Following his two goal performance, twitter was buzzing with
the notion that it’s time
to trade Lupul now that there’s perceived value.
Joffrey Lupul’s stock going up faster than Apple after a product launch pic.twitter.com/KZqQtf5H5d
— The Leafs Nation (@TLNdc) November 3, 2015
Now, I’m willing to grant that a number of these tweets are
sarcastic and made in jest, but I feel it’s worth diving into whether or not it’s
actually possible to trade Joffrey Lupul for any kind of meaningful return.
In the eleven games the Leafs have played this season,
Joffrey has had a positive CF% in six of those games, and amazingly all his
goals have come from games where he had CF% under 50%. Lupul’s lack of
production may stem from the fact that it’s difficult to put up points when
Nick Spaling is your center, so the fact that Lupul leads the team in goals may
in fact be nothing short of a miracle.
The fact that Lupul has 5 goals is impressive, but there is
of course the small matter of his 17.6% shooting percentage as well. A career 11.6% shooter, Joffrey has enjoyed
spikes above 13% twice previously with the Leafs. During his 25 goals in 66
games season, and in his 11 goals in 16 games “what could have been?” lockout shortened season. Even if Lupul
regresses back to his career average, that would match the 22 goals in 69 games
(nice) pace that Lupul had two seasons ago.
Given Lupul’s high shooting percentage it is pretty amazing
how his PDO comes in at 100.3. You’d think it would be due to the horrible save
percentages that plague the Leafs, but it’s a respectable on ice save percentage
of 94.5%. No, once again the blame falls on Lupul’s linemates, Winnik and Spaling,
who have an on ice shooting percentage of 5.8%.
Admittedly, this is all much
better than what was expected for Lupul coming into this season, and if you
look at Joffrey over the past few years and ignore that he’s a possession
sinkhole, there’s some promise that he can continue to produce offense.
It’s not particularly easy to find trades involving wingers
with term left on their deals moving around in the past few years, but there
are a few examples that are relevant to Joffrey Lupul.
The first is the comical David Clarkson for Nathan Horton
deal that hits home for us and reminds us that it’s possible to move anyone. If
the Leafs are willing to take salary back that can be buried (where they can
still bury salary I don’t know) I’m sure they can find a team willing to take
on a potential 20 goal scorer with a similar salary/cap hit. From a Leafs
perspective, this isn’t exactly appealing since they aren’t likely to be in a
tight cap situation any time soon, and could benefit from hanging onto Lupul
until moving him as a rental a few years down the road.
The other end of the spectrum is the Patrick Sharp trade,
where along with Stephen Johns was traded for Trevor Daley and Ryan Garbutt.
Chicago had to make this deal to comply with their cap, so the value wasn’t
exactly there, and there’s the small matter of Patrick Sharp being a better
player than Lupul as well. While it does
show a winger with term can be moved, I wouldn’t put much stock in the return,
though when you consider what a fleecing it was, Garbutt and Daley for Lupul
and a prospect might be exactly what happens.
When the Habs dumped underachieving winger Rene Bourque for
underachieving defenseman Bryan Allen it shows it’s just a matter of finding
another team that’s given up on a hard to move player. If there’s a spot the
Leafs would rather address than scoring winger it a $5M cap hit, Lupul could be
on the move.
Finally the Hartnell for Umberger trade hits on the exact
same theme as the Bourque for Allen trade. It’s a change of scenery and a hope
that the acquired player fits your system better.
Challenges to Trading
The biggest one, ahead of all the other shortcomings is his
salary. This year Lupul earns $6.75M, next season he earns his cap average at
$5.25, and in his final year he earns $3.75M. When you look at 20 goal scoring
wingers who don’t do much else well, and factor in age, even $3.75M is a little
Of course you could retain salary, but that means the Leafs
wouldn’t have the ability to retain salary on any other deal until the summer.
It would also mean that in conjunction with the Kessel retained salary, the
Leafs would only be able to retain salary on one more player until the Lupul
contract expires. Since paying half of Lupul’s salary probably still doesn’t
make it so you receive enough of a return to make it worthwhile.
There’s also the issue of Lupul’s age. He’s almost 32 and in
the NHL that’s pretty darn old, especially when you consider the next
Lupul’s injury history immediately makes him a pretty
unreliable asset to acquire. I don’t know how much needs to be elaborated on
here, but he’s eight years removed from playing over 70 games in a season. With
55 games to his name last year it’s even more worrisome.
Let’s say you’ve managed to find a team willing to overlook
all these issues, and they’ve put in an offer that is more valuable to the
Leafs than simplying riding out the next three years of contract, Lupul has a
no trade clause that means there are only 14 teams he can go to. If he’s chosen
to stack the deck by leaving off teams who can’t afford him, can’t fit him in
under their cap, etc. the Leafs could be in an even more limited situation that
what was experienced with Phil Kessel.
Lupul’s probably sticking around for the next three years.
The upside to that is that he’s rebounding nicely from a disappointing 2014-15,
the downside is that if his contract was aligned closer to what he was worth
when he signed it, there is a much better chance that he could be flipped.
Obviously the Clarkson trade has taught us that anything is
possible, and Lou Lamoriello has pulled off some of the greasiest moves in
hockey previously, so there’s no reason to consider it a complete
impossibility, it’s just very much an unlikelihood.