There’s a lot of discussion this time of year, especially for bad teams, about hypothetical trades that might be made over the summer. The trouble with a lot of these hypotheticals is that they end up being pretty self-serving; even the ones that aren’t Linus Omark-for-Shea Weber tend to serve one team better than the other.
How do we fix that? By war-gaming it.
The following is a hypothetical exercise, dedicated to seeing if there’s a trade that makes sense for the Edmonton Oilers and Chicago Blackhawks. Yours truly plays the role of Stan Bowman, with my focus on getting the best deals possible for the ‘Hawks while simultaneously clearing away cap space so that my team is compliant with the NHL salary cap. My Oilers Nation colleague Allan Mitchell (Lowetide) was kind enough to play Peter Chiarelli.
At the end of the day, we managed to make a trade which we both felt suited our teams’ respective needs. The following is how we got there.
Hypothetical Stan Bowman, Chicago: “Hey Peter, congratulations on getting back into the saddle so soon and on the new coach and the draft lottery – hey it’s been quite a month for you, hasn’t it? Anyway, the reason I’m calling is that this salary cap is forcing me to make some extremely difficult decisions; I have to part with some good players and I know you happen to have cap space. Anyway, I heard your presser and I know you’re looking at trying to make your team a little more competitive in puck battles and the like. Now, I don’t want to deal him but I’m in a bind – would you have interest in adding Bryan Bickell? 6’4″, 225 pounds, you have to like the idea of a guy like that riding shotgun for Connor McDavid, don’t you?”
Hypothetical Peter Chiarelli, Edmonton: “Hi Stan, appreciate the kind words. I’ll tell you that Bickell would be a nice fit, but that big winger is something we’ll look at after we address some other areas of the roster. We have a starting goalie to find and I’m looking at upgrading the blue line as well.
I do have some cap room but am not certain if I’ll have as much when we address those things. Can I circle back later, or do you have any interest in relieving your cap situation in other areas?”
Chicago: “Well, it’s funny that you bring that up, because we might be able to help each other out. This isn’t something that would happen under any other circumstances, but I need to find cap savings somewhere. You need a starting goalie; how does Corey Crawford sound?”
Edmonton: Well Stan, that wasn’t the name I was thinking of, but if you’re interested in dealing him we’re interested in acquiring him. I’m sure you understand that the value for Crawford is impacted by his contract, what kind of return are you looking for? How much cap room are you looking at securing?
Chicago: Naturally I’m looking at securing as much cap space as possible, but we understand that it may be necessary to bring salary back. As I’m sure you realize, the more cap space you clear for us the smaller our return would need to be, and of course my great need is for cheap, NHL-ready players. I’m thinking of something structured like the Kari Lehtonen deal a few years back; Dallas gave Atlanta a good but not great prospect with some NHL experience and a fourth-round pick in exchange for Lehtonen. Does that general framework fit for you? Ideally I’d get two players back rather than a player and a pick (I’m not looking for anything special with the second player, just that he be cheap and a reasonable fit for NHL duty). If something like that works for you, which players from your system would be on the table?
Edmonton: We have significant room, so wouldn’t have to send a large contract back (obviously the asset return reflects cap space received). In terms of “NHL-ready” players, we have several knocking on the door and would be willing to talk about any of our RFA players this summer. That might give you an opportunity to trade for, and sign based on your budget, this player or players.
Here’s a handy guide I had my staff make up of our roster and the RFA players are identified.
Chicago: Well, if you’re confining the look to RFAs, I think Martin Marincin is the obvious name for me. I have some vacancies on the back end, and while he isn’t ideal he’d be a reasonable fit as a No. 6/7 defenceman for us. I think we need to go a little higher, though; none of those players really strike me as being primary pieces for a return like Crawford. What would you say to Marincin and the No. 33 pick in this year’s draft for your long-term starting goalie?
Edmonton: Hmmm. I’m not of a mind to move that No. 33 overall selection until I’ve settled the defense a little more. If you’re interestedin non-RFA players, I’m certainly open to options there (and the cap room would be less dear on our end).
I think Marincin and his terrific cap situation are a good starting point for Crawford and his huge cap hit. Beyond that, I would consider expanding the deal, especially if you’re interested in moving a defender like Ville Pokka.
Chicago: Well, if not the No. 33, what about the No. 57 or next year’s second-round pick (either would be fine on my end)? Are we close value-wise, and if not what do you see as more suitable value?
Edmonton: I like the simplicity of Marincin at $1M for Crawford at $6M, and value those $5M in cap room highly. We may not have the framework for a deal if that gap doesn’t hold a lot of value for you.
We could do: Martin Marincin, David Musil and No. 33 overall for Crawford and Ville Pokka.
But I’m not comfortable with trading Marincin and a very valuable pick in a deep draft for a goalie with that much term on a massive contract. Does that $5M in cap space have value to you?
Chicago: I’m not especially interested in dealing Pokka, as you might imagine, and given the way his development has gone since being picked No. 34 in 2012 I’d rate him higher than even your No. 33 pick this year. Maybe what we need to do is establish a baseline using draft picks to see if we’re compatible on a deal here. Straight across, pick-for-player, what draft pick would you be comfortable trading for Crawford?
Edmonton: I think we can make a deal. From my point of view, I look at the difference between Crawford and Antti Niemi and ask myself who I would rather have? Now, Crawford is more expensive but he’s signed and as your team has proven, he’s a capable veteran in front of a good team (which we are hoping to be).
Marincin is a player we value moving forward, but he’s also a roster spot and we’re looking to add an experienced defenseman. It would be my preference to deal Marincin straight across, trading roster spots and netting you $5M in cap room for next year and miles after.
The No. 33 overall pick has exceptional value in this draft, so comparing it to any roster player is difficult since (I’m sure you’ll agree) that early ‘day two’ pick could be worth a king’s ransom on the draft floor.
I’m left pondering the gap between Niemi and Crawford and if the value of that gap is worth the No. 33 overall pick.
With Marincin, I think we have a fair deal, with that No. 33 pick it’s in your favor. I’d like to suggest that we’ll trade you No. 33 overall and Travis Ewanyk for Crawford and we tell the media I won the deal (even though you are beating me up pretty badly).
Chicago: You’ve got a deal.
It’s going to be awfully hard for me to explain why I traded a solid NHL starting goalie and Stanley Cup-winner signed long-term for a second-round pick, but the truth is we need the cap space. It won’t be a problem for us to take on Ewanyk’s contract; we have some flexibility on our 50-man list so we can give you a bit of breathing room there.
I’ll have my staff prepare the necessary papers for submission to the NHL front office.
Edmonton: I imagine it’ll be a little easier to explain when you trade that pick for a king’s ransom on the draft floor you rat bastard. Pleasure doing business with you, I’ll probably be looking for work by Christmas.
The final deal that Lowetide and I worked out is as follows:
- Edmonton acquires Corey Crawford
- Chicago acquires the No. 33 pick in 2015 and prospect Travis Ewanyk
On a side note, because I know it’s going to come up, after reviewing this from Chicago’s perspective I have trouble imagining the team moving Brent Seabrook as long as it has other options. In Bowman’s shoes I’d be looking at Bickell, Crawford and Patrick Sharp (in that order) and only once I had exhausted those possibilities would I consider moving Seabrook.
As for the trade itself, what does the comments section think? Edmonton lands a proven, resilient starter and clears room on the 50-man list, while Chicago takes a chance in net, clears significant cap space and adds a valuable pick in a good draft.
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