October 31, 2013

steve laidlaw


Happy Halloween, boys and ghouls!




I traded Evgeni Malkin yesterday, in a keeper league no less. The return? Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Jonathan Drouin, Antoine Vermette and flotsam.


Normally I wouldn't consider such an offer but context is everything. It just so happens that this is a large (24 teams) salary cap league ($64.3 million cap ceiling this season just like the NHL). We also count just about every stat in the book, which can skew player value.


In Malkin's case, he's still Malkin. Regardless of the stats we track he is worth the money. Two years ago he was the single best skater to own in this league. Maybe not dollars to donuts the best but in terms of overall production he was on top. Getting the best player in the league is worth the cap hit every time.


So why would I consider the move if Malkin is worth the money? I just really like Drouin and RNH.


It's a gamble for sure and I hurt my team this year but I also created a couple of million in cap space for this season because RNH is still on his rookie deal. I can redistribute that salary throughout my roster with a couple of trades and hopefully break even.


Long term, I'm operating under the assumption that I can get more out of Drouin and RNH for the combined price of $9.2 million next season than I can from Malkin for the solo price of $9.5 million.


Under normal circumstances I'd never move the best player in a deal and certainly not in a package like this. I would also normally consider the value of the roster space(s) lost by receiving multiple players in exchange for one. In this deep salary cap format, you actually flip that notion because instead of forcing yourself to go Stars and Scrubs to fill out your roster, moving a large salary creates the opportunity to distribute salary to multiple positions allowing for better depth players and presumably better balance and more consistent production.


In a vacuum, you could accuse me of selling low. Malkin is after all, struggling to start the season. I'd argue that this was a fair price whether Malkin was producing or not but since we've broached the subject, why is Malkin struggling to start the season?


He has just 10 points in 13 games, which is good enough and it's early enough that it's foolish to even consider panicking. My suspicion is that linemates are to blame.

He has been paired up with the intriguing Jussi Jokinen for much of the year with a rotating cast of characters on the right side while James Neal has been out much of the year. Neal is obviously the big loss here. It's hard to see Malkin doing too much without his partner in crime.


As intriguing as Jokinen is he actually hasn't been that strong of a producer. Take away his hat-trick against Carolina and he's sitting on just five points in 13 games. In total Jokinen has scored in just five games so far this season. I'm leaning closer to dud than stud with Jokinen.


Kris Letang has also been out, which I suspect has slowed the Penguins power play a bit, though it is still clicking at 20.0% for the season, which is a very respectable number even if it doesn't currently rank very high.

Malkin is also shooting a low 7.2% this season, which is due to regress towards his career average of 12.7% but he's also shooting less than normal and that's a continuation of his low shooting from last season.


Through last season and this season combined Malkin is firing just 3.2 shots per game versus the 4.52 shots per game he was firing in 2011-12.


So what has changed? Well there's a theory out there that Malkin doesn't produce nearly as well with Crosby in the lineup than when he is out. I don't have the exact figures but you can read a couple of takes on this here and