Yesterday the Leafs moved out Kris Versteeg for Philadelphia’s 2011 first and third round picks. My gut feeling is that this is a bad deal; Versteeg is on pace for about 50 points this season as a 24 year old and it’s unlikely that someone available late in the first round will have that kind of impact. Couple that with the fact that Kris Versteeg will be an RFA when his contract expires and the likely offer sheet compensation being at least a first and a third and this move is puzzling.
So what exactly is a late first pick going to turn into? Here are the players drafted between 24th (Philly’s first) and 40th (our 2nd plus a couple spots) from 2000 to 2006:
- 2000: Steve Ott, Brian Sutherby, Martin Samuelsson, Justin Williams, Niklas Kronwall, Jeff Taffe, Tomas Kurka, Nick Schultz, Brad Winchester, Andy Hilbert, Tomas Kopecky, Kurtis Foster
- 2001: Alexander Perezhogin, Jason Bacashihua, Jeff Woywitka, Adam Munro, David Steckel, Matthew Spiller, Derek Roy, Timofei Shishkanov, Mark Popovic, Kyle Wanvig, Duncan Milroy, Tim Jackman, Karel Pilar, Fedor Tyutin
- 2002: Cam Ward, Jonas Johansson, Hannu Toivonen, Jim Slater, Jeff Deslauriers, Tobias Stephan, Jarret Stoll, Tim Brent, Josh Harding, Rob Globke
- 2003: Anthony Stewart, Brian Boyle, Jeff Tambellini, Corey Perry, Patrick Eaves, Shawn Belle, Danny Richmond, Ryan Stone, Loui Eriksson, Vojtech Polak, Kevin Klein, Kamil Kreps, Tim Ramholt
- 2004: Rob Schremp, Cory Schneider, Jeff Schultz, Mark Fistric, Mike Green, Dave Bolland, Chris Bourque, Justin Peters, Grant Lewis
- 2005: Andrew Cogliano, Matt Pelech, Matt Niskanen, Steve Downie, Vladimir Mihalik, Brendan Mikkelson, James Neal, Ryan Stoa, Marc-Edouard Vlasic, Taylor Chorney, Scott Jackson, Petr Kalus, Michael Sauer
- 2006: Patrik Berglund, Ivan Vishnevskiy, Nick Foligno, Matthew Corrente, Tomas Kana, Michal Neuvirth, Jamie McGinn, Andreas Nodl
Players with no NHL games played have been omitted. Players in bold are players that could be an upgrade on Versteeg.
There were 96 slots for this list; 16 picks a season for 6 seasons. Only 78 names are on this list which means that a pick in this range has an 80% chance of playing an NHL game at all. Of those 80% about 12 guys (quick count) have played one or two NHL games before fading into obscurity so really you have about a 60% chance of getting an NHL regular out of this region of the draft, to say nothing about a young cost controlled 24 year old 20 goal guy.
Obviously there are some great players in there; Kronwall, Green, Perry, Neal, Eriksson. Let’s hope Toronto drafts one of them instead of Grant Lewis or Timofei Shishkanov.
Rumors will be coming out all day about how Versteeg wasn’t a good fit in Toronto. Maybe Brian Burke traded him because he wanted out or clashed with the dressing room. To be honest we’ll never really know that and I don’t put a lot of stock in stories that come out after a trade. Media markets have a way of suddenly finding out dirt on departing players that was never mentioned while the player was scoring for their team.
One thing of note: just because the Leafs acquired Versteeg for assets we now consider cheap (at the time giving up Stalberg and DiDomenico felt like a knife in the gut) doesn’t mean that losing him for a return below market value is ok. Nashville gave up a better first for Mike Fisher who’s older, costs more, isn’t as good and who won’t be an RFA at his contract expiry.
I, personally, thought Versteeg was a good young piece of a Leafs team that can’t see itself competing before 2014 and I’m sad to see him go. As always the pressure is on Brian Burke to do something with these assets; the first, third, and Versteeg’s cap space. I’m more worried about July 1st than ever.