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The Campoli trade: One more look

Tom Benjamin has an interesting look at the Chris Campoli trade and why, given Bryan Murray's situation (of his own making), it made sense for Ottawa to trade that pick for a young, cost-controlled NHL defenseman with some room for improvement.

In postscript, Benjamin also questions the wisdom of "full rebuild mode" for any NHL franchise. It's more of an afterthought, citing teams stuck in the dregs without an Ovechkin-level star, but I don't think the theory bears out. Because for every St. Louis (which has had Islanders-level injury misfortune), there is a Toronto -- a team that suffered in mediocrity by not recognizing the need for a rebuild.

Regardless, the Islanders are a separate case because they had no choice: They cannot currently draw top-tier free agents, and their Milbury's Ashes prospect cupboard was thin. Going back to square one this season, rather than patching mediocrity with free agent Fedotenkos, was a necessary (albeit painful) step -- the kind of step a GM can take only when he has his owner's complete confidence, which Snow only fully acquired toward the end of last season when Ted Nolan resisted full-on rebuild.

On that note -- granted, we already had our instant reaction on the trade -- does dealing away a 24-year-old D-man like Campoli fit a "rebuild" plan? Well, no and yes.

Ideally, you want to hang on to an asset you've developed, one who is still cheap like Campoli was. An asset who could be a #3 or #4 D-man with some offensive upside. One problem: This asset didn't want to stay. He sought a multi-faceted role for himself that he hadn't yet demonstrated he could handle -- apparently, a Streit-like role of heavy minutes, point production and competence in his own end.

So if you have to deal Campoli, is a #27-30 overall draft pick enough? Well first, you get what the market will bear. There aren't any Cup contenders (teams that would have a pick in that range) who think Campoli is the guy to push them over the top. No way. And you can bet your autographed Potvin jersey that no non-playoff team is going to give away their top pick (#1 - 14) for a "maybe" like Campoli, who was a 7th-rounder in his own draft year. In that context, a bad team's extra late-1st-round pick is just about right.

Initial impressions of the deal are in, but the final evaluation for this specific trade will of course hinge on what Campoli becomes vs. what -- if anything -- that pick becomes. And there's a decent chance that pick won't be much, but this is precisely where I think the deal fits the rebuild: Scott Cullen at TSN recently did a nice evaluation of all the draft slots from 1995 to 2004. Obviously, the success rate declines as you go from #1 down to #200-plus in a given draft. Cullen gives every pick a value from 1-10, with 10 being "generational" and 1 never having sniffed an NHL game.

Cullen's average score for draft slots 26-30 is 3.82, which by his scale works out to "very good minor leaguer" to "fringe NHLer." Initial reaction: Oh no! We wasted Campoli!

Not so fast. The average for the #1-5 slots -- the "sure thing" picks in the draft, mind you -- is 6.84, which works out to "top nine forward/six D" to "top six forward/two D." That's it.

The lesson, as always, is that the draft is still a crapshoot projection of what kind of physical and mental human beings a bunch of teenagers will become. Even in the top 10, you will have your Pavel Brendls and Daniel Tkaczuks, just as the 25-30 range will provide its share of Mike Greens and Martin Havlats.

You have to play the odds and trust your scouts. And what Snow has done is given himself another good roll of the dice or, alternatively, even more flexibility (two picks in the #26 to #34 range this summer, plus two additional 2nd-rounders including Toronto's) to package for an upgrade or draft-day deal.

This is the rebuilding game Snow committed himself to playing last summer when he decided to retool and begin molding the roster to fit Scott Gordon's system. His latest move -- once Campoli said he wanted out -- fits that game just fine.

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