Regardless of how Filip Hronek performs, this trade looks like shoddy asset management by the Canucks
Photo credit:© Bob Frid-USA TODAY Sports
6 months ago
Well, nothing good ever lasts, does it?
Earlier this week, we extolled the virtues of the Vancouver Canucks front office and their patient asset management, which saw them turn a fifth, a seventh, Riley Stillman, and Will Lockwood into Ethan Bear, Vitali Kravtsov, and Josh Bloom.
A day later, we were back to explain why, although a tad disappointing, transforming a sub-million-dollar free agency signing in Luke Schenn into a third round pick was still good asset management, in the end.
Today, we’re here to discuss yet another Canucks trade, and this time, we’ve got nothing positive to say on the asset management front.
Folks, this one is troubling from the get-go.
Now, there’s nothing inherently wrong with the Canucks acquiring Filip Hronek. While he might not be quite as future-based an asset as most would like to see the team bring in, he’s still just 25 years old and is already one heck of a right-handed defender. He immediately becomes the best RHD, and probably the second-best D overall, in the entire organization.
We’ll have more on that soon enough.
It’s the other side of the trade that we take serious issue with. Regardless of the ultimate quality of what they got, the Canucks really seem to have given up far too much draft capital in this one.
To land Hronek from the Detroit Red Wings, the Canucks sent over the conditional first round pick they acquired from the New York Islanders in exchange for Bo Horvat. On top of that, they added their own 2023 second round selection.
Coming over with Hronek is a 2023 fourth round pick from Detroit.
Let’s start with the first rounder. If you’ll recall, it’s a conditional one, and the condition is this: if the pick falls within the first 12 selections of the 2023 first round, the Islanders have the option to defer it to 2024. In that case, the pick becomes unprotected.
As of this writing, the Islanders have the 15th-best, or 18th-worst, point percentage in the NHL. If the Draft Lottery were held today, that pick would not be included. Instead, it would be locked in at 18th overall.
So, as of now, the Canucks have traded away the 18th overall pick, and then some.
But it could actually wind up significantly worse than that. The Eastern Conference is currently in the middle of an arms race. Everyone seems to be loading up ahead of the Trade Deadline, and the Wild Card race in particular seems to be especially competitive.
The Islanders, meanwhile, just lost their best player in Mathew Barzal to a long-term injury.
So, it’s entirely possible, and maybe even quite likely, that the Islanders start to slide down the standings over the stretch run, and that their former draft pick starts to slide up the board.
In that case, the Canucks have traded away something between the 13th and the 17th overall pick (or higher, depending on the lottery results.) And that’s in what has long been lauded as the best draft class in a good, long while.
Played right, such a selection lands them a defensive prospect of at least the same potential as Hronek, and at 18 years old instead of 25, to boot.
Sure, it’s also possible that the Islanders rise up the standings, but it’s not very likely. Currently, they’re seven points back of the Rangers for third place in the Metropolitan Division, and the Rangers have four games in hand.
Far more likely is that the Islanders slip far enough that their pick slides up into the top-12 of the draft. At that point, the pick reverts back to the Islanders — as long as they choose for it to — and is swapped out for an unprotected 2024 first round pick.
But, again, if that’s the case, then the Canucks have already sent said pick to Detroit.
And that could be a big, big problem.
As we said, the Islanders are in the midst of an incredibly competitive division. They’re also among the oldest teams in hockey. They’re also already all but capped-out for the 2023/24 season.
There’s a very real chance that the Islanders sink even further in the standings next year. Many teams currently ranked below them have the potential to surpass them in short order.
And if that’s the case, it could mean that the Canucks just dealt away a lottery pick in the 2024 Entry Draft.
Any way you slice it, it’s the third first round pick that the Canucks have dealt in the past four years. This, for a franchise that hasn’t made a regular-sized playoffs since the year 2015. This, for an organization that is already bereft of prospects. This, for a team that is supposed to be going through some sort of a youth movement.
It’s not good. The one key point that people kept returning to on the Horvat trade was that, in trading with the Islanders, at least the Canucks had acquired a much higher pick than they might have got from a more serious contender.
So much for that.
Instead, the Canucks have traded something of definite value, and of potentially massive value, before they really knew what they had on their hands. That’s the very definition of bad asset management.
And we haven’t even touched on the second rounder yet.
The Canucks currently have the sixth-worst point percentage in the league, which has their second round pick slotted at 38th overall.
That’s one short step from a first round pick. In fact, if the 2023 draft class is really as strong as they say, that’s probably equivalent to a first round pick in most years. It’s the kind of pick that would almost certainly have become one of the Canucks’ top prospects the second the selection was made.
For what’s it worth we should also note here that, as was the case with first rounders, this is also the third second round pick that the Canucks have dealt away in the past four seasons.
The Canucks did, of course, pick up Detroit’s fourth rounder in the transaction, which should fall somewhere after pick #100.
But that’s pretty small consolation. Simply put, the Canucks needed those picks a lot more than they needed whatever Filip Hronek is going to contribute over the next few seasons. Which could be a lot, like we said.
It’s just not the sort of move the Canucks should have been making at this point in their developmental cycle.
It’s just not good asset management, and that’s a shame for a front office that really seemed to be turning the corner on that.
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