Toronto Maple Leafs: The Value of a No. 1 Center and Is It Worth Trading For?

Alex MamalisCorrespondent IIIMay 29, 2011

What's the difference in value between 90 points (left) and 75 points (right)?
What's the difference in value between 90 points (left) and 75 points (right)?

I recently had a very engaging conversation (and it's still ongoing) in the comments of one of my articles (Toronto Maple Leafs: My Ideal offseason from Brian Burke) on what it would cost to acquire Paul Stastny from the Colorado Avalanche, with, most notably, fellow Bleacher Report readers, Jason Ham and an Avalanche fan, Trevor Troth.

It started out with me suggesting a deal that consisted of the following:

Toronto: Paul Stastny, 11th overall pick

Colorado: Tyler Bozak, Carl Gunnarsson, Jonas Gustavsson, 25th and 30th overall picks

Obviously, I received a lot of heat for suggesting such a deal, as even I realised the deal was far off with what could be a conceivable deal for Stastny, from Toronto. After a debate going to what Stastny actually was worth, my second draft was much more appropriate and received approval from the above two names (I mention these two, because they were the main two that I was debating with), here it is:

Toronto: Paul Stastny

Colorado: Nazem Kadri, Jesse Blacker, 25th and 30th overall picks

Obviously, it is a steep price to pay, but ultimately you are receiving a center who is capable to post 75 points now, and has the potential to post 90-100 once with Kessel and Lupul.

This eventually led to a side-debate to what a number one center is really worth, dollars wise and in terms of trade value.

A valuable post from Jason suggested the average pay for a 90-point center is around $6.5 - $7 million annually. We came to that conclusion quite quickly, simply because it's a numbers game, not to difficult.

The difficult part was trying to figure out what trade value a No. 1, 90-point center would garner a selling team.

With Stastny, right now a 75-point man, bringing in two top prospects, and two first-round draft picks, what would an extra 15 points bring in?

To put it in perspective, according to the NHL's compensation rewards, a player being paid $6.5 million on an offer sheet would receive first to third draft picks, plus an extra first rounder the following year. Is that value equivalent to the above package? 

So, if Kadri is a first rounder, and the two late picks can be counted as second rounders due to weakness in this year's draft, you're surrendering a first round pick, two second-round picks, and a third round pick for a 75-point center.

If we were going to go by the compensation's value system (two firsts, a second, and a third), the Leafs (who we are using for just this article's sake) would have to surrender the following:

Toronto receives: 90-point, first-line center

Toronto surrenders: Nazem Kadri, Joe Colborne, Greg McKegg, Jesse Blacker

Would that even be enough for a No. 1 center? My guess is no, simply because there's a consensus around the league that it's always cheaper to acquire an RFA via an offer sheet rather than a trade, best exemplified by the Phil Kessel deal, where Toronto would have had to give up a first and third if signed via offer sheet opposed to the two firsts, and a second they did give up.

In that case, the value of the swap was increased by roughly 50 percent, as after doing some math and elimination, the difference between compensation via offer sheet and trade in this case was a first (trade) and a third (offer sheet).

So, if trading for a center is two times more expensive than signing one, a deal would look more like this, with the Leafs giving up four first-round picks, two second-round picks, and two third-round picks:

Toronto receives: 90-point, first-line center

Toronto surrenders: Nazem Kadri, Joe Colborne, first in 2012, first in 2013, Greg McKegg, Brad Ross, Jesse Blacker, and Kenny Ryan.

For argument's sake, let's use Steven Stamkos, as the perfect example. He's an restricted free agent this off-season, and will most likely be seeking $7 million-plus. Is completely depleting a team's current future worth acquiring a center like Stamkos? Sure, Stamkos, right now, is a 50-goal, 95-point man, but with that many quality prospects going the other way, who's to say one of them won't equal Stamkos' production or even top it?

It's a touchy topic around what a top-of-the-line center is worth, because each team's No. 1 has different value and meaning to its team, but if the Leafs want a premier center that we need, is it worth giving up that much? My take is no (maybe this is why Burke has his philosophy to wait for free agency over dealing). Of course, the above value is purely market value, and in terms of simple life, things never get sold for perfect market value, so you can take away maybe Ross or Ryan, but the point is it's a steep price, and could be not worth surrendering.

What's your take?

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