Yesterday, the Los Angeles Kings bought out Dion Phaneuf‘s contract. With Phaneuf’s contract bought out, the Kings have plenty of cap space, but does that mean that they should still pursue a trade with the Toronto Maple Leafs for Patrick Marleau?
Phaneuf’s contract is off the books in Los Angeles. Over the past few seasons, fans have seen a huge decline in Phaneuf’s skill-set. The 34 year old defenseman from Edmonton, Alberta hasn’t posted a corsi-for percentage higher than 50% since his 2015-2016 campaign with the Toronto Maple Leafs. Last season, his corsi-for percentage wasn’t atrocious. He mustered up a corsi-for percentage of 49.1. But, keep in mind, Phaneuf was only averaging 15 minutes of ice time per night. This meant that Phaneuf was playing weak competition and it allowed the Albertan to shine. While Phaneuf’s production wasn’t half bad, it didn’t make sense to have a defenseman with a 7 million dollar cap hit to be on the third defensive pairing.
Phaneuf Opening Up Cap Space For Marleau
Now that Phaneuf has been bought out, the Los Angeles Kings have a projected cap space of 14.79 million for next season. With that being said, there were rumours circulating around the Los Angeles Kings possibly being interested in acquiring Marleau in a trade with the Toronto Maple Leafs. Marleau is coming off a rough campaign with the Maple Leafs. It appears that Marleau’s age has finally caught up to him. He appeared in 82 games for the Leafs, but failed to get to 40 points. Instead, Marleau recorded 16 goals and 21 assists. To be honest, those numbers aren’t half bad, but when you carry a 6.250 million cap hit, there are expectations that you will tally 50+ points.
Marleau’s Offensive Productivity
Not only are his point totals down, but he simply isn’t helping to create offensive scoring chances. In the visual below (created by Sean Tierney), you’ll see that Marleau’s carry-in percentage was quite low and his primary shot contributions/60 were low as well. In fact, several Leafs who had rough seasons including Par Lindholm, Connor Brown and Nazem Kadri were all more effective in generating scoring chances than Marleau.
visual created by Sean Tierney, data from EvolvingWild and Corey Sznajder
In addition, Marleau was often playing on forward lines that weren’t effective. In the visual below from Tierney, you’ll see Marleau played on four different lines last season. He played alongside Nazem Kadri and Connor Brown for a bit, but that line simply wasn’t effective. The line’s expected goals against/60 (xGA60) was quite high and his expected goals for/60 (xGF60) was quite low. When Mike Babcock tried to change things up, he put Marleau on the same line with Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner. Unfortunately, that line wasn’t effective either.
The only line that really gelled well for Marleau was when Babcock put Marleau, Kadri and Nylander together. The line did put up a low xGA60 and a high xGF60, but this line didn’t see that much ice time as the first and second line were far more effective at generating expected goals throughout the course of the season.
visual by Sean Tierney, data from MoneyPuck.com
So, Is A Marleau Trade Worth It?
Based on the data that we’ve looked at, it’s evident that the Kings aren’t acquiring Marleau to boost their offense. Instead, they are looking to add a veteran who has one more year left on his deal in a cap-dump trade. The Kings would be essentially doing the Toronto Maple Leafs a favour. But, in order for the Kings to make this trade, they’d need some more value from Toronto. The Maple Leafs would have to make this trade attractive enough for the Kings because no team is going to just take a bad contract and say thank you. That being said, if Kings general manager Rob Blake can get an extra prospect or a mid-range draft pick from the Leafs, it would make the trade more appealing.
If I’m sitting in Blake’s shoes, I would rather go for one of the Leafs’ prospects. I think you can rule out Jeremy Bracco, who had an outstanding season with the Toronto Marlies (Maple Leafs AHL affiliate), but you might be able to land a solid prospect like Mac Hollowell or Yegor Korshkov.
stats from hockey-reference.com, NHL.com, moneypuck.com, EvolvingWild, Corey Sznajder
visuals from Sean Tierney
featured image photo credit – Nikos Michals