One of the players who the Winnipeg Jets received as part of the return in the Evander Kane blockbuster on Wednesday was soon-to-be unrestricted free agent Drew Stafford.
It’s probably worth noting that Kevin Cheveldayoff had been rumoured to be pursuing Stafford previously, when Alexander Burmistrov was on the market. Chevy has finally gotten his man, so what do the numbers say that he brings?
In terms of scoring, Stafford has been pretty consistent in how he produces. Hist point production pace at even strength is around average for a second line player. He is far from dominant on the power play, but he is a capable choice for a second unit.
His underlying numbers though have taken a hit the past few years with the descent of Buffalo. The Sabres have been buried as a team in the possession game in recent seasons, and Stafford hasn’t really moved the needle in either direction. This season though the Sabres have been better in the possession department with Stafford on the bench than on the ice, although he has been taking some heavy defensive zone assignments.
Stafford has never been that competent on the penalty kill, and this season he’s been even a worse option.
Overall you are looking at a player who scores pretty well, but probably can’t push the play.
Where does he fit with the Jets?
The most likely spot is on the right wing on the third line and that seems like the perfect spot for him.
He has struggled a bit in the two-way department, but it’s not terrible considering his situation on a historically bad possession team. Both Stafford’s -1.9 dCorsi/60 and his 46.2 usage-adjusted Corsi For percentage over the past two seasons has been better than the Jets two other third line wing options. By the same measures, Matt Halischuk has posted -5.25 and 45.0, while Chris Thorburn has posted -4.89 and 43.2.
So Stafford is very probably an upgrade on what the Jets currently have in their bottom-six and he’ll bring some additional secondary scoring that has sorely been missed with Kane out. The American-born winger puts up points at a comparable rate to Michael Frolik and Mark Scheifele, and well above that of Matt Halischuk’s 1.2 and Chris Thorburn’s 1.1 points per 60 minute pace.
If the Jets are wanting to really make some noise, placing a scorer like Stafford with good possession drivers like Adam Lowry and an additional acquisition (say Sean Bergenheim or Daniel Winnik) would be the make up of a very underrated third line that can chip in some offence.
The addition of Stafford doesn’t push the Jets into contender territory, but he does help diminish the immediate bleeding with the loss of Evander Kane.
That his presence allows the Jets to move Dustin Byfuglien back to the blue-line is an added bonus.