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NHL Scout, Exec on Labanc’s Trade Value

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Credit: Hockey Shots/Dean Tait

What is Kevin Labanc’s trade value?

Labanc has certainly raised his stock after season-ending shoulder surgery last year limited him to 21 appearances.

The 27-year-old winger has 25 points in 45 games this season. From Nov. 5 through Jan. 10, a 29-game stretch, the winger was especially productive, notching nine goals and 14 assists, mostly skating with the San Jose Sharks’ top-line duo Timo Meier and Tomas Hertl.

So the playmaker, who enjoyed a career-high 56 points in 2018-19 and averaged 0.55 Points Per Game from 2017 to 2021, is scoring once again.

That said, I don’t think his trade value is particularly high, for two reasons.

First, he’s a good-but-not-great offensive forward, who doesn’t produce quite enough to make up for his inconsistencies in compete and defense. Second, his contract is prohibitive: It expires after next year, but his $4.725 million AAV is too rich for that productivity.

But the topic of Labanc’s trade value has come up once again with his recent string of healthy scratches, so I thought it worth getting an up-to-date league-wide perspective. The winger has been benched in six of the last eight games by head coach David Quinn.

So is Quinn burying Labanc’s value?

According to two sources, an NHL scout and executive, both from outside the San Jose Sharks organization, not really.

“The Sharks have to retain money or make a hockey trade to a team for a similar cap hit to move him,” the scout opined.

Labanc is perceived as a one-dimensional winger – and inconsistent even in that forte, offense – the scout noted. Other areas in his game are seen as lacking.

Playing him or not isn’t going to change many minds.

I know Labanc is a bit of an analytics darling, but to my knowledge, the league’s decision-makers don’t pass final judgment on players through these lenses.

“There isn’t really a market unless the Sharks retain,” the executive agreed. “Or there would just have to be some sort of offset there, like San Jose would have to take a shitty contract back.”

So the same opinion, two different sources.

Anyway, just my guess, the San Jose Sharks aren’t going to retain on Labanc’s contract to get rid of him. At least not now.

A team is only allowed to retain on three salaries at a time, and the Sharks are already using one of those slots on Brent Burns until 2025-26. It would make sense for San Jose to want to keep the slots available in the coming years for longer, richer contracts that they might want to retain on like Erik Karlsson, Marc-Edouard Vlasic, or Logan Couture’s.

Perhaps the Sharks will consider retaining on Labanc this off-season, when they have more clarity on a potential Karlsson trade, just for example.

They can also send an asset to a third middle-man team to retain on Labanc, but I don’t see much point for a rebuilding/resetting organization to do that.

I just don’t think it makes much sense for them to retain on Labanc this year.

What seems more likely, at least this season, is the other suggestion of swapping Labanc’s unsavory contract for another one.

Of course, even that will be a challenge, in terms of finding the right contract and trade partner.

But Labanc to the Vancouver Canucks for Anthony Beauvillier ($4.15 million AAV until 2023-24) or to the Detroit Red Wings for Jakub Vrana ($5.25 million AAV until 2023-24)?

On paper, those trades make some sense.

Anyway, scratch Labanc or not, the league has seen him plenty. This appears to be his trade value, like it or not.

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