For a few years, rumours suggested that Curtis Lazar could one day wind up being moved to Edmonton where he experienced some incredible junior hockey success with the Oil Kings.
It turns out he will be headed to the Oilers’ provincial rivals instead because this afternoon, Lazar was dealt to the Calgary Flames with Michael Kostka for a 2017 second round pick and defenceman Jyrki Jokipakka.
Even though the 2017 NHL Draft is being classified as a relatively weak one, the Senators did well to recoup a relatively high pick that can be used to select a young player or be used as currency in a trade to acquire a higher quality asset.
There’s value in that, but obviously it won’t stop some fans or pundits from inevitably dumping on the Senators because they confidently believe that the organization rushed Lazar to the NHL as a 19-year old.
Sure, no prospect has ever really suffered from having their development stall because they spent another year in junior, but there’s no guarantee that Lazar’s development or offensive skillset ever would have grown from more time spent playing against younger players either.
There’s definitely something to be said about a young player playing too conservatively because they want to mitigate mistakes and earn more ice time and the trust of their coach, but even when Lazar was loaned to the Canadian World Junior team for the 2015 World Championships, he looked like the least skilled player on the team.
From an eye-test perspective, he’s too predictable and safe. Despite this assertion that he’s a defensively capable player, he is not a driver who transitions the play from defence to offence. Even when he had modest success playing with Erik Condra and Jean-Gabriel Pageau, he was relying heavily on those two players to carry the puck and do all of the leg work.
To me, Lazar’s predictable and falls into a pattern of behavior that makes him easy to defend against. Whether his shortcomings are confidence-related or skill-related is open to interpretation, but I’d lean towards the latter. There’s no statistical evidence to support the idea that there is significant room for growth in his production. Moreover, statistics paint the picture of a player who makes those around him worse and it’s not like he’s exclusively been buried on the fourth line with grinders. Injuries have created top six opportunities for him in each of the past few seasons and in each instance, he’s failed to capitalize on the opportunities presented to him. I mean, aside from that one time he took a bite of a hamburger that was thrown on the ice.
Is there an argument to be made that the Senators should have cut bait earlier in his career and gotten even more for him?
Absolutely, but at least by holding onto him to this point, the organization will feel more confident with this deal because they’re making a more informed decision now. Despite the fact that the Senators are selling low on a 22-year old Lazar who lost a lot of luster since turning pro, that the Senators were able to recoup any value at all for one of the least productive forwards in the NHL since he entered the league and someone who the Senators could not afford to protect in this summer’s expansion draft, has to be considered a small victory for the Senators.
In Jokipakka, the Senators get a 25-year old left-shot defenceman who has the best name in hockey. He’s currently in the last year of a two-year contract that pays him a one-way salary of $900,000.
His underlying numbers aren’t really inspiring. In parts of three seasons in the NHL, Jokipakka’s possession, shots for and expected goals for percentages all fall on the wrong side of 50. He does however offer the Senators some controllable depth.
A seventh-round pick (195th overall) of the Dallas Stars in 2011, Jokipakka has played in 96 games over the past two seasons – meaning that if he’s qualified as a restricted free agent this summer, he fits the exposure criteria for the expansion draft.
Senators Acquire Stalberg
One day after splurging on Alex Burrows, Senators general manager Pierre Dorion made a modest trade to address the Senators’ bottom-six depth by acquiring Viktor Stalberg from the Carolina Hurricanes for a 2017 third-round pick.
Stalberg has nine goals and three assists in 57 games this season, but in 470 career games, the 31-year old Swede has chipped in 80 goals and 164 points.
Although Stalberg brings Stanley Cup experience (2012-13) to the Senators, his most prolific season was the 2011-12 campaign in which he netted 22 goals and 43 points with the Chicago Blackhawks. Intrigued by the spike in his point and shot generation, I did some digging and learned that Stalberg’s two most frequent linemates at five-on-five that season were Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane.
I wouldn’t expect significant offensive contributions from Stalberg moving forward because he’s only reached double-digit goal totals twice in his career, but there’s a great opportunity for Stalberg to reach that number this season.
Listed as a left winger, Stalberg is added to a mix that already includes Mike Hoffman, Zack Smith and Ryan Dzingel, but it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him switch to the right wing where he’s played regularly as a member of the Hurricanes and Rangers.
At this morning’s practice, Stalberg skated on a line with Chris Kelly and Tommy Wingels, but with Tom Pyatt occupying a spot alongside Ryan Dzingel and Jean-Gabriel Pageau, there may be an opportunity for Stalberg to push Pyatt and get a look in that spot at some point moving forward.
If reports about his speed and ability to play his off-side are true, Guy Boucher could eventually turn to that trio and let them fly.
Other News and Notes:
- In his media scrum this morning, Senators head coach Guy Boucher revealed that Chris Neil would be out for the foreseeable future after suffering a broken finger. I presume the injury occurred during his third period scrap of Sunday’s game against Florida’s Shawn Thornton. Given the acquisition of a few depth players and this injury, this could be it for C
- According to Swedish journalist Uffe Bodin, former Senators prospect Jonathan Daheln won the Guldgallret (“the golden cage”) as the best junior prospect in Hockeyallsvenskan.
- The Senators continued to dip into the Swiss market for depth, announcing that they have signed 28-year old Chris DiDomenico to a two-year contract. The centre spent the past three seasons playing with Langnau.