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March 6, 2012
Howe and Why
Value Today Vs. Value Tomorrow

by Robert Vollman

The Nashville Predators lead the list of teams that made the largest statistical improvements, moving Blake Geoffrion, Robert Slaney, a first round choice, and two second round choices for Hal Gill, Andrei Kostitsyn, Paul Gaustad, and a fourth round choice—which should have a net effect of about three goals the rest of the way.

As for the league's sellers, the Tampa Bay Lightning made the biggest impact, dealing away Pavel Kubina, Steve Downie, Dominic Moore, Carter Ashton, Matt Fornataro, Matt Gilroy, and two seventh round selections for Sebastien Piche, Jon Kalinski, Mike Commodore, Brandon Segal, Brian Lee, Keith Aulie, a first round selection, two second round selections, and a fourth rounder—the net effect should be almost as significant as Nashville's.

Most Improved Teams, by GVT

Add: GVT (to February 27) of players added to team
Remove: GVT (to February 27) of players traded away
Team         Add Remove Total
Nashville     9.0  0.0   9.0
Colorado      8.4  2.9   5.5
Philadelphia  3.7  0.0   3.7
Minnesota     5.9  3.1   2.8
Ottawa        4.3  1.5   2.8
Chicago       2.1  0.0   2.1

In total, Nashville added players that have accumulated nine goals in value above replacement level in the first three quarters of the season, making it reasonable to assume they'll add three goals of value to the Nashville Predators. Of course, this safely assumes that replacement-level players will lose their job to make roster spots for Gill, Kostitsyn and Gaustad, who already combine for one goal, four assists, and plus-5 in 10 games.

We took a lot of flak (and more than little guff) last year when we suggested that Nashville gave up a little too much for Mike Fisher, but what about this year? Fortunately, they were smart enough to avoid long-term high-priced contracts (all three acquisitions are UFAs at season's end, with cap hits far lower than Fisher's), but they also gave up two 23-year-olds and three early draft picks—what's that worth?

At last year's trading deadline, Iain Fyffe calculated the value of a draft choice as the expected career GVT of players historically chosen at each spot. While a top-10 pick can be worth a lot, the line tends to flatten out at 10th overall at around 4.5 goals, meaning Nashville's three picks are probably worth 13.5 goals.

Even in the unlikely event that Geoffrion and Slaney are worthless, Nashville gave up about 13.5 goals of future value to get about three goals of value today. In short, the Predators are putting a 5:1 premium on today's goals versus future goals, a clear signal that they want to go deep this postseason.

As for the other teams, Colorado made a more long-term investment by picking up RFAs instead, like Steve Downie and Jamie McGinn, but could also be trying to make a play for the hotly-contested eighth seed in the West.

Philadelphia and Minnesota made some moves on defense, moves that could have far greater impact given GVTs occasional undervaluation of defensive-minded players. That could be good news for the Flyers, who significantly shored things up with the additional of Pavel Kubina and Nicklas Grossman, but bad news for Minnesota, who gave up defensive stalwarts Greg Zanon and Nick Schultz along with Marek Zidlicky in favor of Tom Gilbert, Kurtis Foster, and some forward depth (Nick Palmieri and Stephane Veilleux).

Least Improved Teams, by GVT

Team       Add Remove Total
Tampa Bay  2.5  10.9  -8.4
Montreal   0.0   5.9  -5.9
Edmonton   0.0   4.2  -4.2
Vancouver  3.2   7.1  -3.9

As previously discussed, Tampa Bay was the big seller at the trade deadline, giving up some solid players for six prospects and/or spare parts and four picks (worth about 18 goals in the long run, using Fyffe's valuations). Excellent moves by shrewd GM Steve Yzerman!

Of course, they've won four straight games since then, pulling to within two points of the final postseason position, their odds of a playoff appearance up to 20% now—let�s hope the 2.8 goals of remaining value this season don't make the difference.

Montreal, who somehow snuck behind the New York Islanders in the Eastern Conference standings, gave up the aforementioned players to the Predators (Gill, Kostitsyn).

Perhaps one of the bigger surprises is how some teams didn't sell at all, like the Edmonton Oilers. Other than trading Tom Gilbert for Nick Schultz—a move that looks bad only because of GVTs occasional misvaluations of defensive-minded players like Schultz—Edmonton's only move was the minor Brian Rodney for Ryan O'Marra depth tweak.

As for the Vancouver Canucks, the Hodgson/Sulzer for Kassian/Gragnani swap was more of a reformulation reminiscent of October's Samuelsson/Sturm for Booth/Reinprecht deal as opposed to an actual buy or sell—and Sami Pahlsson is an excellent postseason defensive veteran depth pick-up.

Dallas, San Jose, and Winnipeg also made moves resulting in very minor 1.5 goal drops, according to GVT.

The Verdict

Nashville put a heavy premium on today's goals, giving up almost five goals of future value for every one goal today, a move that could prove defensible if Hal Gill, Andrei Kostitsyn, and Paul Gaustad can give them the depth they need to advance in the postseason, and to help entice their more irreplaceable talent to sign deals to remain in town long term.

Steve Yzerman could actually prove to be the biggest winner at this year's trade deadline, getting maximum future expected value out of a collection of UFAs and spare parts, at a ratio of at least six future goals for every one current goal. Of course, if Tampa Bay misses the postseason dance by a single point, this year's big winner could wind up looking more like the goat.

Robert Vollman is an author of Hockey Prospectus. You can contact Robert by clicking here or click here to see Robert's other articles.

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