A first-rounder for Shattenkirk might not be the end of the world for the Leafs

Photo Credit: Kirby Lee/USA TODAY SPORTS

At this point we’ve probably all made peace with the fact that the Leafs are unlikely to be an active team on the trade deadline next Wednesday. With how the season has played out, it’s tough to place them in the bin of buyers or sellers, so this isn’t at all surprising. Chances are we’re in for a quiet one this year.

But with that disclaimer out of the way, it’s also fair to point out that trades can materialize quite quickly, even ones of the blockbuster variety. Look no further than the nine-player Phaneuf deal from just a year ago.

According to some of the trade chatter swirling, there’s still a chance something major can come together for the Leafs in the next week or so, as their interest in Kevin Shattenkirk apparently still exists. And though his price has been reduced to ‘rental’ status, the current going rate is something that will make most Leafs supporters wary, even with a potential acquisition as exciting as this and the playoffs (maybe even a division win) a real possibility.

Any possible deal that starts with the Leafs unloading a first-round pick is likely a no-go for most who follow this team. And that’s fair. When you preach patience and sticking to the plan and all that, and carry through on it to the point of finally gaining a major amount of trust from the fanbase, it’s tough to sell a move that seems very pre-Shanny Leafs. No doubt it would sound off a few sirens in Toronto. 

But as much as I recognize and feel some of that same fear, I think there is a case to be made for moving out a first round pick this season, and I think Toronto’s front office is one that’s creative enough to make it work. “Make it work” in this case meaning mitigating the risk of looking like John Ferguson Jr or Brian Burke.

As things currently stand, the Leafs have seven draft picks going into this summer – a first-rounder, two seconds, then a pick in rounds 4, 5, 6, and 7. The funny thing is, with this front office, I think they’d be more hesitant to move out a pair of second-rounders (the 2016 rate for Roman Polak, mind you), than that first. Why? Because given what we’ve been hearing about this supposedly weak draft class, that pick is likely to be used to move back and add anyway. Hell, even in a strong year I’d expect this team to do that. 

The bottom line is I really don’t think the Leafs put a ton of value on drafting in the first round unless it’s a top five pick. Nor should they, really.

So if they do engage the Blues and go down this road of landing Shattenkirk – again, according to Dreger they are still interested in doing just that – why not just put protections on any potential lottery winning pick? Seems simple enough, because it is. 

For some reason, NHL general managers aren’t all that creative when it comes to moving picks around. The only time I can think of, off-hand, where a first round pick had protections against the lottery, was when the Kings unloaded one for Andrej Sekera a few years ago and stipulated that the pick would slide a year if they missed the playoffs. But “lottery protected” doesn’t need to follow this format, as far as I can tell.

Let’s say Toronto moves their first rounder, and goes on to make the playoffs with Shattenkirk in the fold. That pick likely falls around 17th if they get bumped right away. If they just barely miss, that pick is likely around 14th or so, but now holds a 1-2% chance of becoming first overall for Nolan Patrick. That’s a low risk, but obviously no team wants that kind of egg on their face. So why not just protect against it? Put a condition on the pick that if it lands in the top three after the lottery, it slides to the following summer. The Leafs have a first rounder in 2018 and should be more firmly planted in the playoff picture next season, especially if they can execute the second phase of this deal: Re-signing Shattenkirk. [Considering Lou’s track record with the Kovalchuk deal, I like their chances as much as anyone’s.]

Then there’s the option of getting into the pick-flipping game right off the hop. Sure, Toronto might have to part with their 1st in a trade of this magnitude, but perhaps they can push for later round picks from the Blues to soften that blow to their scouting staff. Like I mentioned earlier, the chances of them using that pick to move back are probably high anyway.

There’s a lot to think about here. At first I saw the price for Shattenkirk being floated out there these past few days and scoffed, probably like what you’re doing right now. But in a weak draft year and with a scouting staff that appears to be confident in picking later in the draft, along with a front office that recognizes the benefits of the “picking for volume” strategy, it doesn’t worry me as much. Even with the potential of failing to sign Shattenkirk to an extension hanging over this, it might be a risk worth taking.

  • Ben

    The Leafs are a borderline playoff team that’s at the start of their window to contend at best. If this was any name other than Shattenkirk, rumours of trading a 1st, good prospect and ‘another element’ for a rental would be laughed out of the building. A bit of possible goodwill generated with a prospective FA signing doesn’t bridge the gap and turn it into a good move.

  • The China Wall

    “The only time I can think of, off-hand, where a first round pick had
    protections against the lottery, was when the Kings unloaded one for
    Andres Sekera a few years ago and stipulated that the pick would slide a
    year if they missed the playoffs. But “lottery protected” doesn’t need
    to follow this format, as far as I can tell.”

    Ryan, if I am not mistaken, the Pens did the same thing in the Kessel deal with us.If they had missed playoffs, pick would have slid to next year and if they missed that year, it would have become a 2nd rounder.

    When Bonis was running things with the “draft, smaft” attitude, it seems the Leafs were the only team not putting playoff (or lottery) protection on 1st round picks and look how that worked out for us. Tyler and Dougie say Hi!

  • benjaminries

    How about we stop writing about the cost of acquiring Shattenkirk pre-deadline without including the likely loss of Connor Carrick or Jake Gardiner in the expansion draft if they do sign an extension (or whatever else they have to give Vegas as part of a deal to prevent McPhee from taking Carrick or Gardiner or Shattenkirk when they are forced to expose).

    It’s at least a 1st for Shattenkirk as a rental UFA only. It’s automatically a 1st plus Carrick or Gardiner if they extend and protect. It’s nothing if Shattenkirk makes it to UFA and they sign him.

    Now: if somebody else gets Shattenkirk, how much does their price to sell him to the Leafs drop from a 1st if it is post-expansion, pre-entry draft? That plus Carrick is the savings of missing out on him as a rental this year.

  • Stan Smith

    Giving up a first round pick to pick up a rental player to help the Leafs get into the playoffs in a season where they don’t even have to make the playoffs for it to be a success is absurd.

    As for the chances of signing him he has already turned down $42M over 7 years. How much is it going to take to get him signed?

    I’m not sure what is so difficult to understand about what “being patient”. There is absolutely no need to make any deals just to improve this season. It’s all about the long term, period.

  • 4EVER67

    First off the Leafs have said nothing about any trades a matter of fact they have said don’t hold your breath on any kind of deal, sure they have been doing there do diligence. If Lou & Co can find a player out there that could help the team it would happen but remember expansion has screwed things up a bit things aren’t so cut and dry. Let’s just enjoy the run that we are on just watching our own stars in the making and a team where players have committed to thier role !!!GROWLEAFSGO!!!