Center of Attention : The Art of the Trade

Editor's Note: nhlcheapshot follows up his look at Brad Richards with a post looking at what the Leafs' other options might be on the open and not quite open market. 


So you've read up on Brad Richards, but feel he's too old, too costly, the term would be too long, or maybe his incredibly low career PIM means he's not truculent enough. Or maybe you feel the whole argument is moot because he doesn't want to come to Toronto anyway.

Luckily, he's not the only legit #1C in the league, and you can bet Brian Burke has a backup plan or two if and when Brad Richards decides to re-sign in DAL or take the ridiculous lifetime contract that Glen Sather will offer on July 1.

That's right, the art of the trade - and Brian Burke has been known to pull off some doozies in his time. From moving up in the draft, to acquiring an elite defenseman or two, to controversial deals that will be debated for years to come.

The biggest problem is that most teams - for obvious reasons - don't want to let go of a high-end center, especially a young one. Let's take a look at some options he has, and what he'll have to do to acquire them.

This time I looked at the centers around the league and how they performed during the 2010-2011 season (in terms of points per 60 minutes) relative to their contract. Data used for chart here.


(Click on chart for larger version)

A few notes:

  • In this analysis, the way to interpret the graph is if a player is above the line, he is playing above his contract, and if he is below the line, he is playing below his contract. The line could be used as a proxy for "market value", and the slope (~0.17 points/60) gives us the expected increase in production for each additional $1M in cap hit.
  • Should note that this slope only applies to the 2010-2011 season, as a different year and different group of centermen will change the slope of the line.
  • Of course there's more to a contract than just Points/60 minutes, but the trend above is useful. For the most part what we see is intuitive - players that had great seasons (Pavel Datsyuk, Henrik Sedin, Steven Stamkos) are well above the line, while others who stumbled (Bozak, Shawn Horcoff, Scott Gomez (lol)) are well below the line.
  • There are obvious flaws, such as the fact that players on ELCs are penalized in the chart by being plotted against their full cap hit, even though they will likely not reach all or even most of their bonuses (i.e. Tyler Bozak)

In any case, I used the data to come up with 3 types of centerman which could be persued by Burke in the offseason.

Type 1 - Aging Veteran: Proven Production, but Diminishing Returns


  2010-2011 Season Career 2011-12
Team Name Age Points Points/Game Points/60 Points/Game Points/60 Cap Hit ($M)
CHI Patrick Sharp 29 71 0.96 2.96 0.64 2.29 $3.90
DAL Brad Richards 30 77 1.07 2.95 0.93 2.65 UFA
DAL Mike Ribeiro 30 71 0.87 2.60 0.75 2.63 $5.00
STL Andy McDonald 33 50 0.86 2.58 0.72 2.45 $4.70
CGY Brendan Morrison 35 43 0.65 2.34 0.66 2.28 UFA
CGY Olli Jokinen 32 54 0.68 2.31 0.65 2.10 $3.00
BUF Tim Connolly 29 42 0.62 2.19 0.63 2.13 UFA
NSH David Legwand 30 41 0.64 2.04 0.58 1.99 $4.50
ATL Nik Antropov 30 40 0.53 2.02 0.61 2.31 $4.06
EDM Shawn Horcoff 32 27 0.57 1.85 0.59 1.99 $5.50
NSH Mike Fisher 30 36 0.44 1.43 0.51 1.81 $4.20

A few points:

  • Yes I realize some of them are UFA, but I figured I'd throw them in for comparison sake within the same type of "soon to be aging veteran" category.
  • Not all of them are necessarily "available" (i.e. Patrick Sharp), but it goes to show the general salary expectations given the age and point production of the group.
  • Overall the names are... less than impressive. Maybe a solid #2C here if the Leafs feel it necessary to just protect the kids (Kadri, Colborne) until they are ready, but no real homeruns.

Type 2: Prime Candidates


  2010-2011 Season Career 2011-12
Team Name Age Points Points/Game Points/60 Points/Game Points/60 Cap Hit ($M)
BUF Derek Roy 27 35 1.00 3.07 0.82 2.57 $4.00
OTT Jason Spezza 27 57 0.92 2.73 1.01 3.28 $7.00
SJ Joe Pavelski 26 66 0.89 2.72 0.70 2.39 $4.00
BOS David Krejci 24 62 0.83 2.63 0.72 2.52 $3.75
COL Paul Stastny 25 57 0.77 2.34 0.92 2.74 $6.60
STL Alex Steen 26 51 0.71 2.17 0.55 1.90 $3.36
STL T.J. Oshie 24 34 0.69 2.17 0.66 2.21 RFA
NYR Brandon Dubinsky 24 54 0.70 2.08 0.57 1.95 RFA
FLA Stephen Weiss 27 49 0.64 1.92 0.60 2.04 $3.10
WSH Brooks Laich 27 48 0.59 1.91 0.50 1.93 UFA
LAK Jarret Stoll 28 43 0.52 1.83 0.57 2.02 $3.60
NJD Travis Zajac 25 44 0.54 1.63 0.61 2.00 $3.89

A few points:

  • Getting one of these guys would be ideal, but the cost will likely be high. If I had to pick one name on that list it would be Paul Stastny, but frankly any one of Derek Roy, Jason Spezza, Joe Pavelski, David Krejci or Stastny would be huge.
  • Derek Roy - I think this one is doubtful. BUF is likely going to let Connolly walk as a UFA, and they'll need Roy and Boyes as their #1 and #2. I never appreciated his production level before, but after seeing his numbers, he's pretty good.
  • Jason Spezza - Giggles has a dorky laugh. He centered a line that pestered Toronto fans for years, and while Heatley had the good sense to get the hell out of OTT before it crumbled, Spezza remained and is showing that he can put up points without his wingman. Spezza, no matter what prejudice you have against him as a member of the Senators, is a legit #1C, a career point-per-game player and is earning every penny of that $7M. I don't think he's overpaid at all for what he brings to the game. Ottawa has told the media he's not being shopped, but stranger things have happened.
  • Joe Pavelski - "You must be crazy nhlcheapshot. They would never ever ever trade 'The Big Pavelski'." Probably true. But he fits in nicely among the other names there, is entering his prime years and SJ is stacked at center with Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau, Joe Pavelski and Logan Couture. If the price was right, maybe Doug Wilson would listen. Not holding my breath on this one.
  • David Krejci - I believe this name was brought up in The Star the other day, and brought up again in the FTB by our own Steve Burtch. I originally dismissed the idea, but after thinking about it and seeing his production and cap hit, Krejci could be the type of centerman the Leafs are looking for. He's young, producing, healthy, and is signed for 1 more season at $3.75M. If he keeps this up, he's due for a raise, one that BOS might not be able to afford. The recent trade history with the Bruins has been... tumultuous, to say the least. If we were to dangle one of our young defensemen though - but one that can actually play D, so Komisarek doesn't count - something could be done.
  • Paul Stastny - The name that has been heard everywhere since before the deadline, Burke was rumoured to have been talking trade for the centerman but the asking price was too high. While his salary is high - $6.6M for 3 more years - the Leafs have plenty of space and a willingness to take on salary. Colorado however, is an internal cap team who may very well prefer younger or cheaper players with potential over a $6.6M 2nd line center behind the big up-and-coming Matt Duchene.
  • The remaining names are interesting as well, and are just as unlikely to be had in a trade. I'm no good at imagining trade proposals, so i'll let your imaginations determine what the cost of these high-end prime-aged centerman would be.

Type 3: Blossoming Young Star


  2010-2011 Season Career 2011-12
Team Name Age Points Points/Game Points/60 Points/Game Points/60 Cap Hit ($M)
TBL Steven Stamkos 20 91 1.11 3.30 0.95 3.08 RFA
NYI John Tavares 20 67 0.85 2.64 0.75 2.42 $3.75
SJ Logan Couture 21 56 0.71 2.39 0.63 2.34 $1.24
STL Patrik Berglund 22 52 0.64 2.24 0.55 2.16 RFA
CLB Derick Brassard 23 47 0.64 2.24 0.55 2.17 3.20
EDM Jordan Eberle 20 43 0.62 2.11 0.62 2.11 $1.16
ATL Bryan Little 23 49 0.64 2.10 0.53 1.90 $2.38
EDM Sam Gagner 21 42 0.62 2.09 0.59 2.15 $2.28
PHX Kyle Turris 21 25 0.38 2.05 0.35 1.72 RFA
PIT Jordan Staal 22 30 0.71 2.01 0.54 1.74 $4.00
NYR Derek Stepan 20 45 0.55 2.00 0.55 2.00 $0.88
ATL Evander Kane 19 43 0.59 1.98 0.50 1.86 $3.10
NYI Josh Bailey 21 28 0.4 1.35 0.42 1.55 RFA
CAR Brandon Sutter 21 29 0.35 1.26 0.37 1.49 RFA
  • These ones are just for fun, as Burke would have to really throw everything and the kitchen sink at a GM for them to trade one of their young up-and-comers.
  • Do I think Burke will offer sheet Steven Stamkos? No. But it would be hilarious if he did. If you take a look at the chart above, using the model you can see that if Stamkos was being paid according to his "market value" of his production per 60 minutes, he'd be getting just about $10M in cap hit. That, my friends, is worth 4 1st round picks IMO.

My third and final fanpost in the "Center of Attention" series will look at what options Burke has within the Leafs organization, and how maybe it would be best if Burke and Nonis just went fishing on July 1 instead.

All cap hit information is courtesy of Capgeek.
All player stats are from Hockey-Reference. is a fan community that allows members to post their own thoughts and opinions on the Toronto Maple Leafs and hockey in general. These views and thoughts may not be shared by the editor of

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