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.
Derek Roy (NSH) clears wiavers. STL puts Paajarvi in waivers. BUF also puts Matt Hackett on waivers.
— Bob McKenzie (@TSNBobMcKenzie) December 29, 2014
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:
— Domenic Galamini (@MimicoHero) December 29, 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.
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.
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.