Before the season began, MacTavish mentioned how he was an impatient individual. That impatience reared it’s head Wednesday as the Oilers GM once again shook up Edmonton’s goaltending landscape with a 2-trade deal. Let’s break it all down, shall we?
The First Deal
The first trade sent Dubnyk to Nashville for C/LW Matt Hendricks. If you were asking yourself who Matt Hendricks was on Wednesday, you weren’t alone. Hendricks only cracked the league 5 years ago as a 27 year old, filling a niche as a 4th line grinder who can scrap and penalty kill. The media sells him as a “heart and soul” guy who works hard along the boards and isn’t afraid to stand up for his teammates. Those are all pluses for sure. How have his last 5 seasons been though?
So he’s not a scorer. That much is clear. This team is already loaded with offensive potential though, so he doesn’t necessarily NEED to score to be able to have a positive effect on this team. He’s also not a hobbit, which is always welcome. What strikes me though is that he’s signed for the next 4 years at a fairly modest cap hit. Before I get into his value too much though, let’s keep it going with his usage and possession numbers.
I like to use “fancy stats” a lot, so for those who are unfamiliar with them, behind the net has a great page on how to use and read some of the metrics that I’ve listed above. I’ve personally also gone into a bit of detail on why I use these stats in my first Tom Gilbert post.
There are several points that we can gather from the above numbers:
- He is a regular on the 4th line, averaging the 11th most even strength time on ice/game among forwards year after year;
- He has been a top option on the penalty kill over the past few seasons;
- He has generally faced weaker opponents, especially the last 2 seasons (by ranking low in Quality of Competition, measured with opponents’ relative corsi);
- He has also generally been given easier zone starts (ranking low in Offensive Zone Start %); and
- His puck possession (measured by relative corsi) has been poor, with this current season being absolutely terrible
These aren’t very encouraging numbers, especially this current season’s stats. Hendricks looks like he can kill penalties but other than that, his numbers suggest that he is more of a liability on the 4th line than not. Coupled with his lack of scoring the past 3 seasons, I’m struggling to see why MacTavish went for this player.
What would make these numbers bearable is if Hendricks came at an extreme discount, but his cap hit of $1.85 mill for the next 3.5 years is the exact opposite of that.
To top it off, we traded our starting goaltender of the past 3 seasons to get him. I was always a supporter of Dubnyk and I’d be lying if I said this season didn’t rattle my faith in him, but at the end of the day, his career SV% of 0.910 is still identical to those of Cam Ward and MA Fleury, and just short of ‘tenders like Mike Smith (0.913) and Corey Crawford (0.914). That 0.910 SV% also includes this season’s complete meltdown. That’s respectable.
The Second Deal
On the other side of the coin, MacTavish appears to have acquired a fairly capable goaltender in Ben Scrivens at the small cost of a 3rd round draft pick. He’s the same age as Dubnyk (27 years old) and has a much smaller track record, but since entering the league, he’s posted very promising numbers with a 0.916 SV% in his first 52 NHL games. Unfortunately, the sample size required to properly evaluate goaltenders is very large, so it’s far too early to tell if the local boy is the real deal or not.
Like Dubnyk, Scrivens is also a UFA at the end of the season, so whether this trade helps or hurts this club will turn on whether management can sign him to an extension. If they can do that without burning too many stacks of cash and Scrivens can keep up a SV% close to 0.916, then MacTavish could end up getting great value out of that 3rd round pick.
What to Make of It
After the dust has settled, this club isn’t terribly different. Scrivens can easily be seen as an improvement over Dubnyk based on this season’s numbers, but I’ll reserve my judgment until I see more out of the new guy. He looks good at first glance, but 52 games isn’t a whole lot to base a decision on.
Hendricks adds a veteran presence and some, dare I say it, tenacity, which is never a bad thing, but it also appears that he provides very little in the way of puck possession and scoring. He’s also on the wrong side of 30 and takes up a good chunk of cap space for the next 3.5 years, both definite “negatives.”
It’s unfortunate that Dubnyk went out on such a sour note after all the nights he seemed to be the only Oiler actually playing hockey, but change will hopefully benefit the guy and I wish him all the best. I still believe that he can rebound but if management felt that his time here was done, then so be it.
As I see it, this move pays off if Scrivens can outplay Dubnyk long enough to make up for the potentially harmful contract of Hendricks. That involves a fair-value, contract extension to Scrivens though and assumes that Hendricks won’t provide enough bang for his buck. If Hendricks can help turn this ship around though, I will gladly eat my words.