Thoughts on the Carter Ashton trade

The Tri-City Americans made a big splash on the trade market today, acquiring power forward Carter Ashton from Regina. The trade has Tri-City acquiring the 19-year-old Ashton and a third-round pick in exchange for 18-year-old forward Tanner Olstad, 17-year-old forward Nils Moser and first-, second- and fifth-round picks. One player and one pick in exchange for two players and three picks.

As Tri-City is one of Everett’s U.S. Division rivals, I figured I’d add my two cents on the trade.

First off, my take on Tri-City’s new configuration. Ashton is clearly a talented player, being a first-round NHL draft pick. The real interesting part to me, though, is the drastic physical change the Americans have undergone up front the past week. Tri-City for several years has been the team with a stable of small, quick, skilled forwards. But with the addition of the 6-foot-3 Ashton, as well as the retention of the 6-foot-4 overager Neal Prokop over defenseman Zak Stebner, the Americans are suddenly a lot bigger up front. It tends to suggest Tri-City believed it needed to add size to counter a big Portland Winterhawks team. If that’s the case it’s a curious decision to me, considering my memory is that those pesky little Ams pretty much had their way with the bigger Winterhawks last season.

Interesting to see the Ams move big for a forward rather than a defenseman. The Americans have given up their share of goals this season, the most per game in the division, and they just lost a key defenseman in Stebner. Is former Tip Paul Sohor the answer at the back?

Now, a take on the price. I’ve seen it suggested that the Americans paid a stiff price for Ashton. I’m not sure I agree. Let’s break it down. First, let’s simplify the draft picks. I’m going to cancel the second and third rounders out by bumping the fifth rounder up to a fourth rounder (yes, that’s bending reality, but this is just for simplification purposes). So that makes it Ashton and a fourth rounder for Olstad, Moser and a first rounder. Now let’s look at the players Regina’s getting back. Olstad has three points in 20 games, Moser has one in 20 games. In the games I’ve seen against Everett, Olstad has shown a little promise, but he’s still a 5-foot-7 18-year-old who has yet to produce. Moser is a former second-round pick, but I have yet to see anything from him in games against the Tips. Right now they look like depth players. As for the adjusted fourth rounder, I’ve said many times in the past that I don’t think picks in that range are worth a lot. To me, Olstad, Moser and the pick are of limited value and can be washed out.

That leaves us with Ashton for a first-round pick. I think that’s about right. Ashton is a premier player who the Americans will get for a little more than half a season. That seems a fair price, not a stiff one.

For Ashton, this is the second straight season where he’s being asked to uplift a team — Regina acquired Ashton from Lethbridge in a blockbuster last season in an effort to load up for a playoff run. That didn’t work out so well for the Pats, who missed the playoffs entirely. The Americans hope Ashton works out a little better for them.

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