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Auston Matthews and the NHL’s trade value rankings

With Auston Matthews finally getting back into the Leafs’ lineup tonight, it’s a perfect time to look back at what a month it’s been since he was injured. Let’s take an opportunity to remind ourselves that, while Damien Cox can’t be taken seriously as a sports analyst, since we have to respond to every outrageous stance in the Toronto sports media world, his tweet a couple weeks back about trading Matthews garnered a lot of attention.

Long story short, Cox thinks this: Because the Leafs were doing okay while Matthews was injured, why not just trade the generational scorer? Seems airtight.

Nah, it’s still a crazy idea.

Anyway, while I don’t want to keep discussing ol’ DamoSpin here, this idea of trading Matthews did get me thinking about what the NHL’s overall trade value list might look like.

This isn’t a new idea, it’s something the folks at Grantland (and now The Ringer) have done for the NBA for a while now.

But we can just as easily apply their rules for those rankings to the NHL, and that’s exactly what I’m going to do.

NHL TRADE VALUE RULES

1. Salaries and term matter.

This is pretty simple; Would you rather pay Carey Price $10.5-million AAV until the sun burns out or Freddie Andersen 5.0 for a couple more seasons? Expiring deals like Erik Karlsson’s obviously have relatively low value as well.

2. Age really matters.

Sidney Crosby might still be a better player than Nathan Mackinnon, but at 23, could you justify moving the latter for the former if you were Colorado? Jesus no.

3. Pretend the league passed the following rule: For 24 hours, any player can be traded without cap ramifications.

4. Concentrate on degrees. This basically gets into tighter conversations about moving younger (or cheaper) players for older (or more expensive) players. As good as Sid is, that Crosby/Mackinnon example would, or should, be a simple no from Colorado. But there are definitely deals out there that would give teams more pause.

5. I’m adding a fifth rule. It’s that McDavid is so obviously first overall it isn’t worth discussing. We’ll just put his name at the end of this list without saying much more about it. This list is more about the rest of the league outside 97.

Lastly, this list runs in reverse order. So under that premise, if Zach Werenski comes in at 13th overall, players 1 through 12 are all players about whom the Jackets would say, “We definitely have to at least have a meeting and discuss this proposal”. Conversely, Columbus probably wouldn’t trade him straight-up for any player listed between number 14 and 62.

I decided to pull in Jon Steitzer and Adam Laskaris to help put together this list, and we ended up doing two full rounds of rankings. Obviously there won’t be a write-up for every entry, but as we get toward the best players on the list there might be some justification that needs providing.

62. Markus Nutivaara
61. Erik Karlsson
60. Josh Morrissey
59. Timo Meier
58. Claude Giroux
57. Kyle Connor
56. Mikael Granlund
55. Anze Kopitar
54. Mattias Ekholm
53. Jacob Trouba
52. Leon Draisatl
51. Viktor Arvidsson
50. Jonathan Huberdeau
49. Charlie McAvoy
48. Alex Pietrangelo
47. Alex Ovechkin
46. Shane Gostisbehere
45. Hampus Lindholm
44. Miro Heiskanen
43. Sean Monahan
42. PK Subban
41. Nico Hischier
40. Tomas Chabot
39. Andrei Svechnikov
38. John Tavares
37. Nikolaj Ehlers
36. Ivan Provorov
35. Pierre Luc Dubois
34. Brock Boeser
33. Clayton Keller
32. Vladimir Tarasenko

31. Sebastian Aho

There’s a group of young players like Aho, Marner, Barzal, and Rantanen that we had to make some tough decisions on, and that really gets at the root of an exercise like this. Should you trade a rising stock player like Aho for an established star player like Marchand or Hall? In this case, we thought ‘yes’. But again, degrees matter.

30. Filip Forsberg, 29. John Klingberg

28. William Nylander

27. Johnny Gaudreau

26. Brad Marchand, 25. Evgeni Malkin, 24. Evgeni Kuznetsov

23. Matt Barzal

22. Tyler Seguin, 21. Mark Scheifele

20. Taylor Hall

Hall is one of the tougher placements on this list, given the short term left on his contract, which expires in 2020. If he was already locked in for the next five or six years, he might be as high as 6th on this list.

19. Brayden Point

18. Morgan Rielly

17. Victor Hedman

16. Mikko Rantanen, 15. Mitch Marner

14. Patrice Bergeron

Bergeron is 33-years-old. But in terms of someone you could add to your team today that gives you the biggest boost to win a championship in the spring, he might be in the top three league-wide. That’s why he breaks into this group of young stars.

13. Zach Werenski

12. Sidney Crosby

11. Sasha Barkov

10. Jack Eichel, 9. Rasmus Dahlin

Dahlin was a tough one to pin down because he hadn’t flown out of the gate, but we knew he had to be in the top ten. Would the Lightning trade Kucherov for him straight up? That’s a tough one.

8. Nikita Kucherov

7. David Pastrnak

It’s hard to separate Pastrnak’s greatness from the fact he plays with two of the best play-drivers in the league, but the bottom line is he’s 22 years old and has scored 34 and 35 goals respectively the last two seasons, putting up 80 points in 2017-18. He might score 50 this year.

6. Seth Jones

Jones is the highest rated defenceman on the list for good reason. He’s a fully developed elite blue-liner who just turned 24 and has a really nice AAV for the next four years.

5. Patrik Laine, 4. Elias Pettersson

Let the debate between these two rage on.

3. Nathan Mackinnon, 2. Auston Matthews

Mackinnon is still just 23-years-old, and on a super manageable contract at $6.3-million AAV for five years including this one. There’s just one player I’d definitely trade him for today. Another I’d really have to think long and hard about: Auston Matthews. At first I separated these two for different blurbs but the trade value here is a lot closer to a wash once I thought about it more.

1. Connor McDavid

Yes, it’s McDavid, obviously.

Closeout

Again, it should be noted that this is not a power rankings. As of today, right this instant, Patrice Bergeron is a better player than Rasmus Dahlin and would put a team over for the Cup. But Dahlin holds more value in a trade. That’s what this is about.

There are some very tight races in this list, especially when we see guys around the same age with comparable contracts. If you think we came down on the wrong side of things in a few instances, drop a comment or give us your list.

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