Throughout the year, NHL team scouts exhaust many hours in cold rinks around the world breaking down the play of draft-eligible players with one common goal: Finding the next star for their respective teams. Sometimes, all of that effort gets expunged when a general manager deals high assets for an immediate return.
Minnesota Wild GM Chuck Fletcher recently gave up three high draft picks (including a first-round pick) to acquire Martin Hanzal at the trade deadline. After making the deal, he apologized to scouts for the time they spent researching those draft picks.
“Imagine being an amateur scout and you get a call basically on March 1 telling you, ‘We’ve traded our first-round pick,’ after you’ve been scouting for five months,” Fletcher told Michael Russo of the Minneapolis Star-Tribune. “You’re out slogging miles, and a lot of your focus is on the first round, it is on the top guy because that’s how the franchise is judged, that’s how you’re judged.
Fletcher’s Wild are among the NHL’s best teams, so trading future assets in exchange for immediate help isn’t a crazy proposition. What’s the point of having assets if you don’t use them to get closer to a Stanley Cup victory? Still, it’s got to be difficult telling scouts that their past several months spent compiling notes on potential draft picks won’t be used. Though that preparation won’t be used, it’s the work from Fletcher and the team’s scouts which allowed them to take a risk on Hanzal and compete for the Cup this season.
Plus, who knows? Maybe a projected top pick will fall deeply in the draft. Minnesota’s chances of landing a first-round talent are slim, but scouting those players wasn’t entirely purposeless despite the trade.
Of course, a giant Cup at the end of the year will make any scout forgive lost time.