The end of the trade deadline brought a flurry of trades; I will try to cover the major ones that included young players. The first deal I will look at is Tampa Bay trading forward Cory Conacher and a 2012 fourth round pick to the Ottawa Senators for goaltender Ben Bishop.
Tampa Bay Lightning receive G Ben Bishop
Bishop has played well in limited game action. In 13 games this season, he has a .927 even strength save percentage, although in 10 games last season his ESSV% was just .916. In 35 career NHL games, the 26-year-old goalie's overall save percentage is a pretty middle-of-the-road .911.
There is not much one can conclude on a statistical level, as the sample size is too small given that goalie performance has a fair level of randomness over 60-70 game samples, never mind 35 games spread over four seasons. Therefore, you have to rely on scouting for a player like Bishop more than numbers. Even if you incorporate his AHL stats, where he had a .928 save percentage in 11 games this season and a .928 save percentage in 38 games last season for Peoria, for such an old goalie, you expect that level of production if he is going to be an NHL player of any notable value.
Bishop is a huge goalie, standing in at 6'7'', 215 pounds. One NHL scout praised him for filling the net well without moving too much, adding that he has good technique, a simple style in terms of his stance, and a good on-ice work ethic battling for pucks. It is hard to say what Bishop could be in the NHL, as there are several arguments that could be made for or against him, but for now, he projects as (and could already be) an average NHL goaltender. As one NHL source says, though, in a league where size is a skill valued highly for goaltenders, a player like Bishop has the ability to be something significant, although there is uncertainty on him to keep in mind.
Tampa Bay's goaltending has been underwhelming, with both Anders Lindback and Mathieu Garon posting save percentages barely over .900, although Lindback has the potential to bounce back. While their defensemen are certainly not a strong group, if Tampa Bay could get some league-average goaltending it would go a long way to improve their Goals Against, which is the 10th worst in the NHL.
Ottawa Senators receive W Cory Conacher and a fourth round pick in 2013
Conacher was the AHL MVP as a rookie pro in 2011-12 after being brought to Tampa Bay's AHL affiliate in a minor league deal. He was never drafted. Conacher was my 79th-ranked prospect last summer and the fourth-best prospect in Tampa Bay's system. Conacher is a highly skilled little guy with fantastic speed and puck skills, who can make plays to his teammates as well. He is a solid 5'8'' but he is strong and will fight through checks. He projects as a good second line forward.
Conacher has 24 points in 35 games for Tampa Bay this season, fourth on the team, although some of that is inflated by having good linemates, and some good fortuneConacher has scored on 17% of his own shots, and at even strength, his team has shot 10.4% with him on the ice. While his numbers have been somewhat inflated, he is still an NHL rookie and has been a decent player in the league, which is about what should have been expected. Conacher should continue to improve and become an above-average regular down the line for the Senators.
While Ottawa has good young forwards like Mika Zibanejad, Jakob SIlfverberg, and many others coming, the Senators have really struggled to score this year. That is due in part to a 7.4% team shooting percentage which will rebound, and injuries to Jason Spezza and Milan Michalek. The addition of Conacher will help their lineup.
Bishop may be a league-average goaltender right now. He is approaching unrestricted free agency in the near future, but is a restricted free agent this summer. Conacher is a talented rookie forward who Ottawa will have under control for several years. He could be a top-six forward for them in the near future.
Tampa Bay had the young assets to make this deal and not be impacted too much. J.T. Brown, Brett Connolly, Alex Killorn, Tyler Johnson, and Richard Panik are all either in the NHL or could be in the NHL. Then you have players like Vlad Namestnikov and Nikita Kucherov who are close. These players all project as above-average NHLers and are a big reason why the Lightning currently have an elite farm system. The Bolts leveraged a strength of theirs to address an immediate team weakness, though they sacrificed a decent amount of value in the process.
Ottawa also addressed a current need by leveraging an organizational strength, as they had three quality goaltenders. Robin Lehner, the top goalie prospect in hockey, now moves into a regular NHL role as the backup to Craig Anderson, at least for now. Ottawa made out well in this deal.
Buffalo traded winger Jason Pominville to Minnesota and a 2014 fourth round pick for center prospect Johan Larsson and goaltending prospect Matt Hackett as well as a 2013 first round pick and a 2014 second round pick.
Minnesota Wild receive W Jason Pominville and a fourth round pick in 2014
Pominville is a bona fide top line winger who still has a few prime years left. He is a skilled, competitive forward who can kill penalties and provide solid defensive value while also bringing top-tier offensive production. His GVT has been 10.0 or better every season from 2006-07 through this season (pro-rated) except in 2010-11. He has been a consistent top-tier forward.
Minnesota has been a bottom-15 team this year in terms of puck possession. Their goaltending has been decent, their defense solid, and their offense very average. This move provides a boost to their forward group, improved the team significantly for this season and next, and if their young kids continue to improve, the Wild could have a chance to be an average or better team in terms of puck possession metrics like Fenwick close.
For a team that has shown they want to win now with the free agent splashes they made last summer, this move continues along in that direction. The Wild also have a very good farm system, so they have the ability to make these trades. For example, the great play of young goalie prospect Darcy Kuemper has made losing Matt Hackett more palatable.
Buffalo receive C Johan Larsson, G Matt Hackett, a 2012 first round pick, and a 2014 second round pick
Johan Larsson was my 52nd-ranked prospect last summer, and the #4 prospect in the Minnesota organization. In his first season in North America, the 20-year-old has had a quality season, ranking third in scoring for Houston, his AHL team. One NHL source described him from play in the AHL as a "competitive, all-around" prospect. Larsson has top-end hockey sense at both ends of the rink. He is not overly skilled, but still finds ways to create chances with solid puck skills and great offensive instincts. Even though he is a tad undersized, he has physical game value as he drives the net and pressures the opponents physically with effectiveness. He is close to NHL ready and projects as a top-six forward.
Matt Hackett was my fifth-ranked goaltender prospect in Hockey Prospectus 2012-13 and the 11th-ranked prospect in Minnesota's organization last summer. The 23-year-old Hackett was described by one source as a "very quick and athletic goaltender" who also said he displayed good competitiveness between the pipes. Last year, it was clear Minnesota had two good goalie prospects between Hackett and Kuemper. Hackett had a good .917 save percentage in 43 games, while Kuemper (who also got some ECHL time) had a .923 AHL save percentage in 19 games. This season, Kuemper took more steps forward, stopping 93.4% of shots in 21 games, while Hackett's save percentage dropped to .907 in 43 games.
Hackett would still not be as highly ranked by me prospect-wise although he remains a good prospect. He is a toolsy goaltender, but could use a little work on things like his reads and rebound control. He could potentially be an NHL-average goaltender.
Buffalo also gets a first round pick in this year's draft with has a little more value than usual. I explained this more in-depth in the Iginla trade column.
Minnesota got a 1.5-2.0 win player for their playoff run for this season plus all of next season at a reasonable $5.3 cap hit. It is hard to tell whether they will be able to re-sign him given only eight players signed for 2014-15, but one can assume there is at least some chance of an extension. Pominville is the type of player that you can't obtain often on the free agent market, who has a solid chance to provide breakeven or possibly surplus value on his contract.
In return, Buffalo received a near-NHL-ready Johan Larsson, who has a decent chance to be an above-average NHLer, a good goalie prospect in Matt Hackett, a first round pick in a good draft, and a second round pick next year. Since Buffalo will have a decent chance to get some cheap, controllable years from these young assets, in the long run they will likely pull more value out of this trade.
While losing a top prospect like Johan Larsson and the first round pick hurts, Minnesota's system remains strong, and in order to get something good, you have to give something good. While Minnesota may have given one too many assets, whether it was Matt Hackett or the second round pick, they didn't significantly overpay.
Corey Pronman is an author of Hockey Prospectus.
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