Just one game ago, the masses had forgotten about Jay Leach. Playing as a Captain for San Jose's affiliate in Worcester, Leach's skill set didn't inspire much confidence from the fanbase or his traditionally loyal mother. All hope was lost, the opportunities to play in the NHL were slipping away, and disappointment looked like another broken down bus ride to Bridgeport.
Oh, how a Wednesday evening transaction changes all that. Jay Leach has once again emerged as a contender for a depth defenseman role, sitting just one injury behind the blueline for the all too familiar ten minutes a night that has eluded him almost all season. How a trade request can change things.
Just seven games ago, the masses were willing to ship the aging defenseman for any middling prospect with a pulse. Forget Leach being the cornerstone of a deal, at this point he's just a throw in for part of a long term project four years from his prime. If Doug Wilson was sacrificing a bounty of Zalewski's and Vesce's to the altar of Lou Lamoriello, Leach would have been a quarter pounder Vesce. The marginally talented veteran was much like your once worthless binder of Pokemon cards. A few hours ago, you would have traded them for anything. Now, you're selling your whole binder at a yard sale for $350.00, and forcing the other guy to toss in a frisbee that his dog liked to pee on.
Oh, how a trade request changes all that.
Along with Steven Zalewski, Jay Leach was traded today to the New Jersey Devils in exchange for forwards Patrick Davis and Mike Swift. It's a deal that won't show up on the radar of many Sharks fans, and for good reason-- neither of the prospects acquired are projected to amount to much at the NHL level, and Zalewski (who saw some time in San Jose last season) was in the midst of an extremely disappointing season with Worcester. The stimulus to get this deal done was the fact that Jay Leach requested a trade in order to have an opportunity at the NHL level. Since Leach had previously played in New Jersey during the 2008-2009 season, and the Devils were in need of able-bodied defenseman to fill out their blueline, both Doug Wilson and Lou Lamoriello evidently decided to swap some players and give the veteran another opportunity to play in the big leagues.
On the surface, San Jose acquires two potential contributors to the organization (Davis, Swift) instead of one (Zalewski). Leach obviously was not in the long term plans of San Jose, meaning that his loss doesn't hurt San Jose at all. Both Swift and Davis will be twenty four years old at the end of this season, which makes using the term "prospect" a loose definition, and it's extremely unlikely either one eventually is able to play top six minutes in the NHL.
The most intriguing prospect in the deal is Mike Swift, who has 16 goals and 12 assists. He was named the AHL Player of The Week back in March of 2010 despite being undrafted out of the OHL (where he was also named the OHL Overage Player of The Year). Hockey's Future describes him as a guy who shows "great passion and intensity for an undersized player", citing his "above average speed" and "strong and accurate wrist shot" as complements to his offensive game. Furthermore, Swift is "very responsible defensively" and has developed a knack for killing penalties. While his size may be a concern at the NHL level, there's an opportunity for him to make a mark in a Sharks system weak on forward depth. He may not be a top-six player in the bigs next season, but his pedigree and history indicates he could serve a role on the team in the future.
Both Swift and White will be assigned to Worcester. It's unlikely we see them the rest of this season, but I like the play by Wilson-- parlay a piece that doesn't matter in the long run (Leach) and an underperforming forward (Zalewski) into two forwards that might make an impact in the future.
It's a move for the future for certain, and a rather uninteresting one at that. However, in this case, one bird in the hand is not greater than two in the bush.
The only thing worse than beating a dead horse is betting on one. Two prospects with uncertain futures are better than one, especially when the development of these 23-24 players are as murky as they are fatigued.