Hey, the Leafs finally did it! They made a multi-asset trade to grab immediate help! That is, if you consider a slight downgrade, retained salary, and giving up a draft pick “immediate help”. In a surprise move, the Toronto Maple Leafs have traded Carl Gunnarsson and a 4th round pick for Roman Polak. Toronto will also retain $200,000 in Gunnarsson’s Salary.
Tale of The Tape
|Player||CF%||CF% rel||OISH%||OISV%||PDO||ZS%||ZS rel||QoC||QoT||Partner|
|Gunnarsson 12/13||44.4||0.4||11.1||928||1039||39.8||-6.7||29||27.3||Phaneuf (40.7%)|
|Polak 12/13||49.7||-3.4||6.5||908||973||47.3||-5.5||27.9||26.1||Russell (53.2%)|
|Gunnarsson 13/14||40.1||-4||10||933||1033||38.3||-3.5||30||30.3||Phaneuf (75.8%)|
|Polak 13/14||49.4||-5.8||7.3||917||989||46.2||-8||27.7||25.2||Cole (39.4%)|
There’s nothing here to suggest that Roman Polak is in any way better than Carl Gunnarsson. Gunnarsson was a much more productive player in 12/13, and a slightly more productive one this year. Gunnarsson had worse direct possession numbers, but if you take into account the difference between a tire fire and a Presidents Trophy winning defensive-oriented team, his relative numbers come out ahead as well. This also all happens while facing a higher quality of competition; Gunnarsson being among the league’s stiffest in that sense over the past couple of years.
On the other hand, it’s not as lopsided of a gap as it looks at first glance. Polak, much like Gunnarsson, gets some pretty stiff zone starts, especially compared to the rest of his St. Louis teammates, which probably play into his possession numbers. The two are also on opposite ends of the spectrum in terms of the percentages landing in their favour. Gunnarsson is coming off his second consecutive 1030+ PDO year. Above on-ice shooting percentages have probably played into the offensive advantage that he has, and I can’t imagine having a goaltending that’s 16-20 points weaker has helped Polak very much.
Also, quality of competition is one thing, but teammates play a factor too. Gunnarsson’s main partner in the last two years, especially this year, has been Dion Phaneuf, while Polak has been scattered but had Kris Russell and Ian Cole as his primaries. Neither of these guys are terrible, but they’re also both not close to Phaneuf’s calibre.
How Should One Feel?
Despite trying to play devils advocate here, I do believe the Leafs come out behind on this deal overall.
First and foremost, Gunnarsson is probably the better defenceman of the two. Even with a few things coming out in his favour, it’s hard to ignore that he’s looked better in a tougher situation. On top of that he’s even a few months younger.
I wasn’t inherently against trading Gunnarsson. I think that he’s a solid #4, but the Leafs have an abundance of those players and the #2 role he was playing was one which had him a bit in over his head. I figured the best thing for them to do with him would be to include him in a quantity for quality trade to acquire an asset in a position of need, subtracting a roster defenceman or adding that mythical #2. This just gives them another #4, who might not be as good.
To make matters worse, he wasn’t the only piece. A fourth round pick isn’t huge value, but there’s definitely merit to grabbing more prospects as you can. You never know who develops into what, and that’s especially important on, you know, draft day. That concerns me a fair bit.
Worst of all, I don’t understand why the Leafs are retaining salary. I wrote when Gunnarsson was signed that I felt his deal was fair value and we’ve been given no reason to believe otherwise since. Retaining $200,000 “adjusts” their theoretical salaries so that Polak is actually a $35,000 premium over Gunnarsson, something that I don’t believe matches with the talent. If his contract came off the books quicker, that would be awesome, but they both expire after 2015/16.
You could say that the one benefit to this is that it allows the Leafs to move Dion Phaneuf back to the left side, but this means Polak plays on the first pair, which is not a world that anybody logical would pursue living in.
Besides, it’s not like the Leafs have a great track record in terms of trading Swedish roster players to the Blues.