Trade Deadline Season Is Here: Adjust Your Expectations Accordingly
These deals never turn out the way they are hoped for the team that is selling.
The first big trade deadline deals of the season happened on Wednesday night and Friday morning with the Calgary Flames sending center Elias Lindholm to the Vancouver Canucks, which was followed by the Montreal Canadiens sending Sean Monahan to the Winnipeg Jets.
The details on those trades are as follows:
Vancouver sent Andrei Kuzmenko, a first-round pick, a conditional fourth-round pick and to prospects to Calgary for Lindholm.
Winnipeg sent a first-round pick and a conditional third-round pick to Montreal for Monahan.
Let’s start with the Lindholm deal because it was first, and the biggest. The quick and knee-jerk reaction to the deal is this: It is a strong addition for the Canucks as it gives them a reliable two-way center to strengthen a lineup that has emerged out of nowhere as a legitimate Stanley Cup contender this season. It also dumps a contract in Kuzmenko that they probably didn’t want beyond this season and helps clean up a little bit of a salary cap headache for next season.
For the Flames, it is a pretty good indication that they are ready to throw in the towel on the 2023-24 season and are ready to start selling more of their pending free agents (Chris Tanev, Noah Hanifin) in the coming weeks. The Flames ended up getting a lot of pieces (Kuzmenko, two prospects, a first-round pick and a conditional fourth-round pick that could become a third-round pick depending on how Vancouver does in the playoffs.
On the surface that looks like a lot to give up for a half-season rental. But what that trade package has in quantity it is severely lacking in quality. Kuzmenko scored 39 goals in his NHL debut a season ago, but it was driven almost entirely by a ridiculously unsustainable shooting percentage that was near 30 percent. Now that his number has dropped down to a more reasonable level, he is on pace for 15 goals this season. Maybe he goes on a shooting heater again and scores more goals, but that is probably not going to happen.
The draft picks? They are lottery tickets. The first-round pick is almost certainly going to be somewhere in the 20s (or lower) which, even in a good draft year, might only be a 50-50 chance of producing an NHL player, let alone a star. Defenseman Hunter Brzustewicz is an intriguing prospect, but he is far from a blue-chipper and far from a lock to be an NHL player.
As for the Monahan trade, that was a tidy bit of business by the Canadiens as they managed to get TWO first-round picks out of their investment in him. They received a first-round pick from Calgary to take on the remainder of his contract a year ago, and then got a first-round pick from Winnipeg after they pumped his value back up. I don’t know how much he is going to improve the Jets, but he is a nice add and one of the only remaining centers that was clearly available as a rental. They had to strike to get him when they did, and maybe overpay.
But if either of these teams go on to win the Stanley Cup, nobody in Vancouver or Winnipeg is going to care about the price.
It is also very possible, if not likely, that they will give their new teams more value and production over the next five or six months than any of the assets going the other way will give their new teams.
That is something we tend to forget about these deadline and in-season deals for rentals.