In almost every trade in sports, a “winner” and “loser” is declared a little while after the news has broken. The NHL is especially notorious for this, specifically when it comes to “1-for-1” trades (a trade where one player is traded for one player evenly with no cash, prospects, picks, or other players involved). This trend has been going on for a long time, but has especially heated up in recent years when more blockbuster trades have happened. Two huge examples of this include the Shea Weber for P.K. Subban 1-for-1 deal between the Nashville Predators and Montreal Canadiens during the 2016 offseason, and the very similar Taylor Hall for Adam Larsson trade between the Edmonton Oilers and New Jersey Devils that occurred on the same day. Right away, statistics were being spouted back and forth, and Nashville and New Jersey were named the “winners” of their respective deals.
Take the Weber for Subban deal, for example. Both of these defenseman have been considered elite, and usually accompany each other in many Top 10 lists. But as soon as this trade was announced, everyone rushed to call Weber “past his prime” and horrible. As the season went on and the players got used to being on their new teams, there wasn’t much of a difference. Weber finished with 42 (17 goals and 25 assists) points in 78 games, and Subban finished with 2 less (10 goals and 30 assists) in 12 less games. Subban’s team, the Predators, went to the Stanley Cup Final, and he recorded 2 goals and 10 assists (12 points) in 22 playoff games. They lost to the defending champions, the Pittsburgh Penguins, in 6 games. Weber and the Canadiens only went to the first round, being defeated by the New York Rangers in 6 games, but he recorded 1 goal and 2 assists (3 points) in those 6 games. Their stats were pretty similar, so why the sudden, harsh comparison before they even suit up? This poses an interesting question: what if there really isn’t a “winner” and “loser” of every deal?
This offseason, many deals have been made, but not many have been straight-up player-for-player deals. Especially because of the expansion draft, many draft picks have been shuffled around, and “future considerations” has become part of the NHL fan’s regular vocabulary. One notable trade occurred on June 22nd, the afternoon after the NHL Awards and Expansion Draft. The New York Islanders acquired Jordan Eberle from the Edmonton Oilers in exchange for Ryan Strome. Immediately, Twitter and other social media platforms exploded, and it was common knowledge that the Islanders had “won” the trade. Yes, Eberle’s numbers were overall better than Strome’s, but Jordan had just come out of one of his worst seasons, while Ryan had a great second half of his season. Why were fans so quick to label this?
The answer is actually pretty easy. Islanders fans have suffered for years under former head coach Jack Capuano and current general manager Garth Snow. They have won one playoff series in the past 20+ years and did not make the playoffs in the 2016-2017 season, so their fanbase was ready for new head coach Doug Weight to hopefully improve the team. They were ready to hang on to just about anything, and this trade was more than just “anything”. They dropped Ryan Strome, who struggled to put up points for years under Capuano, and finally got a solid, “star” player to skate alongside “face of the franchise” John Tavares. So, a fanbase that needed something good got something good. For Oilers fans, they saw it as salary dump, since Eberle makes 6 million dollars per season and Strome makes 3.5 million less at 2.5 million dollars per season. At the time of the trade, Edmonton still needed cap room to re-sign a valuable piece of their core, Leon Draisaitl. But what if excuses didn’t need to be made? What if, miraculously, this trade was made for a purpose on both sides? Crazy, I know.
New York obviously needed a skilled, experienced winger to play on a line with Tavares, something they have been searching for for years. Edmonton was looking for a solid two-way forward, someone who could back up star players like McDavid and Draisaitl. Both teams pretty much got what they needed and wanted, with the bonuses of cap room for the Oilers and a small salary dump for the Islanders. Eberle will most likely blossom in his new environment, and if all goes as planned, so will Strome. Both players were in desperate need of a change of scenery, and the fresh start could bring the recently-streaking players back to their career highs of 76 and 50 points, respectively.
So, did the Islanders win the trade? Maybe some people will still think that they did after reading this. But, it is evident that both teams should improve from this trade. In almost every trade in sports, a “winner” and “loser” is declared a little while after the news has broken, but maybe it doesn’t have to be that way. After all, both sides do have to agree to make a trade, and the deals mentioned in this article have evened out to seem pretty equal. So, do we call this a tie? Overtime? Shootout?
Do you agree that trades can end in a “tie?” Is your team usually the winner or loser of trades? Let us know what you think by tweeting us: @PuckItUpBlog.