The easiest evaluation of any NHL trade: The team that gets the best player wins the trade.
Using that, the Dallas Stars won their trade with the Chicago Blackhawks on Friday night, getting Patrick Sharp along with defenseman prospect Stephen Johns, for defenseman Trevor Daley and forward Ryan Garbutt.
Sharp, 33, has topped 30 goals in three of the last five seasons. He’s a possession-driving two-way forward that can excel in several role. Did last season suck? In context, totally: In 68 games, Sharp posted his worst points-per-game average since 2007 (0.63) and posted the quietest 15 points in the postseason in recent memory, while posting his lowest average ice time in the playoffs (15:35) in his career.
So the hope for Dallas is that last season was an anomaly and that they’ve found their second-line left wing for the next two seasons.
The next level of evaluation: The team that gets the best player and didn’t need to give up anything that significantly damaging to their roster wins the trade. Using that, the Dallas Stars won the trade because they acquired Patrick Sharp and the primary asset they moved for him won’t devastate them.
There was some shock and awe in the reaction to this trade from people who (a) are familiar with the name Trevor Daley but haven’t watched him play and (b) who look at the Stars’ remaining defensemen and see it as paper-thin when in reality it has the potential to be quite solid – wIth the addition of Johns, and especially when they land a veteran UFA defenseman to add to the mix – and losing Daley is, frankly, addition by subtraction.
Daley has his virtues as a defenseman, but playing the role in which he was cast in Dallas didn’t accentuate them. As Scott Cullen notes, Daley “was woefully overmatched in his role as a top pair defenceman for Dallas last season, posting the worst relative possession stats among 128 defencemen to play at least 1000 5-on-5 minutes.”
(No. 18 from the bottom on that list: Johnny Oduya, the only Chicago defenseman in the bottom 30.)
To be successful with the way he was playing, Daley needs to be with a team that can fit something similar to those parameters. And even if the Stars want to make it work with Daley, they don't have a coach that likes to shelter veteran players. Asking [Lindy] Ruff to shelter Daley is unlikely to get anywhere at this stage of his coaching career.
Joel Quenneville, meanwhile, has the luxury of sheltering Daley if he wishes, not only with the players he could pair him with to cover his mistakes but because Daley won’t have to play over 22 minutes a night (Oduya played 20:17 in the regular season).
Which brings us to our final test for a trade: Is it possible that a deal can actually benefit both teams, at least at first glance?
Using that: The answer, in this case, is yes.
The Blackhawks were desperate to clear cap space. Trading Patrick Sharp gets them $2.5 million in breathing room, as Daley makes $3.3 million against the cap and Garbutt will have a $900,000 cap hit after Dallas picked up half his $1.8 million hit.
(Garbutt, by the way, is one of my favorite players to watch. Pumps a ton of shots on goal, had 17 goals last season and a frequently crossing-the-line agitator. Does he make Andrew Shaw expendable?)
As GM Stan Bowman said on Friday, via the Chicago Tribune, trying to move that Sharp contract might not have netted them the haul they received from Dallas:
“This is more of an old-fashioned hockey trade,” Bowman said. “Sometimes when you make trades of players who make a lot of money, you’re just trying to get draft picks or prospects back. The key thing for us was trying to make our team better in the process.
“We did clear some salary-cap space in the process, which is a positive. From that perspective, it was sort of a dual-purpose move.”
Daley’s offense is palpable. His defensive shortcomings are glaring. “We’ve always marveled at Trevor’s ability to skate. He’s a very active player, he’s involved in the play and I think he’s going to be a great fit for the style of hockey that we play here,” said Bowman.
Obviously the Blackhawks feel they can manage those flaws, and there’s no question he brings more offensive pop than they ever had with Oduya, if this ends up being the trade-off.
If Daley’s been defined by his ill-fitting role, Sharp has been defined by his inflated contract.
He’s been a cap hit on skates for the last year, because that’s how the organization had to see him. But look beyond the contract. At his best, Sharp is a gamer: A sniper offensively, defensively sound and does all the little things. And while “rings in the room” is one of the biggest clichés in hockey, the fact is that Sharp has three of them as a primary player on a championship team (and Dallas rival) and the Stars are still trying to figure out how to win.
(To say nothing of the fact that he’ll significantly push Tyler Seguin to up his game … at the next Dallas players’ male modeling charity night.)
In the last three years, GM Jim Nill has added Tyler Seguin, Jason Spezza, Patrick Sharp and Ales Hemsky to his top six. While the Stars are going to go as far as their defense and goaltending will take them, Nill has done a hell of a job keeping up with the Western Conference’s offensive arms race.
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