Tuesday, June 30, 2015
Posted by Daniel Wagner
Canucks fans had mostly come to accept that Eddie Lack would be traded heading into the draft. They weren't happy about it, but had accepted it. The combination of the Ryan Miller signing and Jacob Markstrom's outstanding season for the Utica Comets made it inevitable.
The hope, however, was that the Canucks would get good value for the fan favourite. Some wildly optimistic fans began imagining trade packages that might fetch a high first-round pick, while others simply hoped for a second round pick, perhaps in a package with other picks or prospects.
Instead, Lack fetched just a third round pick and a seventh in 2016. Sure, it was a high third round pick, but the return was underwhelming and disappointing.
The problem is a matter of perception. Many Canucks fans saw Lack as a number one goaltender, only prevented from being so by a veteran goaltender in front of him. The rest of the league, however, seemed to see him as a backup without much upside and, for a backup, a third and a seventh is an understandable return.
According to Jim Benning, the Carolina Hurricanes didn't acquire him as an upgrade to Cam Ward, but as an upgrade to Anton Khudobin.
Quite frankly, Lack is an upgrade on Ward, who has a career .910 save percentage, and the Hurricanes are likely to be pleasantly surprised, assuming they ever give Lack a chance to run as the starter.
What makes the Lack return look worse, however, is the return other goaltenders fetched on the trade market.
The most recent was Martin Jones, who got the Bruins a 1st round pick in 2016 and Sean Kuraly, the 4th best prospect in the Sharks' system according to The Hockey News. That was after Jones was part of the return for Milan Lucic.
Cam Talbot and a seventh round pick earned the Rangers a second, third, and a seventh from the Oilers. Robin Lehner and a David Legwand salary dump nabbed a first round pick (21st overall) for the Senators from the Sabres. After the Hurricanes acquired Lack, they traded Khudobin for James Wisniewski, who the Ducks evidently had no use for but is still a very good puck-moving defenceman.
Why did Jones and Lehner fetch first round picks? How did Khudobin get the Hurricanes a top-four defenceman? Why did Talbot get a second round pick and Lack didn't?
Again, it's about perception: Jones has less than half the NHL experience as Lack and is only 2 years younger, but everyone around the league seems to agree that he'll be a number one goaltender for years to come, perhaps because of his 7 shutouts in just 34 games.
Lehner has average career numbers, with a save percentage 7 points worse than Lack's in a similar number of games played, but Lehner is just 23 and was a second round pick in 2009. There's a perception that he will be a very good starter if given the opportunity, which he'll certainly get in Buffalo.
As for Khudobin, his return has more to do with the perception of Wisniewski. The Ducks saw no value in Wisniewski -- he played in just 13 games for the Ducks after they acquired him last season and he didn't make a single appearance in the playoffs. The Ducks instead ran with five lefties on defence ahead of the right-handed Wisniewski. This was a bad idea, but the Ducks, for whatever reason, didn't like him.
Talbot is the one where it might not just be perception: his career save percentage through the first 57 games of his career are legitimately stunning -- a .931 save percentage and 2.00 goals against average -- and he has a strong high-danger save percentage that suggests his success will continue. It's unsurprising that the Rangers tried to get a first round pick for him and his return shouldn't reflect badly on the Lack trade.
Lack may turn out to be better than any of the other goaltenders dealt in the last few days, but his current perception, as inaccurate as it might be, hurt the Canucks' chances of getting good value in a trade.