Why 2 first round picks for Kessel makes sense…

There has been a lot of discussion over the last week or so on the rumoured trade offer that Brian Burke has made to the Boston Bruins for Phil Kessel and now that the trade seems very likely to go down, possibly within hours, we may as well take a look at it. (TSN is now reporting the deal is done and pending Kessel signing a contract with the Leafs which is probably not a significant hurdle issue).

The rumour is that Burke has offered two first round picks and a second round pick for Kessel and a third round pick (no word yet if this is the actual deal though). Howard Berger has argued that it makes no sense to trade two first round picks for Kessel because the Leafs are still rebuilding and the two first round picks could be far more valuable and he eluded to Schenn and Kadri as being an example why. Schenn and Kadri are the Leafs most recent two first round picks and he wouldn’t trade the pair of them for Kessel so why would he trade the Leafs next two picks for Kessel.

To me that is a shortsighted view of the situation. First off, Schenn has one years NHL experience and he performed relatively well so the ‘downside risk’ in Schenn has diminished somewhat while much of the upside potential remains. Kadri is still an unknown asset but he was a 7th overall pick which is likely higher than where the Leafs will pick in the next two drafts so he at least theoretically is likely more valuable than the Leafs than the Leafs first round pick in either the next two seasons (and Schenn was a 5th overall pick). So in short, Schenn and Kadri are measurably, possibly significantly, more valuable than the Leafs next two first round picks.

Finally, how good are those first round likely to be. Burke has every hope to make the playoffs this upcoming season and I am sure he would show some level of truculence to me if I suggested that the Leafs would miss the playoffs in 2009-10 and 2010-11, but lets assume a worst case scenario and they do and lets assume that both the draft picks end up in the 8th to 12th overall range. How might those draft picks turn out. Lets look at past drafts 8-12 picks.

1998: Mark Bell, Mike Rupp, Nik Antropov, Jeff Hereema, Alex Tanguay
1999: Taylor Pyatt, Jamie Lundmark, Bransilav Menzei, Oleg Saprykin, Denis Shvidki
2000: Nikita Alexeev, Brent Krahn, Mikhail Yakubov, Pavel Vorobiev, Alexei Smirnov
2001: Pascal Leclaire, Tuomo Ruutu, Dan Blackburn, Fredrik Sjostrom, Dan Hamhuis
2002: Pierre-Marc Bouchard, Petr Taticek, Eric Nystrom, Keith Ballard, Steve Eminger

So that is 5 years of drafts for a total of 25 players and maybe there are a couple of pairings in there among Tanguay, Leclaire, Bouchard, Ballard, Ruutu, Hamhuis and Antropov that might be worth more than Kessel but none of those players will make you regret making the trade, especially if you believe that Kessel can be a top level offensive player in the NHL capable of consistently getting 30-40 goals. And if the Leafs were better and made the playoffs in either or both of the next two seasons the likelihood of regretting the trade drops off even more. Yeah, I understand that every draft seems to produce a star player or two in the 12-25 overall range like Parise (17) and Getzlaf (19) in 2002 but those are rare and more often than not the drafted player turns out to be nothing more than a name on a sheet of paper.

This article has 15 Comments

  1. Burke has rolled the dice with this one. Odds are he gets the better player and wins his gamble. But one wrong turn could haunt the Leafs for a long time.

    Suppose Toskala gets hurt early in the season, and the untested rookie backing him up can’t deliver. The Bruins could end up with the #1 draft pick (even if the Leafs don’t finish dead last).

    This is risky from the Leafs point of view, but I love the trade from the Bruins point of view. Boston gives up a player they can’t sign, they don’t have to trim their salary cap, and they have two shots at a top draft pick to help them win the cup while they’re still dominant.

    Here’s my question: is the goodwill Burke bought by trading rather than signing Kessel to an offer sheet, worth the extra first rounder he paid for him? (I’ll assume here that Burke could have made an offer that Boston couldn’t match due to the salary cap.)

  2. We won’t be drafting low enough to get quality players like Kadri and Schenn…and we had to trade up to get Schenn.

  3. The offer sheet required to get Kessel at $5.4 million per season would have required the Leafs to pony up 2 first rounders, 1 second rounder, and a 3rd rounder so they actually gave up exactly what they would have in order to obtain Kessel (plus the 2nd rounder from Calgary they dealt to Chicago by dealing Stralman)… but yeah the offer sheet issue isn’t relevant anymore because of the size of the contract.

  4. Steve, the compensation for RFA’s this year is:

    $994,433 or below None
    Over $994,433 to $1,506,716
    Third-round choice
    Over $1,506,716 to $3,013,434 Second-round choice
    Over $3,013,434 to $4,520,150 First-round and third-round choice
    Over $4,520,150 to $6,026,867 First-round, second-round and third-round choice
    Over $6,026,867 to $7,533,584 Two first-round choices, one second- and one third-round choice
    Over $7,533,584 Four first-round choices

    (Source: http://www.nhl.com/ice/page.htm?id=34760)

    So at $5.4 million the compensation would be a first, a second and a third.

  5. Word on the street is that if the leafs had signed Kessel to an offersheet, the Buins would have immediately matched it, then just as immediately traded him to Nashville, where they wold have got more in return from the Leafs and he would have been out of their division.

    However Kessel wanted to play for the Leafs. He wouldn’t have signed an offer sheet with Nashville and they wouldn’t have traded for him if they didn’t know that he was going to sign with them.

    It was a rough situation for all involved. Burke bt the bullet and made it happen which was a gamble, but he got a good young play, which diminishes the risk.

  6. Classic example of data mining to support your belief. Let’s consider the bookend years to your example above and then reassess.

    #8 Sergei Samsonov
    #9 Nick Boynton
    #10 Brad Ference
    #11 Jason Ward
    #12 Marian Hossa

    #8 Braydon Coburn
    #9 Dion Phaneuf
    #10 Andrei Kostitsyn
    #11 Jeff Carter
    #12 Hugh Jessiman

  7. Thank you for adding some balance to that 8-12 argument , Vegas Vic. When you consider that Boston has 5 picks in the first 2 rounds of the 2010 draft (Toronto’s 1/2, Boston’s 1/2, and Tampa Bay’s 2), they could also conceivably package picks to move up into the top 5 lottery slots. Or, they could trade some of those picks for a proven commodity, once they have a better handle on future cap numbers.

    I’m a Bruins fan, and I’m happy that Chiarelli stuck to his guns, and didn’t disrupt the roster further. We would have probably had to move guys like Ference & Kobasew, and sent Rask down to the minors to start the season. Signing Kessel at 5.4M also would have set a terrible spending precedent, given that the cap is going down and we’ll have players like Savvy, Lucic, Wheeler, Ference, Rask, Stuart, and Morris becoming FA’s at season’s end. Lot’s more players will be due contracts the season after that. Only Wideman, Thomas, and Krejci are under contract through 2011-12. Given the circumstances, this was a very good deal for Boston.

  8. Ok, so over a 7 year span and 35 picks you have two players that quite probably will have better careers than Kessel (we don’t know what his final upside will be yet) in Hossa and Phaneuf and maybe another in Carter (he’s only had one great season in four so far in his career) and then a few other pretty good players in Tanguay, Hamhuis, etc.

    But hey, why not go back further.

    1996: Johnathan Aitken, Ruslan Salei, Lance Ward, Dan Focht, Josh Holden
    1995: Terry Ryan, Kyle McLaren, Radek Dvorak, Jarome Iginla, Teemu Riihijarvi
    1994: Jason Wiemer, Brett Lindros, Nolan Baumgartner, Jeff Friesen, Wade Belak
    1993: Niklas Sundstrom, Todd Harvey, Jocelyn Thibault, Brendan Witt, Kenny Johnsson
    1992: Brandon Convery, Robert Petrovicky, Andrei Nazarov, David Cooper, Sergei Krivokrasov

    That is 5 more years and 25 more draft picks and the only player that you would absolutely regret having given up would be Jarome Iginla. So where does that leave us? 60 draft picks over a dozen drafts and maybe 4 or 5 guys you would absolutely regret to have given up? So what, that works out to about a 15% chance of absolutely regretting the trade even if we assume a near worse case scenario for the Leafs performance? If Kessel becomes a perennial 30-40 goal scorer, I’ll take my chances.

  9. We could go back and forth on this David. The 2005 draft saw Devin Setoguchi, Anze Kopitar, Marc Staal, (and Luc Bourdon), all selected between 8-12. Your point that Toronto is swapping a unknown commodity in draft picks for a proven one, (albeit after one solid season), has it’s merits and obviously we wont know who comes out with the best of this deal for a few years. Hopefully it’s a win/win for both parties. No matter what Brian Burke accomplished at least one thing. He has us all talking about Toronto and excited to see how this new version of the Leafs perform.

  10. 2005 draft seems like it was pretty deep. The next two drafts are supposed to be very weak. The possibility of getting a 30-40 and maybe one day 50 goal scorer at a mid level pick in the first round is very slim.
    -Rebuilt and highly touted defense.
    -Last years 10th place scoring team that replaced Moore and Antropov with Phil Kessel.
    -The projected #3 goalie posted a .901 save percentage in 49 games with the Islanders last year.
    The playoffs look pretty damn close.

  11. “the Buins would have immediately matched it, then just as immediately traded him to Nashville”

    If you match, the guy can’t be traded for a year

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