Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Kuba - Meszaros Trade 3 Years Later

Back in August 2008, the Sens swapped young defenseman Andrej Meszaros to Tampa Bay for Filip Kuba, Alexandre Picard and a first round pick . Some thought dealing a young d-man like Meszaros was a mistake (like myself) and others felt Bryan Murray robbed Tampa Bay blind. Meszaros did struggle with the Lightning, some of it due to injuries, but he's found a new lease on life in Philly while Kuba has regressed in the Ottawa organization after a strong start, also a result of injuries.

Just for comparisons sake, here's how the two have stacked up statistically since the deal (as of Oct. 12, including Mesz's game Wed. night where he got the game winning goal against Vancouver):

Kuba: 191
Mesz: 217

Kuba: 9
Mesz: 17

Kuba: 76
Mesz: 51

Kuba: 85
Mesz: 68

Kuba: 5
Mesz: 6

Kuba: -26
Mesz: +15

Who got the better of the deal if we take Picard and the draft pick (which the Senators sent to the Islanders along with Dean McAmmond for Chris Campoli and Mike Comrie) out of the equation?

Kuba has significantly more points but is trending downwards while Meszaros is trending up. Kuba's cap hit is 3.7 million in the last year of his deal while Meszaros carries a 4 million tag for a couple more seasons. Money is basically even and so are the stats when it all shakes out in the end. The plus/minus category is more an indication of weak Senators teams and one year in Philly on a great team for Mesz. Plus/Minus is the most overrated statistic for defenseman anyways. Good defenseman on bad teams will get buried in that category. Even good d-men on good teams can get burned by it. Nicklas Lidstrom was -2 last year and won the Norris.

But I guess it comes down to who you would rather have on your blueline right now. I'm guessing 29 out of 30 GM's would pick Meszaros because at 25 years old he's just beginning to enter his prime years. Okay, more like 30 out of 30 but we shouldn't expect Bryan Murray to throw himself under the bus.

You could say Ottawa won this deal in the short term because Kuba excelled while Meszaros struggled. But now let's take into account the other components of the deal. Picard was a bust on the blueline (he was a throw-in anyways) and the first rounder was essentially wasted because Comrie struggled in his second stint in Ottawa and Campoli can only be described as a disappointment before he was shuttled off to Chicago for depth player Ryan Potulny and a second rounder.

Yet Murray used that second rounder in a package to get Detroit's first in 2011 with which they chose winger Matt Puempel, someone who the organization is very high on.

Exhausted yet?

I still think it was a mistake to trade a young player like Meszaros instead of paying him, but Ottawa was under a different kind of salary-cap pressure than they are facing now. Hockeywise, the deal doesn't look great (but it's not a landslide either), yet whoever said modern trades were about hockey? It's all salary-cap, probably for the rest of our hockey watching days. If it wasn't Meszaros gone, somebody else would have been dealt.

But if Kuba has a good year and the Sens make the playoffs, or if he can get some more value for this team on the trade market....and... if Puempel turns out to be the goal-scorer this team thinks he will be down the line.... well, this saga will be far from over.

This deal will end up being so convoluted and open to interpretation, it will make the movie Inception look like Ernest Goes To Camp.


Anonymous said...

I was just thinking about this deal while watching Meszaros score the winning goal tonight.

Philly stole him from Tampa for a second rounder. I think that that deal will look like a steal, a few years from now. But, then again, things weren't going good for him in Tampa, so maybe a change in scenery was necessary.

My take on Mez is that he was great in Ottawa because he was properly insulated. He played behind seasoned pros like Redden, Chara, and Phillips. He was young and talented, but he didn't have to carry the burden of great expectations. He just had to play well. And, he did that.

He moves to Tampa, and they give him big money because they want him to carry the load. I think that it may have been a case of too much responsibility too soon, on a basket case of a team to boot. Instead of being insulated, he was exposed at a young age.

Now he goes to Philly, and he's insulated again and flourishing. I bet he just keeps on growing and progressing and eventually becomes their number one guy in time. They already gave him their best defenseman award last season.

From Ottawa's perspective, I think that it was a terrible deal, from every angle. I don't get it.

It wasn't for cap space. It couldn't have been. Mez signed for $4M cap. Kuba was making $3M at the time, and Picard was making $850K. It was basically cap in, for cap out.

And, if you look at Mez's actual contract, it makes even less sense from a financial perspective. Mez's contract called for actual salaries of $2.5M, $3.25M, $4M, and $4M this year.

Kuba's salaries were $3M, $3.7M, $3.7M, and $3.7M this year. You can also add Picard's $850K to the first year of the deal.

So in total, after four years, the cap space for either player was about the same. The actual dollars actually cost Melnyk about $1M more. Not a ton, but still $1M bucks for a guy that's not as good.

We traded a young up and comer, for a guy who's nine years older and in decline, and Melnyk paid $1M extra for the privilege.

So why'd we do it?

If you remember, Bryan Murray was quoted in the papers at the time that he was worried that an offer sheet was coming for Mez, and he wanted to salvage something that we could use. There were also reports that Mez was asking for $5M. Both were shown not to be true.

If we waited for the offer sheet, we would have nabbed Victor Hedman. But Tampa didn't have their third rounder to complete the offer sheet, so that wasn't a credible threat.

The only thing that really makes sense is that Murray wasn't interested in having Mez on the team. I think that's the truth. I think Murray wanted his own guys, and was looking for reasons to rid the roster of guys that he didn't acquire.

Incidentally, Kuba was originally drafted by Murray in Florida. And Len Barrie, the Tampa owner with the rumoured offer sheet that was not credible, also played for Murray in Florida.

dzuunmod said...

Great breakdown. I know I've bitched about the fighting stuff with you, but it's posts like this that keep me coming back. Thanks.

Anonymous said...

Kuba had 40 points here in his first year (a number Mez has still not reached in his career), and broke an NHL record with a point in each of his first 8 games. Nobody was complaining then.

He's regressed, and that should have been expected for sure. But at the time it seemed like a great trade. Picard was a bust, but showed promise. That first, in hindsight, was wasted. But man for man, only now is that trade starting to look bad, and I'm not convinced Kuba won't turn it around this year.

I still don't think Meszaros is much more than a biproduct of a winning environment and a hell of a team. Switch him out with Kuba in Philly, I wonder if Kuba's bad image disappears.

Anonymous said...

anon @ 9:53am,

Don't you think you're being kind of hard on Meszaros?

He hasn't had a 40 point season like Kuba, but he had a 39 point season as a 20 year old rookie. That's pretty close.

In fact, in Kuba's 12 years in the NHL, he's had four years with 30 or more points (40, 37, 31, 30). Kuba didn't reach 40 points until he was 32 years old.

In Mez's 6 years in the league, he's already had four years with 30 or more points (39, 36, 35, 32) and he's still only 26 years old.

With 3 points in 3 games, Mez is going to get there again this year. Kuba's trending in the other direction.