Travis Konecny had a stressful few days last week.
The Flyers' top forward prospect -- selected by the team in the first round of the 2015 NHL Draft -- was just returning home from the World Juniors in Finland when he got the call. The Ottawa 67's wanted him to waive his no-trade clause in a deal that would send him to the Sarnia Sting.
"To be honest, I felt kind of blindsided," Konecny told the Ottawa Citizen. "I never expected it when I went to World Juniors, so, yeah, it was a heartbreaker to be told. Here I was hoping to get home for a couple of days to relax and now they had turned it into two very long days … two very stressful days."
The deal went through, and Ottawa would get an unbelievable haul in return for their best player, a third round draft pick and overage center Sam Studnicka:
- two players: 16-year-old center Sasha Chmelevski and 17-year-old winger Chase Campbell
- second round picks in 2016, 2017 and 2019
- third round picks in 2017, 2019 and 2020
- fifth round picks in 2017 and 2019
- conditional second round picks in 2021 and 2022
Buried under those 12 assets is subtext that might go unnoticed if you don't follow the OHL closely. And it has implications and expectations regarding the Philadelphia Flyers.
The 67's are in second place in their division right now, but they're basically a .500 team with a 21-19-1-1 record. They were on the playoff bubble even with Konecny's 45 points in 29 games, and they will remain a mediocre team without him. They are probably not winning a title this year no matter what.
Sarnia, meanwhile, is 10 points ahead of the final playoff spot in the Western Conference and were looking for an immediate boost for the stretch run. They're giving up a lot of their future for Konecny (up to 10 draft picks and two young players), which at face value seems very smart given how dynamic he's proven to be.
Then consider the conditions on those two second round picks: they are fully contingent on Konecny sticking in the NHL next season. If the Flyers keep Konecny, those two second round picks stay in Sarnia. If Konecny stays with the Sting, those two second rounders transfer to Ottawa. (Konecny can't play in the AHL; it's Philadelphia or Sarnia.)
Now, you might be asking "what's the big difference between eight draft picks and 10 draft picks?" And of course the answer is "not much," especially considering those extra picks are five and six years away from now.
But then come back to the other side: why Ottawa made the deal, as summed up by the Citizen:
This is the kind of trade the 67’s didn’t make in 2013, so they were left with nothing when centre Sean Monahan stuck with the NHL’s Calgary Flames that fall. That set the 67’s back significantly, and the rebuild is in Year 4 for what is barely a .500 team.
This trade is a gamble that will define the [Jeff] Brown era as 67’s head coach and GM.
Ottawa expects Konecny to be with the Flyers next season, and they aren't going anywhere this season, so they're getting a ton of future draft picks to help soften the long-term blow of losing him.
Sarnia believes they will lose him as well, and that's why those conditions exist on two of those draft picks. But it's still worth it to them to give up two players and eight draft picks, since they want to win a title right now and Konecny is that good. (It's also worth noting that five of those eight picks originally belonged to other teams, which helps soften the blow on that side a bit.)
Early returns are solid, too. Konecny had a hat trick in his first game with the Sting on Friday night and four total points in the three weekend games. He also had this remarkable shootout winner:
Travis Konecny just won the shootout for the Sarnia Sting with an absolutely disgusting goal pic.twitter.com/Kb899NuMWX— Brady Trettenero (@BradyTrett) January 10, 2016
And thus, this trade happened as it did.