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Revisiting Last Year’s Draft Day Trades

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On draft day itself, the pressure to deal is immense, the risks are high, but so are the rewards. How did GMs do last year?

NHL: St. Louis Blues at Philadelphia Flyers Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

Yesterday, I looked at last year’s pre-draft trades. Today, it’s time for the two days of the draft itself. There’s more picks and players moving around, and some straight-up pick swaps, so I wanted to use a more rigorous draft pick value system than Scott Cullen’s interesting historical analysis that I used yesterday.

For straight up pick comparison, there are so many versions of this analysis, it isn’t funny, but the differences are largely of interest in terms of process, not results. All NHL draft pick valuation charts look about like this:

This is the old (you can tell because it’s not made with Tableau or that one theme in GGPlot2) chart from Erik Tulsky and published at Broad Street Hockey years ago.

Like all valuations, this chart is an average of real results based on some sort of valuation of the players taken. This one assigns 100 points to number one, and expresses every other pick in relation to that. More recent charts look the same.

I want to caution, though, that this is average expectation, and individual drafts have individual players in them. There is research that hints at the oft-used terms strong draft or weak draft being meaningless outside the top few in the first round, but at the same time, I would never use this sort of chart to seriously value those top few players in any, even imaginary, draft. The shifts in real results at the top are too large for the average to be meaningful.

On to the trades:

June 23

One: Arizona got Niklas Hjalmarsson from Chicago for Connor Murphy and Laurent Dauphin. This is really a pre-draft trade, but they didn’t complete it until the 23rd, so it goes here.

Chicago was doing their Chicago thing where they move out an older, high-cap-hit player for a younger, cheaper player to try to keep the ball rolling. This is what the Oilers were trying to do with Eberle, and this isn’t Chicago’s best work in this genre. Murphy is paid too much at too much term and wasn’t miraculously better in Chicago.

On the other hand, Hjalmarsson’s injury-shortened season doesn’t look superb. It’s not bad, mind you, but at 31, he looks like he’s not 25 anymore.

What seemed like a big deal at the time sort of fizzled out in the cold light of day, but it’s better than the Eberle deal.

Two: Chicago got Brandon Saad and Anton Forsberg plus a 2018 fifth-round pick from Columbus for Artemi Panarin, Tyler Motte and a 2017 sixth-round pick.

Comparing the pick swap in isolation to see which way it tilts the deal is our first exercise in using the numbers from that chart up there. Chicago got pick #142 and Columbus got #170 with which they took Jonathan Davidsson who is signed to an ELC, not a common state of affairs for players taken in that region of the draft last year.

Pick #142 is worth about .24 on the chart (with pick #1 at 100) and pick #170 is about .14. That is a distinction without a difference, and while Columbus seems to have been clever or lucky with their choice — Davidsson doubled his production in the SHL this season — in terms of trading assets at the time, those picks are equal even if many people will feel strongly the sixth-rounder is better than the seventh.

The deal will always be seen as Saad for Panarin, with Chicago going for the guy who used to be good for them in exchange for the guy they got stuck paying a huge performance bonus to, but still thought was riding someone else’s coattails. History shall decide, but the short term view of this is full marks to Columbus. My opinion is that this was a terrible deal by Chicago made for very silly reasons.

Three: Minnesota got Dante Salituro from Columbus for Jordan Schroeder, in another straight-up trade. Salituro played in the ECHL mostly, and looks ripe for promotion. Schroeder played some uninspiring NHL and turned back into an AHLer of good quality. Minnesota at least didn’t get Haula’d on this deal, and they aren’t any worse off, nor is Columbus.

Four: The Rangers got Anthony DeAngelo and a 2017 first-round pick from the Arizona Coyotes for Derek Stepan and Antti Raanta.

DeAngelo proved to be as good in New York as he was in Arizona, which isn’t very. He’s had one good pro season, and it was on the Syracuse Crunch before Tampa traded him. The trade in real terms, then, was the pick for the two players. If Raanta is the real thing, this deal was a very good one, forgetting Stepan altogether, who would make a lovely second or third line centre on a team that had better options higher up the lineup.

The pick became Lias Andersson, however. And this pick was controversial, as many believe the Rangers took a very good prospect too high. That’s water under the bridge now, and he’ll be part of their rebuild, so from their point of view, this was a win. I wonder who they will eventually trade DeAngelo to, though?

Five: Chicago and Dallas made a pick swap of a 2017 first-rounder and a third for a first coming back. Chicago moved from #26 to #29 and were paid with #70 to do it. Dallas wanted to select goalie Jake Oettinger, so their motivation was a specific player.

The numbers there are: 17 points to Dallas in exchange for 13.5 plus 2.5. Tulsky’s data chart skips some numbers, so the 13.5 is a bit approximate, but close enough for these purposes. That’s very close to even and obviously a team can only trade you the picks they have, so it’s not like Chicago could have demanded a better third rounder. This was a fair enough deal, but they didn’t leverage Dallas’s desire into anything extra.

Chicago took Henri Jokiharju, which is fine and a very Chicago pick, except they were one pick ahead of Nashville, who took Eeli Tolvanen, so oops. Their other choice was Andrei Altybarmakyan, an interesting player in the KHL/MHL/VHL system.

Six: Pittsburgh got Ryan Reaves and a 2017 second-round pick for Oskar Sundqvist and a 2017 first-round pick.

Pittsburgh was trading their own first, so it was #31 in exchange for #51 which is pick value 14 to pick value 5.5, so a drop, but not much of one, proving again that we should stop talking about picks by round.

The other side of this deal was considered laughable at the time. Are we still laughing about Reaves? Maybe he just had one bit of glory in the playoffs, and that was all he’ll ever get, but the player swap seemed really lopsided at the time. Of course, that depended on who you asked. Many fans of Reaves’ style of play thought St. Louis got taken.

Sundqvist is a very inexpensive depth centre who doesn’t really add much. He played almost a full season with St. Louis because they aren’t rolling in NHL-ready prospects.

However, it’s not the pick, it’s what you do with it. St. Louis picked Klim Kostin, who I think is a steal almost as big as Tolvanen. Oops again, Chicago. Pittsburgh picked Zachary Lauzon, a defender in the Q, about whom I know nothing.

At the end of the day, the Blues turned their enforcer into Kostin, who might be NHL ready in the next season or two. That’s a win. Pittsburgh gained more on the deal they ultimately made to move out Reaves.

Seven: St. Louis got Brayden Schenn from the Flyers for Jori Lehtera, a 2017 first-round pick and a conditional 2018 first-round pick.

The player swap was such an overbalanced win for the Blues that Lehtera was really a contract dump in retrospect. The Flyers have another year to see if Lehtera has any hockey in him, but meanwhile, the picks they got were #27 and #14. The condition on the second pick was that if it were a top 10, the Blues could opt to send the 2019 instead, and so, the Flyers got about the best result they could get there.

They took Morgan Frost, a forward who had a mere 112 points in 67 games in the OHL this season. Add to that whoever they take this year at 14th, and that was a good haul for Schenn who has also blossomed in St. Louis in ways no one predicted. A good deal all around, and amusing, in that the Blues traded their better first and still got Kostin.

June 24

One: Philadelphia got a second-round pick, #35, from Arizona for a second, a third and a fourth or #44, #75 and #108

The values turn out as: 11.3 vs 7.5 + 2 + .8 = 10.3 or very close to equal. The players selected were all young, and I won’t claim to compare them in value, but Arizona, in going for volume over one better pick, has more chances to get a good player. Assuming you think you have a good enough scout list to get a better than average player at all of those positions, this deal is a win for Arizona, while the Flyers are maximizing their chances of getting a quality player who could be NHL-ready sooner, which fits where their team is at.

Two: Columbus got a second-round pick (#45) from Vegas for Keegan Kolesar. Columbus took Alexandre Texier, famous as the only player ever drafted out of the French league. Kolesar played in the ECHL and the AHL, and did well. It seems like an overpay by Vegas.

However, it’s worth considering that Vegas had way too many picks. I say too many, because having all those 2017 picks meant their prospects were all going to be the same age as they moved along in development. What they did with this deal was move the age needle a little to stop the pipeline from getting clogged. Not a bad idea.

Three: Arizona, who sure likes pick swaps, got a third-round and fifth-round pick from the Oilers for a third-round pick. The Oilers moved from #82 up to #78 and paid with #126 to do it.

The numbers are: 1.4 vs 1.5 + .35 = 1.85

Wow. That’s exciting. It’s like the Oilers heard about pick trading and then did it not very well. Imagine that? But the difference overall here is not in the value, which is essentially equal when you remember these aren’t absolute values, but averages. No, the difference here is that Arizona has two chances to get lucky and the Oilers have one.

The Oilers were motivated to do this deal because they wanted Stuart Skinner, the goalie, and the Coyotes took a pair of guys I’ve never heard of. Yet. They might be stars someday, they likely won’t be.

Four: Calgary received Travis Hamonic and a conditional 2019 fourth-round pick for a 2018 first-round pick, a second-round pick and a 2019th conditional second-round pick from the Islanders.

Neither team made the playoffs, and right now, the Islanders sure look good with those picks in hand. It gets better, because the condition was the 2019 pick swap occurred if the Flames flamed out (no, I don’t get tired of that).

So assume the 2019 picks are both middle of the round picks, and assign them numbers #47 and #108, then the pick swap is #108 for #47, #12 and #43. The math on that is .5 vs 7 + 32.9 + 8 = 47.9.

Or, a wild chance at anything useful up against one very good and two good picks, which have three chances to hit it big, one of them very, very strong. This is equivalent, ignoring the added value of having multiple picks, to having traded the fifth or sixth overall for Hamonic straight up.

And he’s UFA in two years and is now 27, but underpaid quite a bit.

It’s entirely possible Noah Hanifin can be had for less today, and I don’t see this trade as anything but a gross overpay that I’m still really happy Lou turned down for the Leafs. It is very funny that Lou now gets to spend all that lucre the Islanders got for this deal, though.

Five: Chicago acquired a fourth-rounder, #112, from Vancouver for a fifth and sixth, #135 and #181. The points add up to: .5 vs .27 + .13 = .4. The swap is not about value, though, this was Chicago seeing Tim Soderlund available and getting him at 112th. He is an excellent utility SHL player who they will be very happy to underpay a little and overuse, as they do.

Six: San Jose got a fourth-round pick for a fourth and sixth from the Rangers. The numbers are: #102 for #123 and # 174. The points on this are .5 vs .35 + .14 = .49. Equal again. It’s almost like all teams use the same valuation for these pick swaps. San Jose took a college centre with this pick, so maybe they really liked him and figured the deal was worth it. The rebuilding Rangers got more picks, which seems like a good deal for them.

Seven: Montréal got a seventh round pick in 2017 for one in 2018 from the Flyers. I refuse to consider the value differences in seventh-round picks meaningful, so this was just a straight up swap of equal value. They ended up being 9 slots apart, and the point of all was for the Habs to take a goalie in 2017.

Eight: The Islanders swapped their 2018 sixth-round pick for the Kings’ 2017. So same as above. The placements ended up being #165 to the Islanders and the Kings both, can’t say fairer than that. The Islanders did this deal to take a winger from the Q who got a little better this year.

Nine: San Jose got a sixth-round pick from New Jersey for a two seventh-round picks. They acquired #185 for #205 and #214, which considering these picks are all about equal, is a weird thing to do. It gets weirder. They took Alexander Chmelevski and they’ve signed him to an ELC already. It gets less weird, and they just look smart, when you see that Chmelevski played 10 AHL games this season with six total points. Lest you think this is a mysterious Russian only they knew about, he’s from California and played in the OHL.

And that’s the lot. What have we learned?

Well, if you find a team hungry for a goalie, you can usually get an extra pick out of them to trade down a few spots. If you know there’s a steal there in a late round, you can easily make a swap of like picks to move up and get your man. No one is winning outright on value in pick swaps, but the team that ends up with more is usually the winner in the end, unless they know something other teams don’t. Good scouting still wins the draft over wheeling and dealing.

If you want to wheel and deal, do it with Calgary; they’re bad at it. If you want to trade up, call Arizona; they live in the land of hockey as an abstraction, so they’ll always deal down.

Some teams really seem more active than others, and yes I remember our growing annoyance that the Leafs did nothing but draft some guys we had to scramble to say anything about. This year will be different! (no, it won’t)