The Pittsburgh Penguins made the biggest noise at the NHL entry draft yesterday trading Jordan Staal to the Carolina Hurricanes for Brandon Sutter, the 8th overall pick which they used to draft defenseman Derrick Pouliot and defense prospect Brian Dumoulin.
Essentially this trade comes down to the Penguins trading their 3rd line center Jordan Staal, who wants to be a first or second line center and would leave as a UFA next summer to do so, for Carolina’s 3rd line center Brandon Sutter and a pair of promising defense prospects. So, how do Jordan Staal and Brandon Sutter compare as 3rd line centers?
In the above table GF20 stands for goals for per 20 minutes of 5v5 zone start adjusted ice time over the past 3 seasons, TMGF20 is the GF20 of the players team/line mates, OPPGA20 is the oppositions goals against per 20 minutes of ice time and HARO+ is my offensive rating which takes into account GF20, TMGF20 and OPPGA20.
So, even though Staal plays with better offensive teammates than Sutter does, he still manages to make them even better offensive players when they are playing with him. Brandon Sutter on the other hand plays with significantly weaker offensive players and they become even weaker when playing with Sutter. The end result is Staal comes out looking like a good, above average offensive player while Brandon Sutter is a fairly weak offensive player.
The above table is similar to the one in under offense except it measures defensive ability by looking at the players GA20, the players teammates GA20 and the opposition players GF20 and HARD+ is my all inclusive defensive rating.
Both players come out looking like good defensive players, but the edge clearly goes to Sutter. He plays with weaker defensive teammates, against stronger offensive competition and despite that produces a lower GA20. In fact, evidence suggest that Brandon Sutter is one of the best defensvie forwards in the NHL. Over the past 3 seasons he ranks 7th in GA20 and 6th in HARD+ among the 221 forwards with with 2000 minutes of 5v5 zone start adjusted ice time. This compares to Staal who ranks 91st and 86th in GA20 and HARD+.
The above table is similar to the previous two but is an overall look at the players performance. This is done by looking at the goals for percentage (GF% = GF / [GF + GA]) for the player, his teammates, and his opponents. Overall, Sutter has moderately worse results, but plays with significant weaker teammates and against marginally superior opponents. In the end Jordan Staal is the better player due to his offensive abilities but Brandon Sutter might be the better fit for the Penguins since with Crosby and Malkin already centering the top 2 lines the Penguins couldn’t fully utilize Staal’s offensive abilities. Pittsburgh’s projected line of Brandon Sutter, Tyler Kennedy and Matt Cooke may well be the best defensive line in the NHL and the 3 of them will have a combined cap hit about the same as the $6M/yr that the Penguins were prepared to give to Staal on a long term 10 year contract. The money they save with Staal (and the trade of Zbynek Michalek) will allow them to address other more important needs such as improving on the wing (Parise?) or adding another top flight defensvie defenseman (Suter?).
From the Hurricanes point of view, the combination of Eric Staal and Jordan Staal now give them a very strong #1/#2 tandem down the middle which is one of the keys to being a successful team. They will need to find themselves a defensive third line center now, but those guys are far easier to find than 2-way second line centers. This is one of those deals that worked out really well for both sides, but on the whole, I think Pittsburgh did really resolving a difficult situation in a quick and efficient way.