Winnipeg Jets Trade Johnny Oduya to the Chicago Blackhawks for 2nd & 3rd Round Picks

...and a minor move, scooping up Grant Clitsome from the waiver wire. As this is Chevy's first big NHL trade deadline frenzy, this was an excellent way to establish that he seems to be a careful GM who will allow our assets to develop. It's fair to point out, though, that his trade assets were limited by a number of albatross contracts and trade clauses, yet despite this he made one savvy deal and one speculative move. Let's have a look at both.

D Johnny Oduya to the Chicago Blackhawks for a 2nd & 3rd Round Pick in 2013

To really understand the value here, I'd suggest looking at a number of interesting analyses on the value of draft picks:

- Michael Schuckers

- Jibblescribbits

- Jonathan Willis

- Tom Awad

- Derek Zona/Scott Reynolds

Basically, the authors are largely in agreement that there's a steep drop-off after the first 10 or so picks. On the advice of the respected Corey Pronman, I won't pretend to know how strong the 2013 draft class is, but I will say that based on these previous analyses we can at least take a guess at what we're getting. Essentially, as Willis points out, a pick within the first 3 rounds is generally valuable, though the value is pretty interchangeable beyond the first 20 or so. Notice in the cited posts/articles, though, that whenever you trade an NHL-calibre player with a pick you're trading tangible value with an opportunity for tangible value; if you can do a one-NHL-player-for-two-supra-4th-round-picks, as Chevy has, you're improving your odds rather than adding two players. Even so, it's not so simple...the "opportunity" is about three to four years of cheap opportunities, at any point within which a player can show the ability to succeed at the NHL level. So let me re-analyze the trade with all these various conditions applied:

We give up: a 30-year old 2nd/3rd pairing defenceman who has zero upside, kills penalties and plays evens marginally-well defensively, provides little offensive value, and is a UFA after this year

We get: 2 18-year old prospects at whatever position of our choosing, with mid- to good-level upside (typically, your 2nd and 3rd rounders have either a lower ceiling or higher risk), that will have 3-4 years' opportunity to emerge at low, ELC cost

Pros: It would be unreasonable to expect Oduya to resign (if that had been the plan) for anything less than $2m per year, which at any point during the contract would be anywhere from a $500K to $2m greater cap hit than the two younger players. Of course, should we activate the ELCs on either or both of those young players, presumably they are playing pretty well. We also add two lottery tickets (each, per the Zona/Reynolds, at about 7.5% to 15% probability of returning "top players") with far greater upside than Oduya.

Cons: We lose a player who had taken PK minutes pretty adeptly; after some discussion with the AIH brethren, it's very likely those minutes will fall on Tobias Enstrom. Does this constitute a legitimate con, though? I made the argument before that the drop-off from Oduya to what we replace him with would be minute, and I stand by that. The most likely option would be an increase in Enstrom's PK minutes, with the alternatives being the increase in Randy Jones' PK minutes, or a reassignment of the minutes to Mark Flood (which would require the scratching of Jones). Oduya has done well on the kill this year, but he was terrible last year and doesn't appear to have a consistent talent for killing penalties over the last five years.

Assessment: The picks guarantee us nothing, but they constitute low-cost opportunities to develop the team in the future. By dropping an asset with only a slight positive (at best) value over his replacement, our return is potential cap savings of at least $500K (and up to $2m) over the next 3-4 years, with an added possibility of filling two NHL positions with NHL-level talent. Had Oduya not re-signed, we'd still have those two upside assets with low cost (and no cost until their ELC). As I mentioned during AIH chat, we should keep in mind that the Blackhawks are a talented team, so our picks are more likely to be low-2nd and low-3rd round picks. Regardless, the picks will fall within the range (picks 31 to 90) where the value and potential are still fairly tangible, rather than a literal shot-in-the-dark (as picks beyond 100 typically are). This is a trade with virtually zero negative value at the present, and the potential for great positive value in the future.

D Grant Clitsome is acquired on waivers (from the Columbus Blue Jackets)

Clitsome, a truly interesting name, is a 26-year old (27 in April) Ontarian who escapes the sinking ship in Ohio. Chevy gave us a glimpse of the rationale behind his acquisition in his presser today:

[Clitsome is] a player we believe can help us now and for many years to come...

...you know with young defencemen it takes a lot of time for them to mature...

Grant was someone that...really the interest in him started to get generated in our organization at the midseason pro meetings...we try to look at different guys that could use a change...and would be an interesting acquisition...

...this is a player we're going to give an opportunity to grow...

Admittedly, it's a rare GM that will talk ill of a recently-arrived player, so I think Chevy's painting a pretty picture for a guy who has yet to prove himself at the NHL level. Some of the initial numbers worth noting are the fact that he's signed through 2012-13 for $1.25m per year, $100K more than Randy Jones and $725K more than Mark Flood. So what kind of defenceman is Grant Clitsome?

Via his old scouting report, he's a solid puck-moving defenceman with an "excellent slapshot" and "superb passing skills," who "is also a very solid defensive player." What's come through the wash is indeed a good slapshot, but he's not strong defensively nor should be expected to handle tougher minutes. Offensively speaking, he benefited from powerplay time and a very high 5v5 on-ice PDO (1030) last year - faced with a more-sustainable PDO this year (1004) and similar powerplay time, he was not able to duplicate that success. In general, Columbus was pretty disastrous which makes it hard to assess Clitsome, but his was one of many performances that failed to lift the Jackets to success.

We give up: $1.25m per year through 2012-13

We get: An offensive defenceman with a solid shot from the point but limited upside offensively or defensively, and overall a fringe NHL player (3rd pairing, basically)

Assessment: We got a younger Randy Jones with an added year on his contract, though a version of Jones that we would never dream of giving PK time. That said, a $1.25m investment is not devastating, and maybe Chevy's right and a change of scenery and team strategy will do him good. Overall, I'm not sure that defensive liabilities were a "need" right now, and I'm a little disappointed if this means that it will be a steeper climb for Paul Postma, Arturs Kulda, and maybe Zach Redmond. Here's hoping I'm wrong...

Conclusion

Chevy did an excellent job in trading assets with little positive upside for greater upside, and though the Clitsome acquisition might confuse the future defensive picture we don't take on an enormous amount of risk. All told, though the moves were minor Chevy really proved to me that he knows how to make economically-smart decisions for a small-market team. Please don't make me regret saying that.

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