Leafs Smash Home Run in Winnik Swap

The Leafs have jumped the gun on the trade deadline – which is smart since it makes them worse earlier and allows them to focus on bigger deals leading up to Monday – and traded Daniel Winnik to the Penguins in exchange for a 2016 second-round pick, a 2015 fourth-round  pick, and Zach Sill. The Leafs also retain half of Winnik’s salary against their salary-cap.

This trade is a fantastic move by Toronto as it’s a trade they can’t lose on, and one which they very likely could be celebrating several years from now.

In order to understand why it’s an excellent move by Toronto, you must understand a few things:

1.  The Leafs are trying to build their team for the future and one of the best ways to do this is to draft high in the upcoming NHL Entry Draft.  In order to ensure this, it is helpful to trade away one of your best players. Now, the fact that Daniel Winnik is one of their best players is probably why we’re even having this discussion, but whatever.

2. Retaining Winnik’s salary doesn’t matter.  If it helps the Penguins make the trade, who cares? Winnik’s deal is only for this season and then he’s an unrestricted free-agent and the Leafs are certainly not looking to add salary for this season so any space taken up by retaining Winnik’s salary doesn’t matter.

Daniel Winnik

3. Winnik was so sought after because he’s a good player who is a UFA after this season – with the Leafs retaining half of his salary, Pittsburgh gets an above average player for  close to the price of the league minimum, and thus was probably then willing to pay more than they otherwise would have.

4. If the Leafs kept Winnik, they would lose him at the end of the season for nothing.  Trading him now has no bearing on whether or not they want to re-sign him in the summer, although I suspect that at a higher salary Winnik turns into Komarov – a nice player who’s probably overpaid.

5. Zach Sill is a throw-in who makes 500K and when his salary is added to the money the Leafs retained on Winnik, it means the Penguins get Winnik for only 100K more than they were paying Sill (assuming my math is right) which  would explain their willingness to deal two additional picks.  Sill isn’t a very good player and his contract expires after this season, so he is basically just a warm body that allows the Leafs and Penguins to circumvent the salary cap in a roundabout way.  I would say it’s highly unlikely the Leafs re-sign Sill after this season, though you never know.


6.  When the Leafs signed Winnik this past summer, it didn’t cost them anything. So what we have here today is a “found money” situation.

Zach Sill scored his first NHL goal on Wednesday, snapping a 51-game scoreless drought to begin his NHL career. (Perry Nelson/USA TODAY Sports)
Zach Sill (Perry Nelson/USA TODAY Sports)


The Leafs have refused to deal expiring contracts during the last several years – losing Kulemin, MacArthur and others for nothing.  This is one of the main reasons the current team is so bad: years of poor asset management can’t help but have a cumulative and detrimental effect on any organization, let alone a hockey team.

By showing that the new regime understands the importance of asset management, this trade, along with the earlier Nashville trade, is an excellent sign that the team is in competent hands going forward.

 A second-round pick next year and a fourth-round pick this season may not sound like a lot, but there are theories about drafting that suggest the best way to ensure success is not just in scouting (which, even at the best of times is a crap-shoot) but rather quantity of draft picks and simply playing the percentages.  As the article here shows, the odds of a second round pick and a fourth round pick turning into an NHL player are roughly 60%.  Considering that a first round pick offers you 80% odds of getting an NHL player, what the Leafs got for a player they acquired for nothing is a package of picks that works out to about 75% of a first round pick.

That my friends, is a home run.




18 thoughts on “Leafs Smash Home Run in Winnik Swap”

  1. It is more of a single. They basically got a 2nd rounder for a solid 3rd line player. Sill would have gone on waivers and sent to the minors due to Winnik coming in. The 4th is for the salary considerations. The 2nd will end up being a late pick, probably somewhere in the mid 50’s. Certainly not a home rum by any means.

  2. Sill is a bottom 6 energy player that hits, fights, and is a great teammate. I’ve watched him play in the AHL and with Pittsburgh. He didn’t fit on their 4th line because his other linemates are far worse, and are not goal scorers in their own right. If he’s given decent linemates he’ll excel.

    • Actually, it was Zach Sill who was holding his linemates back.

      Craig Adams (who I’m assuming you’re referring to) had a Corsi for % of 50 and a goals for % of 57 when he was NOT on the ice with Zach Sill.

      Those numbers with Sill? 48% Corsi for, 33% goals for.

      I think it’s fairly easy to judge who the real anchor on that line was. And the eye test pretty much proves it unless you’ve got an axe to grind elsewhere. Sill was bad. There’s not much defending his play. He was that bad. Also, you think Sill is better than either Lapierre or Goc? Laughable.

  3. Winnik and “above average” in the same sentence is beyond laughable. The Leafs won this minor, rather meaningless trade because they got SOMETHING for Winnik.

    • The Pens are a better team today than yesterday because of the trade. That’s all you can ask for going into the playoffs.

        • They paid extra to get Toronto to retain salary. At ~ 600k it’s basically like getting another player back. Also, there’s no guarantee that next year’s draft is going to be anything special. A 2nd round pick in any draft only has like a 20% success rate in making it to the NHL. It’s really not that much of an “overpayment”.

  4. Hardly a “home run”. It’s a solid trade by Nonis and the Leafs very likely won the trade – being dramatic over such a minor trade is foolish. A “home run” would have been (somehow, in some dimension), being able to get a first-rounder in 2015 (which has already been dealt to EDM for Perron), or a second-rounder in 2015, or a first-rounder for 2016, or a defender like Pouliot or Harrington.
    Just wait until the likes of Kessel, Phaneuf, Gardiner and others are shopped around (if not already). The real test of Nonis’ ability as GM (and direction or where the Leafs are going) should be judged based on those moves.

    • Nonis has no real ability as a GM. I’m sure this trade was mostly Hunter and Dubas with a little bit of Shanahan thrown in for good measure.

    • Nobody is going anywhere near Phaneuf, he is just awful and with a huge contract. They could retain all of his salary for this year and i think people would still avoid him……

    • I agree, Im not even sure that Leafs ‘won’. Sill is just a body, not much use. A couple of draft picks could come in handy but they’re both VERY deep. There’s a strong possibility that neither ever play in the NHL. Winnik on the other hand was pretty good. Small cap hit (1.3) and decent numbers, great (Leafs leading) plus/minus and some decent offensive output. In my mind, Nonis should’ve resigned him (at 1.3 ish) and should really be focusing on the other end of the pay roll – just as you suggested!

  5. Really good trade by the Leafs. I’m surprised the Pens gave up that much for him or that any other team would have matched a 2nd rounder, let alone a 2nd rounder plus.

    • The Pens have such an overabundance of good young defensemen in their system that after the season they could deal one or 2 to get some draft picks back if they want to. Also, the “plus” is a 4th-rounder, which is not a round where one is likely to acquire much of a difference-maker, and Zack Sill, who is simply one of the least talented players in the NHL. Yes, it was a steep price, but the Pens could afford to make the deal. In any event, it’s still a good deal for Toronto.

    • Pens needed to upgrade their bottom 6. Sill isn’t an NHL quality player and the extra draft pick was probably to take his salary and also pay half of Winniks’s. I don’t think any team is going to lose sleep over giving up a 4th round draft pick with an upside of an average NHL player. As for the 2nd rounder, scouts aren’t high on the 2016 draft so maybe that pick projects to another average NHL player.

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