Most years, the NHL trade deadline is basically the equivalent of an annual Y2K party: Much Ado About Nothing. The issue comes from the underlying inertia the permeates most of the league’s landscape.
The best players almost never switch teams in their prime (Seriously, who was the last top 10 player to leave their current team? Marian Hossa?)
Even when a trade does get made, there’s often no rhyme or reason to how it plays out. Sometimes you trade your team’s top disgruntled forward and get Seth Jones. Sometimes you get Adam Larsson.
So, to give the league’s decision makers a little kick in the butt, I’ve put together a trade model that identifies the trade value of every regular NHL player and determines what would be a fair return in a trade.
This list is contract-agnostic, which means it is only looking at a player’s projected future value relative to their age and position. Forwards on average are more valuable than defensemen, but good defensemen are harder to come by than good forwards. Young players will rate higher than older players (esp. ones 30 or older), and players with high point totals will fetch more than players with more subtle contributions.
Here’s a quick primer from a recent article I wrote:
“First, let’s break down how this whole zany system works:
A few years ago, my Hockey Graphs colleague Matt Cane put together a model for predicting free agent contracts. Matt has since moved on to bigger and better things, but I’ve stolen his model for my purposes.
The model measures Trade Value by measuring what Matt’s model says a player would be worth if he signed a five-year UFA contract right now (any longer and the predictions become too unreliable). There are 2 separate models for forwards and defensemen (read Matt’s post here for an explanation).
The best part of the model is that it’s simple and yet surprisingly accurate. After some tweaks to the importance of the variables, the model was able to predict about 63% of the variance in non-minimum contracts this offseason.
With that as a baseline, I made some key adjustments:
Potential – Based on my own research and another Cane article, a player’s draft slot predicts their production pretty strongly in their first couple years, and then declines significantly by year 5 or so. As a result, I assign each draft slot a trade value, and then reduce it by 20% each year after the draft.
For example, in a modified version of Cane’s model, the #1 pick is worth about $15M over 5 years, based solely on his draft slot so his trade value comes out to $15M (Potential) + $16M (Production) = $31M Trade Value.
Length and Value of Contract – Even though I value a player for 5 years, most players aren’t signed to contracts that are exactly that long. The trade model includes a “rental” option for players that are signed for less than 5 years, which accounts for their current contract and then adds in a percentage of their predicted market value for the remaining years. In addition, any cap savings for the acquiring team are added to the value of the trade.
Let’s take John Tavares for example. The model predicts Tavares would be worth about $9M a year this summer. A team trading for him with the intention to resign him would have to give up around $45M in value, while a team looking to rent him would have to give up around $27M (the equivalent of a top prospect and a 1st-round pick).
(Also as a sanity check, I included a 5 year GAR projection using both DTMAboutHeart’s and Manny Elk models. Both models seem to be highly skeptical of the on-ice contributions of most defensemen, but it seems like NHL GMs haven’t caught on yet.)
Got it? Good. Let’s get trading.
Note: If you want to play around with the data yourself, here’s a link to a beta version of the trade machine: DropBox
Data as of Dec. 15th, 2017
50. Brad Marchand – Trade Value: $37.1M, Avg. ME GAR: 8.6 Avg. DTMA GAR: 9.8
49. Dustin Byfuglien – Trade Value: $37.4M, Avg. ME GAR: 0.8, Avg. DTMA GAR: 3.6
48. Mark Stone – Trade Value: $37.5M, Avg. ME GAR: 8.1, Avg. DTMA GAR: 6.6
47. P.K. Subban – Trade Value: $37.5M, Avg. ME GAR: 8.1, Avg. DTMA GAR: 8.1
46. William Nylander – Trade Value: $37.7M, Avg. ME GAR: 5.1, Avg. DTMA GAR: 4.5
45. Jaden Schwartz – Trade Value: $38.0M, Avg. ME GAR: 4.2, Avg. DTMA GAR: 8.4
44. Colton Parayko – Trade Value: $38.1M, Avg. ME GAR: 2.3, Avg. DTMA GAR: 9.4
43. Kevin Shattenkirk – Trade Value: $38.6M, Avg. ME GAR: 1.2, Avg. DTMA GAR: 7.7
42. Rasmus Ristolainen – Trade Value: $38.8M, Avg. ME GAR: -5.3, Avg. DTMA GAR: 1.7
41. Evgeny Kuznetzov – Trade Value: $39.0M, Avg. ME GAR: 1.9, Avg. DTMA GAR: 8.3
40. Drew Doughty – Trade Value: $39.0M, Avg. ME GAR: 3.5, Avg. DTMA GAR: 9.8
39. Claude Giroux – Trade Value: $39.3M, Avg. ME GAR: 4.7, Avg. DTMA GAR: 7.3
38. Kris Letang – Trade Value: $39.3M, Avg. ME GAR: 5.4, Avg. DTMA GAR: 5.7
37. Taylor Hall – Trade Value: $40.5M, Avg. ME GAR: 6.0, Avg. DTMA GAR: 9.6
36. Nikolaj Ehlers – Trade Value: $40.6M, Avg. ME GAR: 4.8, Avg. DTMA GAR: 9.6
35. Seth Jones – Trade Value: $40.9M, Avg. ME GAR: 0.1, Avg. DTMA GAR: 4.4
34. Vincent Trochek – Trade Value: $41.5M, Avg. ME GAR: 6.9, Avg. DTMA GAR: 0.0
33. Tyson Barrie – Trade Value: $41.6M, Avg. ME GAR: -.8, Avg. DTMA GAR: 6.1
32. Alex Pietrangelo – Trade Value: $41.8M, Avg. ME GAR: 2.2, Avg. DTMA GAR: 9.3
31. Blake Wheeler – Trade Value: $41.9M, Avg. ME GAR: 10.0, Avg. DTMA GAR: 12.6
30. Dougie Hamilton – Trade Value: $42.2M, Avg. ME GAR: 7.0, Avg. DTMA GAR: 1.6 (I don’t give a damn what the model says, he should be at least 20 spots higher)
29. Oliver Ekman-Larsson – Trade Value: $42.3M, Avg. ME GAR: 2.1, Avg. DTMA GAR: 12.3
28. Artemi Panarin – Trade Value: $42.5M, Avg. ME GAR: 9.8, Avg. DTMA GAR: 8.6
27. Phil Kessel – Trade Value: $43.4M, Avg. ME GAR: 1.3, Avg. DTMA GAR: 6.5
26. Brayden Schenn – Trade Value: $44.0M, Avg. ME GAR: -0.3, Avg. DTMA GAR: 5.1
25. David Pastrnak – Trade Value: $44.1M, Avg. ME GAR: 8.1, Avg. DTMA GAR: 12.4
Pastrnak broke into the league as an 18-year-old and now is a key component of the league’s most consistently dominant top line, along with Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand. Pastrnak has a career 56% CF and has increased his goal scoring each year since he arrived into the league. There was a lot of speculation around the league that he would be one of the rare players to get offer sheeted under the current CBA rules, but the Bruins were able to use the collusionary (not a word) cowardice of the league’s other GMs to force Pastrnak into a severely under market long-term deal.
24. Nathan MacKinnon – Trade Value: $44.8M, Avg. ME GAR: 9.2, Avg. DTMA GAR: 8.6
While MacKinnon has always had oodles of talent bubbling underneath the surface, this year, he’s gone bonkers, putting up nearly half a point per game more than his previous career high. Mackinnon has always possessed elite top-end speed and was discussed with the same reverent tones that were used to describe Connor McDavid in juniors. As a variety of misfortunes hit the Avalanche, MacKinnon’s skill always seemed to outpace his production, but now that’s he’s putting it all together the league is on full notice.
23. Patrik Laine – Trade Value: $44.8M, Avg. ME GAR: 23.6, Avg. DTMA GAR: 7.4
Patrik Laine’s shot has been everything as promised and even more (17.7% career sh%). Laine looks like he can sling frozen ropes from anywhere on the ice for the next 15 years with no issues. Laine and Matthews provided a level of one-upmanship in last year’s Calder Race that even McDavid/Eichel couldn’t approach. While it’s clear that Matthews has a bit more to offer on both sides of the ice, Laine will be a star for years to come. The next step is to increase his shot generation, which will take him from his current Ilya Kovlachuk-like trajectory to the rarified air of Stamkos and Ovechkin.
22. John Tavares – Trade Value: $44.9M, Avg. ME GAR: 6.9, Avg. DTMA GAR: 12.0
Tavares’ ranking here may be understating his true impact on a team’s fortunes going forward. Just as Tavares’ was hitting the peak of his powers, the talent base around him dropped significantly, suppressing his counting stats and creating high levels of uncertainty as to whether he would actually finish out his career with the Islanders. This year, wtih an infusion of young talent in the team’s forward groups, Tavares has shot back into the Hart Trophy conversation and will look for a significant pay raise in the offseason as a result.
21. Torey Krug – Trade Value: $44.9M, Avg. ME GAR: 1.2, Avg. DTMA GAR: 9.4
Krug’s tiny 5’9 stature belies the big numbers he’s put up since he’s been in the league full time. Krug has a career 3.3% CF Rel., and perhaps more importantly on a goal-starved Bruins, has scored at a 0.5 points per game pace the past 4 years. At 26, Krug still has a lot of mileage left in his legs but he may require a more specialized partner with size once his game slows down.
20. Sidney Crosby – Trade Value: $45.4M, Avg. ME GAR: 19.7, Avg. DTMA GAR: 13.1
How is the league’s best player and reigning Hart Trophy winner so far down on this list? Crosby has still been an amazing player and has led his team to two consecutive Stanley Cups, but there is no doubt that he has slowed down in recent years. His points per game have fallen in five of the past six years, while his sterling Corsi Rel. numbers have dropped at the same rate. An 80% Sidney Crosby is still better than 99% of the league’s players. But now that he’s over 30, the decline will be gentle but more precipitous, especially in comparison to the ascending stars above him on the top of the list.
19. Jack Eichel – Trade Value: $45.5M, Avg. ME GAR: 2.9, Avg. DTMA GAR: 6.3
Housing prices on the Eichel Atoll are at an all-time low. Residents are willing to sell at pennies on the dollar, and mass exodus is expected within the next year. However, in his 2+ seasons, Eichel has been everything that he was purported to be in the 2015 draft. Eichel has put up .81 points a game in his career on one of the leagues most talent bereft teams including 57 in only 61 games last year. His possession numbers haven’t been sterling, but he still is a strong play driver and is basically the only reason the Sabres resemble an NHL-calibre team on a night to night basis. He’s no Connor McDavid, but sell low at your own risk.
18. Leon Draisaitl – Trade Value: $46.1M, Avg. ME GAR: 7.2, Avg. DTMA GAR: 14.9
Draisaitl’s case has always been a perplexing one. Is he just riding off of the coattails of Connor McDavid? Could he actually be a top line center on a playoff team? At the end of the day, does it even matter? He’s 22 and has put up 151 points in his last 183 games. He’s averaged +3.8% CF Rel. thus far in his career and put up 16 points in his first 13 career playoff games last year. If this guy isn’t legitimate, then who really is?
17. Filip Forsberg – Trade Value: $46.7M, Avg. ME GAR: 7.1, Avg. DTMA GAR: 12.3
On the precipice of an unprecedented 5th consecutive Stanley Cup, the Washington Capitals couldn’t be any happier with the production of the nigh-unstoppable trio of Alex Ovechkin, Niklas Backstrom and Filip Forsberg. Forsberg has potted 30+ goals in 3 consecutive seasons, and only turned 23 earlier this year. With Forsberg, Jakub Vrana and Evgeny Kuznetzov representing the future of the franchise, the Capitals dynasty shows no signs of slowing do…..oh wait, sorry. That paragraph was from the alternate dimension where the Martin Erat trade never happened.
16. Nick Leddy(????) – Trade Value: $46.7M, Avg. ME GAR: -1.8, Avg. DTMA GAR: 6.3
I honestly have no idea why Nick Leddy is rated so high. Leddy is a nice enough player but he would never get this much in the open market and no one would trade a top tier young forward for him. You win some you lose some, which is basically how you can describe Leddy’s Islanders franchise.
15. Aleksander Barkov – Trade Value: $46.8M, Avg. ME GAR: 7.4, Avg. DTMA GAR: 10.9
Barkov should be part of a burgeoning contender in South Florida with Jonathan Huberdeau and Aaron Ekblad, but then Dale Tallon happened again. Barkov still stands as one the league’s elite young two way centers, able to put up eye-popping possession stats (5.2% CF Rel last year, 7.3% this year) and score at a point per game pace. Maybe the Computer Boys will come to the rescue after all.
14. Tyler Seguin – Trade Value: $47.5M, Avg. ME GAR: 2.5, Avg. DTMA GAR: 11.4
Seguin has fallen off the map a bit as his team struggled to follow-up on a deep playoff run just 2 seasons ago. It must be remembered that Seguin is only 25 and has put up 4 straight 70 point seasons, and has anchored the Stars exciting brand of hockey with Jamie Benn for the last couple of years. Even with a party killing wet blanket as a coach, Seguin is scoring just as well as before, even as the team turns up the defense around him
13. Roman Josi – Trade Value: $47.6M, Avg. ME GAR: 2.1, Avg. DTMA GAR: 9.9
When a team like Nashville ships out as many Norris caliber defensemen as it has, players like Josi can get lost in the shuffle. Originally, Josi played the part of creative wizard next to Shea Weber’s all brawn act, but he’s come into his own in recent years and has scored at least 40 points and 12 goals in each of the last 4 seasons. While is constant debate about who is the true #1 in Nashville, there is no question Josi is a #1 caliber defenseman.
12. Sean Monahan – Trade Value: $48.0M, Avg. ME GAR: 2.0, Avg. DTMA GAR: 7.1
Although Monahan feels like he’s been in the league forever, he only recently turned 23. In that time he’s already proven to be a reliable 30 goal, 30 assist per season player with decent possession numbers. This year, he’s scoring at a point per game pace, which undoubtedly bumped the future projections of his ceiling quite a bit. The best is yet to come.
11. Mark Scheifele – Trade Value: $50.0M, Avg. ME GAR: 8.5, Avg. DTMA GAR: 11.6
Scheifele operates a bit under the radar…..BECAUSE HIS TEAM WAS STOLEN FROM ATLANTA!!!! (Editor’s Note: please ignore). Scheifele has increased his point production by 10% a year every season he’s been in the league. Although his name is hard to spell, his game is easy to watch, and he’s locked up long term on a very reasonable contract.
10. Auston Matthews – Trade Value: $51.4M, Avg. ME GAR: 11.1, Avg. DTMA GAR: 10.2
That Matthews is so low on the list is less an indictment of his skill and more an acknowledgement that the model is intrigued by his output but needs to see more to ensure its not a fluke (it’s most definitely not.) Matthews has taken the league by storm since going #1 in the 2016 draft and has been at the forefront of a renaissance of the league’s most passionate market. There are very few players above him that Brendan Shanahan would even bother picking up the phone for which suggests he will be even higher in this ranking in the years to come.
9. Johnny Gaudreau – Trade Value: $51.7M, Avg. ME GAR: 6.3, Avg. DTMA GAR: 12.4
That Gaudreau and Kane are so incredibly close together on this list is ironic given the overwhelming similarities in their game. Kane has all of the accolades and has been the more productive player thus far (1.02 points per game vs. .92 for Gaudreau), but with the difference in age and contract, a straight trade for the two wouldn’t be the craziest idea out there.
8. Patrick Kane – Trade Value: $52.0M, Avg. ME GAR: 9.7, Avg. DTMA GAR: 9.5
Some thought Kane would fall off with the departure of Artemi Panarin, but so far so good. Kane is still scoring at a point per game pace, even as the talent base around him trends dramatically downward. Despite his small stature, Kane isn’t overly reliant on his speed, which means his game should age well, but Kane is almost 30 which suppresses his long-term value a bit.
7. Vladamir Tarasenko – Trade Value: $52.0M, Avg. ME GAR: 21.7, Avg. DTMA GAR: 11.8
Nasty with the stick and a wicked shot to boot, Tarasenko may be the NHL’s closest stylistic equivalent to Steph Curry. Tarasenko has scored at least 37 goals each of the past 3 years, but has not put up the assist totals that would push him to closer to the top of the Hart conversation. This year, he’s scoring at a career-high rate and may be able to make a late push for MVP.
6. Brent Burns – Trade Value: $53.6M, Avg. ME GAR: 6.5, Avg. DTMA GAR: 8.2
Burns’ has earned a reputation as a free-wheeling gunner, whose inefficient shot selection puts up gaudy stats but suppresses his team’s overall offense. If he was in the NBA, they would have given him the MVP, but the hockey literati don’t look kindly on such a me-first game. Nevertheless, when you put 151 points in the past two seasons, the model has no choice but to rate Burns highly, even if his production has dipped quite a bit this year.
5. John Klingberg – Trade Value: $53.7M, Avg. ME GAR: 4.4, Avg. DTMA GAR: 4.9
Klingberg somehow has only finished in the top ten in Norris voting once in his career, but he’s one of the league’s premier offensive defenseman. Last year was a down year as he “only” put up 49 points in 80 games, which still put him 12th in the league among defensemen. At age 25 and at a cap hit of only $4.25M, he stands as one of the league’s best bargains.
4. Victor Hedman – Trade Value: $55.9M, Avg. ME GAR: 2.7, Avg. DTMA GAR: 12.4
The wizardry of Steve Yzerman knows no bounds. Hedman put up a career-high 72 points in 79 games last year, and while his production has fallen off a bit this year, the league’s other GM’s would trip over themselves to trade for a highly skilled 6-6, 220lb d-man in the prime of his career.
3. Nikita Kucherov – Trade Value: $58.3M, Avg. ME GAR: 21.1, Avg. DTMA GAR: 14.0
Kucherov has forced his way into the Crosby-McDavid Hart Trophy duopoly with his dominant play over the past two years. Last year’s 40 goal season served as his proper coming out party and he’s been even more spectacular this season with 41 points in 29 games. He also is the league’s biggest bargain at less than $5M per year, but he will no doubt become one of the league’s top earners the second his current contract ends.
2. Erik Karlsson – Trade Value: $65.3M, Avg. ME GAR: 4.8, Avg. DTMA GAR: 12.9
I went deep into Erik Karlsson’s trade value on the most recent episode of the Hockey Graphs pod, but in summation, it would take an arm and a leg (and maybe a liver and half of a spleen) for any team to approach full value for Karlsson. Yet depending on the long term goals of Ottawa Senators owner Eugene Melenyk, Karlsson could probably be had for a fraction of his true value if the right deal comes along.
1. Connor McDavid – Trade Value: $66.4M, Avg. ME GAR: 19.3, Avg. DTMA GAR: 24.7
What’s surprising is not that McJesus is the league’s #1 trade asset. It’s that the gap between him and the other players is less than you’d expect given McDavid’s production (183 points in 157 career games). However, this is mainly due to Connor’s injury shortened rookie season suppressing his projections. At his current pace, he likely will leap into the “all but untradeable” category, even with his pricey upcoming extension.