[Ed. Note: Dominik from Lighthouse Hockey and I swapped articles looking back on the Chris Campoli/Mike Comrie for Dean McAmmond and a first-rounder trade between the Senators and Islanders just before the NHL Trade Deadline. To read my thoughts on it, click here to check out LHL.]
With the Islanders and Senators meeting for the first time since the Chris Campoli/Mike Comrie-Dean McAmmond trade, Peter and I were trading thoughts on the deal. Here's one perspective, from an Islanders fan.
See, after years of watching this one GM -- I forget his name (but you may have seen his TV work) -- run my team into the ground, the Islanders fan in me wants to laugh with joy at Garth Snow's ability to get a first-round pick in exchange for two locker room "bad apples" who were not part of the solution on Long Island. Take THAT, Bryan Murray!
But in reality, despite my urge to play the partisan fanatic, I have to admit that Snow and Murray made a smart move that helps both sides. You can make a plausible argument that either side "won" -- and really, that usually is the mark of a fair trade.
Why It Made Sense for the Islanders
The Islanders are quite obviously in reload mode: Start from scratch, collect picks, hoard assets. That's been the m.o. all year, and this deal fits right in with that -- although had Campoli not wanted out, he would have been an asset to keep, too. As we saw at the NHL trade deadline, first-round picks were simply not on the market. The fact that Snow was able to fetch one -- however low it ends up being -- is a small victory. The fact he was able to get rid of an unhappy $4-million expiring contract in Mike Comrie, in exchange for a hungry vet with a cheaper contract in Dean McAmmond -- who has fit right in -- that's just gravy.
The draft pick, like most picks, is a crapshoot. Any single pick is hit or miss, but collectively you know you need them. They are like insurance policies: You just know you need them, and you know you must keep paying for them -- but you've no idea which specific one(s) will make you glad you did. (This, of course, won't stop fans of the future from crucifying either Snow or Murray depending on what becomes of the player selected with that pick.)
But while Snow was able to dump two malcontents for a first-round pick and a better locker room voice, it's not like what he gave up has no value to anyone else.
What the Islanders Lost in Campoli
As Senators fans have quickly seen, Chris Campoli brings some valued speed and puck movement to the blueline. Three goals (two game-winners) in 13 games since the trade is alright, and he's getting power play time. His shot has never been that true Souray- (or even Streit!-) style hammer from the point that you'd ideally want on your power play. But at age 24 his ceiling has not necessarily been reached, and his offensive instincts may yet be getting better.
What's more (and likely overlooked, outside of Ottawa): Campoli's age and contract status -- $675,000 next season -- means he comes at a nice price, for a team that needs the cap flexibility with three big contract tied up by its forwards.
Ah, but Campoli's ceiling, now there's the rub -- and that's what makes this deal interesting going forward. Islanders fans have watched Campoli develop along with fellow late-round blueliner Bruno Gervais for several years. Understandably, it was hard to see him go. You grow attached to your own. The bloggers with access to the post-game pressers loved him. Campoli had shoulder surgery last year and came into this season expecting to really grow into his own and be the offensive defenseman many hoped he'd be.
But the Islanders made two smart free agents signings over the summer who immediately took over the first-pair power play points. Whenever the Islanders were getting wins during the miserable first half of this season, it was thanks to those two, Mark Streit and Doug Weight, running an effective power play. Whatever Campoli's strengths, he's never run the Islanders' power play the way those two did.
I suspect that Ottawa will find the same: He's a useful guy to have, and he can carry bigger power play minutes in a pinch -- but ultimately you don't want your team relying on him as your power play quarterback. Campoli apparently sees things otherwise. At just 24, he may yet prove his view is right -- and wouldn't every fan prefer a young player strive to get better rather than resign himself to a lesser role?
Islanders coach Scott Gordon certainly hoped for more out of Campoli and encouraged him to assert himself more. How that message got mixed, or where the two disagreed on how it could apply, is unclear. It's possible Gordon saw Campoli as an eventual successor to Weight on the point (although it was rookie winger Kyle Okposo -- not Campoli -- who got the call when Weight went down with injury). Whatever the medium, we can infer Campoli didn't like the message nor the direction he was headed on Long Island.
Final Analysis: Um ... We'll See
So Campoli wanted out, and the Isles had to get rid of him -- wasted asset or not. To their credit, they salvaged a bad situation by nabbing the only 1st-rounder on offer near the trade deadline.
Now, could Campoli just top out as a useful #3-4 defenseman? Could that San Jose pick become nothing better than another Campoli (or worse) a few years down the line? Either is quite possible. Any alternative to those scenarios, swinging in one direction or the other, is just the luck of the draw.