Trade season is upon us. We’ve already seen the first two major pieces fall, as Evander Kane and Tyler Myers were involved in the same trade between Winnipeg and Buffalo. While it’s unlikely we see a trade of that magnitude by the time the deadline passes, we will likely see a number of trades for rentals. The playoff picture is already set in the Eastern Conference, and the Western Conference already has six of the eight teams set. What this means is more clearly defined buyers and sellers.
The New York Rangers have already been linked to Mike Santorelli, which is one low cost option to help up front. They’ve also been linked to Antoine Vermette, who is significantly more expensive, both in trade cost and actual cost.
On the blue line Andrej Sekera appears to be the popular name, but he is also coming with a hefty price tag. Suit discussed three low-cost options in Mark Stone, Mike Weber, and Ryan Murphy (Murphy is probably costing more than the first two), but all three, save for Weber, appear to have roles with their current clubs. The Rangers would need to find a value defenseman, someone who appears to be an upgrade on the John Moore/Matt Hunwick combination, at a low cost in cap and trade.
That’s where Patrick Wiercioch of Ottawa slots in. Wiercioch is a healthy scratch regularly for the Sens because he doesn’t have sexy numbers. He’s at 1-4-5 in 21 games, and Dave Cameron appears to prefer a number of players over the 24-year-old. That should be a cause for concern, but all coaches are vulnerable to their favorites, as we’ve seen with Alain Vigneault and Tanner Glass (over J.T. Miller, the better player).
The chart above is a HERO (Horizontal Evaluative Ranking Optics) chart, courtesy of Own The Puck. It basically takes P/60 and some various Corsi% numbers and charts them out to rank, as described in the paragraph above the player name.
All of Wiercioch’s charts show he has top pairing production, but he just doesn’t play. Since he doesn’t play, it’s likely that he is available. His flaw is that he doesn’t necessarily put up points, but that has to do with playing time. He should sound like a defenseman we are familiar with, someone that plays for Tampa Bay now.
Not sold on Wiercioch based on the new chart? Well here’s his usage chart, which compares him to the rest of the defensemen in Ottawa:
He’s no Erik Karlsson or Marc Methot, but he’s certainly better than pretty much every other defenseman. Considering the role he’d have with the Rangers (sheltered starts, third pairing), he’d be a welcome addition. Worried about those offensive zone starts? Well, let’s compare him to Moore and Hunwick, the guys he’d be replacing.
The usage chart again shows us that Wiercioch drives possession better, despite facing tougher competition and fewer offensive zone starts than both Moore and Hunwick. Let’s also look at the HERO charts for Moore and Hunwick, just to make the comparison fair. First Moore:
So here we see that we have a player that, on paper, is a better fit for what the Rangers are looking for. However, cap space is going to be a major issue. They can temporarily clear some space by putting Henrik Lundqvist on LTIR, but they would need that space again when they activate him, so there’s really no point in doing so. They need cheap talent that can be viewed as upgrades to their current lineup.
Wiercioch has a $2 million cap hit, signed through next season. Not expensive, but not really cheap either. If Moore goes the other way, then the Rangers can slide him into the lineup pretty soon, based on my horrible math (good lord I miss CapGeek). If the Rangers wait and bank more cap space, they might be able to land him without dealing a roster player.
Wiercioch is, without a doubt, a significant upgrade on both Moore –who, to be fair, has been playing much better lately, but it may be too little too late– and Hunwick. These are players who are playing the same roles on their respective teams, so there wouldn’t be a culture shock for Wiercioch if he were to come to New York. From what I’ve seen, which I admit isn’t that much, Wiercioch is a capable skater. He’s not John Moore out there, but he’s at least on par with Hunwick.
When it comes to trade cost, that’s tough to gauge. Since he doesn’t play, I’m assuming it wouldn’t cost much. Maybe a mid-tier prospect or a mid-level pick, much like the Raphael Diaz acquisition last season (5th round pick). But I am admittedly skewed by the charts, so I’d say it would cost both a prospect and a pick, or at least a roster player like Moore. If Moore isn’t in their long term plans, and they don’t want to rush Brady Skjei next season, then Wiercioch is a solid add.