After publishing my thoughts on a hypothetical Rick Nash trade scenario proposed by one of our Twitter followers, another follower (@mothballsuitor) asked us today whether San Jose Sharks forward Devin Setoguchi is worth acquiring.
If you’re familiar with our podcasts and written work, you’ve inevitably heard or read about our takes on the type(s) of player that Bryan Murray should be targeting in the offseason. If you haven’t, I’ll reiterate our point of view: with a lack of top six forward talent in the system, it might be within Ottawa’s best interests to look into inexpensive, young players that have pedigree and may have struggled or underachieved in their roles elsewhere. In the past, I’ve thrown out names like TJ Oshie and Kyle Turris before but I suppose Setoguchi is another similar player who fits the criteria.
So here are the facts:
- Since his breakout 2008-09 campaign, the acquisition of Dany Heatley has relegated Gooch to alsoran status. In his last two seasons, he’s put up — 70 GP, 20 goals, 16 assists and 72 GP, 22 goals, 19 assists.
- It looks like he has rediscovered his scoring touch in this year’s playoffs – 14 GP, 6 goals, 2 assists.
- Gooch’s current contract is a one-year deal worth $1.8 million. He’s slated to become a restricted free agent on July 1st.
- If acquired, he’d be the first Senators player to embrace the use of Twitter.
- After the Dany Heatley trade, every time it’s reported that Bryan Murray is negotiating with the San Jose Sharks, there’s a Pavlovian response in the nation’s capital. Kicking. Screaming. Tears. Fetal positions under desks. They’re the kinds of reactions that the producers of the Burt the Turtle educational videos would be proud of.
Looking at Seto’s career numbers, there appears to be a strong correlation between his goal totals and the number of shots that he’s taking.
As you will see, there isn’t a large discrepancy in his shooting percentages, so it’s not an unreasonable leap in logic to think that Seto’s waning production is attributable to a diminished role created by the addition of Dany Heatley prior to the 2009-10 season. Over the past three seasons, Setoguchi has had his average ice-time drop by a minute.
- 2008-09: averaged 16 minutes 12 seconds per game and 2 minutes and 38 seconds on the power play.
- 2009-10: averaged 15 minutes 17 seconds per game and 2 minutes and 16 seconds on the power play.
- 20010-11: averaged 15 minutes and 12 seconds per game and 1 minute and 57 seconds on the power play.
Interestingly, while Setoguchi has experience this reduction in ice-time, the quality of his line-mates has varied significantly from year-to-year:
- 2008-09: 48.52% of ice-time was spent playing at even strength with Marleau and Thornton. 8.68% was spent on the first power play unit with Thornton and Marleau as well.
- 2009-10: 23.73% of ice-time was spent playing at even strength with Pavelski and Clowe. 2.52% was spent on the power play with Maholtra and Clowe.
- 2010-11: 32.13% of ice-time was spent playing alongside Thornton and Marleau. 4.62% was spent on the power play with Couture and Clowe.
On the surface, one would think that Setoguchi’s trade value would be down and that it would be an opportune time to trade for the young winger, however, in light of San Jose’s postseason success and Setoguchi’s second half production, the asking price may be too costly. After starting the season with two goals in his first 22 games, Setoguchi’s marked offensive improvement coincided with San Jose’s ascent up the Western Conference standings. Surprise. Surprise.
According to head coach Todd McLellan (via the San Francisco Chronicle), Setoguchi’s bizarre season is marked by three unique stages:
Stage 1 was dismal. Setoguchi had two points in the Sharks’ first 12 games. Two and half months into the season, the right wing, a regular on the top two lines, had registered only two goals in 22 games. He went two months, December and January, without an assist.
“Stage 1, I don’t think anyone was happy, including Devin,” McLellan said. “Stage 2, there was some growth and resurgence. And Stage 3 is the stage he’s at, or getting to, now.
“He’s had to elevate it a little more. He’s not only scored big goals for us, which is important, but he’s provided us with a lot of speed and energy on that line.”
For anyone who has watched Daniel Alfredsson and Milan Michalek labour through injuries over the past few years on Ottawa’s first line, the notion of adding a combination of speed, energy and skill is definitely intriguing. There’s no question that Jason Spezza could use a more polished winger that would also alleviate the pressure on Bobby Butler to perform at such a high level this early in his career. Unfortunately, unless Bryan Murray can cater to Doug Wilson’s innate yearning to assemble a roster comprised of former Ottawa 67s and can center some package around Corey Cowick, strictly from a buyer’s standpoint, the best opportunity for Murray to land Setoguchi has passed. With a Stanley Cup contending team, it would likely take a package of young and inexpensive talent that can step in immediately and contribute at the NHL level. (Think some combination of Nick Foligno, Peter Regin and prospects/draft picks to get it done.)
The inherent risk in making such a move is that there has to be an unwavering level of confidence in Jason Spezza to elevate Setoguchi’s game and offensive production. We’ve already seen that he can do it with Dany Heatley, but can he do it again with a lesser talented player?
It’s a risky decision and one that can deplete Ottawa’s more attractive (albeit completely expendable) trade fodder without adding much of an offensive improvement over a player that you may have to ship out to get a deal done. (ie. Nick Foligno put up 5 fewer points this year than Setoguchi.)
Ultimately, we have to ask ourselves whether it’s worth making a move like this.
Personally, I’m not convinced. I’d be hesitant to pay anything but a bargain price for him.
As I’ve mentioned a few times times, I’d rather parlay some of Ottawa’s depth to acquire a young center with some offensive upside. If Ottawa wanted to get a top six winger, I’d prefer to see the organization trade some of the veteran depth on the blueline to get it done. Take Sergei Gonchar for example, even though Eugene Melnyk has some unique optimism for the next two seasons, I don’t know if anyone can look at Ottawa’s chances for the next two seasons and realistically think that this team has a chance to compete and go deep into the postseason. Assuming that Gonchar would be receptive to the idea of a trade — he does have a NTC — he’s the kind of asset that should be moved by the organization. Albeit, he does have an expensive contract, but maybe he’s the kind of player who can be dealt for a player who will reach unrestricted free agency in 2012.
Now you may be wondering about my reasoning here, so I’ll explain it…
With an abundance of young defencemen on the verge of playing in the NHL, Ottawa should be looking to create some roster room and save themselves some cap space. As such, by moving Gonchar for an impending UFA, the third year of Gonchar’s deal becomes a straight salary dump that saves the organization $5.5 million during the 2012-13 season. If Ottawa could move Gonchar for a player like a Kristian Huselius, the organization would have a winger that they could easily flip at the trade deadline for a draft pick or prospect that will actually be able to help the team when it becomes competitive in some not too distant Utopian future.
Would there be growing pains on defence by moving Gonchar and replacing him with a young alternative like a Rundblad or a Cowen? Yes, but it’s all about player development at this stage and if the Senators aren’t expected to make the postseason for the next few seasons, I’d prefer to give the prospects an opportunity to play. If it means winning fewer games in the interim then so be it. The difference between winning 32 to 36 games shouldn’t affect ticket sales that much since the organization has acknowledged that it is rebuilding. It will however affect draft positioning. I don’t want to get too far ahead of myself but, in what’s being considered an incredibly strong draft by pundits, it might not necessarily be a bad thing to be slotted a little lower in the draft.
Now if Murray could only get Gonchar to waive his NMC…
- According to Le Matin, impending UFA Marek Svatos has had discussions with the Zurich Lions about joining their Swiss league team next season.
- In a blog over at Off the Posts, Don Brennan suggests that Craig MacTavish could be a good fit for the Senators. While it’s great that MacTavish almost won a Cup with Edmonton, his handling of Penner and the stagnated development of young players like Andrew Cogliano and Sam Gagner raises some flags.
- Although it’s a few weeks old, in their latest mock draft (dated on April 28th, 2011), ESPN Insider has Gabriel Landeskog sliding to the Senators with the sixth pick and defenceman Joe Morrow being selected with the Nashville first rounder. (Note: You need a subscription to ESPN Insider to view their content.)
- Over at Senators Extra, James Gordon takes a look at the success that Robin Lehner has had during Binghamton’s playoff stretch. With an 8-2 record and two games removed from the AHL Finals, is Lehner a viable candidate for the backup role with the parent club next season?
- Now that the 2011 Memorial Cup teams have been finalized — Kootenay, Owen Sound, Mississauga and Saint John — action begins on Friday. Fans should be able to get an extended look at Jonathan Huberdeau and other 2011 draft eligible talent competing in the tournament.
- According to the Atlanta Journal Constitution, True North is negotiating with the Atlanta Spirit group regarding the purchase and relocation of the Thrashers to Winnipeg. No city should be more thrilled than Edmonton. Finally, a city that makes theirs look attractive to players and free agents. Or as Twitter follower @Dennis_Prouse put it, Definition of #losing – all the players who added Phoenix to their no-trade list instead of Atlanta.
- Calgary announced today that Curtis Glencross had signed a 4-year contract extension worth $10.2 million and features a no movement clause. It’s a classic case of a Canadian market team using a necessary evil to entice their own players to stay put.