It's no secret that the Avs now have more centers than they know what to do with.
After drafting Nathan MacKinnon 1st Overall a month ago, the number of Top 6-caliber centermen employed by the organization has grown to four: MacKinnon, Matt Duchene, Ryan O`Reilly, and Paul Stastny. Coach Patrick Roy has already announced a preliminary forward lineup with Duchene and O'Reilly (as a left wing) on the top line, Stastny on the second, and MacKinnon starting on the third. However, it's clear that having a 1st overall on the 3rd line is a temporary solution at best. Sooner or later, he's going to earn a spot on the top 2 lines.
Even if O'Reilly sticks as a wing, Duchene, Stastny, and MacKinnon will all be vying for only two center spots. Duchene just signed a 5-year extension with the team, and it's highly unlikely that MacKinnon will be moved any time soon. All signs indicate that those two are the future of the Avs, so where does this leave Stastny? The soon-to-be 28-year-old will be a UFA this coming summer, which means a decision needs to be made soon on whether re-sign him or move him before the deadline.
Which makes more sense for the Avs? What is Stastny's worth both as a free-agent and as a trade piece?
Let's start by looking at some stats.
First off, let's concentrate on how much he scores. As a forward, the higher his points-per-game rate is, the higher his value will be.
Chart 1: Career Points Per Game
Yes, you read that right. Paul Stastny is #29 in points per game among ALL active NHL forwards with at least 100 pts. True, most of them are assists, but his goals per game rate is still higher than Richards, Giroux, Tanguay, and H. Sedin in this range. He's also second to only Patrick Kane when it comes to American scorers. To say he's a member of some very elite company when it comes to career numbers is an understatement.
However, value is often determined more on what a player has done recently. With that in mind, let's take a look at his numbers over the past 2 seasons. This chart ranks him in comparison to all forwards who scored at least 0.5 PPG across both 20+ games in 2011-12 and 12+ games in 2013. The fact that Stastny hit at least that mark twice in his past two seasons speaks to his consistency.
Chart 2: Points Per Game From 2011-12 and 2013
|103||23||James van Riemsdyk||91||29||27||56||0.319||0.297||0.558||0.667||0.615|
Not quite as good, but there are still some very interesting names in there. Ranking in the 90s on this list implies that in an average year on an average team, Stastny is a 1st- or very good 2nd-line player.
However, Stastny's strengths don't stop with scoring. He's also highly skilled at gaining possession, and unlike most of the scorers above, Stastny has found himself starting his shifts in the defensive zone more often than not over the past two years. Here are some other forwards with similar minutes (less than 51% O-Zone starts and 20+ GP in 2012 and 2013). For the sake of formatting, only players who average 13+ minutes per night are shown.
Chart 3: Defensive Stats From 2011-12 and 2013
Players with similar PPG totals from the past 2 years (Chart 2) are in bold. Those players (Plekanec, Roy, Oshie, and Perron) will likely give us the best idea of Stastny's worth. To broaden the search, players from Chart 2 will also be included if applicable.
In keeping with the 2 year theme, these are the players from Chart 2 who have been traded during that time.
|7/10/13||David Perron||STL-EDM||Magnus Paajarvi, 2014 2nd|
|7/5/13||Bobby Ryan||ANA-OTT||Jakob Silfverberg, Stefan Noesen, 2014 1st|
|4/2/13||Derek Roy||DAL-VAN||Kevin Connauton (D), 2013 2nd|
|7/2/12||Derek Roy||BUF-DAL||Steve Ott, Adam Pardy (D)|
|6/23/12||James van Reimsdyk||PHI-TOR||Luke Schenn (D)|
|2/23/12||Jeff Carter||CBJ-LAK||Jack Johnson (D), Cond. 2012 1st|
|1/12/12||Michael Cammalleri, Karri Ramo (G), 2012 5th||MTL-CGY||Rene Bourque, Patrick Holland (F), 2013 2nd|
|7/3/11||Dany Heatley||SJS-MIN||Martin Havlat|
|6/23/11||Jeff Carter||PHI-CBJ||Jakub Voracek, 2011 1st, 2011 3rd|
|6/23/11||Mike Richards, Rob Bordson (F)||PHI-LAK||Brayden Schenn, Wayne Simmons, 2012 2nd|
Arguably, the worst return with this crowd was a very solid prospect and a 2nd rounder for Derek Roy or David Perron. The one-for-one trades (JVR and Heatley) returned either a top 4 blueliner or a top 6 forward of a similar age. Otherwise, we are looking at a roster player + solid prospects and/or 1st/2nd round picks.
There is very little question that if Stastny is traded it will be for a defenseman due to the Avs needs at that position. Based on this list, in a one-to-one trade, I'd expect perhaps not an elite blueliner, but at least an All-Star coming back - someone in the Yandle or Phaneuf range. If a younger defenseman is brought in, more along the lines of Gardiner or Gudbranson, then a 1st or 2nd to sweeten the pot would be fair.
Either way, that is one heck of a return and could have a drastic influence on the team's overall success.
|James van Riemsdyk||23||0.615||4.250||6||2012|
Based on this chart, it's likely Stastny's next contract will be in the 5-year, $25 million ballpark. Unless he has an absolutely outstanding season, I doubt he makes much over $5 mil a year on his next contract.
I honestly believe that by the mid-point of next season, Stastny will have surpassed many of these comparables. Based on his career numbers and his unsustainable low PDO over the past couple seasons (because 977 is DIFFERENT than 1000), a bounce-back year from Mr. Stastny wouldn't surprise me one bit. Add in a new coach, a contract year, and new linemates - Alex Tanguay and Gabriel Landeskog are a definite step up over who he's been playing with in the past few years - and I firmly expect the old Stastny to return, even if his offensive zone starts remain fairly low.
However, even if he holds steady at his current rate, he gives the Avs some options. His trade return would likely be very solid and address some key issues with the team, so if we are still in the playoff hunt by the deadline, it could be just the thing to push us over the edge. On the other hand, if we can find a way to fit him into the roster long-term, a fair $5 mil cap hit frees up $1.6 mil vs his current deal while still guaranteeing the Avs his consistent scoring, versatility, and veteran presence. It's a no-lose situation.... as long as a decision is made before free-agency begins next year. Losing someone like Paul Stastny to UFA would be a huge blow to the franchise.