Monday, 23 July 2012
07/23/12 Thoughts On A Paajarvi/Erixon Swap
Rick Nash is in New York at last, and the Blue Jackets received a defenseman in the deal who could be deemed as an extra. Already Tim Erixon is being linked to the Oilers, but would he be a good addition if it cost Magnus Paajarvi?
First of all, why would Columbus and Edmonton make a deal like this?
The Blue Jackets have five NHL defensemen signed for next season: James Wisniewski, Fedor Tyutin, Jack Johnson, Adrian Aucoin, and Nikita Nikitin. 2009 first round pick John Moore got into 67 games with Columbus in 2011-12, and fellow prospect David Savard appeared in 31. When you add second overall pick Ryan Murray into that equation you find a situation that's a little crowded, and Erixon may be caught in the logjam.
All Oilers fans know the situation with Paajarvi: he's fallen out of favor and been passed on the depth chart by players with much higher offensive upside. He's still a good player, but barring injury he'd have a hard time getting into offensive situations that could see him flourish. It may be better to trade him rather than to see his value decline as he dies on the vine.
On Monday, Jim Matheson mentioned the possibility of using Paajarvi as a trade chip to land Erixon, and Bob Stauffer discussed it on Oilers Now as well.
Erixon, 21, is entering the second year of an entry level deal with a $1.75 million cap hit. He's a 6'2", 190 pound left-handed shooter who is known as a puck mover with good on-ice vision. For what it's worth, the 2012 Hockey News Future Watch listed Erixon as New York's best prospect - ahead of even Chris Kreider - and he was also ahead of prospects Justin Schultz (21st) and Oscar Klefbom (22nd) in the overall prospect rankings. Erixon was ranked as the 17th-best prospect outside the NHL.
When it comes to counting stats, Erixon left something to be desired. With the Connecticut Whale of the AHL he posted 3-30-33 in 52 games, along with a plus-5 rating. That's where the Rangers organization was intent on keeping Erixon for the season in order to gain strength and experience, but a rash of injuries in the parent club saw him come up to New York for 18 NHL games. Once there he was less impressive, scoring just two assists, going minus-2, and failing to make a serious impact.
Of course, it's not easy to show what you can do when you're playing 12:59 per night; 12:01 of which was at even strength. Erixon did average 0:41 of powerplay time per game, but didn't register a point with the extra man.
And now for the fancystats. Since Erixon spent most of his ice time at even strength, the 5x5 data from Behind the Net should be quite telling. Keep in mind, however, that 18 games is a small sample size.
Erixon was sheltered with some of the easiest minutes of any Rangers defensemen and started his shifts in the offensive zone 50.5% of the time. Despite this, his relative Corsi was second worst of all Rangers defenders, suggesting that he badly lost the possession battle, and he also finished his shifts in the offensive zone 49% of the time. All of this points to a player who is not quite ready for full time NHL duty, and the Rangers organization was quite right to leave him in the AHL for some seasoning.
By contrast, Paajarvi moved the play in the right direction despite the fact that he didn't make much noise offensively, and has done so in each of his first two seasons. In 2011-12 Paajarvi started his shifts in the offensive zone 47.7% of the time but finished them there 49.9% of the time. Unlike Erixon, Paajarvi is certainly NHL-ready and has done more to prove himself in the world's best league.
Tim Erixon would be a good fit for Oklahoma City, but doesn't seem to mesh with the immediate needs of the Oilers. At the end of the day it may be better to convert Paajarvi to defense than to trade him for a player like Erixon.
Paajarvi's own site says that he played defense until he was twelve years old. That's a long time ago, but he has clearly carried some of those tools with him all these years. It's not unheard of for players to switch from defense to forward and back again - as in the case of Dustin Byfuglien - and if any Oilers forward could do it, it would be Paajarvi.
Erixon may still be a very good NHL defender one day, but if the Oilers trade for him they'll have to do it with the knowledge that he probably won't change the fortunes of the team in any immediately meaningful way. In fact, they'll have to suffer more of the growing pains that they have had with so many defensemen of late. Could Paajarvi be a better solution for the back end?