Wayne Simmonds

New Jersey Devils: Can Simmonds Have A Resurgence In Newark?

featured image photo credit – Dinur Blum

The New Jersey Devils have continued their resurgence from last place in the Eastern Conference to looking like a more prominent force in a very difficult division. In an offseason highlighted by drafting Jack Hughes and trading for P.K. Subban, they now add to that by bringing in another former Nashville Predators in Wayne Simmonds.

The Devils brought in Simmonds on a 1-year, $5.5 million contract in a free agency. Simmonds lost some value on what was considered a down year for the 30-year old winger. The Scarborough, Ontario native tallied just 17 goals and 13 assists last season between the Philadelphia Flyers and the Nashville Predators after having 2 seasons with 60 points and another 2 with 50+ points with the Flyers. His defense and intensity level has still been something that Simmonds has brought season in and season out. However, with him getting older and speed/pace of the game changing, he isn’t the same forward that he once was. That was evident last season even in a Nashville Predators defensive system which has always been phenomenal throughout their franchise history, but even better recently.

Devils Got A Great Deal 

Despite the drop in production and slight decline skillset wise, the Devils still got him on a favorable deal at $5.5 million. The Devils need all the offensive depth they can get. They are a very young team and need supporting cast for their two young centers in Hughes and 2017 #1 pick Nico Hischier. Simmonds is a sniper that can definitely help one of those centers’ playmaking ability and elevate their assist totals if he’s on his game like he was from 2013-17 with the Flyers.

The Devils need other guys to be 20-goal scorers to create two strong lines. For their third line, the Devils will need to use the young players with upside. Both, Kyle Palmieri and Taylor Hall are trustworthy options on the wing spots for the Devils to score 20+ goals, and they also got a surprising 22-goal year out of Blake Coleman last year. So most likely, Simmonds will have to start out on the second line, maybe the third line in some head-to-head matchups. However, if chemistry starts to evolve with certain players, Simmonds is definitely capable of being a first line contributor if he fits the system.

Confidence In Simmonds?

Embed from Getty Images

However, his tenure with Nashville last year doesn’t really show promise in terms of having confidence that a rise would happen. He only scored 1 goal and 2 assists in 17 regular season games, and as a result he only played in 2 playoff games where he was scoreless. He was decent defensively in those games and in that Nashville system as a whole, but the struggle to score definitely was concerning. But like I said earlier, there are certain teams that have to take those kinds of chances to rebirth a player, and I think it makes sense for the Devils to do that, especially in a Metropolitan division where a lot of teams have improved and was overly deep to begin with.

The Washington Capitals won the cup last year, the Carolina Hurricanes and New York Islanders were big surprises, the New York Rangers just signed Artemi Panarin and traded for Jacob Trouba, the Pittsburgh Penguins just traded for Alex Galchenyuk despite losing Phil Kessel, so it seemed evident that the Devils needed to do something else to keep up. Plus, it didn’t seem like a panic move either, because it was only $5.5 million, on a Devils team that isn’t terribly cash-strapped with the exception of P.K. Subban’s contract. Therefore, it made sense for the value, and the Devils will just have to hope that Simmonds can rebound after a poor campaign.

Is A Rebound Realistic?

How realistic is it that he finds his groove again like he did in 2013-17 with the Flyers?

One factor is that the Devils’ overall offensive depth is not nearly as strong as that of the Flyers or the Predators. While Jack Hughes can be a next big thing type player and Nico Hischier has strong upside as well, they aren’t at the same level as Claude Giroux, Jakub Voracek, Sean Couturier, Filip Forsberg, Ryan Johansen and Viktor Arvidsson. Hughes will definitely get there and Hischier can get there, but the question will be how much it will work this season. In any sport, there have been situations where weaker rosters have worked with certain players due to chemistry. But, that’s a wild card situation. It looks to be more of a slight negative with the Devils having some unknowns, especially if Taylor Hall can’t stay healthy like he couldn’t last year, playing in only 33 games.

Advanced Possession Metrics

The other factor I looked at is how the game has changed through the analytics that scouts and general managers judge players on now. These metrics have been something that might illustrate his small drop in production last year, and even in years where his raw point production has still been good. Both, his relative Fenwick and Corsi metrics have been in the negatives the last 3 seasons, including a -2.4% relative Corsi and -3.2% relative Fenwick rating with the Nashville Predators. Also, in terms of puck possession metrics, both his Fenwick percentage and Corsi percentage have been under 50% each of the last 4 seasons. Part of that has to do with the Flyers’ very physical style of play with their forwards and him playing with that style throughout his career even with the Kings and Predators. However, some of that also has to do with the speed of the game and Simmonds not being an overly fast skater and great overall puck handler, which is important in a puck possession game today. On the positive side, Simmonds’ physicality can help get guys off the puck very effectively, especially with the way he hits. Not to mention, the Devils have always been more of a defensive team both historically and recently, so I think he should have a smoother transition into that system than others.

Good Signing For The Value

So overall, the Devils signing Simmonds at $5.5 million should be a good signing for that value. It’s hard for me to believe that his overall production will be 30 points again like it was last season. It will be a prove it contract for both Simmonds and the Devils. But, Simmonds needs to find chemistry quickly with Hischier or Hughes, otherwise he might be a fringe player after this season.

stats from hockey-reference.com

Matt Duchene

Nashville Predators: Matt Duchene Locked Up For Seven Years

featured image photo credit – Dinur Blum

Matt Duchene is wasting no time in packing his bags. On his Twitter bio, he describes himself as “a country music wannabe”. With his love for country music and his quest for a Stanley Cup, the Nashville Predators seemed like the perfect fit.

Matt Duchene has signed a 7 year, 56 million dollars deal. That’s roughly an AAV of 8 million USD. 

In the below tweet from TSN’s Darren Dreger, the hockey analyst explains that Duchene’s contract includes quite a bit of signing bonus funds. In total, Duchene is earning 28 million in signing bonuses. Take a look at the year-by-year breakdown.

Losing Subban, Adding Duchene

Embed from Getty Images

A few days ago, the Predators created the necessary cap space to add Duchene when they traded P.K. Subban and his 9 million dollar cap hit to the New Jersey Devils. The Predators have an emerging defensive stud in Dante Fabbro, so they felt comfortable in the defense and saw an opportunity to free up cap space and add a top centreman.

In the tweet below from Greg Moshopoulous (@GreekGoalie35), he talks about the moves that general manager David Poile made over the last two weeks and how the Predators are in fact saving money.

There were plenty of hockey fans across the globe who were questioning the Subban trade, but it helped the Predators address major issues. They needed to improve their forward group.

At a press conference today, David Poile said “Our objective this offseason was to bolster our offense, and signing Matt Duchene gives us another dynamic goal-scoring, playmaking center,”. Poile went onto say, “We are excited to add his skill and experience to our top-six forwards and look forward to the next seven years of Matt and his family in Smashville.”

Duchene

Embed from Getty Images

Matt Duchene is an elite scorer. He first came into the league in 2009 draft and was the third overall pick by the Colorado Avalanche. Since his NHL debut, Duchene has scored 547 points. He has scored 232 goals and 315 assists. This ranks him second among skaters from this draft. Last year, Matt Duchene suited up for the Ottawa Senators and the Columbus Blue Jackets. Even though he was moved at the deadline, he quickly found chemistry with his teammates in Columbus. At the end of the regular season, he managed to tally 31 goals and 39 assists.

Along with being a goal scorer he can also take face-offs.  His face-off percentage is off the charts.  For his career, he holds a 53.1 percent win percentage. According to nhl.com, he’s the 12th-highest among players who have taken at least 10,000 face-offs since he entered the League in 2009-10. Last year was his best year at the dot. His 62.9 face-off win percentage was ranked first in the NHL. In addition, Duchene’s win percentage from last season at the face-off circle is ranked tenth all-time in NHL history. 

As you can see, Matt Duchene will have an instant impact on the Predators.  

stats from hockey-reference.com and NHL.com

 

 

New Jersey Devils

New Jersey Devils: Acquire P.K. Subban

The New Jersey Devils made the biggest splash on the Draft Floor when they acquired P.K. Subban from the Nashville Predators for a package of draft picks and Steven Santini and Jeremy Davies.

 

Devils Take

While it is difficult to gauge the results of the trade right away, it is fun to speculate as to how this plays out. Firstly, P.K. Subban is an upgrade on most blue-lines. He is a talented puck mover with a hard point shot and excellent skating ability. While his defense is less than stellar, he is no slouch, and he adds scoring potential and bolsters a team’s power play. Coming off his worst statistical season, Subban’s play led the Predators to sell low on the former Norris Trophy Winner. The Devils are hoping that Subban can return to form and justify the $9M per year price tag.

A realistic expectation for New Jersey fans would be to get 50 to 55 points from Subban, and he could eat up 22 to 24 minutes a night, while manning the top power play. 

For the return they sent back, Devils General Manager Ray Shero and the team came out ahead in this trade.

Grade: B+

Predators Take

As the rumors of the lower than expected salary cap became more realistic, the idea of a P.K. Subban trade was evident. The Nashville Predators had ~$77M in team salary committed to next season, with a few glaring holes to fill. They have been rumored to be one of the leading clubs to land Unrstricted Free Agent Matt Duchene. Assuming Dante Fabro makes the leap to full-time NHLer, he will likely slot in the top 4, which leaves Santini to fill in the bottom pair.

I think the two 2nd round picks are an underwhelming return, getting Davies in the deal was a bit of a sweetener. He is a talented offensive defenseman that just signed his Entry Level Contract. Playing at Northeastern University, he netted eight goals and 28 assists in 37 games. He will likely join the Milwaukee Admirals next season, Nashville’s American Hockey League affiliate, and make a worthwhile extra defenseman, if injury forces the situation.

Grade: C

Summary

Overall, I think this was a pretty good hockey trade that was dictated from a Devils position of strength. Any other year, this would have been a horrifying trade for the Predators, but their cap situation and a down year by Subban forced Nashville General Manager Dave Poille’s hand.

Statistics provided by TSN

Featured Image Photo Credit: Nikos Michals

Nashville Predators: Subban’s Inconsistency & Trade Destinations

It’s been rumoured that the Nashville Predators will explore a trade involving all-star defenseman P.K. Subban

Embed from Getty Images

Subban has been an all-star multiple times throughout his ten seasons in the NHL and won the Norris Trophy in 2013. While he’s had an outstanding ten seasons, he been mentioned in trade rumours off and on. After the 2015-2016 season, the Montreal Canadiens felt that a change was needed. Canadiens general manager Marc Bergevin decided to trade Subban to the Predators. In return, the Canadiens received defenseman Shea Weber. This was a controversial trade at the time. Subban loved playing in Montreal and was loved by the fans. Bergevin faced criticism for trading Subban for an older defenseman who has had injury concerns. 

Since coming to Nashville, Subban’s play has been a tad inconsistent. During his 2016-2017 season, he played in 66 games, had 10 goals, 30 assists, 16 power-play points, 24:24 average time on ice (ATOI), 58 take-aways and a 54.4 corsi-for percentage (CF%). In Subban’s 2017-2018 season, he bounced back and he was stellar in the offensive zone. In 82 games, Subban recorded 16 goals, 43 assists, 25 power-play points, 24:07 ATOI, 97 take-aways and a 51.2 CF%. Last season, his offensive production stalled out once again. In 63 games played, Subban recorded 9 goals, 22 assists, 10 power-play points, 22:40 ATOI, 57 take-aways and a 53.4 CF%. 

What’s Causing The Inconsistency?

With his inconsistency in the offensive zone, we should take the time to point out what is causing the drop in offensive production prior to taking about potential destinations. 

The biggest issue is that Subban is no longer a “carry-in specialist”. Earlier on in his career he loved to control the puck and create zone entries, but that’s no longer the case. Predators fans did catch a glimpse of Subban going back to his old carry-in tendencies in his 2017-2018 campaign, but that he failed to carry that over into his 2018-2019 campaign.

In addition, he’s not generating that many shots. Subban’s PSC/60 was fairly lower than you’d expect.

In the visual below (visual from Sean Tierney), you’ll see that Subban wasn’t a puck carrying defenseman neither was he generating scoring chances/generating shots last season.

visual created by Sean Tierney, data from EvolvingWild and Corey Sznajder

Potential Destinations

Perhaps Subban would benefit from being in a different defensive unit. He played extremely well in his days with the Montreal Canadiens and maybe a different coaching philosophy would be beneficial to Subban’s production. 

With that in mind, there are several clubs across the NHL that could use his services.

The Florida Panthers are trying to load up on talent. Panthers general manager Dale Tallon has been rumoured to be chasing after Evgeni Malkin, Artemi Panarin and Sergei Bobrovsky. If a couple of those engagements go sour, Tallon could see Subban as a Plan B.

The Edmonton Oilers desperately need an offensive defenseman talent. The Edmonton Oilers lack a defenseman who they can utilize to quarterback their power-play. While Darnell Nurse hasn’t been awful at running the power-play, Subban would be a huge upgrade. Plenty of the Oilers including Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Jesse Puljujarvi would all benefit from having Subban running their power-play. In addition, the Oilers would likely need Subban to be a puck-mover, which would enable Subban to record similar campaigns to his 2017-2018 season.

The New York Islanders would also be a solid fit. They have a ton of cap space. Also, similar to the Oilers as they don’t have a true defenseman who can control their power-play efficiently. Ryan Pulock and Nick Leddy have been holding up the fort, but Subban would be more efficient.

Stay Tuned

The Puck77 crew will keep you up to date and will let you know if a trade will go down involving Subban. Stay tuned.

stats from Corey Sznajder, Hockey-Reference.com, Evolving Wild

visual from Sean Tierney

featured image photo credit – Nikos Michals

 

 

 

Nashville Predators: Off-season Priorities

The Nashville Predators were unceremoniously eliminated by the Dallas Stars in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, so what’s next?

Draft Picks

The Predators were able to bolster their roster at the deadline and keep their first round pick. They will have the 19th pick in the first round of the draft. 

They will also have six other picks in the draft. These picks include a 3rd round pick, two in the 4th round, and one in each subsequent round. Their second round pick was traded to New Jersey in the Brian Boyle trade. 

Check out our Draft Rankings to see who may be available for the Predators at #19. Also be on the look out for the Puck77 Mock Draft. 

Free Agents

Nashville does have a few key pieces that they may want to lock up. Let’s look at the key free agents on the roster. 

Wayne Simmonds– RW/ LW

Simmonds was the big splash move for the Preds at the deadline. The intent was that he and Brian Boyle would add a net front presence and bolster the much-maligned power play. That plan never transpired, as they finished the season at an abysmal 16.7% on the power play following the deadline. Wayne Simmonds had 1 goal and 2 assists in 17 games with the Predators. Simmonds will turn 31 in August and will be looking for a significant raise from his $3.9M salary. 

Generally players in their final contract prefer to have stability, and Nashville does not generally offer No-Trade protection. I do not envision them re-signing Simmonds. 

Brian Boyle– LW/ C

Another mid-season acquisition by David Poille, the Predators sent a 2nd round pick to the New Jersey Devils. Few players can energize a locker room better than Brian Boyle. Ever since overcoming cancer, he has been a feel good story. He even netted a hat trick against Pittsburgh on “Hockey Fights Cancer Night.” However, his numbers do not justify a multi-year deal. If they can convince him to come back for one-year at ~$1.25M, he is certainly worth it, but if it gets more expensive, I would pass. 

Embed from Getty Images

Other UFA’s

Cody McLeod and Zac Rinaldo are both unrestricted free agents and will likely not be re-signed. 

Restricted Free Agents

Colton Sissons and Rocco Grimaldi are both RFA’s. I believe that Sissons will be tendered an offer in the neighborhood of $2.5M to $3M per season. I don’t believe Grimaldi will be brought back. 

One of the things that is very noticeable is the lack of defenseman on the Free Agent lists above, and that will bring us to our next topic. 

Trade Chips

P.K. Subban– D

This narrative is as demoralizing as the Phil Kessel narrative in Pittsburgh, but every year this becomes the most trending trade rumor in hockey. Subban is one of the most talented defenseman in the league, and would net a huge return for Nashville, but would the return be justified? The lack of production from their wingers will definitely push this narrative throughout the off-season.

Embed from Getty Images

Ryan Ellis– D

The Predators have so much talent on their back-end. Ellis is another guy that could be expendable for the right return. I know he just signed an 8-year extension, but the price tag on the contract would make it very movable. The return would be much greater than Subban could bring. 

Juuse Saros– G

A young goaltender with starting experience and a team friendly contract, every team would knock down the Preds door if they knew he was available. Unfortunately for Sarros, Rinne will be the starter for the next two seasons. I believe that Nashville will have to consider moving Sarros. 

Free Agent Targets

Artemi Panarin– LW

I know this guy will be the top target on everyone’s list, but the need for scoring wingers justifies his inclusion on this list. He will likely command an $11M per year salary, but the low tax rates in Tennessee may make Nashville an attractive destination. 

Embed from Getty Images

Ryan Dzingel– C/ RW/ LW

Dzingel’s versatility will make him another attractive target. Though, he may provide a cheaper alternative to Panarin. I assume that his salary will land somewhere near $7M per year. 

Matt Duchene– C

Here is a name that has been linked to Nashville for quite some time. It was rumored that the Predators made a strong push at the deadline to acquire Duchene, but eventually lost out to the Columbus Blue Jackets. He will be courted by many teams in free agency, and I don’t know if Nashville will have the cap space to make a contending offer. Corresponding moves will need to be made to free up some salary. 

Cheaper Options

Re-signing Brian Boyle is their best option, but if that falls through, there are other affordable options. Thomas Vanek, Pat Maroon, and Troy Brouwer would be attractive, low-budget options to add scoring depth. 

Summary

The Nashville Predators is a team that relies on it’s blue line to create offense. While it has provided great success in the regular season, the last two postseasons have been a disappointment. They desperately need to add scoring from their forward group and improve their power play in the off-season. 

stats from hockey-reference.com

featured image photo credit – Nikos Michals