million per year ticket. While Setoguchi is an established NHLer, he is established as about a 40 point a year guy. Not too shabby, but I note the durm and strang around here in relation to one Matthew Stajan who is cap his is only $0.5 million higher and likely to also be a 40 point guy. So, it is not like they got a good deal back on that. Coyle is a first rounder, but a late first rounder and he only got 26 points in 37 games with Boston University last year. I don’t know that at this point his ceiling is all that much higher than Byron’s. And then a late first rounder. Coyle and another 28th overall – that’s a whole lot of magic beans and a market value-ish contract – in exchange for one year of Burns.

    In the end, I just can’t say that San Jose paid that much more than Buffalo because the players going back were so different.

    Am I missing something in that take?

    • Fair enough. Admittedly it’s hard to really judge trades before any of the players have even stepped on the ice. Setoguchi, as things stand right now, is a better, more proven commodity than Butler. He’s more expensive (by how much we won’t know until Butler is inked), but I think it’s fair to say he’d cost something to acquire normally whereas there are lots of Butler types hanging around the fringes of most NHL rosters. Ditto Byron, who was 48th in AHL scoring last year. They are both, essentially, extra pieces that would be considered expendable in just about every NHL office.

      Gabe came to roughly the same conclusion:

  • Reidja

    Love how Regehr is so beloved before trading him that some people would go off the deep end just mentioning the possibility. However, once we get a crap return then suddenly we’re over-valuing him.

    Like Shutout and Domebeers mention, it came down to a trade for money. That is not what I would’ve traded Regehr for. To me, you needed a solid asset back. Money could’ve been freed up elsewhere.

    I still think you could trade a serviceable 3rd line guy like Hagman to a team that needs to make the cap floor because he’s only got 1 year left. And judging by the way Darryl threw money around, I don’t think the ownership would’ve opposed burying Kotalik for 1 final year on the grounds that Darryl’s mistakes were not to be reapeated. Tanguay could still have been signed after July 1 as well.

    This article confirms my belief that while maybe San jose did overpay, and that while Burns is worth more, Calgary could’ve received a well-regarded prospect back.

    People mention the poor returns on top players here often, but there are examples to the contrary where the team getting the superstar ends up the loser.

    To me, the biggest mistake is in looking for a package. For example, if I’m the Bruins trading Thornton, I don’t care about quanity, just quality. Just give me one real high pick or one top prospect. Even a combo of the two depending on who/what we’re talking about, but too many assets just translates into a whole lot of crap.

    • To me, the biggest mistake is in looking for a package.

      This is something KLowe did all the time. “Three assets!” has become a punch-line in Oiler fans circles. It refers to the package Lowe received from NYI for Ryan Smyth a couple of years ago.

      For the record, that package was: Ryan O’Marra, Robert Nilsson and a first round pick (which they used to pick Riley Nash I think). None of them are with the organization at this point.

      In the end, there’s no guarantees when you trade an established player for youngsters and futures I guess. Luke Adam and their first this year sure would have preferable in my eyes however.

  • coptin_

    Well, I think I said Butler was an undetermined value roster player and Byron was a good dice roll. I don’t think that is great. I just can’t tell if it is that much worse than what San Jose got.

  • thymebalm

    Well, I think I said Butler was an undetermined value roster player and Byron was a good dice roll. I don’t think that is great. I just can’t tell if it is that much worse than what San Jose got.

  • What kind of pairing will Regehr and Ehrhoff make in Buffalo now that Ehrhoff has signed?
    Will their styles compliment each other, one being focused on offense and the other defense, or will they even play with eachother?

  • I was happy to see Regehr gone, he had diminishing returns and too much power within the organization, Feaster realized that, good on him. As for the return, nothing surprising. Butler and Bryron will be great NHL players, sounds like a sales job. Listening to Buffalo guys they were all, “Meh, no big loss.” These guys remind me of past Flames drafts, Nystrom while we knew his heart, he was supposed to be a top 6 forward. Tim Ramholt was supposed to be a top D-Man, played 1 game in the NHL. Remember Kris Chucko? Or Dustin Boyd? I get the feeling thats what these players are, bottom 6 forward, bottom 2 d-man. Of course the organization is going to talk these guys as the next Gretzky or Coffey. Do you think theyre going to come out and say, “Yea this was a salary dump, we got what we could.”

  • Everybody keeps forgetting that a team can only go over the cap by 10% in the off season. So if the flames didn’t move kots and signed tanguay, the team would lose all flexibility from a cap perspective and as such be trying to trade from a position of weakness.

    It was a salary dump. I agree with dome beers because feaster called the package a “significant price” that buffalo was willing to pay. Makes me wonder what the other offers were… Or was buffalo the only team willing to take Kots back on a trade of any sort? Hard to say, but I do think feaster did open up things in a way we needed to. I was losing my mind when I heard the trade, but I feel a little more settled on it now and get the feeling that Robyn had a much higher value in Calgary compared to the open market.

    • Like Emir, this trade bothered me to no end initially but I came to accept it for what is was, a salary dump.

      As I’ve said before, you really can’t compare the 2 trades because San Jose picked up a mobile, 2-way defenceman coming into his prime years. Who knows? If Burns turns out to be a freak of nature like Nick Lidstom or Scott Niedermayer, this could be the steal of the decade for the Sharks. Even if Burns turns out to be your run-of-the-mill star defenceman, the Sharks will still get 5 to 6 solid seasons out of him.

      I’m going to betray my age here and say that the greatest General Manager of all time was Montrel’s Sam Pollack. All my contemporaries would rave about Pollack’s success at the draft. In my view, he gave himself a lot of chances (i.e. picks). He did so by making hard decisions as to his players’ “Best Before Dates”. In other words, he would trade a player at the height of his value before age and injuries took their toll. We’ll never know but it may be that the Flames dropped the ball in terms of assessing Regehr’s Best Before date.

  • Derzie

    I’m with the-wolf on this one. The numbers in this thread (without the sugar coated spin) confirms that Regehr is a valuable shutdown guy and we got shafted in the deal. No one can say that Buffalo is not better right now just as no one can say that Calgary is better. It was a money fueled deal and a really bad one at that. Tomorrow could be a disaster. My success criteria for tomorrow is to sign no free agent over 30, not give up draft picks and get some guys that are solid 2nd liners or better. Shed cap. Bury the ex-Leafs.

    • Derzie

      I’m just excited for a top 10 pick in next years draft! It looks to be much deeper than this year’s draft! Maybe then we can get ourselves a legitimate prospect other than the last 2/50 in the past decade that have made an impact on our team. I really wish we could’ve got that second first round pick but maybe Regehr wasn’t worth that after all.

      I think the Flames fans have perhaps over-estimated Regehr’s return value. At least with Tanguay, we have a setup man for Iggy till the end of his (THEIR) days.

    • Captain Ron

      OK this sounds good in theory but please provide the names of who, other than Brad Richards you consider to be solid 2nd liners, or better players (I’m assuming you mean fist line) that are available. The pickings are slim and the price of poker appears to be higher than ever.

  • coptin_

    reggie didnt waive his no trade till after rnd 1 of the draft,thus screwing the flames and guaranting minimal return.if he waves a day or 2 earlier we may have been able to have 2 or 3 teams in the running and a better return reggie didnt do us any favors