The Anaheim Ducks and New Jersey Devils made a notable trade, swapping from positions of strength to address positions of weakness, the kind of deal that should – at least theoretically – help both teams.
Statistically Speaking examines the trade sending defenceman Sami Vatanen to New Jersey for a package headlined by centre Adam Henrique.
|Adam Henrique||New Jersey||C||24||4||10||14||45.3||-1.3||99.2||42.1||18:15|
2017-2018 AHL STATS
|Joseph Blandisi||Binghamton (AHL)||LW||19||3||11||14||-1|
The Devils Get: D Sami Vatanen and a conditional pick
Vatanen, 26, is a smaller puck-moving blueliner who has some defensive shortcomings, but is a strong puck-mover who is excellent on the power play, ranking in the top 10 among defencemen in points per 60 at 5-on-4 since 2014-2015. That may be a reflection of participating on a strong power play, but Vatanen was certainly a contributor in his role.
DEFENCE POINTS/60 LEADERS, 5-ON-4, SINCE 2014-2015
|Kevin Shattenkirk||N.Y. Rangers||700:38||18||59||77||6.59|
|Victor Hedman||Tampa Bay||633:52||8||47||55||5.21|
|Brent Burns||San Jose||914:46||18||55||73||4.79|
His possession numbers this season have been abysmal, but that is likely tied to the time he has spent alongside Kevin Bieksa, as the duo has struggled to a 36.5 CF% in more than 98 minutes of 5-on-5 play.
Nevertheless, this is the fourth straight season in which Vatanen has averaged more than 21 minutes of ice time per game, and he’ll be expected to handle at least that much in New Jersey, where they have been reshaping the blueline, but could still use a capable right-handed puck-mover who can work the power play; thus the appeal of Vatanen in this situation.
Vatanen is signed for two more seasons beyond the current campaign, at a cap hit of $4.875-million, an entirely fair price for a defenceman playing the kind of minutes that should be allocated to Vatanen.
The conditional pick going to New Jersey will be a third-rounder, but is dependent on whether Henrique signs a new contract with Anaheim. Depending on the timing of the signing, the pick could be in 2019 or 2020, or not at all if Henrique doesn’t re-sign with the Ducks. If does end up being a third-round pick, that brings with it about a 28% chance of turning into an NHL player.
The Ducks Get: C Adam Henrique, LW Joseph Blandisi and a third-round pick
Henrique is a 27-year-old centre who is a three-time 20-goal scorer and had a career-high 30 goals and 50 points in 2015-2016. He’s not good on face-offs (47.2% for his career), but can play in all situations and is a solid second-line contributor, maybe a third-liner on a deep team.
Going to Anaheim, though, Henrique becomes the de facto No. 1 centre on a team that is currently missing Ryan Getzlaf, Ryan Kesler and Rickard Rakell, so this addresses an immediate need for the Ducks, but once the team is finally healthy, it’s also possible that Henrique or Rakell will find their way back to a wing spot in order to maximize the skill on the top lines.
Signed through next season, at a $4-million cap hit, Henrique is fairly compensated for a scoring centre who has played more than 18 minutes per game in six of the past seven seasons.
Blandisi, 23, is an agitator who has put up 23 points in 68 career NHL games, enough to deserve a look in a fourth-line role for the Ducks. He struggles to generate shots, so that tends to put a limit on his offensive ceiling.
The Ducks also get a third-round pick in the deal which, as noted, offers about a 28% chance of becoming an NHL player.
Verdict: This is a deal that makes sense for both teams. New Jersey has some depth up front, with the arrival of rookies Nico Hischier and Jesper Bratt, and with veteran Travis Zajac returning from an offseason injury, so they are dealing from a position of relative strength to address a blueline that has been a weakness for a few years.
From Anaheim’s perspective, this may not be maximizing the value for Vatanen, who has been a hot name on the trade market at times over the past couple of seasons, but they still have a quality foursome (Hampus Lindholm, Josh Manson, Cam Fowler, Brandon Montour) at the top of their defensive depth chart, and have 2015 first-rounder Jacob Larsson biding his time in the AHL. If I have to pick a winner, give a slight edge to the Devils, but both teams should be happy that they were able to address positional needs.
Scott Cullen can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org