Milan Lucic was picked in the second round (50th overall) by Boston in 2006. (Photo by Brian Babineau/NHLI via Getty Images)
I’m not expecting this to be the most exciting trade deadline, but there’s always at least one big surprise that becomes the talk of the day and has its whats and whys broken down by everyone on TV and around the water cooler.
Based on the fact big names Ilya Kovalchuk, J-S Giguere and Dion Phaneuf have already been traded, I think we might see a lot of salary dumping and draft pick swapping. Heck, we’ve already seen a name defenseman in Denis Grebeshkov dealt to Nashville for a second-rounder.
But that begs the question, why only a second round pick for a proven NHL defender?
As Brian Costello pointed out last year only 15.7 percent of second-rounders, or one out of six, became long-term NHLers (600 games for a skater, 400 for a goalie) between 1980 and 1999.
In fact, just 30 percent went on to be at least marginal NHLers, playing 200 games for skaters and 100 for goalies. Not the best of odds, so why on earth would you trade a bona fide NHLer for an unlikely draft pick?
Contracts have a lot to do with it. You’ll mostly see pending UFAs or RFAs dealt for these picks because non-playoff teams would rather either save that money or invest it towards another player or two for the depth chart. And while a first round pick would cost a major roster player, a simple recalibration of the lineup can land you a second round pick and another number in the lottery.
If you had a 30 percent chance of landing at least a marginal NHLer and a 15.7 percent chance of landing a legitimate NHLer before, your chances of hitting the jackpot double by adding another selection, triple by adding two and so on.
In 2006, the Boston Bruins finished last in their division and picked fifth in the draft. They took Phil Kessel in Round 1 and Yuri Alexandrov out of Russia with their second-rounder. However, a deadline deal with Edmonton sent scorer Sergei Samsonov out west for Marty Reasoner, Yan Stastny and a second round pick. Samsonov had a solid playoff run for the Oilers en route to the Cup final, while Reasoner and Stastny played out the string in Boston before moving on, but that second round pick became Milan Lucic.
In 2007, the floundering Los Angeles Kings dealt pending UFA Brent Sopel (who had 23 points and a plus-2 rating in 44 games for a team that was minus-56 in the goal differential department) to Vancouver for a second round pick that turned into Wayne Simmonds, who has a legitimate shot at 20 goals and 50 points this season. The Kings also picked Oscar Moller in the same round.
Also in 2007, Martin Biron was struggling for Buffalo, but had posted at least a .905 save percentage in four seasons prior and was itching for the starter’s job as Ryan Miller began making an impact. The Sabres dealt Biron to Philadelphia (where he enjoyed a run to the Conference final in 2008) for only a second-rounder.
That pick turned into T.J. Brennan, who’s now acclimatizing himself to professional life in Portland.
It doesn’t work out every time, but if you’re a team on the outside of the playoffs looking in and want to change your direction to focus on building a base to grow from, wouldn’t you want to increase your chances at landing the next star as much as possible?
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