As the trade deadline approaches, the Jets are flirting with a Division Title. Though the focus is still building from within, the team sits in a position to buy for a playoff birth and even a banner raising come October. Sure it’s the Southeast Division Champion banner, but thanks to realignment, our kids won’t know that isn’t impressive.
In the lead up, we’ll trot out some ideas for trade targets for the Jets in the hopes of being able to say ‘I told you so’ later on. Today we finally look at bumping Mittens down the roster by acquiring "Fu man-" Drew Stafford.
Drew Stafford’s name has been floating around in trade rumours since February, but at 27 years old with three years left on his 5 year, $20mil contract, it seemed unlikely to me that he would be moved. That is, until this week when he was a healthy scratch for two games. The Kings have been linked to him for some time and the Sabres have admitted defeat and a need to change their roster in dramatic ways according to John Vogl.
The Jets have a known love for big bodied players with skill, and it seems every night my twitter feed explodes with frustration at having Antti Miettinen playing offensive minutes – and even power play minutes – alongside young stud Evander Kane and the pumpkin-headed chucker whose name is SO close to being pun-able with the word "joke." (But alas, not close enough…) It’s like people don’t remember when Miettinen was the best winger on the Hameenlinna ‘Hockey Playing Knights’ last decade. It’s a real ‘what have you done for me lately’ business.
Why is he available?
Drew Stafford is a classic trade target, and the kind of guy that bad general managers (or good general managers under unreasonable duress) live to regret selling. He’s available because he hit a cold streak at a time when the team was looking for answers. Before this season, Stafford has averaged 50 points per 82 games of his NHL career. This season, he’s on pace for just 33 points over a full year. As well, his goals against per 20 minutes of ice time are the highest of his career, and his -11 rating shows it.
The reason a GM would live to regret selling him is simple: his luck is bad over a tiny sample of just over 1/3 of a full season. His goals against are so bad because his on-ice save percentage is the lowest he’s ever seen. In the same short span, his team’s shooting % when Stafford is on the ice is also the lowest of his career, and his personal shooting % hasn’t been this bad since 2009/10. Interestingly, he’s also playing against the toughest opposition of his career and has a positive corsi number – suggesting a combination of bad luck and being placed in a role that is more defensive than he’s used to is to blame for his lack of scoring, not poor play.
To be fair and not raise hopes too much – he can be a hard guy to pin down with regard to possession and driving the play in the right direction. Though he is a slight positive this year, his career corsi percentage is a touch below 50% while playing generally on the second and third line in Buffalo and playing middle-opposition. Still, he has generally out-performed his linemates by that metric, suggesting that he is likely driving the play and not riding coat tails. He’s just maybe not driving it to amazing new heights of possession and territorial advantage.
What can he do for the Jets?
Well, the Jets RW depth chart is Wheeler – Miettinen – Wellwood – and Thorburn at the moment. So what he can do for the Jets is give them both a second line and a fourth line by putting Thorburn in the pressbox and bumping Mittens to a more defensive role. Most importantly, he can add scoring.
Coming into this season, Stafford had two 50+ point seasons in a row without injury coming into this year. His even strength scoring has been his strength – trailing Jason Pominville by just two 5×5 points last season despite playing a line down. He also has had some sporadic PP success, though definitely not this year.
- Year: PP TOI / Game / P/60 minutes of PP (rank among Buffalo forwards)
- 2007/08: 1:55 (9th most) / 1.58 (10th best)
- 2008/09: 2:37 (5th most) / 5.23 (1st)
- 2009/10: 2:31 (6th most) / 3.17 (7th best)
- 2010/11: 2:57 (T-3rd most) / 6.17 (1st)
- 2011/12: 2:15 (4th most) / 2.37 (7th best)
- 2012/13: 2:06 (6th most) / 0.92 (7th best)
Though his success has come and gone, I’m encouraged by the one year where he saw time on the top PP group (2010/11). Even still, apart from this year and his rookie year, he would be inside the top 5 best powerplay scoring forwards on this year’s Jets team with any one of those seasons, and much better than Olli Jokinen who has squandered his many minutes on the powerplay for the Jets this year. You can watch Drew Stafford get a hat trick with 2 PP goals that sum up his two ways of scoring pretty well.
For the Jets, the best part about Stafford is that he adds that scoring while also being a physical, two-way player. He’s not a shut-down player and has struggled this year with his much harder-than-normal assignment, but returned to a more traditional second line role (as he would be with the Jets) would likely see the return of his offence. His hitting (for whatever that’s worth to you) has remained steady this year alongside a corsi performance that is breaking even as he has done most of his career.
What’s the Cost?
To be honest, he’s a hard one to pin down and it’s likely up to the Sabres how badly they want to re-mould their team. If they are stripping down, he’s likely on par with some rentals given that they don’t want to be trapped under the remaining $12M of his contract. That could be one of the Jets 3 second rounders this year, or perhaps a second rounder next year plus a prospect. I frequently mention one of Postma or Redmond, but it’s possible the Sabres are less eager to add to their already deep blue line and ask for Telegin or Eric O’Dell.
I mention those packages as I think the top end of what Winnipeg should be willing to pay for Stafford. He’s a long-term gain for them and a guy who can slide up and down their depth chart as the team continues to find pieces. He’s versatile, big, gritty, and can score – all from a side of the ice at which the Jets are noticeably shallow. I think Stafford could be a major addition to the Jets, and is likely only available in this window of his career when personal success and team success have conspired to make it hard for Buffalo to figure out what is wrong and who is to blame.