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Is Luke Schenn worth more to the Leafs—or somebody else?

I like Luke Schenn’s game.  The young man is 21 and was already building last season toward becoming the kind of physical, punishing, defensively aware shutdown-defenseman that every team craves—and should be loathe to give up.

So I am hardly advocating that he should be trade bait, regardless of whether the Leafs sign him peacefully this week or a “hold out” becomes a minor training camp distraction. (As an aside, if Doughty think he's worth 7 million plus a season for umpteen years to the LA Kings, what is Schenn worth? 5 million?)

As rumours circulate (they always do, what would the hockey world be without rumours…?) that some NHL teams would love to get their hands on a young defenseman like Schenn (who wouldn't?), it does raise at the very least a question:  Is Schenn worth more to the Leafs, or to someone else?

By that I mean we know he has value here.  His career arc suggests he will be, at worst, a big-minutes top-four d-man.  He may well be a first-pair guy before this season is over.  What that means in financial/contractual terms I don’t much care, other than in terms of the impact his signing will have on the Leafs’ cap situation.  But good players have to be paid, as ridiculously high as some of us feel salaries have continued to be.

But what is he worth to someone else?  What might another team be willing to offer in order to get a defenseman who brings significant potential, someone who may be a star for the next ten years or more?

Again, I am not looking to trade Schenn.  Someone wrote to me this week and said, basically, he wants the Leafs to stop moving young players, as they did for so many years, while trying to bring some grizzled veterans to town who might get them to the playoffs, or in the good years, to possibly get them “over the top”.

I of course understand that position.  But one thing Burke has done is build a young team, with more guys on the way.  Yes, on the one hand I love the idea of having this really young group of talented guys who will grow together and be a really strong team year after year.

It’s just that I’m not convinced this team is really all that talented.

Now, I do see some skill here, and a bit of grit.  (More effort and work ethic than actual grit, but that’s OK…)  And as I said last season, the East is not an overwhelmingly strong Conference (though there is some very good goaltending), and parity has arrived in the NHL such that almost everyone is a potential playoff team in any given year.  So the Leafs become a playoff contender based partly on their improvement and partly by default because of the general weakness of the Conference.

But could they improve their team even more if they did consider moving Schenn?

I’m only asking the question.

Sometimes other organizations value your guys even higher than the host team does.  I know in Toronto we are often rightly accused of commonly over-rating our players at the best of times, but there are indeed occasions when someone (out of their own desperation to get better in a particular area or because of cap realities) are willing to make a move to obtain a young player that they would not otherwise make.

What would a former high first-rounder, top-two, already “proven” NHL defenseman like Schenn be worth?  I’m not talking more futures, more draft choices.  I’m thinking bona fide forwards, star-caliber impact players.

For the sake of September argument sake, given that the Leafs already have a core of Phaneuf, Gunnarsson and Aulie (and everyone seems so high on Franson and Liles) and we still have Komisarek and young guys chomping at the bit in the minors, could we afford to make a move, in order to obtain real quality up front?  Maybe even forwards now in their prime?

As fans, there’s nothing wrong with asking the questions.  We don’t have (or get) to make the decisions.

Would I love to keep Schenn for years?  Of course.  But might he draw even more value in return?

You don’t know if you don’t ask.


  1. As I Imagine I hear the howls of outrage across the 'Barilkosphere" as Kid K, I think, put it the other day, I have to say you've nailed how a manager has to think. I love how Schenn plays and has grown. His attention to the little things, and his big hits, mark him as one of the league's future top D-men. BUT... if we could get a bona fide top 6 center, and two other league-ready players, say a winger and defenceman... or two consecutive first round picks as well... that would be something to think about.
    The reason I'd be doubtful, and probably not make the trade, is the importance of great D-men in the playoffs. We've got the makings of a formidable squad of blueliners, and I think Luke's too integral to it.
    Great question!!

  2. I think Schenn is going to be an excellent d-man for years to come. I happen to think that his offense will come along quite nicely this year and he will be 40-45 point guy while playing tough minutes.
    It would take alot to trade him but if some team were willing to give up a 70-80 point forward under the age of 25 I would do it. The Leafs need offense and to get a good one they need to give up value. Now is Schenn worth that much right now? I don't know but what if he is packaged with Kadri for, say a Bobby Ryan or a Joe Pavelski. That is the type of deal I would accept. Your not giving up futures for washed up vets. Your dealing from a posistion of strength to address a weakness.
    Then again I would be quite happy to let both Schenn and Kadri grow and mature in the system while becoming potential foundations for a very good Leaf team. As I said once before this is a win win situation for the Leafs (a bigger gamble on trading Schenn than Kadri though).

  3. Thanks Gerund O'...As I stressed in the post, I'm not advocating moving Schenn...simply raising the point that while you never want to give up a young defenseman, other teams may put an awfully high value on someone like him, and as a result, might be willing to part with something very valuable...possibly even more valuable than Schenn...

  4. Wilbur, I think it's reasonable to at least have the conversation. No one is suggesting we need to move Schenn. Who doesn't like having young defensemen on their team who will probably get better and better over time?

    But as you state, who knows what's out there, in terms of what other teams may be prepared to part with? I'm sure Schenn will sign, so that's not an issue, I don't think. But might some team need what he brings so badly that they give up real quality in return, where they have a lot of depth?

    It would be interesting to know if other teams have in fact made serious offers...

  5. I DON'T understand asking the question, as everyone wants to politely put it. We should be happy to have this guy for 5 a year. Hasn't anyone else watched him play? How long has it been since we had a good young developing star on the team? It gets me because a lot of the voices out there bitch about how we never have draft picks, and are building the team the wrong way (ie, trading draft picks)... then when we get the real deal, under 21, coming along nicely, hey, let's trade him. Come on. Find another way--Luke should be untouchable, simple as that.

  6. You don't move Schenn unless he's packaged for a Tavares/Stamkos type. It's just not worth it, imo.

    Bobby Ryan for Kadri and Schenn? Yowza. Schenn is 21, and already one of the premier defenceman in the league. Bobby Ryan is a special player, but not special enough to cost us our two best young players.

    - MLHSLuke

  7. Man, we would have to get a King's ransom (by that I mean Kopitar, of course :) in return in order for me to feel happy about losing the best defensive prospect we've had in a loooong time. Ultimately, the team always comes before a single individual, but a habit of letting go of and not nurturing and investing in your best players will give you nothing but busted dreams, I think.
    Here's my offer- I'll sign on to any trade involving Luke Schenn the day after we win a Cup with him.

  8. Also, my immediate reaction is that Schenn has at least the same value as Pavelski, and very close, say 80% of Bobby Ryan's.

  9. Hi KidK, I realized as I was posting this that some readers may think I am saying we should trade Schenn. I tried to make it clear that that is not what I am suggesting.

    I'm mostly "asking the question", and interested in what Leaf fans think. As you know, I've been watching them for 50+ years. I hated when they gave up a young Rod Seiling in the Bathgate deal in 1964. They won a Cup, but paid for it for years.

    They traded Jim Dorey, Randy Carlyle, Al Iafrate (though they got the very steady Bob Rouse in return). Then there was Danny Markov. So I absolutely understand if current Leaf fans don't want us to move one of the few young defensemen with real grit and potential that we have developed ourselves in recent times.

    I don't, either. But I was simply wondering what value other teams may place on someone like Schenn. If it was ridiculously high (because, say, a team doesn't have the young depth on defence that the Leafs now have) and they made an offer, wouldn't Burke have to at least listen?

    Fortunately, we fans don't make these decisions. But it's fun to put things out there, to be discussed in a thoughtful manner.

  10. MLHSLuke....thanks for your comment. As I mentioned in earlier responses, it is merely a point of discussion. I am not advocating a trade. But if another GM offered something truly substantial, Burke, like any GM, would likely listen.

  11. Absolutely we (and by we I mean the Leafs front office =P) should be considering all avenues of improving this team. With guys like Gardiner, Blacker, Olden, Lashoff etc. in the system who look like they all could be legitimate NHL defensemen within a couple seasons (possibly sooner), why shouldn't the Leafs do all they can to improve the team going forward. I think Lashoff showed a lot of potential at the end of the season last year, and could step into an NHL role right away in the bottom pairing. A top 7 of Phaneuf/Aulie/Gunnar/Liles/Franson/Lashoff/Komi with Gardiner/Blacker/Olden waiting in the wings doesn't concern me in the least. If as a result of "suffering" through those players we can get a top 6 kind of guy like a Bobby Ryan or a Pavelski, I would pull the trigger in an instant. With better goaltending and a maturing young defensive core, what the Leafs need most is legitimate offensive potency.

  12. Don't worry, Michael, I know what kind of discussion you were trying to kick start. I'm actually pretty proud of myself for my reasonable response to the post. For a minute, I considered setting fire to this blog, but then I reconsidered. ;)

  13. Thanks again KidK...hey, you maintained your composure! Leafs will have to do that at times this season, too, eh?

    I just enjoy hearing well-forumulated opinions on all sides of an issue. (You always come through, which I appreciate...)

    Sometimes you have to throw out the question to see where people are at. I like Schenn a lot, and others do too, of course, including other NHL GM's...

  14. This would just be good asset management. The Leafs have a strong (on paper) and evolving blue line and it would behoove them, if they indeed feel that they can get the type of return they feel he's worth, to at the very least, listen to offers. I can't really speculate what they feel he's worth, but perhaps it would be the kind of deal that they used to acquire Aulie and Gardiner in that they helped a team in a cap crunch and benefited from taking on a onerous contract to get young controllable assets. Maybe a team to keep an eye on would be Columbus. They have traditionally been closer to a cap-floor team and only have $2M and change open. I don't see much in the way of forwards that they would be willing/able to move, but if the cap does come down after this year it wouldn't surprise me to see them try and cash out some of their younger guys (ie. Matt Calvert).

  15. So the question is if we get a substantial return for Luke we would have to consider trading him? I think that would be correct and would possibly happen if Luke was not seen as part of the teams core of players. Top flight 1st line elite talent is very desirable but that can be said with any elite talent. The question is, is Luke potentially elite? If so, no way he moves as you will be effectively exchanging one hole in you roster with an even larger hole - when one considers the importance of a quality dman over a forward. The lack of punch up front with the offense can be easily, and in my eyes better, via scoring by committee as many Leafs teams have done in the past as shutting down 2-3 lines is a hell of a lot harder to do than a superstar on one line. If a top flight forward is desired, I think you look at other ways of closing that hole without having causing another hole that will be just as hard to re-fill, especially considering where you will be opening that hole on this team with a back end that it currently has.

  16. I've always said that, for the right price, I would be OK with us trading any player. That isn't to say I'm sitting here advocating we start shopping the entire roster, but the simple fact is that there isn't a position where we can't improve. Take Grabbo for example - I'd be desperately disappointed to see him traded, but if it was a move that made us a better team, I'd ultimately accept that.

    As far as Schenn goes, there really aren't many realistic(ish) trades we could make that would make us a better team. Particularly if you consider the return would have to be a significant forward, which in a lot of cases would mean the team acquiring Schenn would fill one hole while creating another. But if there was a GM willing to pay over the odds for him, then I would at least entertain the idea. Would I actually pull the trigger on a deal? Difficult to say hypothetically, especially without so much as a rumoured deal to form that opinion on.

    All I know is that I wouldn't envy Brian Burke if there was an offer on the table that tempted him, and he had to make that decision!

  17. BB26, Hail and Donnyb, all well-stated positions. Exactly what I appreciate reading with this kind of post. Thanks.

  18. Darryl, thanks for the comment. Well put.

  19. I'd trade him straight up for Jonathan Toews - not sure Stan Bowman would go for it though.

  20. My question is this, why do some people insist on saying players are untouchable? This team has not made the playoffs in six years, why would any player be untouchable? I like Schenn, he is in fact my favourite player on the team but if we could get a top six player who is under 25 for him I would at the very least consider the possibility. Does this mean I would be actively shopping him? Not at all, I really think he could be a cornerstone d-man for years to come. Then again we do tend to over rate our players here in TO. I mean one guy here called Schenn a premier d-man in the league, is he really? Or is he a second pairing type of guy? Remember when Komisarek came over, he was supposed to be one of the best shut down guys in the league too.

    I guess all I am saying is that with a team that hasn't played playoff hockey in six years and is still not a very good team, although improving and IMO getting better, no player should be untouchable and all avenues to getting better should be explored.

    One last thing too trading a young player now is not like the years before. Our farm system has a lot of decent young players. The cupboards are not empty and now is the time to be making trades to get better.

  21. Schenn is worth keeping, but his value is high right now, especially after leading the NHL in hits. He's going to be a solid d-man for years, he's a lot like an Adam Foote type dman. Trading Schenn depends what the return player would be. A legit 1st line Center would be a must, in my opinion. Personally I would keep him. D-men who can handle the high pressure of playing in Toronto are rare. Schenn is one of them.

  22. Looks like Schenn will be around $4M a year. I say keep him unless Burke gets a deal he can't turn down.

  23. Not only is Schenn one of the best young D-men in the league, he is a super nice guy and role model. He is a keeper and potential future Captain of the Leafs. I would not trade this guy for anyone other than Toews, who I think is a Stevie Y clone.