Part 1: Identifying Team Needs and Surpluses
As we roll into the trade deadline, rumors are going to be appearing from every possible angle. Aside from judging the source (note: HFBoards is not a source), there are a few ways to tell if a rumor is legitimate or if it is just someone blowing hot air. This Scouting The Deadline series is going to be a three part series where identify and analyze the three key steps in the trade process. Today is the second post, and it will address identifying appropriate returns for assets.
First things first, let’s define what an asset to the organization is. A player is an asset, and an asset is used to help build a Stanley Cup contending team. Assets can be players in the lineup, assets can be prospects, assets can be picks. Not every draft pick plays for the NHL club, and not every pick is used in the draft. The goal of a general manager in this league is to identify what assets mean to the organization, and what the minimum return for that asset would have to be to be moved.
For trade deadline buyers, the return is almost always a player that will serve as an upgrade for the playoffs. For sellers, the return is almost always picks and/or prospects to help build for the future. Regardless of the position a team is in, these are the generalized returns that GM’s look for.
Going deeper into this for buyers, the return does change depending on which players are to be dealt. Using Brandon Dubinsky as an example here (hypothetical, not an actual rumor), he is an integral part of the Rangers current structure. The Rangers won’t move him for a rental, nor should they. Dubinsky has tremendous value to the club. However, when referring to what was said above, trading Dubinsky isn’t exactly out of the question if the return is another roster player that serves as an upgrade at the position. This goes hand in hand with identifying team needs and surpluses, the first part of this series.
Using the first post, I identified that the Rangers have a need for a top six left wing with proven elite offensive talent. Using the Bobby Ryan example again, Ryan serves as a significant offensive upgrade over Dubinsky. So taking a step back and looping back to the original point of the post: Would Bobby Ryan be an appropriate return for trading Dubinsky? I’d have to think the answer here is yes.
But there’s more to it than just roster players. A prospect that most fans think is untouchable is Chris Kreider. First let’s go with one thing: No player, prospect, or draft pick is untouchable. Period.
Back to Kreider, his potential is widely known, but it is still just potential. He has not done anything at the NHL level, so while he is considered to be a top prospect, he is not a NHL player yet. At his peak, he actually pans out to be another Bobby Ryan: an elite power forward. When you are given the opportunity to trade potential for the proven talent, and that talent has yet to hit his prime, the deal must be made. Ryan is proven at a young age, Kreider is not.
Summing up the last few paragraphs, it makes sense that the Rangers would consider trading Chris Kreider or Brandon Dubinsky for Bobby Ryan. It meets their criteria of what the appropriate return is. That said, appropriate return also addresses overpayment. A deal with both Kreider and Dubinsky for Ryan would be an overpayment. That is not an appropriate return.
Getting away from Bobby Ryan for a moment, let’s address another type of player that is usually available: the rental. The rental is a player that fills a hole for the short term, but is unlikely to return following the playoffs.
Ray Whitney and Shane Doan fall into the rental category. Would a rental be an appropriate return for a core roster player (Dubinsky) or an elite prospect (Kreider)? Absolutely not. But that doesn’t mean a deal is dead. I identified the surplus for the Rangers to be defensive prospects. Is it really unfathomable that the Rangers would view Whitney as a good return for someone like Pavel Valentenko, who has dropped so far on the depth chart he’s collecting dust?
Confused? Think I’m making things too difficult? I might be, but I also might not be. Trades are not made on message boards or in NHL 12. Most trades take weeks of talking and negotiating, and conversations like this one are had on a daily basis. Trading is the science of preparation, negotiation, and sticking to your guns. Preparation includes those surpluses and needs, but it also is about going in knowing what you are willing to give up for a specified return. That is the toughest part of the GM’s job.