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New import draft rules hurt Seattle and help a close rival

Just to state the basic Import player rule, a team is allowed to have two import players on their active roster at any given time (Non Canadian or USA).

As you may recall from the Import draft a month or so ago, there were some new rules put in place.  The ones I will discuss here are:

  • You are not allowed to trade picks in the import draft
  • If one of your import players is an NHL 1st round pick, you can pick a 3rd player
  • You are only allowed to trade an import player that has been on your roster a year

Lets go over the second rule:

Team A has a 1st round NHL picked player on their roster.  Normally, they would only be allowed to select one more import player in the draft.  But, because of this NHL player, they are allowed an extra pick in the import draft, and can have three import players listed for a period of time.  Because it is basically a free pick (not really, but kind of), they can take a flyer on a really good player.  They do, not expecting to get that player for at least a year or ever.  Instead, he decides to come over and play this season.  Lets say the NHL drafted player, and the newly drafted player both decide to come play also.  So now they have a problem, since they can only have two import players on their active roster.

On to the third rule above:

If the team wants to trade the extra player, they are forced to trade the returning import player that was 1st round NHL player, because the other two players have not played a year for the team.  So, the team is forced to trade a very high end talented player.  You would expect them to get very good trade value back because this player is very good.  One might argue that if just trading to a prospect, you would expect to receive a very high end 15 or 16 year old.  If you were looking to fill a hole on your team, you might be able to land that player, plus a good pick in the future.

Now back to first rule:

Team B has two very good import players.  Because they have two they want to keep, but neither are NHL 1st rounders, that team is not allowed to pick any other players.  In the past, teams like this used to be able to get value from the pick anyways, by trading the pick.  Depending on where that pick fell in the draft, you might be able to get a decent player in return.  But with the new rule, you forfeit the pick, and that is all.  So you get zero value for that pick.  If you were a really bad team the previous year, and happen to hold a very high pick in the import draft, well, too bad.

The situation:

Seattle is returning forwards Alexander Delnov and Roberts Lipsbergs.  I have heard a GM in the league say that they are possibly the best 1-2 in the US division, if not the entire WHL (that's open for debate).  So the Birds fit into rule number one from above.

Everett had two import players from last season, but only Mirco Mueller is returning.  He was drafted in the most recent NHL draft 18th overall by the San Jose Sharks.  Because of this (rule two above), Everett was allowed to draft two players,   Waltteri Hopponen and took a flyer on Ivan Nikolishin.  Some say that Nikolishin will be a very high NHL drafted player next season, and is a huge talent.  Hopponen is also projected as a very good player, playing as a 16 year old on a under 20 team.  Yesterday it was announced that both have committed to coming to Everett this season.  So that puts Everett into rule rule three from above.

Assuming Mueller does not make San Jose's roster (not very likely), and if Everett decides to trade, they are only allowed to trade Mueller, because the other two players will not have played a full season for them.  Mueller is 18 this season.  Which means his choice for this season and next are NHL or WHL.  So a team trading for him may be looking at a 2 year top end talent.  Whats that get you on the open market?  Looking at a couple recent trades (not completely like this one, but somewhat), David Musil's rights went from Kootenay to Vancouver to a 1st round pick.  And Martin Marincin (and 3 picks) went from PG to Regina for a half season for the price of a 1st, a 2nd, a 4th, and a player.  Those are both great returns.

The point:

This situation is turning out to be the perfect storm for Seattle.  They finish low in the standings, and end up with the 13th overall pick in the import draft (5th overall for WHL teams).  For that finish and two good players coming back to play for them, they get NOTHING for the pick at all.  For the evil empire from the north in Everett (ok, their not evil, but I had to add some drama to it), because they have a stud import player, they get the right to add even more talent.

It seems to be a case of teams with talent being rewarded with the ability to add even more talent, and teams that have some talent not even being given the chance to add talent.

(Hunnex Edit: What I don't understand is the purpose of the new rule in not allowing teams to trade their import picks. I've seen it mentioned in a few places that the league was trying to ensure that the "wealthy" teams weren't able to just trade up in the import draft and "take" all the top talent from Europe from the smaller market teams. The problem is... all it is forcing teams to do is make safer selections on players they know will report because they don't have the ability to extract value from the pick. OR... in the case of Seattle... they get completely burned by a new rule and get no value from the pick. This, to me, is less about the Seattle vs. Everett situation as it is about a situation where the intent of the rule doesn't actually accomplish the intended goal. It doesn't make a ton of sense to me... or Jon.)


Anonymous said...

While I don't agree with the rules, I can understand the idea of not being able to trade your import pick. I see it like this:

I earn sick pay from work, It's not tangible salary but I can use it if I need to miss work for whatever health-related reason to cover lost pay. However, once the end of the year comes or I quit, I don't get my sick pay paid out. In essence, it's only mine when I need it but if I don't use it, it's like I never had it to begin with.

Same with an import pick. Why would Seattle be rewarded for having 2 quality imports by being able to trade something that they can't use? Effectively, they would be given a asset that had nothing but trade value. No reason leagues should just be handing out bargaining chips.

Again, not saying I agree, just that I can kind of understand the logic.

Thunnex said...

I guess my counter would be that both the Bantam Draft and Import Draft (like most sports leagues drafts) are used for competitive balance purposes.

The flip side is... you're rewarding a team with a 1st round pick with a 3rd pick but you aren't "rewarding" a team who successfully picked two players who are good enough to have back.

Marc S said...

The worse part is there were picks for this import draft traded before the rules went into effect, so some teams had traded for higher picks and some couldn't. They should have put this in effect on a draft where everyone had their original picks. They should also get rid of the other two rules.

I'm not sure what the value of an import player will be in a trade. I know Seattle got a crazy amount from Portland, in my opinion, for Nobels, but it is a player that you can only have two of so you are looking for a team that in Everett's case needs a defenseman and has the opening for a Euro. So if they wanted to trade with Seattle, Seattle has plenty of D-men and two Euros they are happy with. The rule for the first round NHL Euro seems like it would encourage getting more than 2 Euros in the WHL per team then having to send players that wanted to play in NA home. That doesn't seem like very good business and might lead Euros to not want to come to NA.

The other thing that hurts the T-birds is next year they are probably going to want 2 Euros and instead of using their 1st round pick to trade for another 1st next year they will have to use a 1st and 2nd next year to get their two Euros. It will really encourage teams to have Euros that are different ages so they can maximize their first round picks.

Jon said...

Marc, I actually disagree with you on the value of Mueller.

He is better then 90% of Euro's playing out there. And quite possible the best defender of them.

He would be an upgrade over most teams import players. So I see lots of teams that would be willing to get rid of one of their under performing players for him.

As we all know, finding a Euro willing to come play in NA is difficult. Finding one that is good is more difficult. Finding one that is really good is even more difficult. And finding one that is a proven experienced player in the league is almost impossible.

Also, since Mueller has two years left (unless he goes to the NHL this season or next), that is very rare.

And also, it is the start of the year, so all teams are looking at upgrades / filling roster spots. It is not the trading deadline where you are only looking at a couple teams.

Anonymous said...

Why is it teams with just a 1st rd NHL pick that get rewarded with opportunity to select 2 Imports? What happens if a team has an Import drafted in the later rounds who makes a huge leap to the NHL at age 18 or 19? I realize the odds are against that but the rule seems to be punishing Seattle for only having an Import drafted in the 4th rd and rewarding Evt for havinga player drafted in the 1st rd. Maybe we should get an extra bantam pick for Theodore? JK

Marc S said...

I think the rule is trying to compensate if the Euro ends up in the NHL after being drafted in the first round. It still lets that team (Everett in this case) have two Euros. I don't think the rule is necessary since there are what 2-3 players that play in the NHL their 18 year old season?

Jon, you could be right, I suspect Portland could be interested in Mueller if he doesn't stick in the NHL since they might be losing quite a few defensemen from last year's team and they have a track record of paying a huge price for a Euro. Of course they would probably have to trade players since they seem to be missing first round picks for the next few years :) Maybe if Everett games the system really well the CHL will get rid of this rule.

Anonymous said...

I completely understand being upset by this rule. When I read the original post I was somewhat miffed as well. However, there is no guarantee for the Tips' that both of these imports turn out the way they had hoped. The import draft is still a gamble no matter how accurate your scouting reports are.
My point, a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush. The tips decided to take a risk free gamble and it looks like maybe it paid off, but we won't know that until next season is underway. If they go forward with trading Meuller, that deal will not be risk free, especially if they deal him to Portland or Vancouver, or one of the other western conference monsters. If I were in charge in Everett I would see this as a good problem to have but I would also have serious reservations about letting go of a guy like Mirco Meuller for two others who have never yet played with the rest of the tips team.
Having said that, I do think this new set of rules is going to make the 1st round nhl drafted Euros especially valuable, but why not reward good drafting? Everett could still fumble things from here and end up regretting it. At the end of the day we either have it or we don't. I would take Lippy and Delnov over just about any other 1-2 euro pairing in the league.

(For those of you who are still upset, I offer one possible remedy. The league could pass regulations like this: any team that has three drafted and signed euros cannot trade one of them away but must instead drop one from the list without capital return. This would make a guy like Hopponen think twice before giving a team like Everett the thumbs up on drafting him. It would also mean that the extra pick would be roughly equal in value to the picks a team like Seattle would have on draft day. i.e. zero value.)

Anonymous said...

on that last post I meant to say "any team that under the new rules has drafted and signed THREE euros cannot trade one of them away but instead must drop one from the roster with no gain...." LOL:p

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