The trade deadline is something that, over time, has conditioned hockey fans to expect blockbuster deals. Top players dance from team to team in exchange for first round draft picks, while prospects are passed around the NHL dining room table like it’s a family style meal. Contenders find ways to push themselves over the top, while teams with less fortunate seasons commence their full rebuild.
The Nashville Predators, hot off a Stanley Cup Final appearance and sitting first in the brutal Central Division, naturally are seen as contenders. Who are they going after? Rick Nash? Tomas Tatar? Gustav Nyquist? Erik Karlsson?
Say hello to Ryan Hartman.
A player not on anyone’s radar, Ryan Hartman is a 23-year-old player who was developed thus far as part of the Chicago Blackhawks. Although he scored 19 goals last season, he currently only has nine. That being said, he’s still on track to beat his overall points total from last season. He’s not the best forward when it comes to defending, but he’s still very young and will only be a RFA after this season.
Read the last part of that sentence again.
General Manager David Poile, in a press conference yesterday, stressed how Ryan Hartman was going to be part of the team for years to come. With Hartman being an RFA, Poile can retain Hartman’s rights after this season. This isn’t a trade deadline rental, this is a trade deadline investment.
The price for Hartman may have been steep. Trading a first round pick, a fifth round pick, and Viktor Ejdsell, in whom the Blackhawks had previously shown interest, for Hartman and a fourth may look lopsided. However, let’s dissect what’s going each way.
To begin, the first round pick is going to be a late pick. If the Predators make the final again, it will be 30th or 31st overall. Although last year the Predators got Eeli Tolvanen at 30th overall, that was under exceptional circumstances. Tolvanen was a potential top-ten pick whose stock plummeted due to a snafu not allowing him to play at Boston College, causing the NHL old boy’s club to question his character. Generally speaking, with a late first round pick, you can expect to get a player like, well, Ryan Hartman. And, if you read Kate’s article, you should know that a player like Ryan Hartman is pretty decent at hockey.
However, in Hartman, the Predators won’t have to spend time developing that future draft pick; they have him NHL-ready right now. Think of it like the time-value of financial investments and tax. Because there’s no waiting for David Poile to reap the rewards of the first round pick, the price is more than just a first round pick.
Furthermore, the fourth round pick the Predators are giving up is pretty negligible, especially considering that they’re getting a fifth round pick back from the Blackhawks. Because of the drastically different seasons the Predators and the Blackhawks are having, the fourth round pick could be #154 and the fifth round pick #162. Considering the diminishing returns as a draft continues, that’s a relatively negligible difference.
At this point in time, the balance sheet of the trade leans in favor of Nashville. There’s a late first round caliber NHL-ready player going to the Predators in exchange for a late first round pick, and, simultaneously, the Predators are moving down only eight spots late in the draft. Moreover, that NHL-ready player in Ryan Hartman can easily have his rights retained as an RFA, unlike other players moving this deadline. If the trade was just this, David Poile would be running out like a bandit with all of King Midas’ gold. However, Blackhawks General Manager Stan Bowman is also one of the best in the business, so Poile sends Viktor Ejdsell back the other way to balance the trade.
Viktor Ejdsell is a tough pill to swallow, especially because the Blackhawks were one of his chief suitors last season before he signed with the Predators. Ejdsell is touted as potentially being a 40-point per season scorer. If it seems rough giving the Blackhawks exactly who they wanted a year ago, you wouldn’t be wrong.
However, once again, this trade has to be viewed in the present. Right now, Ryan Hartman is on pace for around 40 points this season and should replicate that in the following years while the Predators’ cup window is open. Ejdsell won’t help the Predators win a cup in the next four seasons. Hartman is an investment that will boost the lineup over the full span of their cup window.
All in all, this is a pretty balanced trade. What hurts the most is giving the Blackhawks something they have wanted for a while in Viktor Ejdsell, but this is realistically as even as it gets. Ryan Hartman will be under Predator control for a while, probably for the duration of their cup window. While other teams are paying first round picks for improvements lasting only this season, the Predators picked up an investment. Even with an even trade, compared to their competition, Nashville comes out of the trade deadline as winners.