Eakin plays against the United States in the 2011 WJC (photo by Windsor Star)
Particularly after his strong showing in the World Junior Championships, just how much is Cody Eakin worth?
For the WHL's Kootenay Ice, the answer is five players and three draft picks.
More specifically, the Ice lose current forward Christian Magnus, as well as prospects Ryan Bloom, Jarett Zentner, Colby Cave and Steven Myland. The Ice are also surrendering to the Swift Current Broncos three draft picks: a first and second round draft pick in the 2011 WHL Bantam Draft and a third round pick in the 2012 WHL Bantam Draft.
As the season ticks down, CHL teams were looking to beef up their rosters before the January 10 trade deadline. With this trade, Kootenay makes themselves a lot stronger in the short run, as Eakin is aging out this season. Conversely, Swift Current is going to be stronger in the long run with the addition of prospects and high draft picks.
But the teams involved made the trade for opposite reasons, since the teams are on opposite ends of the standings spectrum. Kootenay Ice are first in their division, second in the WHL Eastern Conference, and tied for second in the league. The Swift Current Broncos are under .500 so far this season. One team is making the playoffs -- the other, probably not, even with Eakin on their roster.
With the addition of Eakin, Kootenay all but guarantees that playoff spot. He brings leadership and scoring ability, and his current statistics put him at second in points with his new team.
Swift Current had to put aside their desire to keep their star player and captain in order to think about the future of the club. Though they say they of course didn't want to trade Eakin, it was something they had to do to improve their club in seasons to come. "Eakin has been the best player to come to this team since Joe Sakic," Broncos head coach and general manager Mark Lamb said. "It's a trade we didn't want to do, but it's the best thing for our hockey club in the long run."
What does this mean for Eakin himself? The trade of course does not affect his NHL rights -- those still lie with the Washington Capitals. But it means that Eakin is about 99% certain to gain Memorial Cup playoff experience. He already has Calder Cup playoff experience that he can use to help Kootenay in their playoff run. It gives him a chance to develop with players that are more talented than his former teammates, and further build his skills with teammates who are on his level of development.
But that's bad news we can bear.