Or maybe more precisely in this case, theft! Because what else could you call the highway robbery that took place on July 1st, when The Washington Capitals traded goalie Semyon Varlamov to the Colorado Avalanche for a first rounder in 2012 and either a 2012 or 2013 second rounder. On the surface it seems like a somewhat fair deal.
Varlamov is after all an-ex 1st rounder himself, going 23rd overall in 2006, and has been nothing if not consistently good thus far in his career, with a record of 30-13-12, a G.A.A of 2.39 and SV% of .917. No the problem here is not that I think Varlamov isn't a promising young talent. The problem is that Colorado traded a 1st rounder to get him, a 1st round pick that should translate into at least a top 10 pick next year. Because let's face facts: Colorado hasn't gotten a whole lot better so far this off-season, and this coming off a year where they had the second-worst record in the entire NHL.
Colorado will argue that Varlamov will put them in the winning column on a more consistent basis. To that i say: is he at this point in his career much better than last year's Avalanche starter, Craig Anderson? Anderson you'll remember is only a year removed from posting a career year, playing 71 games and recording 38 wins.
They obviously see something in Varlamov, something worth giving up a potential lottery pick for. I don't see it, and few hockey minds out there do either. But what makes this trade so absurd is that the most coveted goalie on the free agent market, Tomas Vokoun, was available before this trade went down. Sure Vokoun is getting old (he just turned 35), but he's shown no sign of slowing down, his G.A.A. and SV% not wavering from 2.5 and .920 over the last 5 years (and that on a piss-poor team). And the Avalanche could have gotten him without giving away anything!
When Free Agency began, Colorado were among maybe 2-3 teams max in the league that needed a goalie. With a ton of money at their disposal (and a need to get to the cap floor) Vokoun and Colorado seemed like an obvious match. But, no. That would have apparently been too easy for their brain dead GM. Instead they went out of their way to trade for a goalie who still hasn't come close to playing a full NHL season, and traded away what should be huge picks next year. Adding injury to insult, Washington turned around and signed Vokoun to a one year deal for, get this, 1.5 million$!!! Literal chump change considering his pedigree and numbers over the years.
This could literally turn out to be one of the worst deals since Brian Burke signed Phil Kessel to an offer sheet, sacrificing two first rounders in the process. Colorado is nowhere near good enough to be anything better than a middling team next year at best, and at worst a basement dweller. Washington will be licking their chops all year long, salivating at the thought of drafting maybe 3rd, 2nd, or even... yes its very possible the Avs will finish dead last...
So who won this trade? WASHINGTON. It's not even close...
Another key trade that went down was between the Nashville Predators and the Toronto Maple Leafs, and again, I'm a little blown away by what went down. On the surface the trade looks bad, and when you dig a little deeper, it still looks like a steal. Here's the tale of the tape: Nashville sent Matthew Lombardi and Cody Franson to the Leafs for Brett Lebda and Robert Slaney and a conditional draft choice. It looks bad at first glance. Clearly Nashville gave up the two best players in the deal. So why did they do it?
Lombardi is coming off a year where he basically didn't play due to post-concussion syndrome, and his career going forward is in doubt. Nashville desperately wanted to get out from under a contract where they would have to pay him 7 million over the next 2 years, and in order to have someone take on this contract, they had to add Franson to the deal to sweeten the pot. This actually makes perfect sense. What makes no sense, to me anyway, is that Nashville were unable to get anything back besides a journeyman defenseman and a minor league player.
What happened here was one team (the Leafs) taking advantage of a desperate team (the Preds). Nashville, a small market team, needed to free up money to sign RFA superstar D-man Shea Weber this year, and make sure there was still money left over to re-sign Ryan Suter and Pekka Rinne next year. Toronto was more than willing to take on the extra salary, seeing Franson as a potential stalwart on D for years to come.
Sadly, this is one of those trades you don't want to see happen as a hockey fan, a trade that is made possible due to the relative poorness and richness of two teams. Nashville basically had to sacrifice one of their good young players because they felt that they couldn't afford not to. Toronto clearly wins the trade, and you can't really blame them from figuratively stealing candy from a baby. They too, are in desperation mode. Not financially speaking, but the pressure to get better in Toronto is palpable, felt only as much in maybe a handful of sports markets today. In the end, it's just too bad that this all happened to Nashville.
Despite their small market status, Nashville almost always fields a winning team, and just came off a very successful season where they not only made it to the playoffs, but took Stanley Cup finalist Vancouver to 6 games in the second round. Just goes to show that no matter how good you draft and manage a team, attendance numbers and TV revenues are even more important. All this begs the question: why the heck is their even a hockey team in Nashville? Gary Bettman says hi...