|Wednesday, June 18
Updated: June 20, 2:18 PM ET
Futures can help the present
By Tom Wheatley
Special to ESPN.com
Ever wonder what ever becomes of "future considerations" -- the term that rears its head often in trade transactions?
On Saturday, Day One of the NHL draft -- the league's second-busiest swap meet -- a future consideration from over two years ago may help shape the whole proceedings.
The prospect's name turned out to be Jared Aulin. The No. 1 pick turned out to be Ohio State center David Steckel. And the future considerations turned out to be another first-round pick in 2003 if the Avalanche won the Stanley Cup that year, which they did.
Because the Avalanche are still a powerhouse, that No. 1 pick will be way down at 26th overall.
No big deal? Consider this: L.A. picked up another first-rounder, 28th overall, from Detroit at the 2003 trade deadline for defenseman Mathieu Schneider. The Kings also have their own pick at 13th overall in what is billed as a fertile draft.
Kings GM Dave Taylor could package that first-round trifecta to deal up -- maybe even to Florida's pole position at first overall.
There are other considerations that could be collected.
For example, the Phoenix Coyotes traded Brad May to the Vancouver Canucks at the deadline for a third-round pick and future considerations. The pick would become a second-rounder if the Canucks reached the Western Conference finals (which they didn't) or if May, a free agent-to-be, doesn't re-up with Vancouver (which he has yet to do).
Future considerations can be critical pieces of championship puzzles. Remember the monster Eric Lindros trade? The then-Quebec Nordiques sent the rights to the alleged "Next One'' to Philadelphia on June 30, 1992. In return, Quebec got Mike Ricci, Ron Hextall, Steve Duchesne, Kerry Huffman, a prospect named Peter Forsberg, a No. 1 pick in the '93 draft who became Jocelyn Thibeault, $15 million ... and future considerations.
The two teams agreed to the deal just before the '92 draft, when Quebec was also supposed to get a first-round pick. But the Nordiques, in a wild snafu, had also agreed to send Lindros to the Rangers. By the time the NHL office sorted through the mess and approved Philadelphia's claim, the '92 draft was over.
Francois Giguere, now assistant GM in Dallas, was a young administrative assistant in Quebec when the Lindros deal was finally done.
"Philadelphia took Ryan Sittler with that pick, the seventh overall,'' Giguere said, "but we told them we would not have drafted that guy. We already had their first pick for '93 in the deal. So they gave us their first pick in '94.
"But because we had to wait two years, and the pick was not as good in '94 -- it was 12th overall -- we said they had to give us a premium two years later."
That "premium" was winger Chris Simon, a rugged piece of the puzzle when the club moved to Colorado and won its first Cup in '96.
Sometimes incorporating "future considerations" in a trade is simply adding a safety net. When the Kings sent Bryan Smolinski to Ottawa at the March trade deadline, they got the rights to junior prospect Tim Gleason and future considerations. The futures were a pick or another prospect if the Kings could not sign Gleason before this weekend, when he would go back into the draft hopper. They recently agreed to terms with the slick defenseman, making the futures history.
Other futures were never meant to be momentous.
At the last trade deadline, Dallas picked up aging defenseman Lyle Odelein from Chicago for future considerations: either an eighth-, seventh- or sixth-round pick. The pick would improve as the Stars moved through the playoffs. They fell in the second round, so the middling payoff is not likely to spark the Hawks' turnaround.
But you never know, especially since not all futures are draft picks. One such deal around draft time a decade ago helped cement a dynasty.
On June 30, 1993, Detroit picked up a minor-leaguer from the then-Winnipeg Jets for future considerations.
"We ended up giving them a buck,'' said longtime Detroit exec Jimmy Devellano.
The return on that investment was center Kris Draper. Nobody forecast him as the glue to the "Crash Line," which helped check Detroit into three Cups in four years.
"Doug MacLean actually did that deal,'' Devellano said. "He was our assistant general manager at the time, and he was running our farm team at Adirondack. Doug knew Draper was a good minor-leaguer. So Draper went to Adirondack for three-quarters of a year and then came up to us.''
That exchange rate was not unusual.
"I acquired Dwight Foster in '83 from New Jersey for a dollar,'' said Devellano, who was the GM in Detroit that year.
Even in the dollar bin, Draper and Forster were over-priced by futures standards.
"A lot of these future considerations are nothing,'' Devellano said. "It's just somebody taking a salary, and you hope noboby ever asks you what you what you got back. You're unloading a contract, and you don't want to look like an idiot."
That's how the Wings reacquired Brent Gilchrist from Tampa Bay in October of '98.
"Kenny Holland was our manager then," said Devellano, "and we made the deal with Phil Esposito as a favor. I think we paid the waiver price."
Gilchrist, who had won a Cup with Detroit in '97, missed most of the next two seasons with injuries. But that kind of deal, where the future consideration is a salary dump, has always been a staple.
"You have to say something to the league when you make a deal," said Neil Smith, the former Rangers GM. "Nobody ever follows it up. That's how I got Ray Sheppard from Buffalo for a buck. We called it futures. And that's how I got Alexander Daigle from Tampa Bay."
The Daigle deal, which went down in October '99, ended up costing less than $1.
"I knew Daigle had ability and he was still fairly young,'' Smith said. "But Rick Dudley, the GM in Tampa, and Steve Ludzik, the coach, didn't like him. I don't remember exactly what Daigle was making then. Let's say it was $1.6 million. I picked up part of his contract -- that was the future considerations that Tampa got.
"But I also got his agent to have him take a pay cut for the rest of the money that we were supposed to pick up. Daigle ended up scoring eight goals for us that season, which wasn't great, but it cost us nothing.''
With the league's collective bargaining agreement set to expire after the 2003-04 season, and the possibility of a salary cap looming, GMs are more budget conscious than ever this offseason. In fact, "future considerations'' may soon become a euphemism for "salary dump."
But shrewd operators have always known the public-relations value of such camouflage.
In February of '85, controversial Blues owner Harry Ornest orchestrated a deal to send All-Star goalie Mike Liut and future considerations to the then-Hartford Whalers for goalie Greg Millen and forward Mark Johnson.
Liut was one of the priciest players in the league at $400,000 per year. Ornest, under fire in St. Louis as an asset stripper, argued that his payroll actually increased.
And it did, momentarily. Millen was earning $235,000 and Johnson about $175,000, a net gain of about 10 grand over Liut's salary.
A month later, after the Blues lost in the first playoff round, the future considerations were revealed. Hartford got Blues winger Jorgen Pettersson, whose salary was comparable to Johnson's.
Later that summer, the Blues sent Johnson to New Jersey for a minor-leaguer. When the dust and dollar signs finally settled, Ornest saved about $350,000 -- and defused the public outcry -- from the Liut trade and its aftermath.
Sometimes, a future consideration just buys time. On Feb. 6, 2002, Chicago sent Steve Dubinsky to Nashville for future considerations. Barely five weeks later, Nashville sent captain Tom Fitzgerald to Chicago for ... future considerations.
Through a Hawks spokesman, GM Mike Smith said the futures amounted to nothing and the deals were unrelated. The point became moot after the season. Both players became free agents and left to sign elsewhere, Fitzgerald with Toronto and Dubinsky with St. Louis.
Stranger futures have unfolded. Last season Chicago sent minor-league forward Peter White to Philadelphia for future considerations. White, a former NHL journeyman, is married to the daughter of Flyers GM Bobby Clarke. White left Philly as a free agent two years ago because he was playing there for the Phantoms, the Flyers' minor-league team. He saw Chicago as a better opportunity, but he soon wound up with the Hawks' farm team at Norfolk of the American Hockey League.
White, 34, was homesick for his family, which remained in Philly. Smith, the Hawks GM, was sympathetic and would have simply lent White to the Philly-based Phantoms. But White might be needed in Norfolk for the AHL playoffs. And AHL rules ban a team from lending a player out during the regular season and then having him lent back for the postseason.
But in a wacky loophole, if a player is officially traded away, his new AHL team is allowed to lend him back to the old team. So Smith agreed to trade White back to Philly, with this future consideration that Clarke had to lend his son-in-law back to Norfolk if needed there in the postseason. Which he was.
"So basically,'' said a Flyers source, "he got traded for himself.''
Tom Wheatley of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch is a frequent contributor to ESPN.com.