Kovalchuk trade a good standard for the Leafs with Stamkos

The Steven Stamkos situation in Tampa is starting to get more and more interesting, and with hockey season slowly getting under way in the form of rookie tournaments and training camps, we’ll see if he can get locked up with the Lightning soon.

As you’re likely aware, Stamkos and his hometown Leafs have been linked for quite a while in the NHL rumor circles, and it seems every week we’re likely to get more gas on that fire.

Over at TLN we’ve been covering this closely since, you know, it’s nice when there are rumblings of one of the best goal-scorers of the last two decades joining your favourite club. But should things get to the point where Stamkos could actually leave the Lightning, how the Leafs go about getting him could be the center of a lot of debate. Of course I’m talking about making a trade to get ahead of the pack.

Just this week, Elliotte Friedman of Sportsnet talked about Stamkos and where things might go with the Lightning, and perhaps most interestingly, floated the idea of Tampa fielding calls on the star. I mean, it would make perfect sense – if Yzerman feels he can’t hold on to him, he may as well recoup as much as he can before he leaves town.

But this isn’t anything new, general managers shed pending free agents all the time at the trade deadline to avoid losing them for nothing. What is different, however, is the magnitude of something like this when it comes to a player like Stamkos. Perhaps the best comparable situation would be that of Ilya Kovalchuk shipping out of Atlanta in 2010, which just so happened to involve the Leafs’ current general manager, Lou Lamoriello.

Kovalchuk, or at least the 2009-10 version of him, represents a fair comparison to Stamkos for a few reasons. First off, at the time of the trade that sent him to New Jersey from the Thrashers, his numbers were along the league’s best. We’re talking about two clearly elite talents here. Not only that, their age as pending UFAs is basically the same – Stamkos will be 26 when/if he gets to July 1st next summer, while Kovalchuk had just turned 27 in the offseason of 2010. Elite players right in their prime years.

So what does this all have to do with the Leafs? Well, if they choose to go a route to snag Stamkos ahead of him entering free agency, Lamoriello would have to do somewhat of a repeat of the Kovalchuk deal. Some will argue (understandably) that the Leafs shouldn’t venture there, given they could just get Stamkos a few months later for nothing. But if they did, what would we expect it to cost?

When Don Waddell sent Kovalchuk to the Devils at the 2010 deadline, here’s what he fetched in return from ol’ Loophole Lou:

  • Nicklas Bergfors (still essentially a “prospect”, but was drafted 23rd overall in 2005)
  • Johnny Oduya (in his fourth year as a Devil/NHLer, 28-years-old at time of the trade)
  • Patrice Cormier (secondary prospect, drafted 54th overall in 2008)
  • 1st round draft pick in 2010 (turned out to be 24th overall)

At first blush this seems like a solid haul, but it really isn’t, nor should it be. Bergfors looked to be on his way to becoming a decent NHL player but he was five years removed from his draft and Jersey likely had a good read on his ceiling. Oduya is a nice piece, and he’s become a solid blue-liner, but he isn’t a key building block by any means. Then we have Cormier, who was a second rounder projecting to a decent third-line center at best. The only piece to really get burned with was the first-round pick, which ended up being late given the Devils finished second in the conference that season. So yeah, not a whole lot of damage done from Jersey’s side, and given they could have lost Kovalchuk that summer, there never should have been anyway. The same will likely go for Stamkos, if things get to that point.

If we try to project this sort of trade package to the Leafs in their potential attempt at Stamkos, things get interesting. It’ll never be as simple as this, but let’s have some fun with it. We have four pieces to fill in if we’re following a similar structure to what Waddell put together five years ago, so here go.

Finding an equivalent to Bergfors is tricky because he was a bit of a longterm project and had nearly arrived as a legit NHL player. I’m going to sub in Kasperi Kapanen here given their similar draft slots, but in terms of value it’s tough to call since Kapanen’s ceiling is so untapped compared to that of Bergfors at the time. This feels like an overpay in this slot, but I suppose we’ll have to go with it.

Next we have Oduya, an established defenceman albeit well into his prime years at the time. Here I’m going to make up for my overpay with Kapanen and throw in Martin Marincin, who should be a legit depth defenceman for most teams, but at such a young age, who knows.

The next two pieces are too easy. We can toss in Frederik Gauthier for Cormier because they’re essentially the exact same player from the same junior team with similar underwhelming junior totals. The first round pick is obviously the Penguins’ pick they shipped over for Phil Kessel. 

We finally end up with a trade package for Stamkos that looks something like this from the Leafs’ end: Kasperi Kapanen, Martin Marincin, Frederik Gauthier, and a late first-round pick in 2016.

Admittedly this is all very HFBoards-ish, but the main thing I wanted to point out is just how a deal like this could work. This is just a quick exercise to show the type of value we might expect going the other way if things ever get to that point. Plenty of folks feel the Leafs going down the trade avenue to get an early shot at locking up Stamkos can’t be worth it, and I can totally see the reasoning there. But at the same time, a lot of people may be assuming Toronto would have to part with a major piece like Marner, Nylander, or Rielly in such a deal. Given the contract uncertainties, that doesn’t appear to be a requirement, even when dealing with such a star player. As the Kovalchuk deal showed, at least it hasn’t been in the recent past.

  • SEER

    That is one of the worst trades I have seen for a pending UFA. A potential top line player in Kapanen, an exceptionally effective third line shut-down specialist in Gauthier, a potentially useful top four defenseman in Marincin, and a first round pick, all for 20 odd games of Steven Stamkos with no guarantee that he will re-sign. It goes completely against the theory of being patient.

    • “An exceptionally effective third line shut-down specialist” is probably the best-case-scenario for Gauthier. Let’s not go overboard here.

      And Toronto doesn’t make that deal unless they practically have a contract extension already agreed upon with Stamkos.

          • Gary Empey

            Okay, Gauthier is not an NHL player yet, I should have specified that he would is potentially a third-line defensive specialist. Moving away from the vernacular of the comment, is there anything else that you disagree with from my original criticism?

    • lmao at the gauthier praise. let’s settle down. he hasn’t proven anything except that it was a bad 1st round pick. that’s his ceiling and the reason he was drafted (sigh) and that has been his role his entire career (shut down specialist) but the q is very different from pro hockey (ahl/nhl). just because he perfected that role in juniors, doesn’t mean he’ll be the same in pro leagues. i don’t have high hopes for him at all. nothing to be excited about.

      • Okay, thanks for your opinion. Dubas and Hunter have singled him out for praise. But yes, he hasn’t proven anything at the NHL level. I stand corrected, and mentioned that in a previous comment. Nevertheless, I think trading him, Kapanen, Marincin and a first rounder for twenty odd games of Stamkos based on just the possibility that he will re-sign with us is absurd.

        • SEER

          of course but if he were packaged in a deal for other players, i’d do it in a heartbeat. i’m sorry but no one would be devastated if he were gone because you can find that anywhere on the ufa market. maybe they could get picks for him…

  • SEER

    I think this is just a lot of speculation and wondrous wishes.., at the moment, because a lot of contracts don’t get finished until just before season start..

    ..but again.., if it’s in the process.. and a possibility.., I would want to see us keep Kapanen.. and tie in maybe a Leivo/Carrick and/or Piccinich.. along with Marincin and Bernier or Gibson.. (call me greedy, but I want to keep all of our top prospects).. and besides, Leivo (3rd round pick) and Carrick (5th round pick) have already proved themselves at the NHL level, so Tampa should like that…

    If they must have a first round prospect, than I would have to sacrifice Percy (who also has NHL experience… 1st rounder – 2011).., but I would hate to see him have to go, too… For Stamkos, it would be worth it…, though.. But for how long a term… and what cost to our rebuild..?

    I still think that waiting might be wiser.., as Stammer would probably entertain a future offer from Toronto first, anyway..

    And if Tampa is feeling extra generous, they can send us one of my favorite, young goalies in return (who I wanted us to pick up in 2012)… and many on the Leafs board called me crazy.. Andrei Vasilevskiy… Don’t get me wrong.. I would have still picked Rielly with the first pick, but I would have traded three later picks for Vasi….

  • SEER

    this would never happen. the lightning aren’t dumb like the thrashers. they would never give up stamkos for that return. it would involve a bunch a 1st round picks like the kessel/seguin trade or our top prospects/elite pieces going there with top picks in the next draft (marner/rielly/nylander). maybe even more. it’s not 2010 anymore and yzerman is no fool.

  • Harte of a Lion

    I have three words for everyone who wants to trade for or sign Stamkos..


    Tampa can’t afford to pay him 10.5-11 million and neither should we.
    Let’s grow our own talent and pay them accordingly as they grow into their talent.
    The leafs are nowhere near competing, so he will become another talented whipping boy until the team competes?

    Go watch the Marlies this year, with the talent the team has acquired in 6 months, it is something to get excited about!

  • Gary Empey

    Trouble for Tampa is they missed an opportunity to trade him before July 1st this year. That is when Stamkos’ no movement clause kicked in.

    Steven Stamkos has a a no-trade – no-movement (cannot be placed on waivers) clause. He must accept a move by waiving his clause in order for a trade to go through and be accepted by the NHL.

    Stamkos, was moved to right wing late in the Eastern Conference semifinal series against Montreal. Tampa coach Cooper would like to keep him there.

    Stamkos did not register a goal in the six-game series with Chicago, only finishing with one assist. Stamkos some games played around only 15 minutes.

    Stamkos doesn’t believe the move to the wing is in his best interest.

    Don Cherry offered a warning to the Lightning, saying that if they don’t figure out how to better utilize their best player, he will strongly consider leaving as a free agent when his contract expires after the 2016 season.

    Looking at it from Steven Stamkos point of view why should he do anything just now?

    Why not just play out his contract and then choose the city he wants to live in at the best salary he can get?

    How many teams have could afford to sign him?

    As each day passes Tampa’s ability to get anything at all for him grows weaker.

    Tampa may be looking for a winger. They might be lucky to get JVR or Bracco. Or they just might get Sweet FA.

  • Why would a management group that just traded ‘one of the top scorers’ in the NHL for a bag of pucks turn around and go out and acquire ‘one of the top scorers in the NHL at the expense of a bunch of prospects? Do you remember when people were talking about how trading Kessel would only make us have to replace him? Is this really happening?

    • giproc

      Looking at it that way, I’d take a signed Stammer over Kessel even up in a heartbeat.

      Best case scenario is still to wait it out with crossed fingers and hope Stamkos wants to return home for his prime years rather than as a career swan song.

  • Gary Empey

    I think that’s probably a little too much to be honest. I don’t think an unsigned Stammer is worth trading a blue-chipper in Kapanen. If anything, the package looks more like Percy (B-level D prospect) + Holland (depth Center, young, but NHL-proven) + a 1st (Pittsburgh’s) + maybe a 3rd round pick.

    By necessity, Tampa needs to take guys who aren’t getting paid. Holland replaces some center depth in a pinch while allowing their other young studs to stay up in the lineup (plus, Filppula is gone ASAP for that team, probably by this year’s deadline to free up cap space).

    They get a couple picks (a low first and a high 3rd), to restock their system a bit, and a serviceable bottom pairing guy in Percy, who will be cheaper than their existing D depth which they will also dump to re-sign their studs.

    Kapanen was the cost of getting a signed, long-term elite scoring winger. Given that if Stamkos isn’t re-signed, he is likely to want to test the market either way, it just isn’t worth it for any team to give more than some OK prospects/depth guys and a pick or two to get him. Some crazy GM might be willing to mortgage the future and trade multiple blue-chippers/1sts to add Stamkos for a cup run, but that should NOT be the Leafs