This one hurts to write, because I love Zucc. But the reality of the situation is that Mats Zuccarello may wind up being traded at the draft this year. He’s a first line player making second line money. He’s good for 50-60 points per year –possibly more on a team with an actual system in place– at just $4.5 million for one more year.
Zuccarello is a great add for any team looking to add scoring. His cap hit makes him even more attractive. But for everything Zuccarello brings, he is 30 and only has one year left on his deal, limiting his return. Even so, if he does get traded, he should –at least in theory– bring in a solid return.
To first gauge his value, we need to look at past examples of forwards being traded at the draft. I am also omitting basically any trade with Vegas because they were unique circumstances. I’m also omitting the Eberle for Strome trade because Chiarelli. Ditto Taylor Hall for Adam Larsson.
The first trade that unfortunately needs to be brought up is the Derek Stepan trade. He and Antti Raanta fetched a top-ten pick and a B prospect (reminder that Tony DeAngelo was already traded once for a 2nd round pick). Zuccarello isn’t a center and isn’t locked in for the term that Stepan had. I think this is, at the very best, the ceiling for a Zuccarello trade.
The Brayden Schenn trade to St. Louis was interesting, but I don’t think that is a good comparable here. Schenn is younger, a center, and cost controlled. That return was Jori Lehtera, a late first in 2017, and a conditional first in either 2018 or 2019. That’s two firsts for Schenn. This is also the high bar for Zucc, and I don’t think it gets there.
So let’s go to the 2016 draft. Lars Eller went from Montreal to Washington for a pair of second round picks. Eller, a 27 year old center at the time, had two years and $3.5 million on his contract remaining (he has since been extended at that exact dollar value). Eller is a 30-40 point center. All things considered, I think this is towards the lower end of what Zucc can fetch.
Andrew Shaw also fetched a pair of seconds from Montreal. He was an unsigned RFA at that trade, then inked a six year deal. Woof. This is more evidence that Zuccarello should fetch more in a trade.
That’s really it for the past two years of players getting traded at the draft. It’s actually exceedingly rare. On the bright side, we have a floor and a ceiling for Zuccarello’s trade value. However aside from that, we don’t have much else to work from.
Tom Urtz did a whole lot of work to see what the stats mean Zuccarello’s trade value is at. It’s very detailed and definitely worth the read. Urtz theorizes (and proves via his post, which is very well written) that there may be a match with Dallas and the #13 overall pick. That is certainly intriguing and may be a match for both clubs.
Another first round pick would give the Blueshirts a whopping four picks in the first round. Depending how the draft lottery goes, that is one helluva kickstart to a rebuild.