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Thought of the Day 06-18-09: Winchester vs Stastny June 19, 2009

Posted by bluesfan45 in Thought of the Day.
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All the talk of Keith Tkachuk Re-Signing soon should spur some additional thought in the minds of Blues fans.

Assuming Tkachuk is back for at least the 09-10 Season, the Blues have the following forwards under contract:
McDonald – Backes – Boyes
Perron – Berglund – Oshie
Kariya – Tkachuk – Steen
Stastny – McClement – ?

The question mark is that extra 3rd/4th line “grinder”. That guy who plays most of the season checking hard, seeing a little special teams play, a role player. Who could fill that role?

The likeliest answer is an internal source. Someone already in the system or a player on last year’s roster who is now a Free Agent. The Blues have BJ Crombeen, Brad Winchester, DJ King, Chris Porter, and Cam Paddock. I am sure I’m missing someone, but those are who come to mind as NHL level fillers who have done this role before.

Before getting too much in to this (and I know the title has told you where I am going), we need a few more assumptions.
1. Blues Re-Sign BJ Crombeen since he is a RFA. Lets just assume 3 years at $900k, $1.0 mil, $1.25mil, totaling $3.15mil which would be a $1.05mil cap hit.
2. The Blues liked the success they had using a larger, more physical line up.
3. Stastny, King, and Janssen are all “up” after the 09-10 season and would be potential targets to lose their roster spot to maintain team size.

You can be pretty sure that King isn’t a target. He has size, can play, fight, and is a RFA after 09-10. Leaving the Blues with Janssen vs. Stastny. Janssen has a clear role to be a fighter and isn’t needed in that many games. Janssen is also a RFA after 09-10, so if the Blues want to keep him, he is a cheaper buy than Stastny (in theory).

Now we are at Winchester vs. Stastny and our question is:

Does the size and production of Winchester equal more of a benefit than Stastny already being under a smaller contract?

Lets take a look at where both players stand in terms of being an asset to the team.

Big body to work the boards, corners, and get to the net.
Posses a pretty quick shot.
Willing to hit and take a hit.
Offensive production from the “bottom 6”.
Can play on the power play.
Has Playoff experience.

Small, quick skater.
Can play the PK effectively.
Has speed to fore-check.
Could play Center or Wing.
Responsible defensively.

Factors Against Each Player:

Winchester – Tkachuk and Crombeen Re-Signed. AHL depth under contract (Porter, Paddock, etc). UFA and could get bigger contract offers from other teams. Kariya added to power play likely pushes Winchester in to less power play time, therefore reducing his production. Giving a “grinder’ a raise and paying him more than someone else who could potentially do the same job for less.

Stastny – Blues have multiple effective penalty killing forwards in McClement, Steen, Oshie, Backes, and Crombeen. Patrik Berglund could also be thrown in to the mix next year. Must pass through waivers go to Peoria. Small size with limited offensive upside.

The wild card is the contract. Stastny is signed, done deal. Winchester would require the Blues to add him, at a higher rate than Stastny, and then move Stastny or Janssen off the roster.  At this point, this is where you “gamble” (I use that term loosely because losing Yan wouldn’t destroy the organization) and bring back Winchester at more money and find a way to move down or out Stastny.

There seems to be little doubt that Murray found the right buttons to push Winchester to the next level, to become a better player. Winchester has the size the Blues need to maintain till the team is better equiped to play the “Red Wing style” of quick transition and possession. You cannot win if you don’t score and scoring depth is a need in the new NHL. Winchester proving 12-15 or so goals from the bottom 6 is a huge bonus to the team. Certainly those extra goals and physical presence are worth an extra $500,000.

Now this could all be a moot point, Winchester could pass on the Blues offer and go elsewhere. However I think the Blues want his size back and Winchester wants to come back. I think this might be one of the few instances where you reward the “grinder” and give him the raise. Yes, his roster spot can be filled for cheaper, but what he brings back is worth the investment.

Blues ink McClement to 3 year / $4.35mil Contract May 27, 2009

Posted by bluesfan45 in Offseason, Transactions.
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Andy Strickland reported this on Hockeybuzz earlier last week, however Jeremy Rutherford at the St. Louis Post Dispatch let fans know that the Blues made it official today. The Blues announced that Center Jay McClement has agreed to a 3 year deal worth more than $4 million dollars.

Per Strickland and Rutherford the deal breaks down this way:
2009-10: $1.4 million
2010-11: $1.45 million
2011-12: $1.5 million

Jeremy Rutherford quoted John Davidson on McClement:
I think he’s still improving. No. 1, he really has a defined role that he embraced last season. That was, he was the lead guy on the penalty kill, he was the lead guy on matchups, regarding the other team’s top lines. He’s maturing as a player in understanding what his strengths are, yet there’s still upside.”

High praise from one of the better guys in the NHL.

Is this a good signing? Yes it is. Why?

McClement produced 26 points while being the top forward on a Top 10 PK unit as well as being the primary Center to match up against the likes of Thronton, Datsyuk, Nash, etc. He finished a -10, which isn’t bad considering how little offense his line is expected to produce. McClement was the top face-off man for the Blues at 52.1%. I am not counting McDonald’s 58% due to the amount of face-offs he had compared to Jay. McClement was second on the Blues with 44 takeaways (Backes had 45). His 57 blocks were the most of any Blues Forward. McClement was the ONLY forward on the Blues to play more than 2:45min a night on the PK. SH TOI/G 3:50. Who was next? Yan Stastny at 2:34.

So Jay put up solid numbers and played a sound defensive game. Couldn’t someone do this without being paid over $1mil per?

Would comparable players like  Radek Bonk take $1.5mil? Would Lehtinen, Grier, Pahlsson, Madden? Sure you might be able to get Reasoner, Zigomanis, Kopecky, Yelle, Peca for the same or less. However they did not excel in the Blues system, McClement did. While that list is comprised of mainly vets, they would still  have to come in to a new environment. Why not keep you have drafted and developed?

So if you don’t go outside, why not stay inside. Could Stastny, Whitfield, or Paddock replace McClement?

In 37 Games Stastny had 9 takeaways, an average of (rounding) 0.3 a game. McClement per game rate was at 0.54. Stastny took 102 face-offs with a 45.1% winning %. Stastny had 18 blocks in 34 games for a .53 per game pace. McClement per game was at .70 per game pace. As far as offensive play, you aren’t paying either player to be offensive minded, so this shouldn’t be a major consideration. You are paying them both to back check, play the PK and shut down the other line, establish a forecheck and get pressure on the D. Scoring is like #5 on that list. 3 SHG for McClement in 08-09 (and many more opportunities)…how many for Yan? Just one.

Whitfield? If he was that good and deserving of the promotion, why did he not come up over Porter, Winchester, Regier, or Paddock earlier this year? They all have similar time in the AHL and play similar roles. Whitefield didn’t look like a fish out of water in his 3 NHL games this year, but he didn’t look much better than Stastny either. Paddock was given 16 games with the big club, not that he was bad, he just didn’t play as well as who we already had in McClement, Stastny, and Hinote.

I know there are fans out there still upset that the 2nd Round pick didn’t turn in to more of an offensive player. I know he is just a grinder. But you cannot refute that Jay found his role last year and played it well. The in house options aren’t as good and the guys on the outside will cost more than Jay. McClement was the best option to fill the shut down Center role. Why did Ryan Jonhson not get this contract? Age and lack of offensive upside. You can say Jay is streaky and not offensively gifted, but he has produced as much in one year as a “checking center” than RJ did from 05 to 07 (2 seasons) and played the same defensive game. Not keeping RJ likely turned Jay in to what he is now, which is fine with me.