I thought this was a really great article idea – comparing one sports’ offseason to another is a complex undertaking, but what a fun thought experiment! Then I realized, this is the second straight article of mine making some NHL-NBA comparison… and I don’t even like basketball! I don’t hate it, it’s fine, but it’s in fourth place among the four major sports for me. So, I promise, this is it! My next article will be strictly about hockey. Or at the very least, I will compare hockey to something other than basketball, like the Franco-Prussian War.
Anyway, in case you’ve been living under a rock, or in Seattle, you know that this NBA offseason was a whirlwind. More stars changed jerseys than I can remember in my lifetime, in scenarios we’d never seen before. A conference finalist traded a starting point guard, to the team they lost to in the Conference Finals, for THEIR starting point guard (among others). That’s just lunacy, and it wasn’t even the biggest move of the offseason.
The NHL offseason, on the other hand, was not nearly as exciting, so let’s find the best NHL comparison I can for each big NBA move and examine how it would affect the league.
Now some ground rules here to help this along:
-The salary cap was not considered.
-Each NHL team can only be equated with a single NBA team.
NBA Move: Gordon Hayward Signs With The Boston Celtics
Hayward left the Utah Jazz this offseason to sign with the Boston Celtics, a move that only strengthened the roster of a team that finished first in the Eastern Conference last season. For this comparison, we are looking for a player with some years of experience, but who would still be considered young and talented. This player should also have spent last season as arguably the best player on a young team that showed some promise but was ultimately not a serious contender. I briefly considered Mikael Granlund as the comparison here, but felt that Minnesota’s strong regular season showing ruled him out. Therefore our Gordon Hayward parallel is…
NHL Comparison: Bryan Little Signs a 4-Year Contract With the Washington Capitals
The Capitals won the President’s Trophy last year, finishing with the best record in the Eastern Conference, but lost in the Conference Finals to the team that finished just behind them in the standings, a team with the best player in the world leading them. Washington tries to get over the hump by signing Bryan Little, a 29-year-old center from Winnipeg. Little, who in reality signed a 6-year extension with Winnipeg, decides in our universe to join a young, talented team in search of the pieces that will get them past Sidney Crosby.
Now, this comparison is not perfect. Little signed a contract extension this offseason, however he was not a free agent. Winnipeg also missed the playoffs. But, Little and Granlund were my two finalists, and Little was a stronger comparison. This deal will become important later, since we’ve established who the Celtics and Cavaliers NBA counterparts are.
NBA Move: The Chicago Bulls Trade Jimmy Butler to the Timberwolves
The Bulls traded their biggest star, Butler, to the Wolves. They also swapped first round picks and acquired young guards Zach LaVine and Kris Dunn in the deal.
For this comparison we need to find a team that made the playoffs, but was lacking a real direction and identity and was largely powered by an aging core. Their trade partner should be a team with a core of young stars, who feels ready to give a pair of good players up for a talented veteran to complement their franchise player, Karl-Anthony Towns. I’m sure you already see where I’m going with this.
NHL Comparison: The Rangers Deal Ryan McDonagh to the Toronto Maple Leafs
Feeling that a 34-year-old Henrik Lundqvist is running out of years to drag the Rangers to the postseason, the Rangers make a bold move. Looking to start the youth movement, they send McDonagh to Toronto. Toronto sends back Mitch Marner and William Nylander, retaining Auston Matthews as the franchise piece. The teams swapped first-round picks as well, which means Timothy Liljegren ends up in New York and the Leafs select Filip Chytil.
Here, the Rangers reset their franchise’s direction with some very promising young pieces, and the Leafs bring in a star that solidifies the team up the middle – Frederik Anderson in goal, McDonagh on the blue line, and Matthews at center. This trio is now the NHL version of the Timberwolves’ Butler, Karl-Anthony Towns, and Andrew Wiggins. Both teams can feel good about this deal. Another big trade is next…
NBA Move: Indiana Sends Paul George to the OKC Thunder
The Pacers missed their championship contention window and needed to get something in return for George before his seemingly-inevitable signing with another team (possibly the Lakers?) next offseason. The Pacers sent George to Oklahoma City for an underwhelming return of Victor Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis. The Thunder, still reeling from the loss of Kevin Durant, brought in George to compliment Russell Westbrook and keep a title window open. Now, my original thought here was to turn back the clock a year, send Steven Stamkos to the two-time champion Penguins, and have them find a replacement for the star center to play with Nikita Kucherov. This doesn’t work however, because the Penguins are already the Cavs in our universe. Therefore we have to go out west…
NHL Comparison: Ottawa Trades Erik Karlsson to the Dallas Stars
To find our Kevin Durant on ice, we need to go back to the 2016 offseason, where Jamie Benn decides that Dallas will not be able to build a championship roster around him. Instead of re-signing, Benn joins already the already loaded Chicago Blackhawks. Chicago already boasts a roster featuring Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews, Artemi Panarin (in our NBA like offseason, he isn’t sent to Columbus) and Duncan Keith. Much like when Durant joined Curry, Green, Thompson and Iguodala in Golden State, fans will have rolled their eyes when Benn took “The Hardest Road” to the Windy City. After being blindsided with the departure of a franchise player, the Stars need to find someone to join Tyler Seguin, and fast.
Luckily for Dallas, the Ottawa Senators are faced with the fear that Erik Karlsson won’t be willing to sign in their price range next season, and scramble to find a trade partner before it’s too late. However, because they are unwilling to trade in the conference, their options are thin, and ultimately the Norris Trophy runner up gets flipped to Dallas. The return doesn’t help calm down a fan base incensed by Karlsson’s departure. Only Devin Shore and Stephen Johns become Senators, while the Stars find themselves instant contenders. The Stars aren’t done however…
NBA Move: The Thunder Acquire Carmelo Anthony
The Knicks traded their aging, disgruntled star in order to officially kick off the Kristaps Porzingis era (let’s all forget that business where Porzingis was also named in trade rumors). The Thunder continued a potential GOAT offseason by acquiring ‘Melo. We need an NHL team in the East with an aging, polarizing, but undeniably talented face of the franchise, who has a young star waiting in the wings. Our Knicks counterpart even plays a train ride away…
NHL Comparison: The Stars Trade For Claude Giroux
With Ivan Provorov, Nolan Patrick and Shayne Gostisbehere (who, like Kristaps, was also tangentially linked to trade rumors) ready to lead the youth movement, Ron Hextall thinks its time to move on from Giroux. Dallas continues a strong offseason by obtaining the 4-time All Star. Philadephia receives John Klingberg, Brett Ritchie, and a second round pick that becomes Jason Robertson. The Stars sign Seguin to a huge extension following this trade as well. Seguin, Giroux and Karlsson pose a threat to the overloaded Blackhawks and always formidable Ducks. Speaking of the Ducks…
NBA Move: Chris Paul Moves to the Houston Rockets
Chris Paul, at 32 years old, will be high on anyone’s list of the best players to never win a championship if he doesn’t get a ring soon. The Clippers haven’t been able to get it done with the Paul-Griffin duo, and ultimately traded the veteran point guard to the Houston Rockets for a big haul of young talent. Paul joins James Harden, often considered one of the best players in basketball. In the NHL this would mean…
NHL Comparison: The Ducks Send Ryan Getzlaf to the Edmonton Oilers
Now, Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry were actually both on the Stanley Cup winning ’06-07 roster, so the ring-chasing angle is not present here. That said, the Ducks do have a core that has not been able to cash in on an open window of contention the last several seasons, and Edmonton is a promising team that would love to add a nice compliment to Connor McDavid. In exchange for Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Jordan Eberle, Andrej Sekera, Matt Benning, Taylor Beck and next years 2nd round pick, the Oilers bring in Getzlaf to mentor McDavid and solidify an offense that also features Milan Lucic and Leon Draisaitl.
We said earlier that the Penguins and Capitals are the NHL’s Cavs and Celtics, which means that…
NBA Move: Kyrie Irving and Isaiah Thomas Switch Teams
Irving decided he was ready to lead a team. After years of playing second fiddle to LeBron James, Kyrie wanted out. The Cavs found a suitable trade partner in Boston and the two teams, just months after facing in the Eastern Conference Finals, flip-flopped starting point guards, with the Cavs also gaining Jae Crowder, Ante Zizac, and two draft picks, including the coveted Brooklyn Nets’ 2018 first rounder. You know the hockey teams, but the players are…
NHL Comparison: Matt Murray and Brayden Holtby
In real life Murray didn’t need a trade to cement himself as the Penguins future goaltender; he just took the job from Marc-Andre Fleury when he had the chance. I’m going to have to pretend that that didn’t happen though, because everything else lines up. Murray and Irving are 23 and 25, respectively, and sit behind James and Fleury, who are both 32. Thomas and Holtby are both 28. Fleury may not be considered the best player in the world by anyone, but he was a top 5 goalie in his prime and is a championship winning player.
Murray, unable to get consistent time between the pipes in Pittsburgh wants out, and Washington decides a new goaltender might be enough to finally get out of the second round in addition to the Little signing. So, the two starting goalies are traded, Murray immediately becomes the starter in Washington, and Holtby is off to Pittsburgh. Perhaps Fleury heading to Vegas is a sign Lebron James is on the move next offseason? In addition to their new starting goaltender, the Caps pick up defenseman Chad Ruhwedel, rookie Zachary Lauzon, and the Pens’ 2018 first-round pick.
I have to admit that most of these ideas are ridiculous, and I can count maybe one that could ever realistically happen. But, if you sat down next to me at the end of Game 5 of the NBA Finals and listed all of the moves that would be made, I’d find that list ridiculous as well. What do you think? Could anything like this happen in hockey? How would it effect the league if it did?
JT is waiting until wiffleball is added as an Olympic sport to continue his athletic career, but for now, he writes about the Flyers and Eagles. He also coaches a Mite hockey team, and is hoping to work his up the ladder until he is coaching Team USA – he can’t be worse than Bylsma.