How does one build a winning team? Well, not having room to go into an entire dissertation on the subject, let’s look at two teams – the finalists for the Stanley Cup this year. How were the rosters for the final game built?
Daniel Alfredsson: drafted by
Wade Redden: NY Islanders (1995/1st), obtained via trade (1996)
Drafted by club: 12
Drafted by club, by year: 1994 (1), 1996 (1), 1998 (2), 1999 (1), 2000 (2), 2001 (3), 2003 (1), 2004 (1)
Drafted by others: 8
Others obtained: via trade (6);
Todd Marchant: NY Rangers (1993/7th), waivers (2005)
Drafted by club: 3
Drafted by club, by year: 2000 (1), 2003 (2)
Signed as undrafted free agent: 3
Drafted by others: 14
Others obtained: via trade (8),
Can you imagine any more different ways to build a team than these two?
On the other hand,
What is common between these teams is the use of trades. 14 of the 22 players obtained from other organizations were acquired by this method. There is a logic in this that The Peerless can see. All other things equal, trades are, and almost always will be, cap-friendlier than signings via unrestricted free agency. The nature of bidding for UFAs creates far more upward pressure on contract prices than trades. Trades, conversely, permit clubs to use money saved to enter into the free-agent market more judiciously. Without long-term free agent contracts tying up money, the Ducks under Brian Burke could pursue a Teemu Selanne and a Scott Niedermayer in 2005 and could trade for a contract such as Chris Pronger’s in 2006. Those were the big final pieces of the puzzle, and the Ducks had room to accommodate them.
What the point of this is, is that as the old saying goes, “there is more than one way to skin a cat” (with apologies to cat-lovers). The trick is having a plan, sticking to it, and being good at it. Brian Burke, who snared the last pieces of the puzzle, is very good at what he does. John Muckler and Bryan Murray have done well with their method.
And that’s the issue here as the draft approaches for the Caps. It is nice to say, “we’ve got a plan,” but that goes only so far. Do the Capitals have in place the experience and the talent to execute that plan successfully?
We’re going to start finding out pretty soon.