As we move closer to the trade deadline, it seems that the title of this column has been the order of the day, with trades picking up steam. Often the action off the ice directly affects what happens on the ice, something we'll see clearly in this week's batch of moves. Because of this, I've developed quite the passion for transactions, so I look forward to digging deeper into these moves than you're used to seeing outside of Christina Kahrl's work at Baseball Prospectus. It's not the "winning" or "losing" of a deal in the instant analysis that matters, but the affect on a team's plan, on their finances, and on how any particular move changes a team's direction.
Acquired D Ryan Whitney from the Pittsburgh Penguins for LW Chris Kunitz and LW Eric Tangradi. [2/26]
The Ducks were fortunate to find a seller in a team with such a depth of talent. The Boston University graduate joins a team that has posted a -0.09 even strength shooting percentage, ESS%, differential over the course of the season. This could mean that the either of the expensive, yet talented veterans Chris Pronger or Scott Niedemayer are on his way out before the trade deadline. Applying the Similarity Score index of Puck Prospectus’ Rob Vollman, here are some of Whitney’s top player comparables based on this seasons performance. Keep in mind that Whitney was out of action for 31 games this year:
Player Year GP G A PTS PIM GP G A PTS PIM
Larry Robinson 1976 77 19 66 85 45 1110 176 649 825 572
Moe Mantha 1988 46 4 14 18 43 193 15 59 74 112
Dick Redmond 1973 76 17 42 59 69 594 109 238 347 370
Bryan Berard 1999 64 3 27 30 42 393 45 150 195 307
Jyrkie Lumme 1995 80 17 37 54 50 551 66 176 242 306
Brad McCrimmon 1987 80 7 35 42 98 627 29 133 162 736
Dave Pichette 1986 DID NOT PLAY DID NOT PLAY
Larry Murphy 1984 79 13 42 55 51 1301 222 741 963 779
Dick Redmond 1976 80 22 25 47 30 385 69 126 195 186
Alexei Kasatonov 1992 64 3 14 17 57 171 9 48 57 152
The player that jumps out is former Canadien Larry Robinson. Looking at Whitney and Robinson in comparison to one another over the course of their seasons from ages 22 to 24, we find an eerily similar early career path.
Age 22 68 6 32 38 85
Age 23 81 14 45 59 77
Age 24 76 12 28 40 45
Age 21 36 2 4 6 20
Age 22 78 6 20 26 66
Age 23 80 14 47 61 76
Age 24 80 10 30 40 59
It is very possible that the Anaheim Ducks are getting the next Larry Robinson in this deal. Robinson was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1995 for his accomplishments on the ice. It seems Bob Murray misled the media when he said the Ducks would be sellers. When a deal like this comes along, a change in direction is worth it.
Acquired a 2009 second round draft pick and a 2010 third round pick from the Montreal Canadiens for D Mathieu Schneider and a conditional pick. [2/16]
The Thrashers acquired Schneider from the Anaheim Ducks back in September for defenseman Ken Klee, forward Brad Larsen and prospect Chad Painchaud. Larsen went down with a sports hernia the following week, Klee has played minimally and Painchaud has not shown much promise in the ECHL. Statistically speaking, a forward prospects who fails to average one point per game in his first draft-eligible season is likely to have a dismal career. It took five seasons for Painchaud to simply average .75 points per game, while getting regular playing time. Another variable to this deal is the conditional pick. The further the Canadiens go, the lesser the compensation pick ends up being. Thus, the jury is still out on this deal for the Thrashers. However, they never gave up much in this process to begin with.
Acquired C Steve Begin from Montreal Canadiens for D Doug Janik. [2/26]
With the injuries to C Brad Richards and C Toby Petersen, the Stars became desperate. At 6’0’’ and 187 lbs. , Begin is not very big for a center. He did manage to rank fourth in hits on the year when he accumulated 114 with Montreal and he has averaged 11:29 minutes on ice, ATOI, throughout his career. Stars Owner Tom Hicks had to take on an additional $200,000 in payroll, but Avery’s departure gave Dallas just enough room under the salary cap to get this deal done. Janik was expendable as he was the eighth defensemen on the roster. With the Stars being part of the Western Conference pack, outside the top four teams, this is a key deal in order to maintain their playoff hopes.
Acquired D Mathieu Schneider and a conditional pick from the Atlanta Thrashers for a 2009 second round draft pick and a 2010 third round pick. [2/16]
The talented New York native is reunited with the team that won him a Stanley Cup ring in 1993. However, this team is a bit different. Rather than playing alongside General Manager Bob Gainey and Coach Guy Carbonneau, Mathieu will be playing for them. The 2008-2009 Habs are not on pace to accumulate the 102 points that the championship team did and arenot likely to match the goal differential from sixteen seasons ago either. Schneider will cost Montreal a prorated portion of his $5.625 million salary, though his contract is off the books at seasons’ end once he becomes an unrestricted free agent. The offensive defenseman will be used to shore up one of the teams biggest flaws after Mark Streit left for the Islanders last year: the 22nd ranked power play unit. The Canadiens have only converted on 17 % of their power plays this year, yet have still been able to compile a respectable .515 % Pythagorean winning percentage on special teams. Schneider will boost the power play unit, but not as much as one would expect. His power play time on ice per game, PP TOI/G, has dropped significantly from 5 minutes and 19 seconds to two minutes and fifty one seconds. With the Thrashers, Schneider posted a very pedestrian 3.4 Corsi rating. The Corsi rating is derived from the number of shots directed at the net while a player is on the ice at even strength. Shots directed towards the opposing net add a positive numerical value, while shots directed at the players own net subtract a numerical value. This is a better reflector of player value than the Plus/Minus rating. The Canadiens demoted Ryan O’Byrne, infamous for scoring on his own net, in order to clear space for Schneider on the roster. Overall, this is a costly move that should pay off for a team that has an 85 % chance of making the playoffs.
Acquired D Doug Janik from the Dallas Stars for C Steve Begin. [2/26]
Janik has not played in an NHL game since December 20th. The 1999 55th overall selection by the Buffalo Sabres should provide the Canadiens with defensive depth down the stretch. If Janik clears waivers, he will join the Canadiens American league farm team in Hamilton.
New York Islanders
Acquired C Dean McAmmond and a first-round draft pick from the New York Islanders for C Mike Comrie and D Chris Compoli. [2/20].
It was a shame that Compoli and Streit could not continue to play together. If the first round pick could have been acquired for Comrie and a talent less than Compoli, this could have become the great rebuilding deal that turned around the Islanders. Instead, they will very likely continue to be the Detroit Lions of the NHL in the near future. An argument could be made that signing a goaltender to a fifteen year contract constitutes a bigger burden to a franchise then drafting three receivers in consecutive first rounds. Dean McAmmond has not played a good season since his 2001-2002 campaign with the Calgary Flames. He will attempt to aid a team that has posted a whopping – 50 even strength, ES, goal differential.
Acquired C Mike Comrie and D Chris Compoli from the New York Islanders for C Dean McAmmond and a first-round draft pick. [2/20]
Apparently, Senators GM Bryan Murray traded places with Houston Astros GM Ed Wade for one night. It would be difficult to not make the comparison between the Senators acquisition of Mike Comrie and the Astros acquisition of Randy Wolf. The Senators have a Bayesian team rating of -0.21 as they near the trade deadline and the Astros were a dozen games out of the wild card when they acquired Randy Wolf last year. Comrie is scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent, while Wolf was a free agent whom never looked back after the Astros fell short of the post-season. The one difference to be found was that the Astros were pegged by PECOTA and several writers to be a poor team at the start of the 2008 season. Very few writers and analysts expected the Senators to be less than an Eastern Conference contender. Mike Comrie has history with Ottawa. The center was part of the magical 2007 team that went to the Stanley Cup finals. One rule of thumb in all sports is to never base future decisions off of past performances. Though Comrie is talented, Murray is hoping that the center returns the Senators to the glory of days of a couple of seasons ago when they were among the elite teams in the National Hockey League. One player will not make up for the tremendous lack of depth the team has. Chris Compoli brings his 12th ranked 5 even strength goals, ESG, to Ottawa. At age 24, Chris is the best acquisition in this deal for either side. While Chris Compoli can help the Senators shore up their defense, this deal becomes nearly a wash upon surrendering a first round pick. Dean McAmmond’s numbers have been declining since his age 29 season, so the Senators did not give up any immediate talent in the deal.
Acquired LW Chris Kunitz and LW Eric Tangradi from the Anaheim Ducks for D Ryan Whitney. [2/26]
The Penguins have copious talent, yet have not been able to overcome the devastating loss of Marian Hossa. To be fair, the Penguins offered Hossa more than a reasonable deal. Perhaps he saw something that no one else did when he left to take the money the Red Wings offered him. Whether it be poor goaltending, a mediocre acquisition in Miroslav Satan or another discernable reason that has yet to be identified, the Penguins have struggled mightily. The bad news for Pittsburgh is that at age 24, Whitney might be heading for greatness. The other piece of bad news is the Penguins lost Whitney and now have to improve their 27th best 3.14 Bayesian defensive rating in the NHL. The good news is that Kris LeTang is a very good, young defensive replacement and Sergei Gonchar is a talented veteran defender who could hold the fort down. What the Penguins have refused to do is accept the fact that last year’s hot streak by Marc Andre-Fleury in the post-season, who was very good mind you, could have been a fluke. The Penguin goaltender has surrendered a poor 2.67 goals per 60 minutes on the year.The Penguins would have been better off acquiring another goaltender in case Andre-Fleury starts to decline earlier than anticipated in his career. Eric Tangradi was the 42nd overall selection in the 2007 draft. However, there is a big problem with Tangradi. The Philadelphia-native has averaged well below the 1.0 point per game average that forwards usually need to meet in their first draft-eligible season in order to be successful in the NHL. While his numbers have improved in his third year out of the draft, much like in baseball, playing younger talent can superficially boost numbers. His 38 goals and 87 points in 52 games should therefore be taken with a grain of salt. What Tangradi has going for him is his size at 6’3”, 207 lbs. that enables him to be a very physical player. If he is going to have a shot at an NHL career, he’ll need to continue his physical, dominant play with and without the puck. Chris Kunitz brings his 45.4 faceoff winning percentage, FO%, to the third team in his very brief NHL career. Chris set the rookie record for points by a Duck before his progression stagnated in his sophomore season. Sometimes it’s the deals that are not made that are the best for a team. This is an example of a team shaking things up for the sake of a change. This was not the deal to make and Pittsburgh will be regretting this in the short term and the long term.
Andrew Rothstein is an author of Hockey Prospectus.
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