Wednesday, April 21, 2021

Who wins, Team Deadline Trade or Team Draft Floor Trade?

Today’s post comes from reader Mike, who recently DM’ed me with a simple question:

Since the only two times a GM can make a trade is at the trade deadline or at the draft (or so we’ve been told), which one gives us the best all time team?

Love it. Since we’re all entering deadline withdrawal, let’s do this before we all forget what a trade is. I’m going back to 1979, which is the start of the entry draft era and one year before the Butch Goring trade ushered in the modern concept of the deadline. Four decades shouldn’t be too much research for one post, right?

But first, a few ground rules™:

– I’m going to define the deadline as the three days before. That’s partly to make sure we can cover most of the big deals – a surprising number of big “deadline” deals didn’t actually happen on the day itself, including that Goring deal everyone thinks is the ultimate deadline move – and party because as we’ll see in a minute, we’re giving the draft three days too. Note that this still rules out some deadline-adjacent deals you might expect to see, like Brian Leetch to Toronto (which came six days before the 2004 deadline)

– For the draft, we’ll go with the three-day window starting the day before the draft begins. That captures all the draft floor deals, including in the modern two-day draft era, plus just enough pre-draft maneuvering to capture the spirit of the thing.

– This one’s important: For deadline deals, we’re looking for players only; trading a pick that turns into a star months or years later doesn’t count. For draft trades, we’ll count picks only if it’s clear that the team knew with certainty that they were going to get a specific player. So that counts deals for the first overall pick, deals where a team traded up during the draft for the next pick on the board, and a handful of other exceptions we’ll get to. But it doesn’t count deals like the Devils trading down from 11th to 20th in 1990 and getting Martin Brodeur; they may have been targeting him, but they couldn’t know that he’d be there ten picks later, so he wasn’t really “in” the trade.

– We want a standard 20-man roster with 12 forwards, six defensemen and two goalies. We’ll try to keep our centers and wings realistic up front but won’t get carried away.

– Finally, our rosters only get credit for everything a player did in his career after the trade. That doesn’t necessarily have to have been with the team that acquired him, but for example Adam Oates doesn’t make Team Deadline based on being traded in 2002 when he was 39 and pretty much done.

Let’s do this. Thanks to Mike, and as always to Hockey Reference, NHL Trade Tracker and Pro Sports Transactions.

First line

Team Deadline starts strong with a trio of Hall-of-Famers. They can use the league’s fifth all-time leading scorer at center in Ron Francis, thanks to the 1991 deal that sent him from Hartford to Pittsburgh. We’ll give him about 1,300 goals worth of wingers in Brett Hull (who was traded at the 1988 deadline) and Marian Hossa (from 2008). That means we’re getting almost all of Hull’s career, all of Francis’s best seasons, and Hossa’s two-way dominance in his second half. Pretty pretty good.

Can Team Draft Floor compete? Well, no. But they can at least ice three Hall-of-Famers of their own, or at least they will once the next class is announced. We’ll start the line with Joe Sakic, who was drafted by the Nordiques with a pick they acquired in the draft floor Dale Hunter trade in 1987. I originally didn’t have Sakic as an eligible choice, but according to then Caps GM David Poile in this news article, the trade went down with Washington on the clock, meaning the Nordiques made it knowing Sakic was on the top of their draft board.

So Sakic makes the cut, and we can give him Daniel Sedin and Henrik Sedin as linemates; they both qualify thanks to Brian Burke’s draft floor wheeling and dealing. Technically, Burke had to wait for the first overall pick, but he had Atlanta’s word that they were taking Patrik Stefan. As much fun as it is to imagine Burke getting double-crossed in that scenario, he knew he was getting the Sedins when he made those trades.

That’s a strong top line for Team Draft Floor, but Team Deadline has a pretty clear early edge.

Second line

Team Deadline starts with two more Hall-of-Fame wingers, and they come from the same trade, as a North Stars/Capitals blockbuster from one minute before the 1989 deadline gives us both Mike Gartner and Dino Ciccarelli. When you can start your second line with over 1,300 goals, you’re in a decent shape. But this is where we run into our first bump in the road for our deadline squad, as it’s already tough to find a top-tier center. Apparently those guys just don’t get moved at the deadline unless they’re Ron Francis, so we’ll have to settle for some good-but-not-great options unless we want the dreaded three-winger line. I’ll go with Pierre Turgeon, who barely makes our three-day limit thanks to the 1995 deal that sent him to the Habs.

Team Draft Floor has no such issues down the middle, as we can give them Mats Sundin, who was traded for Wendel Clark to ooh’s and aah’s on the draft floor in Hartford in 1994. In fact, we’ve got so much center depth that we can shift an all-star pivot to the wing and put Dale Hawerchuk on this line, thanks to the 1990 draft floor deal that sent him from Winnipeg to Buffalo. And we’ll round out the line with Rick Nash, who was the target when the Blue Jackets traded up to the first overall pick just minutes before the 2002 draft started.

This one is close, with each line boasting two Hall-of-Famers. I think the edge goes to Team Deadline once again, since we’re not getting most of Hawerchuk’s best work, but the gap is narrower than it was on the first line.

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