The Winnipeg Jets traded one of their pending unrestricted free agents to the Flyers for a 2019 fifth-round pick yesterday in a savvy move for both sides. The New York Islanders should follow the Jets’ lead with some of their own UFAs.
The New York Islanders are now managed competently enough to use this model. It is one of those moves that somehow doesn’t happen as often as it should.
It seems so obvious – I have someone I can’t/won’t sign, and you want to sign them before anyone else can (and for more years), so give me some draft capital and I’ll give you your head start by trading you their rights.
It’s one of those types of trades you made every year in video games, but it defies logic that it’s not extremely common in the NHL every year. The Flyers now have a month head-start and an extra year of term to offer Hayes to stick around.
Sure, sometimes the player really doesn’t warrant any compensation. Nobody is going to give the Isles anything for a head start at signing Tom Kuhnhackl or Valtteri Filppula. But they do have a few players who could warrant some return.
For those less familiar, here is Kevin Hayes’ profile: a huge six-foot-five 216 pounds 27-year-old center who just had a career-high 55 points (19 goals, 36 assists) this year, split between the Rangers and Jets.
Prior to that his point totals were 44, 49, 36 and 45 in previous seasons. Hayes has scored more than 20 goals only once in his career, but carries a career +28. He’s a nice player who slots into the 2C/3C role.
Eberle is two years older and a wing instead of a center, but a guy who, other than this past season, has offensively outproduced Hayes every season, and in many cases by a country mile. He gives you an extremely higher offensive ceiling but less two-way play.
Compensation: I’d say it all evens out and the Isles could fetch the same fifth round pick the Jets scored.
Lee is about a year and a half older than Hayes, but obviously significantly more proven on the offensive side. Even in a down scoring year this past season, Lee netted more goals than Hayes has ever scored in a single season.
Like Ebs, Lee does lack in two-way play and position importance versus Hayes, but there is no denying that his scoring prowess towers over Hayes’ six-foot-five frame.
Compensation: If Hayes can get a fifth, Lee would be able to secure a third rounder.
This is the toughest of the bunch since you can’t compare a center to a goalie, but for the sake of argument let’s try. Lehner is a slightly older 27 than is Hayes, but is in the most important position in the league, and is coming off of a Vezina-nominated season.
The talent was always there for Lehner, and after getting a clear hold of his life off the ice, his results showed that his previous seasons where he showed potential were no anomaly.
Compensation: If a borderline 2C/3C player can get a fifth rounder, a Vezina-nominated goalie who has only struggled on the ice when he had challenges off of it can secure a second rounder.
As I said, I’d like to see some or all of these guys re-signed, but as it may not happen, the Isles need to start planning for contingencies. Trading the rights to a player this early in the process gives the new team more time to woo them, and in turn a better trade package for the Isles.
This takes a proactive approach, and while I have the utmost faith in Lou Lamoriello, I don’t expect these types of deals to happen for the Isles under his watch, but it seems almost foolish that they aren’t commonplace in the NHL every year.