Dylan McIlrath and Magnus Paajarvi Are on Waivers – Any Takers?

With their faces pressed firmly against the waiver wire this morning, there was disappointment among some factions of Canucks fans that Emerson Etem, waived yesterday by Anaheim, passed through without claim. Those feelings were short lived however, because we were quickly distracted by two more interesting names on the waiver wire as of 9:00am this morning: New York’s Dylan McIlrath and St. Louis’ Magnus Paajarvi.

The Canucks have already elected to bring Mike Zalewski up from Utica, but might they be enticed by these two new players that are available free of charge?

Magnus Paajarvi

We’ll start with Magnus Paajarvi, since the Canucks seem to have more issues with depth up front than on the back end, given the injuries to Anton Rodin, Derek Dorsett, and Alex Burrows, as well as Willie Desjardins’ unwillingness to give Virtanen serious ice time and the general lack of threatening scoring talent in Utica.

This isn’t Paajarvi’s first rodeo: he’s been waived twice before and has cleared both times and the hockey twitter community continues to be confused why no one seems to want this guy for free. The tenth overall selection in 2009, Paajarvi is still just 25 years old. He’s clearly struggled to live up to expectations, picking up just 81 points in 279 career NHL games between Edmonton and St. Louis, after scoring 15 goals and 34 points in 80 games in his rookie season with the Oilers in 2010-11.

HERO Paajarvi

Paajarvi’s goal scoring over the last few seasons has been suboptimal, although it is not always how it appears. Last year Paajarvi scored just three goals, despite taking 88 shots on net, giving him a shooting percentage of 3.4 percent. That conversion rate ranked 359th out of 367 forwards that played at least 500 minutes in all situations in 2015-16.

This is in spite his 8.63 shots-on-goal per minutes minutes at 5-on-5 being 59th out of 352 (forwards with at least 500 5-on-5 minutes in 2015-16). His linemates weren’t faring much better, as Paajarvi had a 4.32 on-ice shooting percentage at 5-on-5, which ranked 341st out of 352, which all contributed to an abysmal PDO of 96.6.

If these numbers are making your brain hurt, this is all to say that Paajarvi was horrendously unlucky last season. Note also the effect that he has on his linemates’ Expected Goals-For ratios in the HERO chart above

.Paajarvi goal pic.twitter.com/aGEHIBtuSt

Outside of past production, Paajarvi’s possession numbers suggest that he’s driving play at a second line rate, and suppressing shots at a first line rate. That’s the kind of possession that usually leads to production if fostered in the right environment.

Dylan McIlrath

McIlrath, a defenceman, is a former 10th overall pick, much like Paajarvi, though this time from the draft class. At 6-foot-5 and 236 pounds, he’s a big boy who has put up much in the way of points yet – though he’s still just 24 and hasn’t been given a wealth of opportunity.

HERO McIlrath

While he has just two career goals to his credit, it has been in pretty limited ice time. He averaged about 14 minutes per night over 34 games last season in New York, predominantly at even strength, with a little shorthanded time mixed in.

McIlrath had the fourth highest even strength Goals-For ratio last season among defencemen with at least 400 5-on-5 minutes. Plenty of this is owing to his 95.2 on-ice save percentage and 103.7 PDO, but his possession numbers are still solidly in the black, with a 51.3 Corsi-For percentage. McIlrath excels at both shot generation and suppression, doing both at a top four rate.

One, Neither, or Both?

If I had a say in matters (and obviously I have no say in anything at all), I’d be taking a flyer on Paajarvi, given the depth on forward versus that on defence. There’s little in the way of quality prospect depth at forward in Utica, while at least Andrey Pedan and Jordan Subban remain on defence.

Some have suggested that McIlrath would be more palatable on the NHL roster than Biega, and while I’d agree in that assessment, the Canucks seem intent on keeping Biega for expansion draft purposes. Biega needs just 18 more games to reach the games played threshold, while McIlrath needs 35. Of course, Luca Sbisa is down to needing 22 games, so we’ll keep an eye on whether the Canucks get more flexible with Biega as Sbisa’s game total grows.

The argument could be made that taking both improves your lineup, and if you wanted to go that route, it’s certainly doable: they are low cap hits that will be hitting RFA status at the end of this season – if they don’t work, you simple don’t qualify them and move on.

Making space is not an issue either. Jayson Megna and/or Mike Zalewski could be reassigned without waivers, having cleared within the last 30 days, and Jake Virtanen never required waivers at all. The contract limit is also not a sticking point, as Ryan Biech pointed out earlier:

He also pointed out that neither of the two players need to be world beaters to deserve a claim. They could be depth and even alternate in and out of the lineup, pushing play in the right direction while doing so.

We can write these recommendations all we want, but we all know that the final say rests with the Canucks front office, and they never seem to be in much of a hurry to lay a claim. After all, these two are no Brandon McMillan!

  • apr

    I bet you their fans are losing their minds, local talk radio blowing up, and national media are writing articles on terrible asset management.

    Just waiting for the article on JB’s poor asset management for not picking Etem of the garbage bin.

  • I would claim Paajarvi. At $700k, he should have been claimed to replace Chris Higgins a few years ago when he was first exposed to waivers. Lots of speed and grit, missing some finishing touch (which was noted during his draft year), kinda sounds like an early Jannik Hansen. Worth the gamble.

  • JuiceBox

    Paajarvi seems like the type of reclamation project this management group likes to take on, and this one won’t cost them a thing to acquire. Seems like a no-brainer to me

    McIlrath always seems to be painted in a great light among the talking heads, every one seems to speak very highly of him and his game; plus he is BIG and likely an upgrade on Sbisa and is definately an upgrade on Biega.

    There is absolutely no harm in claiming both of them. Cheap contracts 800k and 700k that expire at the end of the year and both RFA’s likely to be had again for cheap if they pan out. Neither will blow away the competition offensively but neither will likely hurt the team all that much. Problem is salary cap space of only 800k, one player somewhere would likely have to go.

  • Vanoxy

    Paajarvi is a nice option right now, with Rodin on the shelf and Virtanen nursing his shoulder.

    At basically league minimum salary they should absolutely put in a claim.

    Even if they end up waiving him again in a couple of weeks, there’s no risk involved.

    Plus, the Canucks are currently near the top of the waivers pecking order, but after Nov 1 the list will be reset to reflect the current season standings, placing the Nucks in the middle of the pack. Might as well take advantage of it.

  • LTFan

    The problem with claiming any of these players or others is that they have to be included in your NHL roster. That being the case who are you going to waive to get them on? Teams will only make a claim if they feel the player will be an upgrade over someone on their current roster.

    Not as simple as it looks.

    • SJ

      This was addressed in the article, if you read it:

      “Making space is not an issue either. Jayson Megna and/or Mike Zalewski could be reassigned without waivers, having cleared within the last 30 days, and Jake Virtanen never required waivers at all.”

      • TheRealPB

        That’s only in the short term. As others point out Megna and Zalewski are recent callups. But what do you do when Rodin, Dorsett, Burrows and Tanev come off the DL? You already have one press box spot tied up with Tryamkin. How do you juggle the extra bodies of Skille, Rodin, Biega, Stetcher, Tryamkin, and a potential either McIlrath or Paajarvi? The average NHL hockey player career is 5.5 years. How many kicks at the can do we give to some of these players? I get the points about Paajarvi and the bad shooting luck last year but with both him and McIlrath maybe there’s good reasons that they’re getting waived. Are they better options than the fringe players we currently have? Just because they have the pedigree of reasonably high picks doesn’t mean we have to chase after them. Skille after all is a former 7th overall.

    • Dirty30

      Did you read the article? The two guys just called up from Utica can go down as easily as free beer! As well, three players from the forward section are injured and one from the D is too so lots of room on the roster.

      As well, Jake can be sent down for conditioning, and given McIlrath’s size, there may be a little more incentive to get Groot going somewhere.

      Given the endless articles, comments, hair pulling, shirt rendering and general pitchforks and torches attitude toward MG leaving the draft cupboards bare, do you walk by two top ten draft picks not named Patrick White that someone just left by the curb?

      Grab both and work out the details later.

      In an instant you are ten years younger, faster, bigger and maybe you have some success with these guys.

      Just do it.

  • Locust

    “This isn’t Paajarvi’s first rodeo: he’s been waived twice before and has cleared both times and the hockey twitter community continues to be confused why no one seems to want this guy for free.”

    Wonder what’s worse – going unclaimed twice before or being a subject of conversation within the “hockey twitter community”…..

  • Rolland

    Every time there is someone on waivers everyone screams grab him! It sounds like compulsive buying with fantasy money. Everyone wanted Etem gone and then wanted him back because he was on waivers.
    Most are on waivers because they aren’t worth keeping.

  • krutov

    i rarely go in for waiver pickups but paajarvi seems like he could fill holes better than skille has been doing. and after being smothered by hitchcock he might have an awakening.

    not so sure there is room though. as soon as burrows and dorsett are back we would have to send virtanen or gaunce down or waive somebody, and then when rodin activates there is a further decision.

  • Whackanuck

    McIlrath can’t get out of Vigneault’s doghouse for some reason.

    ‘As for what McIlrath could improve on, Vigneault cited “puck skills and puck decisions.”’

  • I am Ted

    I would definitely claim both and give them some games. Forward is the need but McIlrath is still young and intriguing.

    Tanev is in a walking boot so that gives McIlrath time to show his stuff.

    Stecher, Virtanen and Megna can head to Utica.

    Canucks lack talent so there is absolutely no harm in stockpiling talent and rolling the dice. Let’s be honest, the Canucks are not dealing from a position of strength. Desperate teams need to reach a bit and see what’s out there. They already knew what they had in Etem and we all saw how unimpressive he was during camp.

  • Nuckleston

    I haven’t been able to watch a lot of games lately, but in which ways is Skille better for this team than Paajarvi?

    If there aren’t any good reasons to keep Skille over Paajarvi, then claim Paajarvi, and if he works out waive Skille when necessary; however, if Paajarvi doesn’t work out, waive him when the other players come back. Not a lot of cap hit either way.

    Having said all that, I’m not sure what gentlemen’s agreement was made when Skille was signed, and you have to keep your promises, so maybe not….

  • Cageyvet

    I like the way the management is assembling the team for the future, overall, but now is the time to roll the dice on anyone who might be able to score.

    Sign me up for Paajarvi, enough skill to have been a top pick, drives possession, is cheap, and may take a step as some do with a new club and the writing on the wall that they are running out of chances.

    I thought Megna was singularly unimpressive at camp and through the preseason, is he going to be any worse? No long term commitment, you can always do what Anaheim did with Etem and pull the plug in a hurry if you aren’t happy with what you see.

    This team doesn’t need any more bottom 6 players, we need some skill guys. While it may be somewhat desperate, and ultimately futile, I’d still take the chance. We have nothing to lose, with the injuries there’s an opportunity here, and worst case scenario you get to improve Utica’s offense.

  • Dirty30

    So, compare and contrast:

    In order to get two previous first rounders who you hope will light the place up, you give up a second round pick for each. One turns out okay — better than okay on occasion — but the other guy is now playing in someplace that considers indoor plumbing the devils work.

    In order to get a big D to give the backend some size and grit, you sign a contract that ties your hands to doing anything with this player but feed him the pizzas your other D keeps serving up.

    In contrast, for the price of two pieces of paper you can pick up two young players who, if they work out, bring youth, skill and maybe a replacement for some aging, injured guys who may not be able to perform this season.

    If these guys don’t work out, it costs you nothing to send them down — they may be claimed or clear, and you can walk away at the end of the season.

    McIlrath over Larsen …

    Paajarvi over Burrows (who should get bought out before he gets killed out there).

    • Whackanuck

      If Benning sees the team as a playoff contender, he probably doesn’t see the team as needing waiver pickups.

      If they really are a bottom 5 team they definitely could have used the depth.

      A game of perspectives, I suppose.

  • TheRealRusty

    Roster problems be damned. Claim these 2 players and send Biega, all the recalls and Virtanen down. If the injured players return and these two pickups have played well enough to make the decision harder, then it’s a good problem to have.

    Ps. I have never understood the thought process of keeping Biega up to make him expansion draft eligible. Just because he is on the non protected list does not mean that Vegas will pick him up. Plus we already have Sbisa to meet the minimum unprotected list requirements.

    • Whackanuck

      Don’t they need 2 qualified D?

      It’seems a poor plan though. There is a lot of time to get Biega 19 games, or they could claim some old waived defenceman any time during the season.

  • Fred-65

    Is McIlrath NYR version of Vcr’s Pedan. They both bring the same game. Plus think of this McIlrath has been bumped by none other than Clendening. Doesn’t that say every thing ?

    Paajarvi is 25 and has already passed through 3 NHL teams. Craig Button suggested he just doesn’t really want it

  • Whackanuck

    Well, Teemu Pulkinnen, who was hot waiver sh*t earlier, is on waivers after only 8 games with Minny so maybe the GMs do know something.

    Also Etem, as we know, was only a stopgap with the Ducks. Maybe there is a limit on the one-way contracts the Canucks are willing to chew on after all.

    • Cageyvet

      Yeah, maybe they’re all pretty much garbage, but man, we’re so hurting for offense I’m starting to eyeball these guys whereas before I dismissed the waiver guys too.

      Let’s acknowledge that Benning has better judgement in these things than all of us combined. It still doesn’t excuse him from doing nothing. Forget last year, this season is shaping up to be the stealth tank. You can say whatever you like about winning, if pucks don’t go across the line…..you lose. Maybe that’s for the best, but I think I’d rather lose 6-3 than 3-1.