Tracking and Evaluating the NHL's Off-Season

Updated: Oct 22, 2020

August 25th - Penguins Trade for Kasperi Kapanen

Penguins Receive: Kasperi Kapanen, Jesper Lindgren, Pontus Aberg

The biggest piece of this trade is clearly Kasperi Kapanen. The Penguins needed to try something to extend their window with Crosby and Malkin, and Jim Rutherford made his bet on Kapanen. He does have some high-end skill, particularly his speed, and they're betting that they’ll be able to get more out of that skill set. On the other hand, the other skills have been inconsistent and there have been questions about his determination; that’s led to him only being able to turn his ability into highs of 20 goals and 24 assists while playing with plenty of offensive talent in Toronto.

Crosby’s shown the ability to get a lot out of players with far less skill, so I’ll be particularly interested to see what Kapanen could do if they put him on that wing. Kapanen’s speed could fit well there, benefitting Crosby as well by opening up more space for him to operate in.

Unfortunately for the Penguins, Kapanen’s underlying stats have been even more disappointing than his traditional metrics. Kapanen had a 48% xG% at 5v5 this season, which isn't too bad on it's own. However, almost every Maple Leaf he played with had better stats without him on the ice.

He did play well further down the lineup and was effective on the penalty kill, so there's no question Kapanen can fill a role. However, the price the Penguins paid clearly points to Rutherford planning for him to be in their top six - that's concerning when Tavares, Nylander, Matthews, and Marner all fared significantly better without him.

Neither Lindgren or Aberg is likely to contribute much for the Penguins. Lindgren has some skill but is more likely to be an AHL piece, while Aberg is currently in the KHL.

Maple Leafs Receive: Penguins 2020 First-Round Draft Pick (15th Overall), Evan Rodrigues, Filip Hallander, David Warsofsky

The Leafs have major limitations with a flat cap, and considering everybody knows it they did well to turn Kapanen into a mid-first round pick. Kapanen's deal wasn't one that was going to make or break their cap situation, but for them any flexibility helps. Considering Toronto's first-round pick is owned by Carolina, Kyle Dubas getting them back in is the biggest win of this trade.

Evan Rodrigues is an interesting piece, but made $2M in 2019-20; I'm not sure Dubas will be looking to spend that much on a bottom-six forward. If they do choose to try to keep him, he was a slighlty positive relative player in possession and scoring chances for much of his time with a poor Sabres team and has the potential to fill a similar role to Kapanen's.

Hallander has played well against men in Sweden for a couple seasons, and could be a solid contributor to the Leafs by 2021-22. I expect him to fill a bottom-six role as well as to be valuable on the penalty kill. Warsofsky is unlikely to contribute outside of the AHL.

Winner: Maple Leafs

Kapanen is in as good a position as he could ask for to show that he can live up to the promise from when he was drafted, and I wouldn’t bet against Crosby bringing out more in him. If he does breakout, his $3.2M AAV will be a bargain for the Penguins. However, I just can’t see what he’s shown so far in his career being worth the 15th overall pick.

Sept 2nd - Canadiens Acquire Jake Allen

Canadiens Receive: Jake Allen, 2022 Seventh-Round Pick

The Canadiens get a much more effective backup for Carey Price (and one who arguably performed better than Price this season). Allen had a .934 save percentage at 5v5 and a .894 against high-danger chances. Those numbers are enough to assume that the Canadiens will be able to give Price a much more manageable workload in 2020-21.

The downside for Montreal is that they'll now be spending almost $15M of their cap on goaltenders for next season. That's a risk with a flat cap, but I think is being overblown a bit since Allen is only signed for one more season and they should be able to manage it for one year. The other side of that is that it does still prevent investment in other areas, or taking advantage of teams that are right up against the cap.

This is also interesting for the expansion draft - teams are required to expose an RFA or goalie under contract for 2021-22, and currently Price is the only goalie that the Canadiens have signed into that year. The Canadiens will need to address that at some point unless they plan on exposing Price and assuming Seattle wouldn't want to take on his deal.

Blues Receive: Washington’s 2020 Third-Round Pick, Chicago’s 2020 Seventh-Round Pick

For St. Louis, this isn't about the return they're getting - it's about a bet on Jordan Binnington and freeing up cap space to re-sign Alex Pietrangelo. Given that the Blues already have Ville Husso signed going forward, it didn't make sense for them to keep both Jordan Binnington and Allen. Allen actually outplayed Binnington for much of this season and ended up taking over in the playoffs, but even the PR standpoint was enough to ensure the Blues wouldn't be moving Binnington after his cult hero status from 2018-19.

From here the only question is if that extra cap space will allow them to sign their captain. Pietrangelo put up over 50 points this season, and combines that with strong underlying numbers. There are rumors of some unhappiness between him and St. Louis, so this salary cap space was vital to having any chance to sign him.

Winner: Draw (Updated on 10/21)

Right now I'd probably call the Canadiens the winner on this deal since I'd much rather have Price and Allen than Binnington and Husso, and I think Montreal can work around the cap impact for one season. However, I think the winner will be dependent on if St. Louis can sign Pietrangelo; managing to re-sign him would make St. Louis a slight winner for me.

With the loss of Pietrangelo and signing of Torey Krug, I would settle on this one being a draw.

Sept 2nd - Canadiens Acquire Joel Edmundson

Canadiens Receive: Joel Edmundson (UFA)

Edmundson was set to become a UFA, but was signed to a four-year extension worth $3.5M per year. The analytics suggest that Edmundson is a pretty average player - a Corsi for percentage of 50.7% while starting in the defensive zone slightly more often than the offensive. I'm slightly concerned about how he could fit into Montreal's system; they excelled at dominating high-danger chances, while he had a high-danger for percentage of 46.6%. The contract to me is the biggest overpay; they may have paid more for Edmundson in free agency, but could have gotten a similar player for cheaper.

Hurricanes Receive: Montreal's 2020 Fifth-Round Pick

The return for the Hurricanes is straight-forward: they didn't plan to re-sign Edmundson or didn't think they'd be able to, so they got a late round pick for Montreal to be able to negotiate early.

Winner: Carolina

Given that they weren't going to be able to re-sign him, the Canes got something in return for someone they would have lost soon for free. Montreal didn't give up much, but overpaid on the contract for what I expect to see as a return.

Sept 11th - Pittsburgh Sends Nick Bjugstad to Minnesota

Wild Receive: Nick Bjugstad, Penguins Retain 50% of Salary

Bjugstad has been somewhat productive in his career, but has largely struggled to stay healthy. In his one full season he managed to put up 49 points for Florida; if Minnesota gets him healthy and at that level then he will be a bargain at $2.05M. His underlying stats are strong as well, with most of his most common linemates faring better while he's on the ice.

Penguins Receive: Conditional 2021 Draft Pick

This trade is all about opening up a little bit of extra budget space for the Penguins. The condition on the pick is around the number of games that Bjugstad plays.

Winner: Even

I see this as even since it's low-risk on both ends. The Penguins opened up a little bit of space to look to improve in free agency, while the Wild get to take a chance on a talented player who has struggled with injuries and only give something up if he plays.

Sept 16th - Eric Staal to the Sabres

Wild Receive: Marcus Johansson

Minnesota gets slightly faster and younger, even though Johansson was less productive than Staal last year. Johansson has shown flashes of talent, but his productivity and underlying stats rarely match that talent. He's never exceeded 15 goals or 35 assists at 5v5, and both of those came quite a while ago. Considering he's more expensive than Staal and isn't strong at center, it's hard to figure out this move for the Wild. This has to be a part of an expected second move to move a defenseman for center help, but this still doesn't seem like a strong use of assets.

Sabres Receive: Eric Staal

Staal has experienced a resurgence with Minnesota, even if he's 35 and has seen declines the past couple seasons. Staal has struggled to drive possession in Minnesota, but excels and creating chances and owning the xG and high-danger chance stats. That will be welcome as a 2C in Buffalo, giving them someone to facilitate that line and mentor Dylan Cozens. A line of Skinner-Staal-Thompson is intriguing as an option to finally give Buffalo some scoring depth.

Winner: Buffalo

Staal is aging and may not work out for the Sabres, but the fact that he's slightly cheaper is enough to make them the winner when this move doesn't make sense for Minnesota.

Sept 24th - Hornqvist for Matheson

Penguins Receive: Michael Matheson and Colton Sceviour

The Penguins receive a talented puck mover in Matheson; unfortunately, they also get a poor defender in the same player. Matheson has offensive talent and an impressive highlight reel, but his offensive stats have declined while he continues to put up mediocre possession numbers (Corsi and Fenwick each under 50% for the past two seasons). Additionally, he still has six years and $29.25M remaining on his contract; Sceviour's contract adds another $1.2M this year

Panthers Receive: Patric Hornqvist

The Panthers receive a physical presence in their lineup who is capable of contributing goals, but is in decline at this point in his career. Hornqvist's goals and points stayed pretty steady this year at 5 on 5, but his possession number and other underlying stats indicate decline has started - his Corsi dropped from 53.54% two seasons ago to 48.29% this season, and high-danger chances saw a similar decline. Hornqvist has three years and $15.9M remaining.

Winner: Florida

I see the Panthers as the winner here simply because I don't think either team got significantly better, and the Penguins will be stuck with Matheson's contract for longer. Considering he also adds to a huge log jam at left-handed defense that the team will have to address, I give the slight edge to Florida.

Oct 4: Kings Acquire Maatta

Kings Receive: Olli Maatta

Chicago Receives: Brad Morrison

For the Kings, this move gives them a left-handed defenseman to likely play alongside Drew Doughty on the first pairing. That’s likely forcing Maatta into a role bigger than his skills, but it allows LA’s other defensemen on the left side to slot into more appropriate roles. Long-term, that’s more important for the Kings during their rebuilding process.

Maatta had poor possession, xG, and scoring chance numbers for Chicago, but much of that seems to be related to the quality of the team overall. Almost everyone he played substantial minutes with had worse underlying numbers while Maatta wasn’t on the ice. That’s encouraging for LA at least having gained someone who can hold their own on the left side.

Winner: LA

Even if Maatta isn’t slotted as a number one defenseman on a contending team, for LA he fills a major need. If he can build chemistry with Doughty, he could pay huge dividends while helping to grow the younger members of the roster. For Chicago, this is clearly a salary dump and I’m surprised they weren’t able to find someone willing to give up more, especially since they are retaining some of Maatta’s salary.

Oct 5: Sharks Trade for Ryan Donato

Sharks Receive: Ryan Donato

Wild Receive: 2021 Third-Round Pick

I love this trade for the Sharks - Donato’s points haven’t been huge so far, but his underlying stats show a player who could thrive with a bigger role. Donato had a 54% xG rate at 5v5 last year, and an extremely impressive 63% high-danger chance percentage. His shooting percentage this year may be a bit inflated compared to prior seasons, but those underlying metrics make me much less concerned about that being an issue going forward.

Winner: San Jose

Donato looks like a talented, but underused, player so far in his career. He could thrive in San Jose for a long time if they give him a larger role.

Oct 5: Sharks Trade for Devan Dubnyk

Sharks Receive: Devan Dubnyk, 2022 Seventh-Round Pick

Wild Receive: 2022 Fifth-Round Pick

The exact opposite of the last one, this is a horrendous trade for the Sharks. They’ve been plagued by poor goaltending on big contracts, and managed to acquire a goalie who is, at best, equal to what they already had while having a cap hit of $4.3M next season.

Of goalies who played at least 1200 minutes at 5v5 last season, Dubnyk had the third-worst save percentage at .903 (Martin Jones was worst at .892); that’s despite playing with a strong defensive team in Minnesota that allowed him to have shots coming from the third-furthest average distance. High-danger chances were even worst, with Dubnyk ranking dead last in the league.