NHL Trade Tree
With 31 teams in the league it’s harder than ever to win the Stanley Cup. By the time the NHL trade deadline arrives, the teams who can compete will tweak their roster to get better. The cost of trying to win through trades at the deadline is usually very high though. Many hockey pundits claim the worst deals are made on trade deadline day. Looking back at some of these trades, I tend to agree. Sometimes doing nothing at all is the best thing a team could do.
There are a couple other key days that could make or break a team. One of those is draft day. Each team has their wish list, but sometimes they don’t own a draft pick high enough in the order to choose who they really want. Some teams will accept that and pick the best player available when their turn comes. Others will make trades to move up in the order so they can pick the Kidd they wanted (pun intended). These trades can sometimes have a negative effect and end up costing arguably the best goaltender of all time.
New Jersey Devils and Calgary Flames
Draft day, June 16, 1990. The draft was held in Vancouver with an estimated 19,000 spectators waiting to see who their home team would choose 2nd overall. Mike Ricci was ranked as the top prospect followed by the likes of Owen Nolan, Keith Primeau, Petr Nedved and the now ageless, Jaromir Jagr. The Quebec Nordiques were the first to choose and selected Owen Nolan. The Canucks selected Petr Nedved 2nd overall, followed by Primeau (Detroit), Ricci (Philadelphia), and Jagr (Pittsburgh) to round out the top five.
Calgary was sitting with the 20th overall pick, but knew the top rated goaltender they wanted would likely be selected before then. The Flames decided to make some trades to move up in the pecking order. After acquiring Detroit’s 24th overall pick that sent steady, stay at home defenceman Brad McCrimmon to the Wings, Calgary made a deal with the Devils. Calgary would send their 1st round pick (20th overall), the newly acquired 2nd round pick (24th overall), and a previously acquired 2nd round pick (29th overall from Minnesota). In exchange, New Jersey would give Calgary the 11th overall and their 2nd round pick (32nd overall).
Who the Devils Gave Up
Technically the Devils gave up two draft picks with no assurances to whether they would turn into NHL Players or not. The reality is that the NHL draft is much like a lottery. It doesn’t matter how much you study the numbers, there is no guarantee you’ll win. A good example of this is the 1989 draft that saw the New York Islanders select Dave Chyzowski 2nd overall. If you have never heard of him, don’t worry, you’re not the only one.
Chyzowski put up some impressive numbers in junior, but couldn’t translate that into the NHL. He did play 126 career NHL games, but that was more because he was such a high draft pick so was likely given more opportunity’s than most lower picks. A few names who were selected shortly after him in the draft are Stu Barnes, Bill Guerin, Bobby Holik, and Mike Sillinger. All of whom ended up playing over 1,000 games each in the NHL.
It’s easy to look back at the drafts and judge the picks now, but in the moment, no one really knows how it’ll work out. The Devils gave up the 11th overall pick, which historically there’s around a 67% chance that player will play 100 or more games in the NHL. There is a 33% chance that player turns out to be a top six forward, top four defenceman, or a starting goaltender. Calgary ended up taking the top ranked goaltender in the draft by selecting Trevor Kidd.
Kidd got his shot in the 1993-94 season playing in 31 games for the Flames. He posted a 3.16 GAA winning 13 games and tying another six. Kidd was able to hold his own on a Calgary team that was in the decline, but was never able to produce high level goaltender stats. Spending four seasons with the Flames, Kidd played in 187 games with a 75-71-26 win-loss-tie record and had 11 shutouts.
In the summer of 1997, Kidd was traded along with veteran forward Gary Roberts to the Carolina Hurricanes. Carolina sent Andrew Cassels and goaltending prospect Jean-Sebastian Giguere to Calgary in return. Cassels played two seasons for the Flames, but struggled to produce offence with Calgary’s defensive style of play. In 1999, Cassels became a UFA.
Jean-Sebastian Giguere spent most of his time with Calgary’s AHL team. Although Giguere showed well in the few NHL games he played, he could not surpass Fred Brathwaite in Calgary’s net. In 2000, Giguere was traded to Anaheim for a 2nd round draft pick. The draft pick was later traded for Miika Elomo and a 4th round pick, neither of which would play in the NHL.
What the Flames Gave Up
In order for the Flames to move up in the draft, New Jersey needed something worthwhile in return. Statistically speaking, a single 2nd round draft pick offers roughly a 34% probability of turning into an NHL player. When you combine multiple 2nd round picks, the probability of at least one turning out jumps to roughly 66%. Although these numbers were likely not available to team managers at the time of this trade, for argument sake, let me take it a little further.
Given the historical data that is now available, and applying a little math. The probability of at least one of the three picks the Flames gave up turning into an NHL player is roughly 94%. There is a 54% chance one of those picks turn into a top six forward, top four defenceman or starting goaltender. For the two picks coming back, there is a 76% chance of one becoming an NHL player and a 40.5% chance of one turning into a top NHL Player.
The odds were favourable for New Jersey as they selected Martin Brodeur 20th overall. In his first NHL season, Brodeur posted a 27-11-8 win-loss-tie record and won the Calder Trophy for the best rookie in the NHL. The next season, 1994-95, Brodeur led the Devils to their first Stanley Cup in franchise history going 16-4, with a .927 save %. Brodeur and the Devils would win two more cups in the 1999-00 and 2002-03 seasons.
In 21 seasons with the New Jersey Devils, Brodeur played 1,259 regular season games with a record of 688-394-105-49 (win-loss-tie-overtime loss). He is a ten-time NHL All-Star and four-time Venzina Trophy winner as the NHL’s top goaltender. Brodeur also holds many NHL records, including most all-time wins and shutouts. He is the only goaltender in NHL history to record eight 40-win seasons, and one of only two goaltenders to score a goal in both the regular season and the playoffs.
Calgary took a chance on a young player they thought would be the best goaltender available. It didn’t turn out that way, but you can’t blame them for not having a crystal ball to predict the future. Kidd was a good goalie and ranked as a top prospect for a reason. If Calgary used the 32nd overall pick to select one of Doug Weight or Geoff Sanderson, who were still available, it may have looked a little better.
New Jersey gave up quality for quantity in regards to picks, and it paid off with three Stanley Cups. Martin Brodeur is a future Hall of Famer and widely considered the greatest goaltender of all time. In 2016 the Devils retired Brodeur’s number 30 jersey and displayed a bronze statue of him outside the New Jersey arena. In the end, the Devils gambled with some lottery tickets and ended up winning the jackpot.
It’s now time for you to decide. Take the poll below and let me know your thoughts in the comment section.