Armchair GM: Gettin' Buff


 

DANIEL:

This is my first attempt at making a trade as an Armchair GM.  Please keep in mind that much like contracts, my ideas are a starting point for negotiations.  While handing out contracts is interesting, this first attempt at a trade is, I think, much more fun to create.  So, enjoy my first attempt at upgrading our roster through acquiring a player already under contract.

I felt it would have been inappropriate to write this post while the Blackhawk's were still in the playoffs, so I saved it for now.  Ultimately, this trade comes down to two key factors: according to capgeek.com the Blackhawks have about $57.5 million committed to 14 players next year, and the Ducks have struggled to find that perfect fit for the Getzlaf-Perry combination ever since they lost Penner.  This deal, I believe, solves both those problems. Before getting into my reasons for this trade, here is the full text of the deal

DUCKS get:

Dustin Byfuglien

BLACKHAWKS get:

Peter Holland

2010 second round pick-42nd overall

Why it works for the Hawks:

Chicago needs cap relief.  There isn't even a fancy simile for it; that's how bad they need it.  This deal allows them to shake $3 million without taking any salary in return.  The Ottawa Sun claims that Sharp and Versteeg are likely candidates to be moved. I agree regarding Versteeg, but Sharp, Hossa, Toews, and Kane are probably the best top 4 forward combination in the league. It's a perfect combination of centers and wingers.  Not to mention Sharp's versatility as a center and winger gives the Hawks the option of letting him center a second line or combining him with the others to compound the scoring threat.  If you want to talk about keeping your core together, these guys are it.  Since Sharp seems a less likely choice to move, it's got to be someone else.  I think the right package can pry Buff away from the Hawks, and I think this is that deal. 

Byfuglien is a fan favorite and has been a game changer.  His ability to play the blueline and camp in front of the net is an extraordinary combination.  Still, Bolland had the same amount of points in this post season as Buff despite not playing the San Jose series with Toews and Kane. In the grand scheme of things, Buff is little more than an energy player with a higher skill set and phenomenal understanding of his role.  Will the Hawks miss him? Of course.  Is he irreplaceable? In a way.  Can they move on without him and still play at a high, playoff level? Definitely.  The answer to the final question makes trading him a little less painful. Let's face it, someone has to go, and it's probably better to lose Big Buff than one of the 4 core players I mentioned.  Bolland, Ladd and Kopecky have all demonstrated an ability to get in front of the net, and to be agitators.  They'll just have to step up and do more of it so the team can save some money.

Peter Holland is a great prospect for the Hawks.  He went 30+50=80, -7, 40 PIM in 59 games for the Guelph Storm this year, and added 3+5=8, -1, 12 PIM in 5 playoff games.  The offensive numbers are up after a slow start.  Hockey's future says he has top scorer potential. If he develops properly, he might make parting with Patrick Sharp a little easier, thus saving you more money in the second or third year after this deal happens.  Holland has size and hands.  He might not be the most physical guy around the net, but there's still time for that to develop. Even if he never gains that trait, he will still be an NHL player who will put up quality numbers.  The second round pick is a bonus in what is supposed to be a deep draft. Byfuglien had a great postseason, but the salary has to be moved from somewhere.  Losing him does a minimal amount of damage to the core while netting you very valuable assets that won't hurt your cap for at least 3 years.

Why it works for the Ducks:

I think the key problem for the Ducks early on last year were the struggles of the top line.  Bobby Ryan had 4 points in his first 10 games.  Getzlaf had 8, and Perry had 11.  That's a solid start for Getzy and Perry, not so much for Bobby.  I remember Arthur commenting on one of the threads that it was important for Bobby to decide how he wanted to play, as a power forward or as a sniper, because playing the hybrid was causing problems (I'm paraphrasing). 

If you go back to the 2006-2007 season, the one that put Getzlaf and Perry on the NHL map, the man who really helped the line gel was Dustin Penner.  Penner camped in front of the net and forced someone to cover him. He had fantastic hands and put away rebounds like Homer Simpson puts away doughnuts.  The point is, Penner did two things and two things only in the offensive zone: grind along the boards and go to the net.  Byfuglien would provide a similar presence for Getzlaf and Perry at a cheaper price than reacquiring Penner.  Penner put up 29 goals on the PPG line; I imagine a confident and focused Byfuglien could do similarly well.  He'd free up creative space for that duo and make life even worse for opposing goalies when combined with an already pesky Perry.

More importantly, Buff doesn't need the puck in order to be effective. Instead, he takes the puck in order to allow his line mates to find their ideal level of space.  The more Bobby Ryan emerges as a force, the more of a problem sharing the puck with Getzlaf will be. Adding a player like Byfuglien to the top line solves this problem by letting Bobby Ryan control the fate of a different line.  The final feather in Big Buff's cap comes in his ability to be a physical force on a line that needs it.  By constantly being physical and energetic, Byfuglien will raise the energy and physicality of his line mates.  He'll also force opposing teams to be more physical with Getzlaf and Perry, which I think we've all come to believe only makes Getzlaf and Perry better.  Having Buff on his left side will mean more Hulk and less Getzlaf, a wonderful thing for the Ducks.

Peter Holland is not NHL ready.  He had a great year in the OHL, but has to climb a pretty impressive center depth chart that includes, Getzlaf, Nick Bonino, Nicolas Deschamps, Ryan Carter, and probably Saku Koivu and Kyle Chipchura.  The Ducks will be able to acquire and develop another center of Holland's caliber while Deschamps, Bonino, and Getzlaf flourish.  I wasn't a fan of Holland's inability to go to the net during camp. For a larger player, I felt he spent too much time on the perimeter when he should have been attacking.  That's a problem for us, but Chicago might be able to get better use out of him by turning him loose.  Holland will still have to defend big bodies in the Central division, but their primary rival, Detroit, doesn't focus on playing a physical game.  Our system wouldn't let us hide a player like Holland, and we have to give something to get something. 

Losing a second round pick might hurt in a draft this deep, especially since we don't have a third round pick anymore.  Still, we pick twice in the top 30.  Losing a second rounder isn't ideal, but hurts less knowing we pick twice in the first round.  The truth is, Byfuglien's stock has never been higher.  He can play up front or on the blueline, he almost single-handedly dispatched the Vancouver Canucks, and he was clutch in a tide-turning game 5 of the Stanley Cup Finals.  A lot of teams will be interested in taking Byfuglien off the Blackhawk's hands and we'll have to pay a hefty price to convince Chicago to let him stay in the Conference.  Next year Buff goes RFA. If he doesn't work out, we can still get something for him.  I don't really see that happening, but he's only got one year left on his deal, which means our long-term commitment is minimal with an option to keep Byfuglien at a potentially better cap hit. 

Ultimately, Dustin Byfuglien's energy and ability to stay focused on his role will bring a security to the top line that was missing all year.  Bobby Ryan will be allowed to explore his own offensive freedom, which is important considering how good he was away from Getzlaf and Perry this year.  Acquiring Buff means that either Blake or Lupul HAS to be moved in order to make space for a defenseman and Selanne, but that might not be too difficult.  Chicago is probably going to have to move one of Byfuglien, Versteeg, and Sharp, or maybe even two of them.  The Ducks should get in on this and mark Big Buff as the guy they want to acquire.  He'll only help us in the long run. 

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