Monday, February 14, 2011

Road to Nowhere: Leafs Trade Versteeg

The Toronto Maple Leafs traded 24 year old Kris Versteeg to the Philadelphia Flyers for a 1st and a 3rd round draft pick in 2011.

I don’t like the deal for two simple reasons:

  1. The Flyers get the known quantity and the Leafs presume all the risk (the party that takes on the risk should get more of the reward); and
  2. It’s highly unlikely that the Leafs will be able to find a player of Versteeg’s ability with the Flyers’ pick.
The Flyers’ pick will likely fall in the 25 to 30 range in the first round of the NHL draft.

I looked at every player drafted 25th to 30th from 1994 to 2009 to see how they compare to a player like Versteeg. A guy who in just his fourth year in the NHL already has two 20 goal seasons and is on pace for a third. His boxcars: 223GP 58G 78A 136pts | 0.26GPG 0.35APG 0.61PtsPG.

Over those 15 16 drafts, 43 forwards have been drafted. Of those 43 forwards:
• Nine (20%) have never played a single NHL game;
• Seven (16%) have scored 58 or more career NHL goals;
• Six (14%) have averaged 0.60 points per game, or better;
• Five (10%) have averaged 0.26 goals per game, or better;

Of the 36 defencemen drafted in the 25 to 30 spot since 1994:
• Thirteen (36%) have never played a single NHL game;
• Twenty-four (66%) have not played in 80 games in their NHL career;

I realize these stats are skewed somewhat as players drafted 2007 to 2009 haven’t had much opportunity to make their mark. But looking at the 78 players taken from 1994 to 2006, the picture doesn’t change much.

In short, it doesn’t look like the Leafs are going to pluck a player with Versteeg’s ability out of that draft spot. Sure, it could happen, but why roll the dice?

The Leafs also got some cap space out of the deal, but Burke hasn’t exactly wowed me with his UFA overspends on Komisarek, Ledba, Orr and Armstrong. And it’s not like 20 goal wingers are available on the free agent market for $3M or less. Also of note, this year’s crop of UFAs is the opposite of good.

Summing up: the Leafs traded a salary-controlled 24 year old who’s consistently scored 20+ goals throughout his career for a draft pick that’s unlikely to turn into a consistent 20 goal scorer and the opportunity to overspend on a thin and overpriced UFA market.

Maybe there's another component yet to come, but as it stands I don’t like this deal.


  1. Anonymous9:24 am

    This deal is leading to possible 2 other deals that is why it is a good deal. Also now that Kaberle is about traded they needed the pick or picks to include to get this next deal done. Also they may even be another deal as well.

  2. This deal is leading to possible 2 other deals that is why it is a good deal.

    I'll believe that when me shit turns purple and tastes like rainbow sherbert.

    This deal is bad and no amount of turd polishing is going to change that.

  3. Anonymous11:16 am

    Teams who take proven goal scorers are always better off, take what happened with the first and 3rd (and extra 1st admittedly) that Boston got for the talented 30+ goal scored they traded a year or so back....... Not that a 25-30 pick will be as lucrative as a 2nd admittedly, but still.

  4. Anonymous11:19 am

    The fact of the matter is those draft stats mean absolutely nothing. The young talent we are getting this day and age from junior players is better than ever. You have no proof to say that the pick won't get us a quality player. You just don't know. No one does. Did anyone think Patric Hornqvist would be this good when he was taken dead last in his draft year? Of course it's a risk, but this had to be done. Versteeg obviously wasn't happy here and wanted out. Personally, I'd much rather be optimistic about the situation and team instead of being so bloody negative like most Leafs "fans" are.

  5. Anonymous11:20 am

    You have to be the most die hard, do no wrong Leafs/Burke, fan to think this is a good deal. Take the man's keys away, because Burke is turning into Al Davis. Every deal he makes is worse than the one before it.

  6. Anonymous11:34 am

    as the saying goes, a bird in hand is better than....

  7. Anonymous12:09 pm

    Nice post for the most part. Your math is a bit off in some spots (it's 16 drafts, 9 have 58 goals or better, plus the numbers skew nicely for forwards when you drop the 07-09 drafts), but otherwise bang on.

    Of note: With picks in this range Burke has pick Corey Perry and Ryan Kesler. So there is that...

  8. Anonymous 11:19 - I may have no proof to say that the Leafs won't get a quality player in the 25-30 slot, but history certainly suggests the odds *really* aren't in the Leafs' favour.

    I'm glad you're optimistic, but hope isn't a strategy nor does it affect probabilities.

  9. Anonymous 12:09 - Thanks for the comment and the math corrections.

    Perry wasn't a Burke draft pick, he was selected by Bryan Murray in 2003 (Burke didn't move to Anaheim until 2005). But you are correct, Burke did nab Kesler in 2003. Still, I don't like the Leafs' odds on this one...

  10. Man you people are hard to please...First its "we have no draft picks ooh nooooo'" Then he trades for picks and its the worst trade ever. Please wait to see what happens with this trade as it is clearly just a means to another end.

    Also Kris Versteeg just didn't work out, bottom line. We picked him up as a salary dump for unproven talent. He was supposed to blossom on a team he would get more ice time on with a bigger role. He didn't. Burke moved him when his value was high, removing the salary he took in the initial trade while gaining picks the team lacked for the prospects lost.

    Sure this doesn't make up for trading two first rounders for a guy who I don't think has the character to play in a place like Toronto, wish Kessel did. But this is a step in the right direction. It may be a step backward, but I think that's where Burke had to go as the 'on the fly rebuild' just isn't working out. However, with this new found cap space the free agency period could get interesting. Whether its a contract for Richards or an offer sheet for a player like Parise there are a lot of options for this team.

    (for those that may say offer sheet is impossible, picks lost would be for years 2012 and on)

    Basically, Burke has created a scenario where the team is young and can grow together. While also providing a lot of flexibility through cap space and contract length. The damage that JF jr did to this club is nearly gone, if correcting that is Burke's legacy for this team I would still label him a good GM for the team even if he doesn't produce a winner.

    For the record I am not even a big fan of Burke's style. But my last sentence speaks to why I like him as a GM.

  11. Anonymous2:29 pm

    You write: In short, it doesn’t look like the Leafs are going to pluck a player with Versteeg’s ability out of that draft spot. Sure, it could happen, but why roll the dice?


    FYI; Versteeg was drafted in the 5th round, 134th overall.


  12. Ryan - So a step backwards is a step in the right direction?

  13. Anonymous 2:29 - People win the Lotto 6/49 every week. It doesn't change the odds of it actually happening.

    You might want to read up on probabilities before you comment again.

  14. Burke's initial plan wasn't working. His trading Versteeg is in a way him admitting his mistake of not focusing on young prospects and draft picks. His last few moves have cleared cap space, added a young prospect a couple of years out of the show, and picks. This is a step backward from 'making the playoffs now' like he originally intended, but in my opinion is better for the team in the long run.

  15. Ryan - Versteeg is 24. His age is perfectly aligned with the core of the club.

    Burke misjudged the talent on the team. He was wrong to think playoffs. He misjudged the talent levels of Komisarek, Lebda and, to a certain degree, Phaneuf. You're now telling me he misjudged Versteeg.

    Good thing he's making these deals. Not like he's been wrong in the past.

    Oh, and I'd love to know how a draft pick which is unlikely to turn into an NHL player makes the Leafs better in the long-run.

  16. His age might have aligned but his role didn't. Like most pundits are saying he is more suited to be a 3rd liner on a deep team, rather than a first or second line winger.

    I'm not disputing any of the other mistakes burke has made since he got here, there have been a lot, but like I said he has gotten rid of a terrible culture of JF jr and the Muskoka Five. This is a good thing.

    Draft picks are only part of the puzzle but they represent a plan to build gradually. Toronto's problem has always been bringing in players that just can't handle this place, i.e. Kessel. They need to build a cohesive team with a solid group of young talent. Sure Versteeg might have theoretically fit this mould but we really have no idea how he meshed with the team and the culture of the room, and thats what really matters.

    While it would have been great if we got Van Reimsdyk would you rather have these draft picks or Versteeg walk next season. It seemed like he wanted out, but like I said we can't really know.

  17. Anonymous4:04 pm

    The Leafs are constantly stepping backwards. I cant even remember if it was 4 or 5 years since we even made the playoffs. How come some teams are consistantly making the playoffs....Detroit...Montreal.... As long as the MakeBeleafs keep filling the seats, no management will ever care.

  18. Bang on post. If you thought this year's free agent crop was bad you better check out 2012's. Good thing the world's going to end.

  19. Paul Steckley9:03 am

    I also don't like the deal but there have been trade rumours surrounding Versteeg for months. I have to think that if there was a better deal for Versteeg out there, Burke would have found it by now. Versteeg's contract only runs through next season so his value would have only decreased past this trade deadline.

    He clearly wasn't working out here and I think there must have been some issues with him behind the scenes for Burke to move him given his age and ability.

    Still, if you had told me a year ago that Burke could get a 1st and a 3rd for Stalberg, DiDomenico, and Paradis I'd say you were nuts. In that context it's not a bad deal.

  20. Anonymous2:56 pm

    "How come some teams are consistantly making the playoffs....Detroit...Montreal...."

    Look at the owners an there attitude....It tells the whole story as to why.

  21. Paul - how was Versteeg clearly not working out? He was on pace to pretty much match his career highs in goals, assists, and points? Plus, he's only a RFA after next year's end.

  22. How come some teams are consistantly making the playoffs....Detroit...Montreal.... As long as the MakeBeleafs keep filling the seats, no management will ever care.

    HAHAHA Montreal? since 98 the Habs have missed the playoffs as many times as the Leafs.

  23. Flyers2:39 pm

    Thanks Suckers!!

  24. Paul Steckley11:56 pm

    Matt, Versteeg was brought in to play on one of the top two lines but didn't mesh with Kessel or Bozak and the Grabovski line was pretty much set after the first few games. I'm not saying he was having a bad year. Far from it, as you've pointed out he was doing fairly well. I don't think he was fitting into the role Burke envisioned when he made the deal. That's what I meant.

    You're absolutely correct that he is a RFA after next season but I still think that would have affected his trade value next year. There's no guarantee you can resign a RFA (i.e. Kessel) so I think teams view it as a riskier pick-up than a guy that has a year or two left on his existing contract. He'd still be worth more than if he was a UFA but I don't think he'd be worth as much as a pending RFA than when he has one year left on his contract.

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  26. Anonymous9:19 pm

    Burke sure got more for Versteeg than Flyers got for him today. Case closed.