clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

What the Penguins traded for Ron Hainsey: Expected value of a late 2nd round pick

Some think the Pittsburgh Penguins gave up too much when they sent a 2nd round pick to Carolina for defenseman Ron Hainsey. A statistical look of what history says the Pens actually gave up

James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports

Got rolling on this in the comments of the other post with some of the fan backlash, or at least hesitancy on endorsing the Penguins trade yesterday being as they gave up a 2nd round pick in 2017 to the Carolina Hurricanes for defenseman Ron Hainsey.

Now, understandably, there's nothing sexy about adding a soon-to-be 36-year old defensive defenseman who's best served on the third pair. That's not a guy who's going to single-handedly make a team in the playoffs. However, given the Penguins injuries to Olli Maatta and Trevor Daley (both out six weeks) plus the uncertainty around Justin Schultz (recovering from concussion and seems to play soon, hopefully the worst is behind) plus Kris Letang (now day-to-day with injury) it makes sense to add to the defense still.

Regardless of what Hainsey is, or isn't, there's a certain sensitivity among the Penguins fan-base, generally speaking. And, for good reason- we've seen our share of Ponikarovsky's and Murray's and Winnik's come in as rentals in exchange for valuable picks, do basically nothing as skate off as quickly as they entered, leaving the organization's prospect cupboard bare. Totally understandable.

But what is the cost of a late second round pick? A statistical and historical analysis from TSN puts it in perspective- and basically for what Hainsey ought to bring for the Pittsburgh penalty kill it sure looks like a good gamble to make.

This latest update goes through NHL Drafts from 1990 through 2010, leaving some time for the 2010 picks to establish an NHL career, and assigned a numerical value to each of the players selected, using the following guidelines:

10 - Generational
9 - Elite Player
8 - First Line, Top Pair D
7 - Top Six Forward, Top Four D
6 - Top Nine Forward, Top Six D
5 - NHL Regular, 350+ NHL games 
4 - Fringe NHLer, 200+ NHL games
3 - Very Good Minor Leaguer, 50-200 NHL games
2 - Minor Leaguer, under 50 NHL games
1 - 10 or fewer NHL games

Seems good, on this scale even a 5 is really successful draft pick, so let's keep that in mind. The Pens pick to Carolina will be dictated by their playoff finish and also be ranked by where they finish 1-30 in the regular season standings, with obviously the better records earning the lower pick. Pittsburgh is currently 3rd place in the NHL right now, it stands to reason their pick will be well towards the back-end of the round. About best case Carolina would pick in the 51-55 range (considering Las Vegas is also drafting and adding another franchise to pick players). Let's see how that fares:

No. 51-55
Average Rating: 2.71
Best: Patrik Elias, Duncan Keith, Jason Pominville
Ranked 7 or better: 9.5%
Ranked 5 or worse: 82.9%
At least 100 NHL games (or extremely likely): 33.3%

So this pick is somewhat valuable - after all there's about a 10% chance you hit a home run and get a Duncan Keith type player. However, like playing the lottery you can dream of the escapism of the best case scenario but overwhelming by more than an 8-1 ratio (82.9-9.5) an NHL team is more likely to end up with a bust/average player than finding with a stud at this point of the draft.

And that's the best case scenario for Carolina here. What if the best case (for Penguins fans) happens and Pittsburgh goes on a long playoff run? The Canes pick would get worse and their odds of drafting/developing a good player gets worse too:

No. 56-60
Average Rating: 2.39
Best: Zdeno Chara, Michael Nylander, Brandon Dubinsky, Jiri Hudler
Ranked 7 or better: 5.7%
Ranked 5 or worse: 89.5%
At least 100 NHL games (or extremely likely): 28.6%

The tail end of the 2nd round isn't without hope, but odds are lean. Very lean.

Of course, a team will never get a chance if they continuously trade their picks, it's not a great organizational strategy to gut the pipeline by adding rentals. But one must also weigh the Penguins current situation with Evgeni Malkin being 30 years old and Sidney Crosby as a 29 year old. Development time for a second round pick at this point typically takes them out of the prime window for success. The current Pittsburgh team is poised to make a run, but needed a veteran defenseman with PK ability.

The trade for Ron Hainsey was a bet for the now versus the slim chance to draft and develop a player. Contrary to initial backlash (which isn't an unfair reaction, mind you) it doesn't appear that this was a bad gamble to make for the current state of the team given injury, insurance and PK concerns for a team on the cusp of trying to repeat as champions.