The last time we saw Ben Eager play was on January 7th when he skated off the ice of Philips Arena after receiving a match penalty for sucker punching former Thrasher Colby Armstrong. 14 of his team-high 77 penalty minutes came during that forgetful game…and afterwards I made it clear I would not mind it if he never donned an Atlanta jersey again. If GM Rick Dudley traded him away for a fifth or sixth round pick, that suited me just fine. Many of you agreed.
Well… looks like we got our wish.
As I’m sure you’ve heard, once he served his four-game suspension for that incident, the Atlanta Thrashers traded away Eager to the San Jose Sharks Tuesday. The move really came as little surprise given the amount of time he had already spent in coach Ramsay’s doghouse this season. In exchange for the 23rd overall pick by the Phoenix Coyotes in the 2002 draft, the Thrashers will get to use the Sharks fifth pick in this summer’s draft.
To place that return in some perspective, let’s try to see exactly what such a pick might procure for Rick Dudley down the road, shall we.
As of the time the deal went down between the Sharks and Thrashers, San Jose was 21st in the NHL standings with a .543 points winning percentage. If they were to wind up at that spot in the standing after the season ends, that would mean they would own the 10th pick in each round. So, here’s a list of players taken at that spot in the fifth round over the past five drafts.
2006: The Minnesota Wild took goalie Bryan Pitton with the tenth selection in round number five that year.
2007: Defenseman John Lee was selected by the Florida Panthers.
2008: The Vancouver Canucks took center Prab Rai.
2009: Forward Matt Kennedy heard his name called by the Carolina Hurricanes.
2010: Last summer, the New York Rangers picked up Jason Wilson.
Now, I’m in no way shape, matter or form trying to degrade or insult any of the above mentioned players…certainly they are talented and promising enough to be drafted by an NHL team and that’s an accomplishment in and of itself. Plus, there really is no way in predicting just where that pick will eventually land. But to see the Thrashers basically give Ben Eager away to another NHL team in exchange for a prospect that will be chosen with the 130th or so pick in five months pretty much says all that needs to be said about what the Thrashers organization felt about Eager’s time with us.
If there is a way to “fire” a player in the middle of a season…then basically Dudley just “Donald Trumped” Ben Eager’s butt all the way to the San Francisco Bay area.
Truth be told, I’m just fine with that. If Eager was not going to be a part of the whole collective effort to help push this team to the postseason, then it’s best to go ahead and get him out of the way as soon as possible. Better to get a 5th rounder for him now then let him clog up a roster spot while waiting for something only slightly better. After all, that’s a roster spot someone else…at this point and time, Spencer Machacek…could be filling.
And if Eager…after being ‘fired’ all the way to San Jose…finds himself in a better place for his own personal and future growth, then that’s fine too.