News came down this afternoon that the Leafs have grabbed David Steckel from the Devils in exchange for a fourth round pick. The former Capital costs just $1.1M in cap space over the next two seasons and is one of the very best face-off men in the league.
The difference between most centermen in the league is so marginal that it usually doesn’t make much of a difference. Like Manny Malhotrsa, however, Steckel is such a strong outlier that he can provide a bit boost in certain areas: particularly defensive zone draws at even strength and on the PK.
Last year, Steckel finished with the league’s best F/O percentage (62.3%). Only him and Malhotra crested 60%. Steckel was also second in the league behind Scott Nichol in 2009-10 at about 60% again. The dude is legitimately elite at winning face-offs.
Due to that and his less than stellar offensive prowess, the 6’6", 215 pounder has fallen into a defense-first role over the last few years. His zone start ratio between NJ and WAS last year was just 42.3%, which was by far the lowest ratio amongst regular skaters on the Devils. The same was true in the year before in Washington, where Steckel started a team low 40.3% in the offensive zone at even strength.
Because has often been deployed Steckel in a defense-first role, his offensive numbers and possession stats have suffered somewhat. He played middling competition for the Devils and put up a slightly negative raw corsi rate (-3.27/60). However, if we correct for zone starts, Steckel’s possession numbers become a lot more palatable (+1.68/60).
Steckel isn’t going o put up a lot of points and he has never shut-down other team’s top lines. He can, however, reliably play against other third and fourth liners and win a lot of face-offs on the PK and in important situations in the defensive zone. He gives the Leafs a reliable, useful fourth line center in exchange for a paltry fourth round draft pick.
The addition of Steckel also signals a couple of other things for the Leafs:
1.) Matthew Lombardi is healthy enough to move up to the third line and,
2.) Tyler Bozak should expect to be demoted or traded in short order.
Given that Tyler Bozak isn’t particularly good at anything, that seems like good news all around for Toronto fans.