On Monday night, the Toronto Maple Leafs dealt forward Kris Versteeg to the Philadelphia Flyers in exchange for Philadelphia's first and third round picks in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft, a move that on the surface that made sense for the Leafs to do as they build for the future.
How the trade shapes up for the Toronto Maple Leafs
After last week's Mike Fisher trade from Ottawa to Nashville, Rob Vollman explained
how important it is to assess contracts in addition to talent when evaluating trades in the salary cap era. Looking at Kris Versteeg's deal of $3.083 million in cap hit for this season and next with him ending as a restricted free agent, he would need to be producing approximately 7.8 GVT each season to be worth his contract. Based on his last two years in Chicago, Versteeg was averaging 11.5 GVT, which is about half a win of value over his contract, but when considering his 82 game pace with Toronto, that average drops downs 9.6 GVT
which is still a positive asset. When you then compare Versteeg's value to draft pick valuations as recently calculated by Iain Fyffeshowing the average Peak GVT of a first round pick from a contender to be about 5.0 GVTit appears that the Maple Leafs have received less than half of what Versteeg has produced in his two best seasons. So how in the world could this be good for Toronto?
Aside from looking at the results and dollar figures when looking at trades, we have to evaluate environment and the risk/reward potential of the deal. Yes, Versteeg is a on a decent contract for two more years and will still be a RFA afterwards with a (brief) history of being a two win-above-replacement player, but is the player going to be an asset when you want him to be an asset? Essentially, is he going to be a difference maker when you need difference makers for making a run? Looking at Toronto's organization at the moment, at the top level and throughout their system, this is not a one to two year fix, this is going to take a while and even if they get Versteeg to extend for an additional year, I'm still not convinced it would do anything positive for them other than provide a good player on a team lacking good players. The Maple Leafs need young players for four to five years from nownot for todayand that's what the draft pick will be. Acquisition of talent is always the most important thing to do, but the timing has to be taken into account as well. Whether or not they got good value on Versteeg in return is a whole other debate as a pick around the tail-end of the first round will give about $2 million in value, which is less than the value Versteeg has provided on the term of his contract.
As always with the draft, there are no guarantees. At the tend of the first round you could always find a Corey Perry as Anaheim did in 2003 or you could end up with a journeyman AHLer. It's part of the risk/reward aspect of the NHL Entry Draft. You can always try and get young players a little further along, however as Toronto learned just last week, the price of young, cheap somewhat developed talent is the equivalent of giving up a top four defender and taking on a bad contract. So rolling the dice in the draft is really the only way they are going to have a shot to restock the organization with talent without an array of assets to deal.
Even though Toronto has Nazem Kadri and the newly acquired Jake Gardiner, the system after that point is pretty bleak in prospects with notable ceiling, so they need to do well with this pick, despite the fact it will likely be a late first-rounder. I would advise going for some ceiling, but not too much risk as they can't afford the pick to completely bust out being so early in the rebuild.
How the trade shapes up for the Philadelphia Flyers
From Philadelphia's perspective, they got a player who provided pretty high GVT totals while in Chicago. Despite the lower GVT in Toronto, Versteeg's Corsi Rel QoC put him amongst the best of Toronto's forwards with average competition, teammates and offensive zone starts. A portion of the 24-year-old winger's slumping scoring numbers can be attributed to one of the lowest scoring teams with a below-average power play to boot. Moving onto Philadelphia will be a 180-degree turn for Versteeg in environment and teammate quality and likely will be reflected in his counting numbers.
While I understand why Philly wanted to do this move, in that they wanted some secondary scoring for a championship run, I hated that they gave away yet another quality future asset. In isolation, I usually don't mind when teams try to make that one move to put them over the top even if they lose value in the deal. However this is not an isolated case. Dating back to the 2009 NHL Entry Draft, Philadelphia has essentially dealt their last four first round draft picks! In the Chris Pronger trade, they dealt their 2008 first round draft pick Luca Sbisa and their 2009 and 2010 first round draft picks. That trade essentially ravaged the Flyers' system and is the prime reason why they have the worst farm system in hockey.
While Philadephia has a lot of young talent on the big club like Claude Giroux, James van Reimsdyk, Sergei Bobrovksy and Andreas Nodl, it isn't exactly news that the Flyers have a non-ideal cap situation. Philadelphia has under two million in cap space for next season with 17 players signed and several notable players needing new contracts for 2012-13. In the cap era, you need a steady stream of young players coming up through the ranks continuously, and that simply is not on the way barring a trade. Erik Gustafsson has performed very well in the AHL and surprised for an undrafted college free agent, but overall, the Flyers may make a run now, but I am very skeptical about what this team will be four to five years from now.
Toronto found out the hard way what happens when you deal first round picks like it's going out of style while trying to win. Mind you, Philly is younger than the 2003-04 Leafs and I highly doubt the decline will be that sharp, but it is never a good idea to leave your pipeline dry. Right now, they are barren and won't be improving anytime soon.
Corey Pronman is an author of Hockey Prospectus.
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