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Hockey Analytics

Fresh Starts

by Gus Katsaros
Updated On: October 4, 2018, 4:04 pm ET

The overall fantasy impact is likely minimal, but the Ottawa Senators and Los Angeles Kings broke the trade deadline seal, with the Senators pulling Dion Phaneuf last night mid-game against the Penguins to facilitate a trade to the Los Angeles Kings.


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The former Calgary Flames and Toronto Maple Leafs blueliner’s contract once seemed untradeable. The Leafs moved him to Ottawa, swapping for bad money contracts from the Senators, and it the situation contains parallels here.


Rewarded for an incredible playoff performance in 2014, the brittle Marion Gaborik is the newest Senator coming back the other way – in addition to Nate Thompson moving back to Southern California, and Nick Shore going to Ottawa. Perpetually injured, Gaborik has already missed 22 games with a knee injury in 2017-18 and signed through 2020-21 another three seasons, with a declining real dollars. Despite the $4.875 million cap hit, his salary is $4.5 million next season, $3.175 and $3.075 before becoming an unrestricted free agent.


Phaneuf and Thompson for Gaborik and Shore. Sens retain 25% of Phaneuf salary.

— Darren Dreger (@DarrenDreger) February 14, 2018


A vital component during the Senators run to the Conference Finals in 2017, Phaneuf’s salary is $5.5 million for the next two seasons and $3 million in the final year. Any monetary gain for the Senators owner, Eugene Melnyk, comes at a cost on a blueline that is already thin – and potentially thinner if they decide to move Erik Karlsson. Phaneuf was off his 30 points pace from 2016-17and has the makings of a reduced offensive production, but can slide in effectively into a second pairing to satisfy a depth role focusing more on the defensive elements with less offensive pressure.


Drew Doughty and Jake Muzzin handle the heavy offensive burden on the Kings blueline, allowing Dion to slide into a similar second pairing with a potentially better partner than Cody Ceci, on a more defensively responsible club. If anything, this might be a decent fit with reduced pressure and better support.


Gaborik has been firing 13.5% at 5v5 in 2017-18, scoring five of his seven goals, and besting the 3.96 expected goals by a slight margin. If anything, the Sens can add some depth scoring from the veteran, with health being a going concern. He can actually still score at a decent clip, but age, brittleness and skills deteriorating are all concerning factors.


Each player may benefit from a fresh start – a theme we will revisit very shortly – my expectations are secondary offensive production from Gaborik and a defensive presence from Phaneuf.


Max Domi


Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman threw out Max Domi’s name in trade circles in his recent 31 Thoughts citing a need for a potentially fresh start. The impending restricted free agent at the end of the season, has had a disappointing end to his entry level contract. His rookie season has been his best, with a hand injury requiring surgery shaving 23 games in a bleak sophomore campaign.


That hand injury may have had a greater effect upon his return and spilled into this season. From the McKeen’s Yearbook, Domi’s shot rates pre and post injury were different.


 … would score only four times upon return with a drop in shot rates from 2.23 pre-injury to 1.5 afterwards, amid a dive in Coyotes’ shot rates over the second half .. led the team in 5v5 Pts/60, despite a 33% drop in shooting percentage from his rookie campaign .. scored only three 5v4 points after injury return, three in the final five games …


Shooting rates this season are down from the pre-injury average, firing 1.94 per game, which is still fairly decent although the shots aren’t really going in. A fresh start here would be interesting. But I am not sure it’s even required. Players reach peak development in different time intervals.


Domi has scored four goals in 56 games (firing 2.67% at 5v5), sporting a 47.4% Corsi differential, and on the ice for 41 goals against at 5v5 – much higher than his expected goals of 33.3.


Splitting time between Clayton Keller and Derek Stepan and nine points over the first dozen games – shortly after Keller’s scoring slowed – he’s recorded 16 points in the remaining 44 contests, serving on a rotation of linemates including Christian Fischer, and Christian Dvorak, before a recent stretch on lower units.


A new start may be in order here, sometimes young players are thrust into situations that force accelerated development and almost immediate production that is a hindrance in almost every situation. Drafted 12th overall in 2013, he’s in his third season, three games and 13 points shy of his sophomore games played and points. He had nine goals in 59 games, so there’s still a chance for him to at least catch up to those totals. If you’ve drafted him expecting a better third season, you were probably burned.


Can a fresh start be all it’s hyped to be? Is he going to improve once he dons new silks, or will he be a derivative of Nail Yakupov?

Gus Katsaros
Gus Katsaros is the Pro Scouting Coordinator with McKeen’s Hockey, publishers of industry leading scouting and fantasy guide, the McKeen’s Annual Hockey Pool Yearbook. He also contributes to popular blog MapleLeafsHotStove.com ... he can be followed on Twitter @KatsHockey