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History Shows Trading Young Talent For A Current Superstar Isn’t a Bad Move

Trades involving generational players in their primes are rare in the NHL. Over the course of the last 30 years, it’s happened about five times. Yet, with the Draft getting underway tomorrow and free agency on July 1st, Erik Karlsson’s name could be added to that list any moment.

It seems like Theodore might be on his way to Ottawa if McPhee can complete a deal for Karlsson. (Photo Credit: Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

When it comes to a unique talent like Karlsson, every GM in the league will show interest. However, most know they either don’t have the assets or the cap space to acquire the 28-year-old superstar defenseman. Ottawa shipped out Mike Hoffman which solved one problem but they took on salary in the deal, further indicating another deal may be on the horizon. At this point, unless Karlsson is demanding a trade they don’t have to move him. Unfortunately for the Senators, he probably is. Ottawa’s front office may continue to force Bobby Ryan’s hefty contract ($7.25M/4 yrs), forcing some teams to stay away. In the Senators eyes, if the deal isn’t right that’s not their problem.

Erik is a franchise player. We felt that there was no franchise deal out there that could satisfy us to make the best hockey deal. -Pierre Dorion at trade deadline

This may be an unpopular look at the Karlsson to Vegas trade rumors because I know how apprehensive Golden Knights fans are about saying goodbye to their favorite players. Hey, I hear ya. After all, I am the founding member of the Shea Theodore fan club, but it is a business, and if the Golden Knights make a move for Karlsson, their probably on to something.

History tells us teams that make the trade for a star player will usually see major dividends, while the players shipped out tend to have mediocre careers.

  • Los Angeles receives: Wayne Gretzky, Marty McSorley, and Mike Krushelnyski
  • Edmonton receives: Three 1st round picks, Martin Gelinas, Jimmy Carson, and $15 million

I won’t waste your time going over Gretzky’s statistics or influence after he was traded to LA. The Oilers were really only in it for the cash. They knew they would lose the trade no matter what, so the closest thing of value was millions of dollars. That being said, they did get two players in the deal.

Gelinas was a decent player and went on to play 1,273 NHL games. However, he was never an All Star and may be best known for his postseason misfortunes.

Gelinas was traded by Edmonton after five seasons for Scott Pearson. Don’t bother looking him up. The other player in the Gretzky trade, Jimmy Carson went on to score 100 points for the Oilers but was traded the next season. The three draft picks turned out to be busts, leaving Edmonton fans still bitter about “The Trade.”

  • Colorado receives: Patrick Roy and Mike Keane
  • Montreal receives: Martin Rucinsky, Jocelyn Thibault, and Andrei Kovalenko

Martin Rucinsky with Montreal:
432 Games, 297 Points, 134 Goals, 163 Assists, 38 Power Play Goals, 18 Game-Winning Goals, 18:32 ATOI, 15 Playoff Games, 3 Playoff Goals, 2000 NHL All Star

Jocelyn Thibault with Montreal:
158 Games, 137-142 Record, 816 Goals Allowed, .905 Save %, 2.62 Goals Against Average, 28 Shutouts, 11 Playoff Games, (2 Wins- 7 Losses), 4.40 Playoff Goals Against Average

Considering Roy demanded the trade, Montreal ended up with a solid forward and a below average goaltender. However, there was a clear winner, and it wasn’t the Habs. Colorado went on to win two Stanley Cup trophies, and Montreal hasn’t sniffed the Final since Roy took them there in 1993.

  • Washington receives: Jaromir Jagr and Frantisek Kucera
  • Pittsburgh receives: Kris Beech, Michal Sivek, and Ross Lupaschuk

Neither organization won this trade. Two out of the three players sent to Pittsburgh ended up out of the league after one season. The Capitals and then GM George McPhee signed the 29-year-old to the largest contract in league history, and Jagr failed to produce. This trade was an overall disaster but it’s an exception, not the rule.

  • Nashville receives: PK Subban
  • Montreal receives: Shea Weber

Most will argue it’s still too soon to judge this trade, and to some degree, they’d be right. However, Subban has continued to be an elite defenseman and helped Nashville reach the Cup Final last season. Weber, on the other hand, has spent significant time out with a torn tendon in his foot. It’s tough to ignore the missed games, but it’s one of the reasons the Predators came out on top.

PK Subban with Nashville:
148 Games, 99 Points, 26 Goals, 73 Assists, 8 Power Play Goals, 4 Game-Winning Goals, 24:15 ATOI, 2017 Stanley Cup appearance, 35 Playoff Games, 6 Playoff Goals, 2017 & 2018 All-Star

Shea Weber with Montreal:
104 Games, 53 Points, 23 Goals, 35 Assists, 14 Power Play Goals, 5 Game-Winning Goals, 25:08 ATOI, 6 Playoff Games, 1 Playoff Goal, 6th Place for 2017 Norris Trophy, 2017 All-Star

The moral of the story is, star players don’t get traded often during their prime. Overall, the team making the offer ends up doing better. It goes back to the Gretzky trade, not many players can equal the value of Hall of Fame talent.

The rumors swirling involving the Golden Knights tend to use the names Theodore, Cody Glass, and Colin Miller. Again, may not be popular, but as sad as waving goodbye to any of them would be, history says McPhee should do it if he can.

In Ottawa’s case, they are well aware that no team has the assets they would consider a fair deal, which is why Ryan’s hefty contract is a deal-breaker for the Senators.

I’m starting to think Vegas could resurrect the four-time 30 goal-scorer. Money aside, he’d be a great third-line forward. Oh, and they’d be getting Karlsson, who isn’t half bad either.


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  1. Mike

    Ryan’s problem has never been his talent, he just hasn’t shown an ability to stay healthy. I also think that the $7.25 is far too high. If VGK could at least get Ottawa to retain $2m then it could be worthwhile. Considering that the Sens would still need to get to the cap floor it may not be out of the question.

    As for Shea, I’m a huge fan of his but there’s no way you could possibly let him stand in the way of acquiring a game changer like EK65, so I agree with you on that.

    Glass is my biggest concern. It’s so hard to get young talent up the middle and if he even comes close to the comparisons to Mark Scheifele then he’s someone we would definitely want to hold on to, especially since we don’t have as much organizational depth as most and would essentially not get another chance at a first round pick until 2020.

  2. Al Powers

    They won’t let Glass go. They’ve already proven that at deadline. Though they were willing to put Tuch and Theadore on the table and I see them doing that again, but I think only if they get a strong second linesman in another deal. Now that the Islanders have signed Barry, I’m thinking Tavares might be off the table.

  3. Andy

    Keep hearing Glass, but NOT Suzuki, Brannstrom or Hague. Is Glass really that much “better”? Or is it just the name recognition associated with Glass?

    • Mike

      The three you named are all players who are considered to have very high upside, but Glass has the upside as well as a high floor, which makes him a much smaller risk. Suzuki and Bransstrom both have some size concerns (maybe blown out of proportion), while Hague needs a good amount of work with his skating. Glass is already 6’2″ and has put on some muscle over the past year, with a frame that could even handle a little more weight if they decided they wanted him to bulk up more (he’s pretty slim at the moment). In his short stay with the team during development camp and preseason he showed flashes of his elite vision and has the look of someone that will make his linemates better.

  4. JAY T

    Ottawa didn’t take on salary in the trade, they shed 2.65M annually for the next 2 years.

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