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The real winners and losers of the Ambrose trade

Yes, Montreal paid a high price to get Erin Ambrose from Toronto...but which team actually lost the most?

Erin Ambrose was traded to Les Canadiennes de Montreal for four draft picks.
Chris Tanouye/Canadian Women's H

Les Canadiennes de Montreal made headlines this week when they announced that they had acquired defender Erin Ambrose in a trade with the Toronto Furies.

Trades are already rare enough in women’s hockey that any transaction is enough to get fans excited, and if you’re a Montreal fan, this is a trade that instantly improves an already talented team. Ambrose was recently cut from Hockey Canada’s centralization roster but has been in their system for several years now. She was a staple on the Furies blue line and they’ve badly missed her while she was at centralization- and now they’ll have to play against her.

But Ambrose’s trade sheds light on another aspect of trades in women’s hockey - the one-sidedness of it.

On the surface, the Ambrose trade looks like a win for both teams. The Furies picked up four draft picks in exchange for the defender - two first round picks and two third round picks over the span of three seasons (first and third in 2018, first in 2019, third in 2020).

And that looks fair for a defender of Ambrose’s caliber. But...it’s not that simple.

Players who register for the CWHL draft are required to pick locations that they’re willing to be drafted by. If someone wants to join the draft but has a job in Boston, for example, they’re not going to want to play for Calgary. Players must pick at least one location and can select a maximum of three.

Other locations that players can pick are: Boston, Calgary, Montreal, and the GTA (which includes both Toronto and Markham).

(We’re going to ignore China for a second because their teams are mostly national team players and we don’t think they’ll be drafting many other imports in the future).

So there’s actually three teams affected in this trade: Montreal, Toronto...and Markham.

Montreal hands-down won this deal. Yes, they’re giving away draft picks, but the CWHL draft doesn’t have a set number of rounds - it goes on until all players who have registered for the draft have been selected. So while they’ll “lose” a couple of picks, they won’t ACTUALLY lose them. They’re likely relying on players they recruit to only select Montreal as their destination of choice, so it won’t matter if they have those high-round picks.

Toronto wins this trade too, but it’s not because they’ll be able to steal Montreal’s draft picks; instead, they can snag players who might have otherwise gone to Markham.

Because player have to pick a “GTA” location instead of Toronto or Markham, the only two teams going head-to-head for players in the draft are the Thunder and the Furies. Toronto’s extra picks give them a leg up over their rival, and (as Liz Knox so eloquently tweeted) basically screws Markham over.

Sorry, Markham - this trade isn’t great for you (actually, that’s an understatement). Anyways, have fun playing against Ambrose this weekend.