Monday, November 30, 2015

On Trading A Star Winger For A Top Defenseman

I came across an interesting tweet from FGSB, and it got me in the mood to hunt for a top D-man. Not that I don't love Michael Del Zotto, but the thought of him anchoring the defense for another year or two makes me want to lose my lunch.
We Would Have To Give Up Giroux And A Prospect And That Might Not Even Be Enough

Before we get into the guys that we might actually hypothetically be targeting, we should also cross off the cream of the crop. We don't want this to be like an EA NHL franchise mode with trade override turned on. There are 3 players aged 25-26 that should be untouchable forever:
  • PK Subban, Montreal (26 years old, $9.0 million cap hit)
  • Drew Doughty, Los Angeles (25, $7.0)
  • Erik Karlsson, Ottawa (25, $6.5)
And three more that are just a bit older:
  • Shea Weber, Nashville (30, $7.9)
  • Ryan Suter, Minnesota (30, $7.5)
  • Duncan Keith, Chicago (32, $5.5)
These are the six best defensemen in the league, and I have a really hard time believing that any of these teams would give up their top guy for anything reasonable. Sure, if we offered Giroux and Gostisbehere we could probably snag Doughty - but would that be worth it? Hell no!


We can kind of ignore that first group because it's just not reasonable to try to pry a superstar/franchise-anchor away from any NHL team. The next group is a step down, for sure, but might be available if the cap/contract situations were just right. I'm targeting someone in the 22-28 age range, and I did the Provorov test to compile the list. I asked myself "Would you rather have this guy or Provocop?" and if there was any question, I added them to the list. In order from highest salary to lowest:

  • Kris Letang, Pittsburgh (28, $7.3)
  • Dion Phaneuf, Toronto (30, $7.0)
  • Alex Pietrangelo, St. Louis (25, $6.5)
  • Dougie Hamilton, Calgary (22, $5.8)
  • Justin Faulk, Carolina (23, $4.8)
  • Ryan McDonagh, NY Rangers (26, $4.7)
  • Chris Tanev, Vancouver (25, $4.5)
  • Jack Johnson, Columbus (28, $4.4)
  • Dmitriy Kulikov, Florida (25, $4.3)
  • Kevin Shattenkirk, St. Louis (26, $4.3)
  • Marc-Edouard Vlasic, San Jose (28, $4.3)
  • Jonas Brodin, Minnesota (22, $4.2)
  • Adam Larsson, New Jersey (23, $4.2)
  • Jake Gardiner, Toronto (25, $4.0)
  • Jake Muzzin, Los Angeles (26, $4.0)
  • Roman Josi, Nashville (25, $4.0)
  • Cam Fowler, Anaheim (23, $4.0)
  • Marco Scandella, Minnesota (25, $4.0)
  • Alec Martinez, Los Angeles (28, $4.0)
  • Victor Hedman, Tampa Bay (24, $4.0)
  • John Carlson, Washington (25, $4.0)
  • Justin Schultz, Edmonton (25, $3.9)
  • Travis Hamonic, NY Islanders (25, $3.9)
  • Erik Johnson, Colorado (27, $3.8)
  • Luca Sbisa, Vancouver (25, $3.6)
  • Jason Demers, Dallas (27, $3.4)
  • Torey Krug, Boston (24, $3.4)
  • Cody Franson, Buffalo (28, $3.3)
  • Jakub Kindl, Detroit (28, $2.4)
I tried my best to weed out people that are too old for us (or that stink). Beyond that list, I think it's a pipe dream to find defenseman with any more promise than Ivan Provorov. For reference, here is the Flyers defensive cap situation:

Here are three things that are #bad: Streit's contract, Streit's age, MacDonald's contract. It would be nice to have that $10,250,000 in cap room. Glad we got those out of the way. Now let's focus on some targets that could actually anchor the back line (or at least accompany MDZ better than Current Top Pairing Defense Player Radko Gudas).

Maybe We Could Trade Jake Voracek Straight Up

Let's clear one thing up. I think it would be stupid to trade Jake. We have plenty of defensive prospects in the pipeline, and far fewer offensive ones. It would be an impulse move and thankfully I can't see Ron Hextall making anything like it. Now, with that said, the following guys would make me at least consider parting ways with the Blonde Czech. 
  • Alex Pietrangelo, St. Louis
  • Justin Faulk, Carolina 
  • Ryan McDonagh, NY Rangers
  • Roman Josi, Nashville
  • Victor Hedman, Tampa Bay
Those five guys are all sure-fire top pairing defensemen. I started off saying I don't want to trade Jake, but we're here already so let's dive in. Hedman is almost certainly on his way to joining that untouchable group from earlier in the post. That's probably a no-go. Pietrangelo and Josi come from blue lines that are very talented, and could survive if those two were gone. McDonagh captains the Rangers and is the only thing keeping Henrik Lundqvist from playing 1-on-5 in their own end. 

Josi is the most interesting of this group (and FGSB mentioned his name as I was writing this). He's Swiss, so maybe Mark Streit went to high school with his dad or something. He also plays on a team with Shea Weber, Ryan Ellis, Barrett Jackman, and Seth Jones. Sadly, I think the Preds have a pretty ideal split of the cap between forwards and defensemen, and I'd imagine that Josi's not for sale. 

Justin Faulk is one of my favorite defensemen in all of hockey. He has a sweet mullet, he chips in offensively, and he can physically hold his own against almost anyone. Faulk is 23 and signed for less than $5 million until 2020. For me, personally, myself, I would consider trading Jake for Justin straight up. God I feel dirty for typing that sentence. Let's move on.

Jake Is Too Much To Give Up, What About One Of The Other Guys?

If we're looking to move a winger, there is a big group of guys that is decidedly less good than Jake Voracek. In some order, that group contains Wayne Simmonds, Matt Read, Brayden Schenn, Michael Raffl, and Sam Gagner (that is my order, in terms of how much we'd likely be able to get for them). 

Likewise, there is a big group of guys that is decidedly less talented than the top 10-15 defensemen in the NHL. Maybe we could target them - after all, our current #1 defensemen is somewhere in the neighborhood of 80th in the league in salary, and our highest-paid defensemen has a broken penis and has been on the trading block for a year. 
  • Kevin Shattenkirk, St. Louis
  • Cam Fowler, Anaheim
  • Dougie Hamilton, Calgary
  • Adam Larsson, New Jersey
  • John Carlson, Washington
  • Travis Hamonic, NY Islanders
Simmonds has a No Trade Clause, but let's completely ignore that and assume he's on board with going elsewhere. Hamonic wants to go to Winnipeg to be with his family, which is a shame in the context of this post because he's probably my favorite of this group. I don't know of any individual limitations of the other guys, but there is a larger problem for Simmonds and defensemen of his caliber. 

As a fan I'd have a really hard time parting with Simmer. But it's largely sentimental, and I would expect the GM of each of these teams to demand a lot for their young d-men. That logic on both sides is why I think the number of trades made in the NHL is so low. Both sides want to be blown away in order to move their guys, and that simply can't happen. That's a recipe for a stagnant market.

What About The Guys That Are Crappier Than Wayne Simmonds?

With any player outside of those two groups, you're looking at someone who will be less likely to turn into stud defensemen and more reasonably will just be solid contributors on defense. That's not necessarily a bad thing in the NHL, but the cap inflexibility of the current Flyers means we can't afford to take on any more defensemen (or forwards, or really any money at all). 

Any package involving Matt Read or (more likely) Brayden Schenn is going to bring back the bizarro defenseman version of them, and they'll probably be either so overpaid that they cripple our cap (again), or so crappy that this miserable defense gets even worse. As sad as it would be to move the best winger on the team (who is also a fan favorite), that's the only way to quickly patch the roster with a top defenseman. 

The good news, as always when we're talking about this year's Flyers, is we don't need a patchwork fix. Take a deep breath, watch them at Ottawa tomorrow night, and try to imagine a team that has replaced Streit/Schultz/Gudas/Manning with Provorov/Sanheim/Morin/(Gudas or Manning, probably). 

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