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The return on the Mark Giordano trade was fine, actually

UFA valuations are tricky

Tampa Bay Lightning v Seattle Kraken Photo by Christopher Mast/NHLI via Getty Images

While Kraken fans started saying goodbye to inaugural season roster players earlier this week, the fact that the season is ending after Game 82 really sunk in today when the news broke that Mark Giordano, the first captain in Kraken history, was on his way to the Toronto Maple Leafs. Alongside Calle Järnkrok, Colin Blackwell, Jeremy Lauzon and Mason Appleton (so far), this departure indicates that, like so many expansion clubs not named the Vegas Golden Knights, the Seattle franchise has a long road ahead of them.

Tampa Bay Lightning v Seattle Kraken Photo by Christopher Mast/NHLI via Getty Images

Many on Twitter and comment sections like the one below are expressing frustration about the return on a top four defender like Giordano. While admittedly aging, he’s shown he can still play significant minutes and contribute offensively, all while being a positive force in the dressing room. Certainly that seems like it’s worth a first round pick doesn’t it? But while it was certainly within the realm of possibility, here’s a couple potential reasons why the price ended up where it did.

Recency Bias

We all know Giordano won awards for his defensive play and leadership and captained a Flames franchise to a number of playoff berths, but this year, he’s on one of the bottom clubs in the league. He has a minus 21 plus/minus ranking, and while you can call it a flawed stat and point to advanced metrics showing him to be a positive player, it’s still going to be a bullet in a trading partner’s negotiation gun.

He’s a Free Agent

Teams trading for any pending UFA are only renting them for the last few weeks of the regular season, and hoping that between the deadline and the playoffs they gel with a new set of teammates, and you get an extra four series out of them on the way to a championship. Only one team will actually meet that goal, with everyone else failing along the way.

Giving up two 2nd round picks (I view the 2024 3rd as the return for Blackwell), to get a player’s services for such a short time is certainly a risk, and every NHL GM is going to have a different level of risk tolerance. After all, here are some current NHL stars taken in the second round:

  • Nikita Kucherov
  • Patrice Bergeron
  • Sebastion Aho (drafted by our very own Ron Francis)
  • Alex DeBrincat

Looking back further, NHL greats Adam Foote and Joe Nieuwendyk started out as 2nd rounders as well. So there is certainly the chance that Seattle wins this trade handily with the full benefit of hindsight. And while the Toronto Maple Leafs are certainly in “win now” mode, the Kraken can afford to play out the string with the knowledge that their complete Expansion roster wasn’t quite good enough anyways, with an eye toward the future.

Not Everyone is Going to Overpay

Ben Chiarot got the Montreal Canadiens a return of a 1st round pick and a 4th round pick. His seasonal stats are very similar to Giordano’s, but he’s around 8 years younger. Most of us would have preferred that trade to the one the Kraken got, but with each trade, a buyer leaves the market. It may very well be that the Leafs helped drive Chiarot’s asking price up for the Panthers, but once they had their man, Florida was focused on the rest of its roster, and the remaining contenders each clearly had their own maximum price.

Seattle Kraken v Montreal Canadiens Photo by Francois Lacasse/NHLI via Getty Images

Likewise, the Boston Bruins paid arguably too much for Hampus Lindholm (2022 1st round pick, 2023 2nd round pick, 2024 2nd round pick and two players, (Minor leaguer John Moore and former 1st round pick Urho Vaakanainen). Some might see this as setting the market, but to me it’s an indication of a Bruins club at or beyond the end of their championship window, whose desperation for a deep run with their aging nucleus has resulted in a fairly significant overpayment. They also see Lindholm as a part of their future, and not just a rental — as shown with the fat 8-year contract they gave him immediately following the trade.

Other similar deals over the past few years include Brady Skjei to the Hurricanes (Return: 1st round pick) and Sami Vatanen (two middling prospects and a 3rd). Neither is a perfect comparison, but one certainly sees a similar range of return. As I write this article, the return on the Jeremy Lauzon trade has come in, a single 2nd round pick. It isn’t as simple as saying 2 x Lauzons = 1 x Giordano though. Lauzon, himself a 2nd rounder, will see his rights remain with the Nashville Predators through his next contract, and possibly beyond.

NHL: MAR 16 Lightning at Kraken Photo by Jeff Halstead/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Ultimately, any return for Giordano was going to underwhelm Kraken fans. The team is bargaining from a position of relative weakness, and GM Francis has actually done a decent job in garnering decent futures for the set of players who have left town in the past few days. It will be years yet before we know if Giordano’s replacement proves our GM right or wrong, but his departure also helps the Kraken in a more immediate way. Draft lottery odds improve as a club heads toward the bottom of the standings, and the remaining Kraken roster is going to have a hard time finding wins.