LeBrun: Tage Thompson’s Sabers star role is a reminder not to judge NHL deals too soon

One of the things I will never forget from my years in this business is a night Los Angeles Kings He ended a 45-year Stanley Cup drought in June 2012 and the way General Manager Dean Lombardi began making him available to the media.

Before any of us could get a question, the engineer of this championship team wanted to get a hold of something.

“Let’s get something straight here. Every time a team wins, there are some players that don’t get appreciated,” Lombardi said as his Kings players celebrate on the ice around him at the Staples Center swing. “You have to give a lot of credit to Dave Taylor (General Manager) former of kings); I started with three good players in (Dustin) Brown, (Anzi) Kopitar and (Jonathan) Quick. Let us never forget what he did. And let’s not forget (former coach) Terry Murray either. It cemented this franchise and gave us credibility. There are some unsung heroes here who need to be recognized.”

It was something so classy as Lombardi achieved his highest personal glory in the sport, and he wanted to point out that it wasn’t everything.

I remembered this moment 11 years ago when I watched it Thompson crown Scored a hat-trick on Tuesday – another magical attacking night for a team Buffalo Saber The star striker, who has become one of the league’s must-watch stars.

It’s another example of how it sometimes takes longer than we think to figure out if a NHL The move will pay off.

The Sabers traded for Thompson four and a half years ago. The mega deal went like this: Ryan O’Reilly to St. Louis in exchange for Patrick Berglund, Vladimir Sobotka, Taj Thompson, a 2019 first-round pick (who ended up being 31st, Rian Johnson) and a 2021 second-round pick (traded to Ottawa).

Berglund was an important part of the deal, but he walked away from his NHL contract and returned home to Sweden, later telling a Swedish media that he needed to do this to find happiness again in his life. And who envies him for that?

But it was clearly a hard pill to swallow at the time for the Sabers.

Thompson was the young player that then-GM Jason Botterill had focused on in those trade talks with Blues.

“Like any multiplayer trade, there are a lot of names strung back and forth. Throughout the process, Jason was adamant about including Tag as part of the deal,” Randy Sexton, the Sabers’ assistant GM at the time, said. the athlete Wednesday.

“His conviction proves that she is in good standing,” Sexton added.

Thompson’s breakthrough didn’t come until last year, when he scored 38 goals in his fifth season in the NHL — nearly two years after Bottrell was fired and replaced by current GM Kevin Adams.

So let’s take stock of July 1, 2018 trade again now almost five years later:

O’Reilly was instrumental in leading the Blues to their first Stanley Cup championship in June 2019, winning over Conn Smythe as playoff MVP along the way. By all accounts, even today with Thompson’s remarkable rise, Blues manager Doug Armstrong has once again made the move for him. The cup is the cup is the cup. And O’Reilly, captain of the Blues, has been a huge presence since he got there.

Meanwhile, Thompson finally developed into the talented forward he was drafted to be, moving 26th overall to St. Louis in the 2016 NHL Draft.

So what we have here is what NHL GMs really strive for but rarely achieve: a trade that gave every franchise what it needed. The Blues don’t win the Cup ahead without this trade. The saber at the back end has a rising star.

So credit goes to Botterill, now an assistant GM in Seattle, for making the trade start with it. He’s been hammered for it for years, especially after O’Reilly’s Cup win.

Credit to head coach Don Granato for helping unleash Thompson’s talents. Granato had coached Thompson in the US National Team Development Program, and that prior relationship clearly paid off here.

Credit to Adams, current general manager, not only for seeing Granato’s ability to develop players, which is why he was promoted to head coach, but also for signing Thompson to a seven-year, $50 million deal on August 30, which is a complete deal. a year before Thompson’s current deal expired. I remember thinking to myself that was a leap of faith.

It doesn’t matter. I was wrong.

Now on track to hit 60+ goals this season, by the time the rollover starts next year at an average annual value of $7.1 million, it’s going to look like a bargain. This extension could save Sabers owners Terry and Kim Pegula about $30 million overall if you think Thompson could be a $10 million player in this current market.

To sum up, it takes a village at times. The former GM made the deal, the current coach helped unlock the player, and the current GM seemed to have made a great move in extending him when he did.

And, of course, the player himself played a role.

“As a tribute to Tage, there are two things about him that you need to know and that is that he is an incredible human being (and) loves hockey,” Coyote said GM Bill Armstrong, who drafted Thompson in St. Louis when he was assistant general and managed the draft there. the athleteMichael Russo recently. “And so, more often now, you see him, and it seems very natural to him. He could do the same thing before. He wasn’t strong enough in that body to be able to hold off people. Now he is. And when you see him he goes through the no-man’s land and takes out pucks.” There is no way anyone can access it.

“He’s very strong about it, and his confidence has grown. He knows, when he gets a puck in certain areas, you’re not going to stop him. But when we were at a scouting meeting,” one of our scouts said, one of the management asked us, “Well, where do you see all our prospects?” fit in?” And someone said, “Well, I see Parayko having one timer on one side and one timer on the other side. And no one will touch us. So it didn’t come off. But we always knew he had it, because at UConn, you could see it. You can see slight glimpses of it. And when he went to the program in the summer to try out for the little ones in the world, you can see him again. I just couldn’t hold it in for long.”

In the end, this is a trade that reminds me a lot of that dallasCalgary His breakthrough came in December 1995, which saw veteran Joe Nieuwendyck move to the Stars, and youngster Jarome Iginla move to the Flames. The Stars might never have won the cup in 1999 without Nieuwendyk. Iginla? He has had a career in the Hall of Fame in Calgary.

It was a rare win-win business. And this is what the O’Reilly-Thompson deal looks like now.

(Top photo: Patrick Smith/Getty Images)

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