Breaking Down the TSN Trade Bait List Using Analytics (Part II)
Looking at Max Domi, Marc-André Fleury, Kris Letang, and more.
This article is Part II of a series in which I analyze the players from the TSN Trade Bait board using a variety of analytics including EvolvingWild’s RAPM player isolates, Corey Sznajder’s manually tracked microstats, and player deployment from HockeyViz and Dobber. Part I can be found here.
#6: Shayne Gostisbehere - RD, Philadelphia Flyers
Want a change of scenery player? Gostisbehere is your guy. His profile has plummeted since his Calder-nominated rookie year and Giroux-and-powerplay-buoyed 17-18 campaign, when he looked like the league’s next dynamic offensive defenceman. He fell out of favour with new coach Alain Vigneault this season, and it was for good reason as his impact at both ends of the ice plummeted.
Why did that happen? I think a big reason is that his skillset didn’t fit with the Flyers’ more conservative new system. From 2016 to 2019, Gostisbehere was an elite transition player, ranking above the 95th percentile in zone exits and entries with possession of the puck - both per 60 and as a percentage of total exits and entries. Put simply, the guy was an instrumental part of the Flyers’ transition game. But now that the team plays a more simple a dump and chase game with relatively unambitious breakouts, he didn’t really fit. Assuming those puck skills didn’t disappear overnight, he could turn it around on a new team.
Gostisbehere has three seasons remaining on a $4.5M contract, which makes him a decent-sized risk. Does one bad year make him a cap dump? I would think not, and with defencemen being trusted more and more to carry the puck in this league I could see teams being interested. Like with van Riemsdyk, the cup-hungry Flyers didn’t bother trying to up his trade value in the playoffs and frequently healthy scratched him. That could make him a nice buy-low target.
Does It Make Sense to Trade Him? Yes, he didn’t seem to fit in Vigneault’s system and would likely be lost to Seattle in the expansion draft anyway.
Who Should be Interested? Winnipeg, New Jersey, Buffalo
#7: Kyle Palmieri - RW, New Jersey Devils
Kyle Palmieri is a very effective two-way complementary top six forward with one year left on a reasonable $4.6M contract. His WAR numbers might be a little inflated by a strong powerplay acumen and plenty of quality Taylor Hall time, and he looks like exactly the kind of player who’s doomed to end up disappointing whatever team he signs with as a UFA, but as a 1-year rental it’d be hard to find a better target.
Unless New Jersey is confident that 2020-21 is the year that they’ll make a serious run, or else feel as though the offers will be better at the deadline, they should definitely look into moving him as soon as they can. The best fit for Palmieri will be a team that needs goalscoring and can deploy him in the top six and top powerplay unit with creative forwards who will do the puck-carrying for him.
Does It Make Sense to Trade Him? Yes, and now’s the time to do it.
Who Should be Interested? Boston, Edmonton, Montreal, Carolina
#8: Max Domi - C/LW, Montréal Canadiens
Let’s get this out of the way first: Max Domi is one of the best playmakers in the NHL. He’s in the 93rd percentile in terms of 5v5 primary assists and shot assists over the past three seasons, and his ability to drive on-ice scoring chances and goals ranks in the top tier of the league as well over that time. He’s a very strong transition player who can be relied upon to exit and enter the zone with possession of the puck consistently as well. His lack of defence is a problem, and it’s one that didn’t especially improve in Montréal. Any team acquiring him should recognize that what he brings in terms of offence is to a certain extent counter-acted by his disinterest in suppressing shots; fortunately his offence is so strong that it shouldn’t be a huge concern.
I think acquiring Domi right now would be a really shrewd move, because his value is likely lower than it should be. His point totals this season were dragged down by Montréal’s horrid powerplay (which he is far from solely responsible for) and his inexplicible deployment with Dale Weise on the fourth line in the playoffs predictably made him look about as bad as you’d expect a playmaker to look in that situation. The question is what that new contract will look like. On a five year contract, EvolvingWild project him at roughly $6M, although it’s unclear how a flat cap and his depressed point totals could affect that. Nonetheless, I think any number below 7 would be a solid deal - especially if you factor in that his PP numbers and point totals will probably improve away from the Canadiens.
Does It Make Sense to Trade Him? I wouldn’t, but if the Habs are willing to roll the dice with Suzuki and Kotkaniemi I suppose it’s better than moving Danault.
Who Should be Interested? Winnipeg, Buffalo, Columbus, New Jersey
#9: Marc-André Fleury - G, Vegas Golden Knights
Who could have seen this one coming back in January? It seemed like for better or for worse, Marc-André Fleury was going to be Vegas’ no-doubt franchise goalie until he retired, but then suddenly he wasn’t. The Knights picked up a better goalie in Robin Lehner at the deadline and against all odds it looks like they’re committing to him. Which means that they’re going to have to face the challenge of moving a $7M 35 year old goalie with two years left on his deal and a limited no-trade clause. The alternative is keeping a guy who has made it uh pretty clear that he’s not too happy with playing behind Lehner.
I’ve made my feelings on Fleury pretty clear in the past. I don’t think he’s a very good goalie, and I think his career has been massively overrated because of a couple of memorable moments and some very good teams in front of him. He was undeniably elite in 2017-18, but was mediocre at best before that and mediocre at best ever since. His hyper-athletic style isn’t likely to be getting any stronger with age, and at 35 it’s unlikely we’ll see a repeat of that anomaly performance. I can’t think of any contending team that could comfortably bet on getting a better performance from him than their current starter, and while that would seem to contradict the passionate feelings of most Vegas fans and media, it doesn’t contradict the stats.
If the Knights can find a way to shed this contract - either this summer or through the expansion draft - it will be a smart move on their part. I’m not sure who’s going to be willing to bite with better options on the market for far less money and term. In my mind, Fleury would be a decent fit on a team with cap space and no burning need to win right now who could use his apparently godly presence in the room.
Does It Make Sense to Trade Him? If Vegas can re-sign Lehner, absolutely.
Who Should be Interested? Detroit, Ottawa
#10: Kris Letang - RD, Pittsburgh Penguins
This one is a real headscratcher to me. Kris Letang is one of the league’s top offensive defencemen while playing a massive role across all situations. At 33 he’s certainly not getting any younger, but he remains the engine behind the Penguins’ transition game and the only substantial driver of offence on their blueline. With only two years remaining on his contract, I don’t see why he should be on the chopping block. With John Marino able to take on a bigger defensive role moving forward, the Pens should be able to manage Letang’s ice time moving forward and maintain his offensive effectiveness.
Letang’s biggest weakness is his defensive play, and it’s one that has been getting worse for the past two seasons. He’s also underperformed his expected goals against in four of the past five campaigns, which raises the question of whether he might be giving up better chances than the models can capture. Regardless, his value is overwhelmingly positive and he projects as a #1 defenceman for the remainder of his deal.
In my mind, the Penguins should only trade Kris Letang if somebody is willing to trade what amounts to a younger version of Kris Letang for him. And no, I do not mean Rasmus Ristolainen. Otherwise, they’ll most likely be slamming their window closed two years too early.
Does It Make Sense to Trade Him? No, unless you can get a #1 offensive defenceman in return somehow.
Who Should be Interested? Edmonton, Colorado, Buffalo, Winnipeg, Vancouver