After promising fans news on Viktor Stalberg’s future by Monday, it was announced yesterday that the Swedish winger had signed a two-year contract with the Zug hockey club in Switzerland.
Meaning that in two years, the Senators will sign Stalberg out of Switzerland because Guy Boucher has seen him play.
It’s an interesting development considering the Senators’ playoff run and the fact that the team wound up paying a third round price to bring Stalberg’s speed and penalty killing ability into the lineup. They obviously wanted the player, so it feels a bit weird to see him leave as an unrestricted free agent now.
A lot of fans romanticize Stalberg’s play because of his speed. In a league where the game is only getting faster and such a large emphasis is being placed on quickness, Stalberg was noticeably faster than many of his bottom-six counterparts.
His public support certainly didn’t stem from his numbers however.
In fact, perhaps the most interesting thing for me to see is how different the perception of the two players who were acquired around the same time near the 2017 trade deadline is.
Via Puckalytics.com, here’s how Stalberg fared relative to Burrows players after they joined the Senators in late February:
There’s no question that Burrows benefited from better linemates and better fortune during the regular season and that carried over through the postseason (stats via NaturalStatTrick.com).
Both players were held goalless during the postseason, but they shared relatively similar underlying metrics. The difference was: 1) Burrows continued to ride the PDO-wave and because of it, the Senators scored a greater percentage of goals when he was on the ice than when Stalberg was; and 2) the expectations for either player differed because of the price paid to acquire them.
The Senators made a significant commitment trading blue chip prospect Jonathan Dahlen to the Vancouver Canucks for Burrows before even committing to a two-year contract extension worth $5.0-million to ensure that Burrows would waive his no-trade clause and spend his age 36 through 38-years old seasons in the nation’s capital.
Contrasting that with the handling of Stalberg, who was acquired for a third round pick and is now out of the NHL, it’s interesting to see how different the view of these relatively comparable players is.
Neither player played particularly well, but the best thing you can say about either is that they weren’t Chris Neil or Chris Kelly. Their presence relegated the worst players on the Senators’ roster to the press box and that’s where their value is held.
And now one is gone.
Between Clarke MacArthur’s return from a concussion, Tom Pyatt’s contract extension, the signing of Nate Thompson as an unrestricted free agent and the presence of a few prospects who have a chance to play their way onto the roster, the Senators’ forward ranks were already pretty congested so it’s easy to understand why the two parties failed to come to terms on a new deal.
Stalberg had to realize that there simply wasn’t much room on the roster and that he signed in Europe leads me to believe that he had his own personal reasons for wanting to play closer to home.
But now that he’s gone, the only thing left to do is hope that the Senators will not be in a similar situation at next year’s trade deadline where they search for costly upgrades on depth players because the guys here just aren’t getting the job done.