The Arizona Coyotes are in town to face the Vancouver Canucks tonight, and in order to make room permanent for one of their top young players in Brandon Gormley, they have placed defenseman David Schlemko on waivers.
Waivers: DAVID SCHLEMKO
— Renaud Lavoie (@renlavoietva) November 14, 2014
We’ve been fans of acquiring Schlemko for a while now, and the fact that he’s available for literally nothing but cap dollars is pretty enticing. Read past the jump for three reasons why the Canucks should make a waiver claim for David Schlemko.
1. He’s a solid 5-on-5 player
Over the past 3 seasons, Schlemko hasn’t really seen full-time duty with the Phoenix Coyotes, playing in a career high 48 games last season, but also appeared in over 60% of Phoenix’s games in the lockout shortened 2012-2013. He averaged about 14 minutes of even strength time on ice per game between 2011-12 and 2013-14, and also had the fourth highest points/60 rate of Coyotes defenders who appeared in 100 or more NHL games over that span at 0.75 pts/60 – a similar rate to Alex Edler and Yannick Weber.
Schlemko is generally a possession-neutral player, but he plays in a role that’s generally filled by guys who don’t push the play in the right direction, despite more favourable zone deployments. Guys who play a similar amount of games and ice time as Schlemko usually see around a 49% Corsi with 52% zone starts, and score at a rate of 0.56 pts/60. Schlemko does slightly better in terms of possession with slightly more defensive deployments, and he also hasn’t sheltered by quality teammates.
In terms of breaking down his play into offense and defense, Schlemko has been a very high-event defender when he’s on the ice. The Coyotes were able to generate shot attempts at a higher rate with only Keith Yandle on the ice, but Schlemko gives up quite a few shot attempts relative to his team too. His defense definitely leaves something to be desired, but his on-ice 58.1 CorsiFor/60 is a top-50 rate in the entire league.
2. He’s familiar with Willie Desjardins
It’s kind of obvious that Vancouver has gone out and targeted guys that new head coach Willie Desjardins is familiar with to bring into their organization. Most notably, both Linden Vey and Derek Dorsett played under Desjardins on some pretty good Medicine Hat Tiger teams, and currently find themselves on the Canucks. There are more Tigers connections in Utica too (Curtis Valk, Wacey Hamilton, and Hunter Shinkaruk, while Dustin Jeffrey played for Desjardins in Texas), and Luca Sbisa was once a top young D on a Lethbridge Hurricanes team that played in the same division as Desjardns’ Tigers and went to the WHL finals.
As it turns out, Schlemko is also a former Tiger, playing for Desjardins from 2004-05 to 2006-07. In 06-07, Schlemko scored 58 points for Desjardins, and helped the Tigers to a WHL championship, where they beat the Vancouver Giants in overtime of the 7th game, before losing to the Giants in the Memorial Cup.
It appears, at least from the outside, that Desjardins likes guys he’s familiar with. Having coached Schlemko for 3 years and guided his development, Desjardins would know that Schlemko’s strengths appear to be at the offensive end of the rink, and be able to play him accordingly.
3. It’s a zero risk pickup
Schlemko is a number 5-7 defenseman, making fringe NHL’er money. He has one year left on his contract, so he can walk at the end of the year if he doesn’t work out with the Canucks, and with a relatively small $1.1875 million cap hit and a $1.25 million actual salary, he also will earn less than half of what Luca Sbisa will make this year.
Right now Vancouver has two more contracts before they hit the 50 contract limit, but re-assigning Bo Horvat to the London Knights (as looks likely based on a relative lack of playing time and a healthy scratch tonight) will allow them to pick up another. This means that adding Schlemko should not restrict their ability to acquire other player assets further down the road, from either a cap perspective or a contract limit perspective.
Should the Canucks a) make a claim on Schlemko, and b) successfully acquire him, it’s not going to fundamentally change their season. Still, picking up a guy like Schlemko when he’s available is improving in the margins, and all improvement is good improvement. As it stands right now, the Edler-Tanev pairing is the only duo on Vancouver has been able to keep their heads above water in terms of puck possession, so even guys that consistently operate at a 50% Corsi will help. Schlemko’s track record does indicate that he is that type of guy, which means he’s likely a better player than Luca Sbisa, and Ryan Stanton is struggling mightily so far.
The Canucks need help everywhere they can get, and David Schlemko could help stabilize their bottom pairing, whoever is playing on it. And even if he doesn’t, there’s nothing lost from at least trying.