Former Tampa Bay Lightning GM and current Sportsnet analyst Brian Lawton wrote a lengthy, intriguing piece on what a general manager (and later, an analyst) goes through on trade deadline day.
The piece is almost 2,500 words long and has many exclamation marks, so I’ll excerpt the interesting bits.
In 2010, I was working for the Tampa Bay Lightning and had a chance to trade our first-round pick to the Toronto Maple Leafs [for Tomas Kaberle] along with, interestingly enough, Carter Ashton.
Lightning owner Jeffrey Vinik, who I was working for at the time, is a very bright, classy and caring person that has really done a lot for the franchise since he took over. But during his first deadline, he was still very new to the hockey business.
Vinik didn’t want me to do anything foolish but was interested in making a splash early on. I quickly pointed out where our team stood and that it didn’t really call for us absorbing a lot of risk at the expense of trading our future assets. The club had been down this path previously and the result was a 30th-place finish prior to me being hired.
Even though our team was right on the playoff bubble and desperately needed an offensive defenceman, I wasn’t prepared to bail on what we were building upon through the draft.
That year’s trade deadline was later than usual (due to Winter Olympic involvement) and at the time, Tampa was 11th in the East, two points back of the eighth-place New York Rangers. Toronto was dead last and looking to sell Kaberle, which they would (to Boston) a year later for an even bigger ransom — Joe Colborne, a 2011 first-round pick and a conditional second-round pick in 2012.
As the title of this post suggest, it’s fortunate Lawton didn’t pull the trigger because the deal would’ve ended up being Kaberle for Carter Ashton and Brett Connolly, Tampa’s first-round pick in 2010. Kaberle would later be dealt straight-up for Jaroslav Spacek which, given this context, is sad.
Before I was let go, we were able to consummate what was termed as a smaller trade that I got lambasted for by the Tampa Bay media.
In the deal, we sent a very popular player in the locker room and a former client in Jeff Halpern, who was 33 at the time, to the Los Angeles Kings in exchange for a draft pick and a struggling offensive player named Teddy Purcell.
Purcell would go on to score 51 points the following season and is currently on pace for 65 more points this season.
Do I think we were lucky? Yeah sure, but isn’t everyone to some degree when you win in this business? But most importantly, I also knew we were prepared that day for success!
Purcell worked out well for the Lightning but, as the Tampa Tribune’s Erik Erlendsson points out, Lawton wasn’t killed for trading Halpern — he was killed for making a deal for the future while the Bolts were fighting for the playoffs. (As Lawton mentioned above, they were “on the bubble.”)
Finally, Lawton sheds light on Sportsnet’s rating system for potential trade deadline targets.
We placed a high value on players that have good hockey IQ and character above all else.
Of course, I take into account all of the tangible factors that you hear most people discuss like skating, puck handling and shooting but none are as heavily-weighted as hockey IQ and character for me.
Based on this formula, Lawton and the Sportsnet folk gave Buffalo’s Paul Gaustad a 5.7 rating (above-average third liner) and Columbus’ Samuel Pahlsson a 5.4 (below-average third liner).
But despite the players ranking closely to one another, it cost Nashville a first-round pick to acquire Gaustad while Pahlsson only cost Vancouver a pair of fourth-rounders.