Today we saw one of those trades that on the surface can seem minor. The Pittsburgh Penguins traded 23-year-old defenseman Philip Samuelsson to the Arizona Coyotes — the team his brother Henrik Samuelsson plays for. In return the Penguins got late-blooming winger Rob Klinkhammer, who is capable of playing center, as well as a conditional 2016 fifth round draft pick.
The structure of the trade is familiar. Team that’s a competitor now moves a prospect to a team that is starting to look toward the future for a player with experience. The team that wants help now can often wind up giving up more in the long-term in order to improve their chances this season.
I think the Penguins got a great deal here.
Let’s start with what’s obvious. The Penguins need help.
A little like last year, they’re being hit hard by the injuries — not Columbus hard, but hard enough. The team currently has Kris Letang, Chris Kunitz, Pascal Dupuis, Scott Wilson, and Beau Bennett on the IR. Patric Hornqvist is out getting evaluated for a concussion. Robert Bortuzzo is serving a suspension. They need help now.
The Coyotes aren’t going anywhere this year. They’re 10-14-3 with 23 points, second to last in the Western Conference, just keeping themselves of the dumpster fire that won’t go out in Edmonton. It’s early and the Coyotes could turn it around, but they’re probably better off with a prospect like Samuelsson than they are with 28-year-old Klinkhammer, who is in the final year of his contract.
Arizona’s not throwing in the towel, but whatever they’re doing isn’t working and they know this. Kyle Chipchura was placed on waivers Friday and David Schlemko was sent to the AHL. They’ve recalled defenseman Andrew Campbell and forward Jordan Martinook. There’s a changing of the guard happening. Or at least a testing of the waters to see if the new guards are ready to replace the old guards?
Possessed in Pittsburgh
I think it’s possible that Klinkhammer has been undervalued at large and that Pittsburgh got a good deal here. He’s not a big points player — he’s only averaging 1.2 shots per game (all situations). But he’s on a team that isn’t strong in possession and doesn’t really have a lot of dangerous offensive weapons that would allow Klinkhammer to play a role he’s better suited to. (He’s largely been on the second line with Martin Hanzal and Martin Erat.)
Arizona currently sports a 48.1% Corsi For (CF%) at 5-on-5, 23rd in the league. Klinkhammer led the Coyotes with a 53.8% FF%. Only four other players on Arizona even have positive possession numbers. (All team and player possession numbers via Puckalytics.)
Yes, Klinkhammer has been scratched a number of times this year, but in all three seasons Klinkhammer has played he has a positive Team Goal% Rel and a positive Fenwick For% Rel. The highest CF% the team has had while he’s been there is 50.7%, barely into positive numbers.
He’s probably not going to produce offensively like a top six player should, but his production would make sense on a third line and his possession stats would make him a valuable commodity on Pittsburgh’s third line.
With only a .97% ZS% Rel this season, he’s posting good possession numbers without chewing up the ice. If you can slot a guy like Klinkhammer onto a third or fourth line, with the talent the Penguins have when healthy, and his possession abilities, it could lead to a lot more goals and, at a minimum, set up top lines with a good zone start.
Klinkhammer is a great depth signing for Pittsburgh, a team that has been very good, but probably wouldn’t mind bolstering their 50.7% CF% at 5-on-5, especially while they’re weathering the storm of injuries.
Klinkhammer isn’t going to suddenly become a 30-goal scorer, but he’s not a slouch. Last year was his first full NHL season and he posted 11 goals and nine assists through 72 games. He can provide secondary scoring.
Couple that secondary scoring with his possession numbers and it makes sense that, according to War on Ice, Klinkhammer’s Team Goal% Relative is 23.93% and his Team Goal% is 60%. A solid depth forward with a strong possession track record is just what Pittsburgh needs to get them through the injuries they have and what will make them a contender when Klinkhammer maybe drops a line when the team is healthy.
Dustin Nelson writes about news and the Minnesota Wild for The Hockey Writers.