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Breaking Down the Vancouver Canucks and New York Islanders' Prospect Swap

Jonathan Willis@jonathanwillisNHL National ColumnistNovember 25, 2014

UNIONDALE, NY - SEPTEMBER 12:  Andrey Pedan #64 of the New York Islanders skates against the Boston Bruins during a rookie game exhibition at Nassau Coliseum on September 12, 2011 in Uniondale, New York. The Bruins defeated the Islanders 8-5.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

The Vancouver Canucks and New York Islanders authored a minor trade on Tuesday, with New York sending defensive prospect Andrey Pedan to the Canucks in exchange for a third-round draft pick and ECHLer Alexandre Mallet:

Given the inclusion of the draft pick, it should not come as a surprise to anyone that Pedan is the superior prospect in the trade, but that in itself raises some questions.

Why would the Islanders be willing to accept (primarily) a third-round pick back for a player they selected in the third round in 2011 and have spent the last several years developing? What is it that the Canucks see in Pedan that warrants trading both a prospect and a draft pick for his rights?

Let’s start with the Islanders. In September, we looked at the team’s 10 best prospects; six of them were defencemen. With New York’s primary prospect depth being heavily concentrated on the blue line, the team has at times been willing to part with useful prospects. As an example, Ville Pokka (No. 4 on that list) was dealt to Chicago in exchange for NHLer Nick Leddy about a month after that piece was published.

NEWARK, NJ - JUNE 30:  Ryan Pulock (C) poses with General manager Garth Snow (L) and Doug Weight (R) Assistant Coach and Senior Advisor to the General Manager after being selected number fifteen overall in the first round by the New York Islanders during
Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

But even dealing Pokka didn’t clear the organizational logjam. Eight different defencemen (not including Pedan) have played at least 10 games for New York’s AHL affiliate this year, a list that includes:

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  • 2012 fourth overall pick Griffin Reinhart
  • 2013 15th overall pick Ryan Pulock
  • 2011 34th overall pick Scott Mayfield
  • 2008 40th overall pick Aaron Ness
  • 2012 65th overall pick Adam Pelech

Those are five players with some serious draft pedigree, and we’re overlooking 20-year-old Jesse Graham (six points in 11 games) and 23-year-old Kevin Czuczman, who played in 13 games with the parent NHL team last year.

In other words, this is about clearing space. A team can only develop so many prospects at any one time, and Pedan was behind the eight ball after missing significant time to injury in 2013-14. So moving a player the organization couldn’t give ice time to in exchange for a draft pick and a fringe prospect made good sense.

Vancouver doesn’t have the same depth at the position, but there’s more to it than that. There are at least three notable points to this trade from a Canucks perspective.

The first, and most important, is that Pedan is an awfully interesting prospect. The Lithuanian defenceman is big (listed at 6’5”, 213 pounds) and plays the game with a vicious streak. He has 51 penalty minutes in just six AHL games this season and regularly hovered around 150 penalty minutes in junior.

But he’s also more than that; this is a player with a decent shot and some skill with the puck. He topped the 40-point mark consecutive years in junior, and early in his AHL career, he has 15 points in 42 career games.

This also fits the M.O. of general manager Jim Benning, who has no trouble paying a premium to fast-forward through a prospect’s early developmental years.

In the summer, he swapped a second-round draft pick to Los Angeles in exchange for then-prospect Linden Vey, who has nine points through 20 games for the Canucks this season. L.A. picked up a legitimately exciting prospect in Roland McKeown, but he’s years away; Vey is playing right now.

It’s a similar story with Pedan. Pedan’s played out his junior eligibility and is already a professional; he’s much closer to the NHL than the draft pick going the other way is.

PITTSBURGH, PA - JUNE 23:  Alexandre Mallet, drafted 57th overall by the Vancouver Canucks is greeted by the team during day two of the 2012 NHL Entry Draft at Consol Energy Center on June 23, 2012 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Dave Sandford/NHL
Dave Sandford/Getty Images

Finally, these kinds of trades are to be expected following a shift in management. No two general managers (or management groups) value a list of prospects exactly the same, so when a new sheriff shows up, there tends to be a period where the prospects he doesn’t rate are shifted out in favour of ones he likes.

Alexandre Mallet may have been a second-round pick in 2012 under Mike Gillis, but he’s struggled to adapt in the AHL, and Benning clearly didn’t place the same value on him that his predecessor did.

It’s a minor deal, but it’s the kind of tweak that general managers make all the time. For the Islanders, it made sense to get a return for a prospect that they didn’t have the room to properly develop. For the Canucks, it made sense to knock a few years off the development process by moving a pick for a player. It’s a win-win.

Jonathan Willis covers the NHL for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter for more of his work.