On Tuesday night, the Minnesota Wild acquired forward Sean Bergenheim for a third-round pick. It's not a move that registers on hockey's Richter scale, but it's one of those quietly sensible acquisitions that can pay serious dividends down the road. Just a few weeks ago, we talked about why Bergenheim was an excellent trade target – one whose true value exceeded his current reputation.
The Bergenheim trade has done two things: one, it has set something of an asking price for your second/third-line rental wingers, and two, it's eliminated an underrated trade target from the pool of availability.
The good news is that, even after trades including Jiri Tlusty and Daniel Winnik, there are at least six forwards noted to be available in TSN's Trade Bait section. The bad news is that determining whether or not any specific forward can be a positive contributor for a playoff contender is something of navigating a minefield.
Let's first note the six forwards who are rumoured to be available, and look at some of the raw counting numbers:
Trade Bait Trends
Our 'first look' table isn't all that surprising – Jaromir Jagr looks to be the premier offensive talent of the group, with Jay McClement (a purported defensive specialist) pulling up the rear. To me, what's interesting is the fact that Antoine Vermette lags behind most of these players. He's certainly a decent defensive forward, but his offensive production has lagged behind.
Still, this simply doesn't tell us enough about the player, and whether or not they are providing any value discernibly better or worse than their respective reputation heading into the trade deadline. One of the things we can do – especially since all of these forwards have been around the league for considerable time – is look at how they have performed at even-strength from an 'on-ice' standpoint, looking at how the player's respective team has performed with the player on the ice from a possession (RelativeCorsi%, or SAT%) and goal (RelativeGoal%) aspect. At the very least, it'll tell us whether or not the player can dictate regular territorial control, and can tell us whether or not that territorial control has led to an advantage in the goals department – which is what we ultimately care about. And, I'll include each player's 'relative zone start' number, to give us a idea about deployment in those years.
Let's start with Antoine Vermette, the 'prize' piece of this trade deadline. Remember, we want to see RelativeCorsi% and RelativeGoal% above break-even – that means the team is better with the player on the ice as opposed to off the ice.
For a 32-year-old whose asking price is purported to be "a first-round pick and top prospect", you would think that this graph would be a bit more impressive. Vermette's certainly been deployed in a bit more of a defensive role, true to his two-way forward reputation. But his teams over the years have generally been out-shot with him on the ice, and in only one season has his team come out on the right side of things from a goal perspective.
Let's go to Dallas' Erik Cole next:
Cole's the best raw goal-scorer of the group, but there are plenty of warning signs here. One, he's been a negative possession player for three straight years. Two, he's now 35-years old, and even if you think that his goal-scoring prowess is legitimately worth buying on, you have to be cognizant of the fact that his skills may be diving. I'd love to know what's going on with Cole's wacky Goal% over the years – he's had two just dreadful seasons, and two well above-average ones. For Dallas' sake, the Stars should be thankful he's on one of the hills as the trade deadline approaches. It will likely lead to a decent return at the deadline.
Onto Chris Stewart!
Chris Stewart is terrible. The asking price for Chris Stewart – reported by our Pierre LeBrun to be a second-round pick and prospect – is insanity. Every year over the last four, Chris Stewart's teams has been territorially slaughtered with him on the ice. The 2012-2013 RelativeGoal% is something of a fluke, too – he and his teammates shot an unsustainable 11.85% at even-strength that year, and the predictable collapse in that number has meant a return to correlating possession/goal rates.
I'm not sure what the crazier part is with Stewart here either: the fact that he's always been deployed in an offensive role (and has never really produced), or the fact that he can't favorably drive play on a Buffalo Sabres team that's totally devoid of talent across the board.
Now, Carolina's Jay McClement:
McClement's been getting killed for years, but he's exclusively used in a defensive role – the last of a dying breed. I'm skeptical that McClement's adding much value defensively nowadays, but even if there was some upside on that front, is it worth giving up a legitimate asset (be it a pick or a prospect) to acquire such a player?
There's a compelling argument to be made that player performance really starts to head south as a player hits the age of thirty. Jaromir Jagr is now 43-years old, and he's still making hockey look easy. For four years straight (and really, I'm sure it's been the case over his entire career), teams have the puck less and score less when they are opposed to Jaromir Jagr. There's no reason why Lou Lamoriello shouldn't ask for a considerable return for Jagr, even as a pure rental – his numbers are absolutely mint, and with the right centre, he could again turn in a great playoff performance for a team looking to go deep.
This graph doesn't seem to give us much additional information, though we can observe that his goal-scoring rates have lagged a bit behind his possession up until this season. I do believe I have an answer to that question, though, and it's tied into the greatness of Mark Giordano.
Let's look at Curtis Glencross' numbers with and without Mark Giordano over this same timespan, and see if there's anything that deviates wildly. I suspect that, without first-pairing help, Glencross' numbers have really taken a dive. And, because of that, I think you need to be careful about acquiring him as a third-line winger type who may not play many minutes with a first-pairing.
That theory holds water. By virtue of not playing a lot of first-line minutes, Glencross has played considerable amounts with second and third-pairing guys. His numbers away from Mark Giordano (and TJ Brodie, recently) are just ghastly. Note that Giordano's numbers are still solid away from Glencross, which raises suspicion as to how much Calgary's great first-pairing has carried Glencross in their minutes together.