Should Vancouver Claim Magnus Paajarvi?

We’ve been down this path a couple of times this season, first with David Schlemko, and then later with Cory Conacher, but the Canucks are far from a perfect team, and when you’re far from a perfect team, it’s always worth exploring an intriguing name when they’re placed on waivers, and doubly so if that player is still young. According to Bob McKenzie, the St. Louis Blues are the latest team to cast aside a potentially useful player, as they have waived 23-year old F Magnus Paajarvi-Svensson.

Should the Canucks put a claim on Paajarvi? Would he fit with the team? Find out after the jump.

Originally drafted by the Edmonton Oilers 10th overall in 2009, Paajarvi hasn’t exactly lived up to expectations. He set a career high in goals (15) and points (34) in his rookie season of 2010-2011, and hasn’t come close to eclipsing that total since. He was dealt to the Blues for David Perron 2013, and has a grand total of 6 goals and 7 assists in 65 games since – hardly inspiring production.

Dig deeper though, and it appears that Paajarvi has been a useful, if misunderstood, player. In a small sample, he has been a top-6 quality possession player when controlling for teammates and deployment while scoring at a bottom-6 rate between his rookie year and 2013-2014:

Paajarvi also comes out ahead in terms of Steve Burtch’s dCorsi metric (the difference between a player’s actual Corsi and their expected Corsi based on linemates, competition, deployment, etc.) every year he’s been in the NHL, meaning he’s always had a positive impact on his teammates possession metrics. Most of this appears to be on the defensive side of the puck too, as opponents have averaged a little over four fewer shot attempts per 60 minutes against Paajarvi than Paajarvi has been expected to allow, while his offensive impact is basically negligible.

At 23, Paajarvi is still young enough to have upside left, and at 6’3 with fantastic straight-ahead speed, he has a great toolkit too. But unfulfilled expectations can make otherwise good decision makers to mistake “disappointing” for “bad,” and questionable results can provide an easy justification for making such moves. Paajarvi has been mired in absolute PDO hell for his Blues career. He has a 942 PDO this season after an equally brutal 958 last season, and a 2013-14 Alex Edler-ian on-ice shooting percentage of 5.88% and 2.33% the past two years.

Paajarvi’s raw output at the NHL level has been brutal – there are no two ways about that. He is certainly not a top-6 guy at this point in time, but like a David Booth, Paajarvi can provide value at the bottom of the lineup by helping keep the puck out of your zone and in your opponent’s. And at 23, he’s certainly worth a gamble for some team to make.

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Is that team the Canucks though? Well, if the name of the game was simply building a monopoly of potentially useful players, claiming Paajarvi would be a no-brainer. But there are salary and contract limits to consider beyond “can we use this guy,” and you also have to be mindful of how the player may fit into the roster. The Canucks have a glut of bottom-6 forwards, and the need for another bottom-6 player isn’t immediately apparent.

At just half a season left on a $1.2M/yr cap hit, Paajarvi isn’t locked in to a bad deal, and would be one of the cheaper players on the Canucks’ roster should they claim him. Also, Vancouver has 48 contracts with Bo Horvat with the big team, so a claim on Paajarvi wouldn’t push them up against the 50 contract limit either. Contractually, Paajarvi poses no problems for Vancouver, so the question is whether or not he’s a hockey fit.

When Alex Burrows is in the top-6, the Canucks do lack bottom-6 LW depth. Dorsett and Hansen are both more comfortable on the right side, but Shawn Matthias has looked rather good since moving to the left wing earlier this year. Tom Sestito isn’t really a viable option for a team striving to be respectable, so Paajarvi would be in competition with Kassian, Hansen, Dorsett, Vey, and Matthias for ice time. Given his middling production, adding him would essentially be adding a contract and burning cap space for a lateral move.

The biggest argument in favour of claiming Paajarvi is that he could potentially be Jannik Hansen (or Dorsett or Higgins or Matthias) right now, and has a much better chance of being what Hansen used to be in three years than current Hansen does. Vancouver is not a Stanley Cup contender this year by any measure; not by their record, not by their goal differential, and certainly not by their underlying numbers. And they’re getting old too – not just the core, but most of the complimentary players. Radim Vrbata is 33, Chris Higgins is 31, Alex Burrows is 33, and even Jannik Hansen, Brad Richardson, and Derek Dorsett are beginning the down slope of their careers in their late 20’s. That’s the age that Paajarvi is going to be by the time Vancouver should be ready to be on the upswing again at this rate.

The Canucks, as an NHL team, should be aiming to win the Stanley Cup. They weren’t good enough last year, they aren’t good enough this year barring something insane, and they won’t be good enough next year or two years from now. They need assets for the future, which means shipping out players that won’t be contributing three, four, and five years down the road. Hansen, Higgins, Burrows, Richardson, Dorsett, and Vrbata aren’t going to be those guys, but Magnus Paajarvi might very well be, and he can replace one of them right now.

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To put it all together, Vancouver should be trying to acquire Magnus Paajarvi not because he fills a need or has fantastic talent, but because acquiring a 23 year old depth winger with defensive upside and trading a 30 year old winger for future assets is what re-tooling on the fly actually looks like. I think it’s unlikely that Paajarvi falls to Vancouver’s waiver spot, but since he’s there, the Canucks should make every effort to pick him up.

  • MM

    I think it’s a really good point to note that Van should be shipping out the older players to bring in some younger ones. Of course, they have to be good ones coming in. A waiver wire claim is free, so it’s worth a shot. It’s something Gillis would do, benign has no clue about advanced stats so I’m sure he’s googling who Paajarvi is.

    But clearly this new regime has different ideas about what this current team can accomplish. They are trying to trade a young player (kassian or lack), they just traded Kesler for 2 older/horrible advanced stats players in Sbisa/Bonino. He traded a 3rd round pick for an old replacement level player (Dorsett). He is so all over the map with his moves last 5 months, no wonder the fanbse is so confused. Nobody knows which direction this team is headed. But it’s very clear to those who actually know, this team is no where near a stanley cup contender. And that’s all this fanbse cares about, a stanley Cup. So time to rebuild BEnning.

    • MM

      the Canucks are deep in young goalies . I would like to see Eddie Lack get more time going forward, first to rest Miller and second to showcase his NHL talent for potential trade. Combine that with one of our middle of the pack forwards ( not Kassian ) and see what that fetches later in the season.

  • Serious Gord

    I can see a lot of teams with higher waiver priority putting a claim in on him. I can’t see why we wouldn’t throw our hat in the ring, but I doubt he comes out this way just based on the teams below us in the standings and their needs.

    Pretty decent chance to take for free. Some players just take a little longer than others to get the Oiler out of their game.

    • MM

      Yah I agree. I think the oil did to Paajarvi what the jackets did to Brule.

      I like the idea of adding paajarvi to the roster, and I dont see Sestito really helping out at all.

      Good read altogether, since it seems logical to most of us, perhaps it will/does to Benning, and with a little luck perhaps we’ll have a young bottom six forward with potential on our hands!

  • Andy

    He would be an interesting pick up, but I also believe the chances Canucks will be the only claim is far fetched….

    An interesting Idea is the Ryan O’Rielly situation with the AVs. Seems the AVs want a top Dman for Ryan…. Any chance the AVs would bite on Edler and a throw in like Lack in return???

    Haven’t done the particulars, but a lot of teams still like trying to coax the Norris out of a guy like Edler.

    • Andy

      Ryan O’Reilly is young, but I’ve yet to hear him described as an ideal 1C for a team. Between him and Johansen, we’d need to clear up quite a bit of cap space for either player, as the Sedins are transitioning to 2nd line players faster than we thought.

      As much as it burns me to say it, If we’re offering a tender like Lack, I’d rather throw in an older player like Hamhuis or even Bieksa.

      • pheenster

        You guys are, um, delusional if you think that any of those three guys are waiving their NTCs anytime soon. I like rosterbating as much as the next guy, but let’s make the fantasy about players who we could actually trade.

    • Andy

      Come on, interjecting Ryan O’Reilly into the discussion is a blatant invite for the Delusional Police.

      As if that wasn’t enough, you use Edler and Norris in the same sentence.

      • MM

        Good call….

        Benning isn’t going to do anything while Hammy and Kass are injured. If they fall out of playoffs Yes, but he will probably go with this squad.

        Was just for fun.

  • elvis15

    And apparently the Canucks (and 28 other NHL teams) didn’t get the memo he’d be a good pickup on the waiver wire – he cleared today. I could have only seen it being a reasonable pickup if we were moving a player like Burrows/Higgins/Hansen to make room – and soon, as we’ll be at the 23-man roster limit with Kassian coming back. We could send down Sanguinetti but then we’d only have 6 D with Hamhuis out. All our forwards are waiver eligible, but sending down Sestito would be an option I guess if a trade doesn’t happen. Even then MPS would be the 13-14th forward most likely, so not anything significant unless we are moving one of the bottom 9 wingers as mentioned.

    • pheenster

      If it comes down to leaving space for Kass and passing on Paajarvi, I’ll take Kassian any day of the week at this point in both of their careers. Easy to say this now with hindsight.

      Although I still wonder why Sestito is still around if he’s just toughening up the press box all season. Makes me wonder if there’s a move elsewhere that’s being contemplated.

  • MM

    Hope the team isn’t contemplating trading Kassian. If you look at the roster, a big priority has to be adding large, mean, young forwards with offensive upside. Unless you do an apples-to-apples swap, why would the team even consider moving him?

    Regarding O’reily, let him be someone else’s problem. That kid and his agent will pull the same BS time after time because it works.

    I’d love to see the Canucks add a big thumper of a d-man like McQuaid. That six-man unit is on the soft side