Trade season has started and the Leafs are off and running with the acquisition of Jeremy Morin for Richard Panik. The funny thing about that trade is, if history holds up, that we may look back on it as one of the bigger moves the Leafs make between now and the deadline.
Pulling from Lou Lamoriello’s recent in-season trade history, he’s not normally one to make significant changes in season, even considering that 4 of the 5 last seasons saw the Devils outside of the playoffs.
Above is the quick and dirty five-year history of Lou Lamoriello making trades in-season. He’s averaging 2.8 trades per season, with his most active year being the season the Devils geared up for their deep playoff run, a year where he essentially added Alexei Ponikarovsky and Marek Zidlicky, after acquiring and dumping Kurtis Foster as his other key move.
The year that seems to be most relevant to the Leafs current situation of “SELL, SELL, SELL” is last season, and it was limited to two moves acquiring three draft picks. The largest being the Jagr deal which netted the Devils a 2nd and 3rd round pick and the Zidlicky deal which brought in a conditional pick destined to be a 5th rounder. Neither of these returns are particularly outstanding but they allowed the Devils to pick up something for players that they had no intention of re-signing.
The 2010-11 season also shows a team accepting the need to retool, as Langenbrunner and Arnott are both moved for futures in the form of 2nd and 3rd picks, but again not a significant teardown. Perhaps with the Stanley Cup Finals appearance the following season, Lamoriello was right not to go any further.
The Devils situation is generally different from the Leafs in the sense that New Jersey has to at least attempt to field a team that can competitive on any given night, and can’t completely sell off any available asset. The Leafs have that luxury, as fans can be sold a different bill of goods and show up to watch Marlies try out for the Leafs for 21 games while the draft position increases.
The lockout-shortened season shows Lamoriello making low-risk deals in an attempt to get the Devils back into the playoffs after their Finals appearance. Despite the steep drop off, no panic moves were made, and nothing worse than a fourth rounder was lost.
None of this is truly inspiring for Leafs fans who want to see a major splash at the trade deadline. While Lamoriello has a larger number of players on expiring deals than most teams usually have, it’s not a guarantee that all of them will be moved. It’s worth considering that players like Grabner, Parenteau, Matthias and Reimer have all made cases for being re-signed, and Lou’s history of retaining players like Colin White and Bryce Salvador long past their usefulness means that Roman Polak could be on that list as well.
Lamoriello’s record also shows that it’s unlikely that the Leafs will be trading one of their players under contract for next season at the trade deadline, and it’s far more likely that they wait until the draft, next summer, or we’re going to have to deal with the fact that Bozak’s here until he can be moved as a rental. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it’s less than great if you look at the trade deadline as a form of entertainment and not just a window where you team will be actively trying to improve themselves.
If you look back past the five-year window for the Devils and go all the way to the inaugural season of the salary cap, the only truly significant in-season trade that Lamoriello was involved in was the acquisition of Ilya Kovalchuk, which is pretty damn significant. So clearly there’s an ability to make a larger deal, but the question remains how willing is Lamoriello to do so.
The long and short of it is that we probably need to lower our expectations for what the Leafs are going to do between now and February 29th. Anything can happen, but it seems far more likely that we are in for a couple of rental players heading out in favour of a handful of draft picks. It may not be exciting, but at least we can start looking forward to the draft and Stamkos.
(with data from prosportstransactions.com)