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The Straight Edge: Pleading for patience in prospects

Jiri Tlusty was tied for second in Marlies scoring before the trade, posting 15 points in 19 games. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

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Jiri Tlusty was tied for second in Marlies scoring before the trade, posting 15 points in 19 games. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

In acquiring left winger Jiri Tlusty from the Toronto Maple Leafs, the Carolina Hurricanes essentially threw in the towel on a player they drafted just more than five months ago – center Philippe Paradis, who went the other way in the trade.

I understand you have to give up one asset to get another, but five months? That doesn’t seem like a long time to evaluate the long-term impact a player can have on your franchise.

At 6-foot-2, 205 pounds, Paradis is projected to be a power forward and has already demonstrated in his junior career with the Quebec League’s Shawinigan Cataractes he’s willing to go to the net and pay the price physically for his points.

But as with many players of his ilk, it will take several years for him to get the necessary strength and explosiveness to be effective at the NHL level. The weight room is going to be Philippe’s best buddy.

Tlusty has already played in the NHL with the Leafs, but didn’t have the presence or results to stay up last year. He was an offensive machine for the American League’s Toronto Marlies last season, but seemed to be in the Jason Krog/Brett Sterling category; great in the ‘A,’ not in the NHL.

Perhaps a change of scenery will buttress Tlusty’s success, but in terms of upside, Paradis is ahead right now because he’s younger than Tlusty and hasn’t already failed at cracking an NHL lineup on a consistent basis.

Giving up top draft picks in trades has become relatively common lately and you can feel the collective collars of the team’s fans tighten when the names of those prospects are dropped.

Ryan McDonagh. Eric Tangradi. Tuukka Rask. All were traded two years or less after being drafted. None of the returns for these prospects would denote a “steal” for the team that jettisoned the youngsters.

Tangradi, who was on fire with the Ontario League’s Belleville Bulls when he was traded, went to Pittsburgh alongside Chris Kunitz for Ryan Whitney, who became an Anaheim Duck in the process.

Kunitz was nearly a point-per-game player for the rest of the regular season for the Pens and helped them win the Stanley Cup. Whitney’s a great young defenseman, but I’m sure Pittsburgh’s not sweating the deal right now, especially since Tangradi is only a year or two away from the NHL.

Another Ducks pick gone via trade is center Eric O’Dell, who was sent to Atlanta at the trade deadline a year after he was drafted for Erik Christensen, who was waived by Anaheim earlier this season.

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McDonagh, a Montreal Canadiens first-rounder in 2007 whose inclusion in the Scott Gomez trade immediately caused indigestion for Habs fans, is another example of a player gone too soon.

A defenseman who plays a balanced game, the University of Wisconsin junior is on pace for his best offensive totals yet and it cannot be said either team won that deal.

Both the Habs and Rangers are struggling, with Gomez posting the worst offensive totals of his career and Chris Higgins (who went to New York) doing the same on Broadway.

But at least the Rangers can pin future hopes on McDonagh.

Rask was infamously dealt by the Maple Leafs for fellow goaltender Andrew Raycroft, whose tenure in Toronto was an overall disaster, even if he technically holds the team record for wins in a season (playing 72 games certainly helps, as does the introduction of shootout victories).

So why give up so early, given the history?

I can understand giving up draft slots in exchange for players; the other team will likely choose a completely different player, so you’re not forever married to one particular name.

But someone in the organization saw something in these young men and they weren’t wrong when they saw it. A little bit of patience would help enormously.

In fact, Carolina has precedent for this when it traded Jack Johnson away when the defenseman didn’t want to leave the University of Michigan early.

Johnson may not be the third-best player taken in the 2005 draft (Anze Kopitar and Paul Stastny would follow Sid the Kid), but he’s still a regular NHLer with high upside.

I guess history does repeat itself after all.

Ryan Kennedy is a writer and copy editor for The Hockey News magazine, the co-author of the book Hockey's Young Guns and a regular contributor to THN.com. His blog will appears Monday and Wednesday, his column - The Straight Edge - every Friday, and his prospect feature, The Hot List appears Tuesdays. 

For more great profiles, news and views from the world of hockey, subscribe to The Hockey News magazine.

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