So Brian Burke says he's trading for John Tavares. Cool. So now that we know who the Leafs are drafting, we can turn to the question of what it will cost them.
Howard Berger floats the first possibility in his blog today:
...the Leafs’ first-round pick [No. 7 overall]; at least one second-round pick; Luke Schenn, and a wad of cash [i.e. taking an existing contract off the Islanders’ roster]?Now most Leafs fans aren't interested in hearing Schenn's name in trade talks, and that includes me. But Berger's on the right track here, because the price for moving up will be skyhigh. So let's swap out Schenn for an asset of comparable value: the Leafs' first pick in next year's draft.
Would you be willing to move the Leafs first round picks both this year and next as part of a deal to move up to get Tavaras? I floated the idea over at PPP earlier today and the initial response wasn't positive. Too steep, some said.
If the Islanders were willing to move the Tavares pick for a pair of firsts and some other secondary assets (and there's no reason yet to believe they would), Burke should pull the trigger and not look back.
The bottom line is that guys like John Tavares don't come around often. No, he's not a once-in-a-generation talent like Gretzky or Lemieux or maybe even Crosby. But he's no Patrick Stefan either. Tavares is an elite prospect who most seem to consider to be about as close to a sure thing as any developing 18-year-old can be.
Burke is making noise about the playoffs next year, which suggests he thinks next year's pick may be in the mid-teens. Maybe, although I'm not buying that until I see some serious roster turnover. But let's assume he's wrong, and the team is just as bad next year as they were this season, maybe even a little worse. Let's say they wind up in that same 5-10 zone they've been stuck in lately.
Would you deal two picks in that 5-10 zone for a #1? Yes, absolutely.
Think of it this way: Would you rather have Alex Ovechkin, or Blake Wheeler and Devin Setoguchi? Would you prefer Sidney Crosby, or Setoguchi and Phil Kessel? Rick Nash, or Joffrey Lupul and Thomas Vanek? Vincent Lecavalier, or Nik Antropov and Tim Connolly?
I'm guessing you wouldn't. Maybe you'd think about the Nash deal. But you'd laugh at the others.
Those are the last four players that came into the league with as much hype as Tavares. And the proposed deals include the best players who were taken 5-through-10 in their draft year and the one after.
All of this is a bit of a silly way to make the point that the dropoff from a stud #1 to the next tier of high first rounders is often steep.
Maybe it's not a fair comparison. Some of those drafts were more top-heavy than this year, which should produce some very good players in the later half of the top ten. But again, I took the best 5-through-10 player I could find from each draft -- needless to say, there were also several duds picked in those spots.
Let's be clear: the two first rounders on their own wouldn't be enough. But they could form the core of a solid offer, and it's safe to assume that if the Islanders were interested then a handful of extra picks and/or salary dumps wouldn't get in Burke's way.
We've all heard the sermon about building patiently and holding on to draft picks at all costs. That's a good strategy under normal circumstances. But the chance to land Tavares isn't normal circumstances. If there's a chance to make it happen and Brian Burke needs to load up both barrels, then Leaf fans should be cheering him on all the way.