School of Stats: Revisiting the Lindros Trade

A while back the School of Stats presented the first installation in a series of posts analyzing some of the NHL’s most lopsided trades to see how those deals are viewed today through the prism of Hockey Prospectus’ GVT metric. At the end of that first post I noted the next installation would cover the trade between Toronto and Calgary which sent Doug Gilmour from Alberta to Ontario. On the surface Toronto easily won that deal and that thought was vigorously reinforced by the GVT values. It was so bad I decided to eschew the post entirely.

Another deal that was consummated in the early 1990’s struck me as an interesting alternative. Remember when rookie phenom Eric Lindros forced his way out of Quebec without even suiting up for the team? Well Quebec got quite the haul out of the trade according to most observers; enough return to help build a two-time championship roster (though unfortunately for fans in Quebec those cups were won after the franchise moved to Denver). By virtue of the inclusion of Peter Forsberg alone this trade goes down as a clear win for Quebec/Colorado.

But Quebec had also agreed to trade Lindros to another club; the New York Rangers. In fact the dispute over which team would end up with the hulking center was so contentious it had to be decided by an arbitrator. Ultimately Philadelphia “won” the right to have Lindros suit up in their sweater. As I said, the price was steep: Peter Forsberg, Kerry Huffman, Chris Simon, Ron Hextall, Mike Ricci, Steve Duchesne, two first-round draft picks and $15,000,000 all moved on to Quebec all for Lindros alone.

That’s definitely a sweet package for the Nordiques/Avalanche. But the School of Stats wondered if Quebec in fact got the best deal they could have. Did they get more value from Philadelphia than they would have if the deal with the Rangers had been approved by the arbitrator instead? That’s how GVT can help us out.

The School of Stats did a little research and found who had been included in the package of players offered by the Rangers to the Nordiques in exchange for Lindros. That package included; Tony Amonte, John Vanbiesbrouck, Doug Weight and Alexei Kovalev. Now we’re going to look at the total GVT value accrued by those players for the balance of their careers following this trade. Since we are only comparing the value of the respective packages offered to Quebec calculating the accrued GVT seems the best method to find out which club actually offered the best package.

Also, for this part of the exercise we’re only going to weigh the value of the players involved in the deal while excluding draft picks. Since the Nordiques may have selected different players with the choices they would have acquired from the Rangers than they ultimately did with the picks obtained from Philadelphia, we’ll ignore the draft picks until later.

Player (PHI)

GVT (post ‘92-’93)

Player (NYR)

GVT (post ‘92-’93)

Forsberg

201.0

Weight

153.9

Duchesne

113.8

Amonte

164.7

Simon

44.3

Kovalev

176.9

Ricci

78.0

Vanbiesbrouck

132.6

Hextall

51.0

Total:

628.1

Huffman

4.5

Total:

492.6

The package the Rangers offered to Quebec would go on to out produce the Flyers group by 135.5 GVT over the course of their careers. That’s substantial. That’s despite the fact the Flyers sent two more players than what the Rangers offered. That’s even considering Forsberg, a surefire hall of famer, was part of the Philadelphia offer.

The Rangers also included three first-round picks which would end up being 8th, 26th and 13th overall in the 1993, 1994 and 1995 entry drafts respectively. The Nordiques ended up with the 10th overall selections in both the 1993 and 1994 entry drafts as part of their trade with Philadelphia.

Now if the Rangers had been successful in acquiring Lindros they may have drafted later, or even earlier, than they actually ended up. Obviously the same can be said for the Philadelphia choices; they could have been either earlier or later than they actually were. Still we can only consider what we actually are left with. The values of the 8th and 13th (from the Rangers) have to be virtually the same as the value of two, tenth overall selections, the inclusion of the third first-round pick has to swing the balance of favor in the direction of the Rangers offer again.

The last factor of these trade offers to look at is the money. Philadelphia sent Quebec $15 million while the Rangers would have given the Nordiques $12 million. Advantage Philadelphia there but an extra $3 million doesn’t offset the tremendous difference in GVT and the extra first-round draft pick Quebec would have received from the Rangers.

It’s interesting to postulate how history might be different today had the arbitrator ruled that the Rangers offer should be accepted rather than the Flyers package. Would the Rangers have won the cup in 1994? Remember Kovalev was pretty good for the Rangers in their magical season. Weight was later dealt to Edmonton for Esa Tikkanen who brought his playoff experience and five Stanley Cup rings to Manhattan. And of course Amonte went to Chicago for valuable role players Brian Noonan and Stephane Matteau! Matteau! Matteau!

Eric Lindros never brought the Stanley Cup to Philadelphia as their GM, Bobby Clarke, had hoped. Would Peter Forsberg have succeeded where Lindros and Co. failed?

And what about Colorado; might they have won more than two Cups with the players they would have acquired from the Rangers? Could they have won three or even four championships? Maybe they wouldn’t have won a single Stanley Cup. We’ll never know for sure but it fun to consider the idea.

Thanks for joining the School of Stats for this exercise in “what could have been.” If you have any ideas for other trades to subject to the scrutiny of GVT, email me at gmiller@insidehockey.com. Also, give me a follow on twitter @gkmkiller. Thanks for reading.

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