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Did Don Waddell Give Away the Farm?

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In the two big trades this weekend the Atlanta Thrashers dealt away Glen Metropolit, a top prospect and former 1st round pick (Coburn) and a 1st and 3rd in 2007 and a 2008 2nd rounder. (Also there is a conditional 1st rounder if Tkachuk is resigned--which means that he will not be resigned.)

Was this giving away the future for today? With respect to the 2007 draft picks I feel very confident in saying "no" to that question. The 2007 Draft is fairly weak. This late in the year there is still little agreement as who should be taken in which order at the top of the draft. If 2007 ends up looking like the 1999 draft those picks are nearly worthless.

Let's look back at 1999. Nearly 300 players were selected by NHL teams. Out of all of those players I only count 5 1st line forwards (Havlat, Zetterberg, D. Sedin, H. Sedin, Tim Connolly) and 4 2nd line guys (Martin Erat, Ryan Malone, Radim Vrbata, Mike Comrie). There were 12 third line forwards (Chris Kelly, Zigomanis, M. Tjarnqvist, Hagman, Pyattt, Adam Hall, Saprykin, K. Koltsov, Radivojevic, Lundmark, Stefan, Beech) for a total of 22 useful forwards. (Note: I don't care about 4th line guys, you can find them on waivers or via free agency so they are fungible talent.) On the defensive side of things I see one star goalie (R. Miller) and 1 first pair defenseman (Nic Havelid) and 6 2nd pair defensemen (B. Jackman, Commodore, Martinek, Leopold, F. Kaberle, Exelby).

So out of nearly 300 players taken in 1999, that weak draft year only produced 9 top 6 forwards, 1 starting goalie and 7 top four defensemen. That's a total of 17 impact players, which is less than one per NHL team! In a weak year like 1999 you could save all of your picks and still have 1/3 chance of ending up with zero impact NHL players. This is why I am untroubled about losing the 2007 picks. It is very likely none of those picks would have resulted in impact NHL players even if we had kept them all. The 2008 2nd rounder could be worth more if that draft year is stronger.

The other critical question is how valuable was Braydon Coburn. If he becomes a top pairing guy this trade hurt a lot. Personally I think he is more likely to become a solid defensemen, but one without any offense or hitting. If I'm right than he is not a defensive cornerstone.

The final thing to consider is that Coburn is the only prospect that was dealt despite requests from other teams. We still have talent that will help the NHL club in the near future in Sterling, Valabik, Little and Pavalec. The team is still loaded with young defense who show promise.

So my view is that while these trades were costly, they did not wipe out the team's prospects nor ruin the future.