As the trade deadline creeps closer, rumors are increasing, and players are feeling the tension in locker rooms where GMs are saying no one is untouchable. Teams hope to land that Martin St. Louis or Marian Gaborik, who can make a huge difference for a team in the postseason, but often the big trade underwhelms. (See: Matt Moulson.)
What can make a huge difference for a team is adding depth. Solidifying the holes on the third or fourth line, because no one is making it to the finals unless they can run four lines and have some players who are able to step up.
Here are a few players in depth forward positions who might quietly make as large an impact as a big-name acquisition like Antoine Vermette. (Less Mike Santorelli, who was traded on Sunday.)
Bergenheim has been a healthy scratch a number of times this year, but the 31-year-old winger’s performance doesn’t seem inconsistent with what he’s provided in past season. He’s absorbing more defensive zone starts than offensive and his goals per 60 minutes of play (G/60) of .9 is the best he’s had since the 2008-09 season and ties the second best mark he’s had since 2005-06.
His points per 60 minutes of play (P/60) of 1.9 is the best he’s had since the 2005-06 season. He’s producing a rate that is either consistent with or slightly better than what you should expect from him throughout his career.
Another reason teams should consider him? Possession. He’s had a positive relative Corsi (CF%Rel — the difference between the team’s Corsi with him on the ice as opposed to when he’s off the ice) every season since 2007-08. He has a Usage-Adjusted Corsi (UACorsi) of 54.1% and has had a positive UACorsi for seven straight seasons.
He’s also posting a positive dCorsiImpact at 55.75. (Short version: dCorsi is the difference between expected Corsi and observed Corsi.) Almost any way you cut it, Bergenheim has a positive impact on team possession. He’s also putting up points at a pace consistent with his career, and with all the scratches he’s had this season, he can likely be had a reasonable price.
Winnik is another depth player, who can help shore up depth issues, especially since he’s capabale of playing center or wing. He’s posting a 1.7 P/60 this season, the best of his career. He’s doing so with the best shooting percentage of his career, which is 9.7% at 5-on-5, which is generally not a great sign when a played has a 6.1% career shooting percentage. It’s possible that comes down and his scoring pace slows, but 9.7% isn’t wildly unmanageable or crazy above league-average like John Klingberg’s 15.4%.
The big thing with Winnik is that he, like Bergenheim, is going to bring positive possession potential into a third line. In all but two seasons he’s posted a positive CF%Rel. Since the 2010-11 season he has a 1.8% CF%Rel. He’s driving possession positively for teams overall, while consistently, throughout his career, taking more defensive zone starts than offensive.
His dCorsi hasn’t always been great, but he’s capable of having a huge impact, as he did with Colorado in 2010-11, posting a 197.73. This season he has a 65.62 for Toronto. He’s also got a great UACorsi this season at 54.4% on a team that has not quite been remarkable for their possession work.
Coyotes fans will likely scoff at this, but Klinkhammer was forced into a situation that was above his station there. (As I wrote about when he moved to Pittsburgh.) Klinkhammer can have a positive impact for teams in a depth role.
He’s not going to score a ton of goals, but he’s able to be effective while absorbing bad zone starts. His realtive zone starts (ZS%Rel) over the last four seasons (starting from this season) read -19.2%, .2%, -26.2%, and -10.2%. Yet, he’s had a positive CF%Rel every season of his career, including this year where’s he’s bounced between three teams, two of which are deep into the McEichel hunt. And while Coyotes fans scoff at his production, he had a 53.7% CF% and a 54.1% CF% in his two years with the organization. The team didn’t have positive possession in either season when Klinkhammer was off the ice.
He’s has solid dCorsi numbers and is a 54.1% UACorsi guy this season. He’s playing for Edmonton who are clearly sellers. Klinkhammer could be had and it’s likely that he could be had for not too much.
Boyes isn’t the 40 or even 20-goal scorer he used to be. (Though he did cross 20 last year for the first time in five seasons, one of which was the lockout year.) But if Flordia discovers that they’re sellers by the deadline, Boyes could be an interesting pickup for a contender.
For a veteran player, he doesn’t have a ton of playoff experience, but you’re adding a guy who has a goal-scorer’s touch into a depth position in your lineup. He’s capable of moving up the roster and if you are able to slot him into a third line spot, you’re almost certainly making your third line a bigger threat. He has one more year on his contract, but the hit is fairly reasonable at $2.625M.
His P/60 at 5-on-5 of 1.8 is the best he’s posted since 2007-08. He’s done that on a team that has struggled scoring all season. Florida is 25th in the NHL in all situation goals per game, which is inconsistent with them being 7th in shots per game.
Outside of his only full season with the Buffalo Sabres, he’s had a positive CF%Rel every season since 2005-06. He has three straight seasons with positive UACorsi and is at 53.3% this season. Boyes does require a team to take on his deal for another season, but he should be able to be an effective player for another year. There aren’t any signs that his value will plummet next season.
A Few More
Here are a couple final players who I wouldn’t rank as highly as the four above, but could have a positive impact in a depth position as well.
On the surface it looks like Condra’s having a down year, but his role in Ottawa has changed. He’s taking the worst zone starts of his career at a ZS%Rel of -8.1%, which could explain him having a negative CF%Rel for the first time in his career. That starts to recede into the background though when you see he has a 18.49 dCorsiImpact and a 49% UACorsi. It’s the first time in his career he’s had a negative UACorsi. If you have a third line getting about even zone starts, Condra could make an impact. It does make you a little wary of role though. He’s not a Matt Cooke-type who can produce some while playing a heavily defensive role.
Also, despite his year looking down on the surface, he’s managed to have a 1.1 P/60, the same as last season, while taking in similarly limited ice time and bad zone starts. Condra is best used in a depth position, but if injuries have caused a hole deep in the lineup, he may be able to fill that spot for next to nothing.
I wrote more in depth about Cole last week, but as Dallas begins to see themselves more and more on the outside of the playoff picture, Cole may have value in a trade. He’s not a long-term solution, but for a team that has solid possession numbers, you could take a flier on Cole.
He’s not going to improve possession (he’s had a negative CF%Rel for three straight seasons) and he’s getting up there in years (36), but he’s still putting the puck in the net at a solid rate with a 2.1 P/60. Like Boyes, could turn a third line — though as we’ve seen in Dallas, he’s certainly capable of playing up onto a second line still — into a larger scoring threat, which is the kind of thing that can steal games in the postseason.
Dustin Nelson writes about news and the Minnesota Wild for The Hockey Writers.