It’s been a quiet season for trades in the NHL, but general managers around the league have upped their game considerably this week. On Friday, the latest in a series of trades was concluded, this one between the New York Rangers and Vancouver Canucks.
It’s hard to read this trade as anything but a win for the Canucks.
The sixth-round pick is of course not entirely without value; after all, Carl Hagelin was originally a sixth-round pick, and he was the player the Rangers dealt to kick off their Emerson Etem experiment. However, as TSN’s Scott Cullen notes, there’s just a 15 percent chance that any given sixth-round pick will enjoy even a 100-game NHL career. That leaves Nicklas Jensen, who has had his own struggles.
In exchange for those relatively insignificant assets, Vancouver lands a 23-year-old NHL’er who never really got a shot in New York but has solid underlying numbers and a history of scoring at an acceptable clip in the minors and in past NHL seasons.
Making this move particularly odd for the Rangers is that Etem was the return this summer when they shipped out Hagelin, a quality young player who was sacrificed because of financial constraints. Pro Sports Transactions gives us the following details on that move:
- Anaheim acquired Hagelin, as well as a 2015 second-round pick (No. 59 overall) and a sixth-round selection (No. 179 overall)
- New York acquired Etem and a 2015 second-round pick (No. 41 overall)
Considered from a Rangers’ perspective, the sixth-round pick today cancels out the one lost, leaving the team with just Jensen and an 18-spot improvement in the second round in exchange for Hagelin.
Jensen’s value is minimal. The 2011 first-round pick has now played parts of five seasons in the AHL, and development is hard to spot. He has four goals and 12 points in 27 games this year; he’s not even scoring at a top-six rate in the minors, and there’s nothing there to suggest he’s about to graduate to the NHL. He’s also running out of time, as Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman tweets:
Jensen BTW was approaching waiver-eligible status. So, VAN did not want to risk losing him without a return.— Elliotte Friedman (@FriedgeHNIC) January 8, 2016
It’s also not at all clear that the trade of second-round picks did New York any good. The Rangers selected 6’2” left wing Ryan Gropp, currently playing in the WHL, while the Ducks took 6’2” centre Julius Nattinen, currently in the OHL. The two leagues are close enough in terms of relative difficulty that we can compare the players’ offensive output directly:
- Gropp: 34 games, 32 points (0.94 points/game)
- Nattinen: 24 games, 32 points (1.33 points/game)
Of course there’s plenty of time for both of those players to progress or regress, but right now the Rangers' move doesn’t look to be paying dividends.
Hagelin, like most of Anaheim’s forwards this season, has had his own struggles. He’s bounced around the lineup, and the offence has been an ongoing problem, but given the team-wide malaise the Ducks are suffering through and Hagelin’s own history it’s a good bet that he recovers, and when he does he’ll be a pretty good player:
|Season||GP||PTS||Rel. Corsi||5v5 P/60||PKTOI/GP|
Right now, Anaheim may not be feeling great about Hagelin, but he’s just one player on a list that includes people like Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry and Ryan Kesler. He’s scoring at about half his regular career pace, being used less on the penalty kill and his traditionally strong on-ice shot numbers have faltered too.
But he’s also only 27 years old and highly likely to rebound. If he does, he’ll be a superb middle-six forward. At his best, Hagelin can take on tough defensive duties both at evens and on the penalty kill and help his team to strong possession numbers. At least as importantly, he can score; 1.90 points/hour at even strength is fringe first-line territory. Hagelin doesn’t get enough power-play use to put up really robust raw point totals, but on a per-shift basis five-on-five he’s quite a player.
New York, unfortunately, couldn’t afford to keep him. When the team had Etem, however, there was at least a chance of the trade working out because of Etem’s own significant potential. Now, after less than 20 games with Alain Vigneault and the Rangers he’s gone, leaving New York with precious little to show as a return from the Hagelin trade.
Jonathan Willis covers the NHL for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter for more of his work.