On January 1st, 2015, the NHL put forth a new policy which would compensate teams whose executives and head coaches were hired by other teams while they were still under contract. The provision ultimately resulted in a total of eight draft picks trading hands; two second round picks and six third round picks.
By December 15th, 2015, Commissioner Gary Bettman announced that the policy would be eliminated, effective January 1st, 2016. The previous policy was put back in place by a unanimous decision at the Board of Governors meeting, with an understanding that being compensated for coaches or executives who had been fired but remained under contract, didn’t make a lot of sense.
When Ray Shero was fired by the Pittsburgh Penguins and later hired by the Devils, the draft pick compensation was waived by both teams.
Of the eight compensated signings, one pick still remains. The Devils received a 2018 third round pick as compensation for the Toronto Maple Leafs hiring Lou Lamoriello. Of the nine coach and executive signings within the period of the compensation policy, seven involved draft picks that have now been used, completing the transaction. Here are how those ‘trades’ shaped up.
Coach and GM ‘Trades’ Under 2015 Policy
Edmonton Oilers Sign Peter Chiarelli (GM)
Boston Bruins Receive Jack Studnicka (2017 2nd Rd. Pick)
On April 25th, 2015, the Oilers signed new general manager, Peter Chiarelli. A 10-year veteran GM with the Boston Bruins, Chiarelli was hired to turn around an Oilers roster that had compiled plenty of top draft picks but had been unable to string together any success.
In just over two years with Edmonton, Chiarelli has been a busy man, compiling 18 trade. While he has been acknowledged for his savvy deals that had turned the Bruins into a perennial contender, he’s been under fire with Oilers media and fans.
Specifically, Chiarelli was criticized for giving up a first and second round pick for AHLer, Griffen Reinhart. Then he dealt Taylor Hall to the Devils in a one-for-one deal for Adam Larsson. Most recently, he turned Jordan Eberle into Ryan Strome. While Connor McDavid has been able to carry the Oilers back into the playoffs, fans have found multiple reasons to be skeptical of Chiarelli’s abilities as GM.
The compensation pick that the Bruins received when the Oilers signed Chiarelli turned into Jack Studnicka, a 53rd overall pick. A member of the OHL’s Oshawa Generals, Studnicka scored 18 goals and 52 points in his NHL-Draft season. He is a strong center whose best asset is his skating ability. He sees the game well and has added a promising offensive element.
While the Oilers were certainly in a position to give up draft picks at the time of the Chiarelli signing, some questionable trades under his regime have Oilers fans wondering if this transaction was such a good idea.
Toronto Maple Leafs Sign Mike Babcock (Coach)
Detroit Red Wings Receive Lane Zablocki (2017 3rd Rd. Pick)
On May 20th, 2015, the Leafs announced the massive signing of head coach Mike Babcock. After spending 10 successful seasons as a member of the Red Wings, he was brought in as Toronto underwent a complete rebuild. While Babcock is a stranger to missing the playoffs, he still led a young group to the postseason in just his second year.
After grinding out a miserable 2015-16 season, the Leafs drafted Auston Matthews first overall and gave Babcock his young core to work with. The young guns flourished under his guidance, producing three of the top-six Calder Trophy vote leaders. Babcock was a Jack Adams Award finalist.
With the compensatory pick, the Red Wings selected Lane Zablocki with the 79th overall pick. Playing in the WHL, Zablocki was dealt from the Regina Pats to the Red Deer Rebels midway through the season. In total, he added 28 goals and 54 points. A versatile player, he has the ability to be a consistent goal-scorer and is continuing to trend upwards.
Looking back at the final details of this signing, the Leafs would have never done anything differently. Babcock has fast forwarded what was supposed to be three to five years of pain into one of the most exciting teams in the League in just two years.
Buffalo Sabres Sign Dan Bylsma (Coach)
Pittsburgh Penguins Receive William Lockwood (2016 3rd Rd. Pick)
The Buffalo Sabres announced the new direction of their team on May 28th, 2015 with the hiring of Dan Bylsma. The former Penguins bench boss spent five and a half years in Pittsburgh, where he captured a Stanley Cup in 2009. Like Babcock, Bylsma was brought in with a brand new core of young players to mould into a Cup contender.
Unfortunately, on April 20th, 2017, Bylsma was fired by the Sabres. In his two years with the team, Bylsma led Buffalo to a 68-73-23 record, including a 27-point jump in his first year behind the bench. However, the team missed the playoffs in both years and turmoil took over the Sabres management team, with GM Tim Murray getting the boot on the same day as Bylsma.
The Penguins then traded their compensation pick, the 64th pick in 2016, to the Vancouver Canucks in a package deal with Brandon Sutter in return for Nick Bonino, Adam Clendening and the 55th overall pick in 2016, Filip Gustavsson. Bonino has been a part of back-to-back Stanley Cups with the Pens, while Lockwood remains a Canucks prospect and just enjoyed a promising freshman year at the University of Michigan.
Of course, looking back on this signing, the Sabres likely wished they had gone in a different direction. They are left without any assets from the acquisition and were unable to accomplish any of their goals while Bylsma was with the team. Now, they are hoping that recently hired head coach, Phil Housley, can bring them the success they had desired from Bylsma.
San Jose Sharks Sign Peter DeBoer (Coach)
New Jersey Devils Receive Reilly Walsh (2017 3rd Rd. Pick)
On the same day as the Bylsma signing, the San Jose Sharks announced a hiring of their own, signing Peter DeBoer as their new head coach. After a 13-year stint in the OHL, DeBoer coached the Florida Panthers for three years, and then the Devils for three and a half before being let go. He was brought into a different atmosphere in San Jose, taking over for a perennial contender looking to take the next step.
And boy, did he ever make a grand first impression. In his first year with the Sharks, he led them to their first Stanley Cup Final appearance in franchise history. His second season was successful as well, but not to the same heights as 2015-16. Overall, San Jose has played to a 92-59-13 record under DeBoer’s wing.
The Devils made their compensation pick at 81st overall in 2017, selecting Reilly Walsh. Drafted out of Proctor Academy, the defenceman annihilated the USHS, scoring 30 goals and 69 points in 30 games. He also appeared in 24 USHL games, adding 10 points. Walsh is slated to play his freshman season at Harvard University in 2017-18.
You won’t hear the Sharks complaining about missing out on the opportunity to draft Walsh, as it allowed them to make their only appearance in the Finals in their 25-year history. DeBoer may find it tough for the next few years as he tries to replicate his success with an ageing core.
New Jersey Devils Sign John Hynes (Coach)
Pittsburgh Penguins Receive James Greenway (2016 3rd Rd. Pick)
Shortly after seeing their previous head coach sign in San Jose, the New Jersey Devils filled their hole by hiring John Hynes. He spent a decade with the U.S. National Development Program, then spent six years coaching the Penguins’ AHL affiliate. As a rookie NHL coach, Hynes would be in tough to turn around a slumping Devils organization with no true direction.
In Hynes’ first two years with the Devils, the team has continued a five-year streak of missing the playoffs. His NHL coaching record is 66-76-22. However, the future is finally looking up, with picks like Nico Hischier, Michael McLeod, John Quenneville, and more coming through the ranks.
The Penguins traded the pick they received in a blockbuster deal that included Kasperi Kapanen and a first round pick to the Leafs in return for Phil Kessel. Kessel has been a key cog in the Pens’ run to back-to-back Cups, adding 45 points in 49 playoff games. Toronto would use the compensatory pick to draft James Greenway at 72nd overall. Greenway has played one year of NCAA hockey at the University of Wisconsin.
In reality, the Devils weren’t expecting Hynes to be able to take their team on a sudden playoff run. They will be hoping that he is the man for the job when it comes to nourishing their bright prospects into NHL stars and get New Jersey back into contention.
Edmonton Oilers Sign Todd McLellan (Coach)
San Jose Sharks Receive Mike Robinson (2015 3rd Rd. Pick)
Not long after filling their general manager vacancy, the Oilers went out and filled their head coaching spot by signing Todd McLellan on June 27th, 2015. After a seven-year stint with the Sharks, McLellan was let go after missing the playoffs for the first time. The Oilers were looking for a coach with playoff experience, hoping to boost a team full of players without such experience, and got that with McLellan.
Following a disappointing 2015-16 season in which the Oilers were unable to take any steps forward, McLellan pushed the team back to the playoffs, on the back of Connor McDavid, for the first time in 11 years in 2016-17. The Oilers 103 points in the regular season was also the first time they had broken the 100-point plateau since 1986-87, a streak spanning parts of four decades. As a result, McLellan was a finalist for the Jack Adams Award.
As for the Sharks, they would use their compensation pick to select Mike Robinson 86th overall in 2015. In his two years post draft, Robinson has played in the USPHL Premier League as well as the NAHL. At this time, the 20-year-old does not look like a legitimate NHL prospect.
The Oilers will have no regrets over the price they paid to be able to bring on McLellan, as he’s been able to bring the team back into contention as well as bring some long awaited optimism to Oil Country.
Columbus Blue Jackets Sign John Tortorella (Coach)
Vancouver Canucks Receive Jonah Gadjovich (2017 2nd Rd. Pick)
With 0-7-0 record to start the 2015-16 season, the Columbus Blue Jackets made an immediate change by hiring John Tortorella in hopes of turning the year around. The always entertaining Tortorella held head coaching positions with the Tampa Bay Lightning for seven years, as well as with the Rangers for five years and the Canucks for one.
After slightly bettering the Blue Jackets’ record in 2015-16, Tortorella was able to turn a new leaf in 2016-17 and propel his team to their best season in franchise history, topping 100 points for the first time, with 108, and clinching a playoff spot for just the third time ever. Along the way, Torts helped many players to career seasons, and was ultimately rewarded with the Jack Adams Award, as the NHL’s coach of the year.
More than a full calendar year after parting ways with Tortorella, the Canucks were more than pleased to receive a 55th overall pick as compensation. Vancouver selected Jonah Gadjovich with the pick in 2017, a strong winger with tremendous net presence, who potted 46 goals in 60 games with the Owen Sound Attack of the OHL.
In the end, this signing worked wonders for both parties. While the Blue Jackets certainly wish they could’ve retained their pick, you won’t hear them complaining after Tortorella brought them a Jack Adams Award and a franchise best season.
Contributor for the Toronto Maple Leafs and Prospects. Scout with the Oakville Blades of the OJHL. For questions, concerns, or comments, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or on twitter @SlawsonTHW.