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:
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:
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.