I like Luke Schenn’s game. The young man is 21 and was already building last season toward becoming the kind of physical, punishing, defensively aware shutdown-defenseman that every team craves—and should be loathe to give up.
So I am hardly advocating that he should be trade bait, regardless of whether the Leafs sign him peacefully this week or a “hold out” becomes a minor training camp distraction. (As an aside, if Doughty think he's worth 7 million plus a season for umpteen years to the LA Kings, what is Schenn worth? 5 million?)
As rumours circulate (they always do, what would the hockey world be without rumours…?) that some NHL teams would love to get their hands on a young defenseman like Schenn (who wouldn't?), it does raise at the very least a question: Is Schenn worth more to the Leafs, or to someone else?
By that I mean we know he has value here. His career arc suggests he will be, at worst, a big-minutes top-four d-man. He may well be a first-pair guy before this season is over. What that means in financial/contractual terms I don’t much care, other than in terms of the impact his signing will have on the Leafs’ cap situation. But good players have to be paid, as ridiculously high as some of us feel salaries have continued to be.
But what is he worth to someone else? What might another team be willing to offer in order to get a defenseman who brings significant potential, someone who may be a star for the next ten years or more?
Again, I am not looking to trade Schenn. Someone wrote to me this week and said, basically, he wants the Leafs to stop moving young players, as they did for so many years, while trying to bring some grizzled veterans to town who might get them to the playoffs, or in the good years, to possibly get them “over the top”.
I of course understand that position. But one thing Burke has done is build a young team, with more guys on the way. Yes, on the one hand I love the idea of having this really young group of talented guys who will grow together and be a really strong team year after year.
It’s just that I’m not convinced this team is really all that talented.
Now, I do see some skill here, and a bit of grit. (More effort and work ethic than actual grit, but that’s OK…) And as I said last season, the East is not an overwhelmingly strong Conference (though there is some very good goaltending), and parity has arrived in the NHL such that almost everyone is a potential playoff team in any given year. So the Leafs become a playoff contender based partly on their improvement and partly by default because of the general weakness of the Conference.
But could they improve their team even more if they did consider moving Schenn?
I’m only asking the question.
Sometimes other organizations value your guys even higher than the host team does. I know in Toronto we are often rightly accused of commonly over-rating our players at the best of times, but there are indeed occasions when someone (out of their own desperation to get better in a particular area or because of cap realities) are willing to make a move to obtain a young player that they would not otherwise make.
What would a former high first-rounder, top-two, already “proven” NHL defenseman like Schenn be worth? I’m not talking more futures, more draft choices. I’m thinking bona fide forwards, star-caliber impact players.
For the sake of September argument sake, given that the Leafs already have a core of Phaneuf, Gunnarsson and Aulie (and everyone seems so high on Franson and Liles) and we still have Komisarek and young guys chomping at the bit in the minors, could we afford to make a move, in order to obtain real quality up front? Maybe even forwards now in their prime?
As fans, there’s nothing wrong with asking the questions. We don’t have (or get) to make the decisions.
Would I love to keep Schenn for years? Of course. But might he draw even more value in return?
You don’t know if you don’t ask.