The best way to determine how a team makes out in a trade is by looking at a trade in the context of the market in which the trade happens.
So let’s evaluate Thursday morning’s Blackhawks trade that sent Dustin Byfuglien, Ben Eager, Akim Aliu and Brent Sopel to the Atlanta Thrashers for veteran forward Marty Reasoner, prospects Jeremy Morin and Joey Chubb and New Jersey’s first (#24) and second (#54) round picks, which Atlanta acquired in the package for superstar Ilya Kovalchuk.
There has been one trade this summer that can be used for comparison. The Florida Panthers sent forwards Nathan Horton and Gregory Campbell to the Boston Bruins for defenseman Denis Wideman, the 15th overall pick in this year’s draft and a 2011 3rd round selection.
Byfuglien was clearly the centerpiece of the deal for Atlanta, as Horton was for Florida. Let’s look at the careers of the two players.
The third overall in the 2003 NHL Entry Draft, Horton has 142 goals, 153 assists, and 295 points in his six-year career with the Panthers. The 25-year old has scored 20 or more goals in each of the last five seasons.
The 245th pick in the 2003 NHL Entry Draft, Byfuglien has 55 goals, 54 assists and 109 points in over three seasons with the Blackhawks. Also 25, Byfuglien has never scored more than 19 goals in a season, but was among the NHL’s leaders in hits in 2009-10.
Byfuglien has a stellar playoff resume, but Horton clearly comes with more regular season success.
What about the pieces surrounding the two stars?
The 26-year old Campbell had 2 goals and 15 assists in 60 games last season. In 363 career games, the forward has totaled 29 goals and 56 assists. He was dealt with Horton to Boston for Wideman and the two picks. Wideman, 27, had six goals and 24 assists for Boston last year, and has recorded 46 goals and 119 assists over a five year NHL career.
In Chicago’s case, the Blackhawks sent Eager and Sopel with Byfuglien to Atlanta. In 255 career NHL games, the 26-year-old Eager has 52 points (27 G, 25 A) and 621 penalty minutes. For Sopel, 2010’s playoffs capped a tumultuous career in Chicago that included his missing the entire 2008-09 season due to injury. The 33-year-old veteran defenseman has 211 points (42 G, 169 A) in an 11-year NHL career. Sopel was a fantastic penalty kill specialist for the Blackhawks this year.
Coming back to Chicago is Reasoner, also an 11-year veteran who has 82 goals and 141 assists in 624 career games.
The swap of Aliu for Morin is two good young prospects exchanging jerseys, with Morin being younger and with fewer question marks.
So in review, the Blackhawks traded a forward who has never scored 20 goals in a season, a fourth line forward, a fifth defenseman and a prospect with question marks to Atlanta for an experienced center, a better young prospect, and first and second round picks. The Blackhawks also accomplish one of their biggest offseason goals by shaving nearly $5M off their payroll.
Meanwhile, Florida traded a forward who is the same age with five 20-goal seasons on his resume with a third or fourth line forward for a fourth or fifth defenseman and a first and third round draft picks.
Let me put it another way.
Horton is better than Byfuglien. Florida traded a serviceable player with Horton to Boston for a nice defenseman and two picks, one in the first and the other in the third. Chicago traded a serviceable player and a PK specialist with Byfuglien to Atlanta for a nice center, a prospect that upgrades the organization’s depth, and two picks, in this year’s first and second round.
Stan Bowman received better value for Byfuglien than Dale Tallon did for Horton.
By framing the Hawks’ trade in the context of the Florida-Boston deal, it is clear that the Blackhawks trumped the market by getting a better return for the assets they were dealing and still saved money.