If you follow the local hockey scene, you know the New Jersey Devils acquired goalie Cory Schneider in a trade during yesterday's NHL Draft with the Vancouver Canucks. The Devils gave up the 9th pick. The other top contender for Schneider's services was the Edmonton Oilers, who share a division with Vancouver. The Canucks reportedly demanded the 7th pick in the Draft, a second round pick, and a quality young prospect. They clearly wanted a bigger return if they were going to trade Scheinder in the division.
This got me thinking. Is it ever all right for NFL teams to trade in division? It would seem less likely in football than in hockey. If you fail to win your division in the NHL under the league's new format, there are still four other slots to qualify for the Playoffs. In the NFL, two out of three Playoff spots go to division winners. If you do not beat out the other teams in your division, you probably will be sitting home for the postseason. Making a rival stronger can cost you a Playoff spot.
So are there any instances in which trading a player in division is all right? This does not happen frequently, but there have been some high profile trades inside a division such as Drew Bledsoe going from New England to Buffalo and Donovan McNabb going from Philadelphia to Washington.
I think back to the Darrelle Revis saga. There were rumors the Dolphins and the Patriots would have been interested in the cornerback had the Jets been willing to deal him within the AFC East. Would it have made sense under any circumstances?
To be sure, a division rival does need to offer a better package than a team from out the division. Imagine Miami offered a deal that was the exact same in value as the one the Buccaneers offered. The Jets would be getting the same thing either way. The choice would be whether the Jets wanted to face Revis twice a year and compete with him for Playoff spots or see him once every four years and never compete with him for a Playoff spot. That is not a tough choice. Miami would have to sweeten the pot in exchange for the inconvenience of using Revis against the Jets.
Should that preclude a player from ever being traded to a division rival? At some point, turning down a lopsided trade that could improve your team would be cutting off one's nose to spite one's face. Had the Patriots offered Tom Brady straight up, the Jets would have been crazy to turn it down. This would never happen, but clearly there is some price at which it makes sense.
No, it is not a good idea to make a rival stronger, but ultimately the most important thing is to make your team better. If Miami had offered the Jets a big return that could have helped the rebuilding process exponentially more, why wouldn't the Jets take it? Say the Dolphins offered a pair of first round picks to trump the Bucs' one. I probably would turn it down, but I would think about it. How about three? At that point, the Jets would be hard-pressed to say no. Add the three Dolphins first round picks to the three the Jets had already. That gives the team a chance to add potentially six top end cost controlled players or trump any offer any other team in the league could make to trade up for a franchise level player. It wouldn't make much sense to turn down a chance to rebuild the franchise just to keep Revis out of the AFC East.
There are no hard and fast rules. Every player and situation is different. In general, though, since I would grudgingly have turned down two first round picks and definitely would have accepted three, I guess my premium for a division rival would be between double and triple the asking price for other teams.
What do you think? What are your guidelines? Does the ability level of a player factor into your thinking of whether you would trade him in division? Does age factor into this at all?