NHL Player Trade Value – Fan Opinion vs Reality

NHL Player Trade Value – Fan Opinion vs Reality

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.