The Toronto Maple Leafs’ coaching and general manager search could prove costly.
As we’re all now aware, new rules are in place that force NHL teams that hire a coach or GM from another team’s organization to send a draft pick the other way as compensation. Back in April, Sportsnet reported that the cost for plucking a coach or GM midseason would be a 2nd round pick, while hiring one in the offseason would only be a 3rd round pick. The team who’s coughing up a pick can choose to do so in any of the following three seasons.
Also according to the Sportsnet report, a coach’s season ends when his team is eliminated from the playoffs. That must mean teams can also negotiate compensation outside of the NHL’s set rules, since Detroit has had Mike Babcock suitors sign a permission form to speak with him, and agree to give up a third round pick if he leaves the Red Wings. Detroit was eliminated from the playoffs by the Tampa Bay Lightning weeks ago.
Since we know that the Leafs have signed one of those forms for permission to speak to (and hire) Babcock, we also know that they’re ready to sacrifice that 3rd round pick. Is that something that the Leafs – a bottom feeder team that has vowed to build through the draft – can afford?
Simply put, yes.
The argument against giving up compensation is that the Leafs have done a pretty terrible job of holding on to their draft picks over the past decade. Since 2005, the Leafs have selected 67 players through the NHL Entry Draft… the 23rd fewest picks. For context, Chicago has selected 89 times (the most), followed by Los Angeles, the New York Islanders, and Buffalo with 80.
That being said, the Leafs have given up their picks for much worse reasons than hiring arguably the best bench boss in hockey. Recently, Toronto has given up picks for Peter Holland, Dave Bolland, Jonathan Bernier, Ryan O’Byrne, Dave Steckel, John-Michael Liles and of course, Phil Kessel – not to mention in deals to move up in the draft, a la Tyler Biggs.
Some of those deals I’d make again, sure, but the point is the Leafs gave up too many picks in deals that didn’t provide enough value.
Babcock is a different kind of beast. For one, you’re probably talking about five years of an excellent coach in exchange for a pick that will most likely produce a borderline NHLer or career minor leaguer. Of course there’s value to be had in the third round of any draft, but take a look at Scott Cullen of TSN’s NHL Draft Pick Values and you’ll see that Babcock’s value to the organization is more likely going to be greater than that of a third round pick.
If it’s not Babcock, then maybe I wouldn’t be as eager to give up the pick, but it’s still probably worth it. There are a number of coaches and general managers that are worth the cost of admission, specifically on the GM side of things. Mike Futa? Absolutely. Send that pick to Los Angeles and don’t look back.
Also, let’s not forget that the Leafs – since committing to the rebuild – have actually done a good job of stockpiling draft picks for this year and next. In 2015, the Leafs added Nashville’s 1st and Pittsburgh’s 4th via trade. In 2016, Toronto owns all of their own picks, plus an extra 2nd, 5th and conditional 6th. How many more picks do you think will be added to the cupboard when one or more of Phil Kessel, Dion Phaneuf, Tyler Bozak, Joffrey Lupul, and James van Riemsdyk are dealt?
Over the next few years, the Leafs will be able to give up a third round pick (or two) and not miss a beat. They’ll be able to recoup those picks in trading players they no longer have a need for.
Do you think the Leafs can afford to give up a pick for a new coach and/or general manager? Let me know in the comments below.