NHL Player Trade Value – Fan Opinion vs Reality

by | Feb 18, 2018 | Soapbox | 7 comments

Fans of every NHL team are sometimes guilty of overvaluing their club’s roster talent and prospect depth. Take, for example, the reaction of some Toronto Maple Leafs fans when their club shipped little-used forward Nikita Soshnikov to the St. Louis Blues for a 2019 fourth-round pick.

Did the Toronto Maple Leafs get a poor return for forward Nikita Soshnikov from the St. Louis Blues? (Photo via NHL Images)

When Sportnet reported the deal, several Leafs fans took to the comments section complaining that their club should’ve received more for Soshnikov. A few fear this deal could one day haunt the Leafs.

The reality is the Leafs received exactly what Soshnikov is worth at this point in his career. He’s a hardworking, frequently injured 24-year-old winger who struggled to crack the Leafs roster.

As for the rationale behind the trade, Soshnikov had fallen behind other players on the Leafs depth chart. Due to return soon from injured reserve, the Leafs opted to move him to another club rather than demote another player.

In time, Soshnikov might blossom into a decent player in St. Louis. On the other hand, he could encounter the same issues with the Blues that he faced with the Leafs.

It’s not unusual for hockey fans to play “armchair general manager.” It’s fun to second-guess management decisions, discussing or debating them with friends or total strangers in chat rooms and message forums and comment sections.

Still, love of our favorite team can sometimes cloud our judgement.

That’s why we sometimes get upset when a young, unproven player is shipped away for a small return.

It’s why we wonder why the general manager of our beloved club hasn’t plucked away a rival’s superstar by offering up the equivalent of magic beans and a bag of pucks.

It’s why we question moves or ponder why their general manager isn’t pursuing a player on a rival club that appears to be there for the taking.

When another team acquires what we consider a solid asset for seemingly pennies on the dollar, we chide our GM for failing to act sooner when the opportunity was there.

It’s only natural to look at how someone’s doing a job and assume we can do better. Never mind that we hockey fans lack the qualifications to manage a pee-wee team, let alone a pro hockey franchise. No, we feel we’re smarter and can see the bigger picture.

Despite our opinions, the reality is few of us know the NHL trade market very well.

Even those of us fortunate enough to cover the league for a living are reduced to guesswork over a player’s trade value. We usually compare them to peers who were moved in earlier deals.

Those pundits fortunate enough to have insider knowledge will get tipped off as to what the GM is seeking for a return. In most cases, however, the return usually isn’t what we predicted it might be when the trade eventually goes down. On occasion, it’s considerably more. Usually, it’s less.

It’s the general managers, aided by coaches and scouts, who set the market value. Not every player’s is the same. What a team got for trading one player doesn’t mean they’ll get a similar or better return with another. Various factors – team and player performance, salary, no-trade clauses, injury history, roster depth, contract status, team chemistry, personalities, placement in the standings, pressure from ownership – come into play.

That’s not to suggest general managers are beyond reproach. Sometimes they make mistakes, some more than others. Even the best have the occasional blunder on their resume.

In most cases, however, they’re making the best deal they can based on how much their peers are willing to part with.

That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t voice opinions about a player’s value or critique a trade. It’s a harmless discussion and, for some of us, a nice way to earn a living.

Still, fan assessment of a player’s trade value will often differ from their actual worth in the NHL trade market.



  1. While I do agree that fans do not know the complexity of trades in the NHL , but knowledgeable fans can see if a GM has been bamboozled. I recall the Russ Courtnall deal for John Kordic, pretty sad and bad. The PK trade for Weber, while is a formidable player, he’s 4 years older and not good with the puck, a guy like PK becomes more valuable in the current NHL. The proof is what has transpired to both teams since the trade.

  2. “Despite our opinions, the reality is few of us know the NHL trade market very well.”

    I can’t agree more. This is why I have rarely (if ever?)put out trade scenarios. There are way too many variables.

    Most trade scenarios put out there don’t weigh the many variables involved. Too focused on the money/cap hits involved. Not team needs (other than their own) to really justify a trade that helps anyone but the team they cheer for. Like sending a goaltender to a team with 2 already under contract. Pouching youth for a guy barely on an NHL level on a rebuilding team. Sending spare parts or players that no longer live up to their contract, or are easily upgraded by sending them the other way… etc.

    It really is more difficult than making the $$$’s work. And it’s about impossible to know every team in the leagues needs, deficiencies, strengths etc.

    I think more time and effort is wasted on trades that will never happen and are completely lopsided than it’s worth.There is so much more to it than dollars and stat sheets.
    It’s fun to dream, but sometimes reading through other people’s dreams can be painful.

    Great read, and the timing is perfect!

    • All that being said, I have a good idea what Mcdonagh, Nash, Zuccarello, Deharnais, Holden should return. The one that eludes me is Grabner?

      I’m not sure how or if he works with any other NHL team. It’s almost a buyer beware.
      He has been way above and beyond his contract in NY, but is another team going to allow him to float around waiting for a Hayes , Miller bomb ? Will he find similar chemistry somewhere else?

      The guy won’t hurt you. He is a fantastic Pk guy. But I’m not sure how or if he works anywhere else right now. At 200-400k for a playoff run, I’m sure he gets traded. For what? No idea?

  3. It’s also soooo easy for us as armchair gms to forget these are people! We ain’t just move no an asset… we are moving a person, possibly his family, hell their dogs/ cats, fishies. We all want to move a player who the fan base may have quite an emotional investment in. That factors in.

    • A totally excellent point, yup just pack everything up and move across the contenent , at times, where they know no one ( except maybe some former opponents )

  4. I think you could say “media opinion vs reality” you just need to listen in to any radio talk show and listen to the guy who comment about other teams, these are also some of the local newspaper guys that cover the local team. It becomes very obvious that they don’t know much about other NHL teams and once you get out of the division it get less and then when you go out of conference well it just gets very limited.

  5. A 4th round pick has a 15% (??) chance of becoming an everyday nhler. Sosh is probably 25% chance of becoming every day player. With the leafs logjam at wings it feels like a decent trade to me


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