Hockey analytics pioneer Rob Vollman is ESPN Insider's armchair GM this season, exploring how modern statistics can inform front-office decisions.
When the Toronto Maple Leafs fell to 29th place in 2009-10, it meant that they had given up the second overall draft choice -- which the Boston Bruins would use on Tyler Seguin -- and another first-round choice to come the following season (which was used to select Dougie Hamilton at No. 9 overall) in exchange for Phil Kessel. Despite Kessel's enormous success, the trade still leaves a bad taste in the mouths of some fans, and can make some general managers queasy about pulling off a similar deal.
NHL GMs sometimes have to take risks in order to improve their teams, and analytics can help a team choose the right ones. If former Toronto GM Brian Burke made any error, it was in failing to be completely honest with how non-competitive the Maple Leafs really were, and therefore just how valuable those selections were likely to become. Given their history -- which included dealing away the third overall choice that New Jersey used on Hall of Famer Scott Niedermayer to acquire Tom Kurvers back in 1989 -- it's a possibility for which the Leafs should have been on greater alert.
While the reluctance is understandable, it's not completely justified. There's nothing fundamentally wrong with Kessel-type deals, where a future first-round selection of unknown value (and more) is exchanged for a potential franchise player. On the balance, they often prove of benefit to both teams: One team gets the player it needs now, while the other gets a younger replacement down the road.
With the rumor mill churning out lots of speculation already this season -- including the Maple Leafs potentially dealing away another first-round pick for Eric Staal -- let's dive into exactly why teams should consider these types of trades.