Why Tyler Myers fits better in Winnipeg long-term even if he’s been only a marginal upgrade on Zach Bogosian

Photo Credit: Anne-Marie Sorvin/USA TODAY Sports

In the aftermath of the Evander Kane blockbuster many analysts, myself included, found it tempting to view it as two separate deals – Kane for Drew Stafford, two quality prospects and a first-round pick, and then Zach Bogosian for Tyler Myers. 

In truth it’s a deal that shouldn’t be broken down into its individual components, for an important salary cap related reason. Let’s get into that and look at how Bogosian and Myers have fit in with their respective new clubs since the trade.

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Myers in Winnipeg

Since the mega deal that sent Myers to Winnipeg on Feb. 11, 2015, the massive six-foot-seven defender has appeared in 21 of Winnipeg’s 22 games and is logging major minutes. 

Myers, 25, is seeing a lot of ice in all situations and is averaging more even-strength minutes per game than any Jets defender. We can fairly say that Myers has held down a first-pairing role for the Jets, but what’s key to remember here is that Bogosian was holding down a very similar role in terms of even-strength minutes and time on the penalty kill. He just played less frequently on Winnipeg’s power play. 

Paul Maurice has also fed Myers a very similar diet of zone starts and matchup duties as he fed Bogosian earlier in the year.

The good news? The Jets have been a slightly better puck possession team by score adjusted Corsi For percentage in their 21 games with Myers, than they were prior to the deal. 

That’s not necessarily a credit to Myers alone though, particularly because the Jets upgraded their forward depth significantly at the trade deadline by adding Jiri Tlusty and Lee Stempniak, in addition to Stafford. Actually by Corsi For percentage the Jets have fared worse in the territorial battle during the roughly 330 minutes that Myers and Enstrom have spent together as a pairing than they had in 600 minutes with the previous Bogosian, Enstrom pair. 

Looking into the underlying metrics a bit further we can observe that Myers has been a slightly lower-event 5-on-5 defender in his 21 games with Winnipeg than Bogosian was earlier in the year, although the Jets were generating shot attempts for at a higher rate with Bogosian on the ice than they have with Myers. 

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Oddly enough Myers’ impact at even-strength – the club has been slightly stingier in their own end, but have generated fewer looks offensively – is reversed on special teams. With Myers on the power-play the Jets’ performance with the man advantage has been more efficient and the club has generated shots for at a better clip. The towering blue liner may only have two power-play points in a Jets uniform, but the club has found a higher degree of potency at 5-on-4 since swapping Bogosian for Myers on their back-end.

In terms of penalty killing though, the Jets have been more permissive by shot rate and goals against rate since the trade, and Bogosian’s shorthanded on-ice results were significantly better than Myers’ have been.

Finally there’s the offensive production that Myers has brought to the table. The former Calder Memorial Trophy winner has recorded 14 points in 21 games with the Jets, surpassing Bogosian’s total of 13 in 20 fewer games played. Myers is leading all Jets defenders in point production since joining the club and considering the surplus of offensive talent on the Jets’ back-end – Jacob Trouba, Byfuglien and Enstrom all have plus-offensive abilities – that’s pretty impressive, even if it is somewhat driven by favourable percentages. 

When you factor it all in – the production, the underlying results, the special-teams performance – it’s probably fair to say that Myers has done modestly better in Winnipeg than Bogosian had done earlier in the year. The benefit might be marginal, but Myers has been a better fit so far.

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Bogosian in Buffalo

We’ve already suggested that Myers has been a better fit in Winnipeg than Bogosian was, but here’s an interesting qualifier: Bogosian has similarly done better than Myers had in Buffalo. Actually he’s fared better, in an admittedly hopeless situation, by a wide margin.

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As a member of the Sabres, Bogosian’s resume is rather limited as he’s only appeared in 16 games. In those 16 games though he’s been significantly better than Myers was by Corsi For percentage. Prior to the trade Myers thrown to the wolves in a top-pairing role on a historically undermanned club and was pasted in his own end with disturbing regularity. At 5-on-5 the Sabres managed to control an truly awful 34.1 percent of on-ice shot attempts. 

Obviously that’s more on Sabres general manager Tim Murray then it is on Myers, but Bogosian has done much better on a team that arguably has gotten worse since his arrival. 

In his 16 games with the Sabres, Bogosian is above 42 percent by Corsi For percentage, which is borderline heroic considering the overall quality of his team. Though Bogosian’s impact on the Sabres’ special teams has been mixed, it’s crucial that we note that the club has done much, much better by shot adjusted Corsi For percentage at 5-on-5 since jettisoning Myers and subbing in Bogosian.

In terms of usage Bogosian has played more minutes on average with the Sabres than Myers was playing, with most of his increase in time coming at even strength. Overall Bogosian is averaging close to 27 minutes per game with the Sabres, a heavy level of usage that is pretty rare in the NHL outside of Ryan Suter, Drew Doughty and any No. 1 defender in a must-win game. 

Overall we have to conclude that Bogosian has been a much better fit in Buffalo than Myers was. That his 5-on-5 results are significantly superior with the Sabres and actually somewhat superior in Winnipeg would suggest that Bogosian is, at this point, the slightly more valuable two-way piece. 

Myers has provided his club’s with more offensive value throughout his career though, and that offensive impact has been felt by both the Sabres and the Jets in the aftermath of this hockey version of ‘Trading Places.’ 

The Fit

Photo Credit: Bill Streicher/USA TODAY Sports

Myers has already been a marginally better fit than Bogosian had been, but the major reason why Myers fits better with the Jets than Bogosian would’ve going forward has nothing to do with on-ice performance and everything to do with Winnipeg’s internal cap.

The Jets are not an organization that spends to the upper limit of the salary cap, and though they threw some cash around at the deadline this year, no one expects them to deviate from their standard habit of hovering well below the upper limit going forward.

We all know that Myers is on a insanely front loaded contract, one that has seen him get paid 60 percent of his salary over the first 40 percent of the duration of his deal. What we’ve perhaps forgotten is that Bogosian’s less insane and still totally legal contract is the precise opposite.

For this season and for the season prior, Bogosian was paid $4 million in actual salary for a contract that carries a cap-hit north of $5 million per year. Going forward Bogosian’s salary will exceed his cap number, as any backloaded contract must, and by an increasing amount (Bogosian’s contract will see him get paid $5.25M, $5.25M, $5.5M, $6M and $6M through the 2019-20 campaign). 

So one side benefit of this deal from an internal cap team’s perspective – and this is generally a major concern for such clubs – is that they dealt a player whose average value was greater than his cap value due to a backloaded contract once they’d received the cap benefit. That they dealt him for a player whose average value will continue to be greater than his cap value due to a front loaded contract is just gravy.

To illustrate the extent of the cap benefit, we have to consider that Myers carries a cap-hit at $5.5 million, but his salary sits far lower than that in each of the next four years. In total Myers is a roughly comparable piece to Bogosian, is probably a bit better offensively, and represents $6.5 million in cap benefit to the Jets over the next four seasons. 

Bogosian meanwhile will cost nearly $2 million in salary above his annual average value over that same period of time, so it’s a cap benefit swing of well over $8 million in total. That’s mammoth for an internal cap team. 

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    I think Myers would be a better fit on any team where he has more skilled forwards to play with. I can only assume that Myers is aware of the concept of chipping a puck out of the zone but I can only assume based on his play that he is wired with a shock collar that prevents him from doing so.

    Mixing that with an AHL-level forward group for zone-exits and one can imagine that Bogosian’s simpler game would reap far more rewards in present-day Buffalo.