It appears that the Toronto Maple Leafs are really the only team making any sort of transactions this past week or so. Making a total of two trades as August approaches is basically unheard of in the NHL, but Kyle Dubas apparently never sleeps and always can find room to change his team ever so slightly heading into a pressure-filled 2019-20 season.
On Thursday afternoon, the Leafs traded 24-year-old defenceman Andreas Borgman for 25-year-old Jordan Schmaltz. The key factor in this trade — which might be the entire reason for this move — is that Borgman is a left-hand shot, while Schmaltz shoots right.
While Borgman suffered through injuries last season and only played with the Marlies, scoring four goals and 17 points in 45 games, Schmaltz was able to split his time with the Blues and their AHL-affiliate San Antonio Rampage. Playing more in the better league doesn’t necessarily mean that the player is better, since while the new Leaf was in the NHL, he played extremely poor.
It might be a small sample size of 20 games this season with the Blues, but those games a total of 212:16 TOI at even-strength shows us that he might just not be an NHL-calibre defenceman.
While on the ice, Schmaltz recorded a 41.24 CF% and a 27.78 GF% — teams got the upper hand when he was out there, by a wide margin. Even taking into consideration the quality of chances for both the Blues and their opposition while he was on the ice, that resulted in a below-league average on-ice xGF% of 44.91.
In the most generalist of terms, when Schmaltz is on the ice, he makes his team worse than the opposition. It’s of course not all of his fault, teammate effects as well as the competition he’s faced in that small sample size could have a massive effect.
Especially when the other Blues defencemen that were partnered with Schmaltz during his time in St. Louis. His two most common linemates last season were Jay Bouwmeester (68:03 TOI) and Joel Edmundson (44:37 TOI), two fairly immobile skaters to begin with and having a inexperienced player to the right of them just made things worse.
When Schmaltz was paired with either player, he saw his corsi for percentage decrease by a significant margin. With Bouwmeester for example, the pairing together had a horrid 37.19 CF% at 5v5, while Schmaltz had a 46.19 CF% during his time spent away from the 35-year-old defenceman.
All of this is not enough sample size to truly get a feel for what Schmaltz is as a player, but it’s enough to assume that he won’t suddenly become a solid enough player to make a difference on a blueline. Especially when the team acquiring him has a certain contention window laid out for them and wants to incrementally improve at any position that they can.
At least there was one positive that can be found in Schmaltz’s performance last season.
Manually tracked through many grueling hours of having to watch the St. Louis Blues, Corey Sznajder has been tracking zone entries and exits for the past few seasons. During Schmaltz’s time in St. Louis with the Blues last season, he was able to get a significant amount of clean zone exits with possession of the puck. Meaning that he was able to carry the puck from his own defensive zone out beyond the blue line, into the neutral zone and make a play from there.
The only down side with this, is that he was also able to be below league-average when it came to breaking up oncoming plays — the other side of defending the blue line and keeping opposing players from entering your own zone.
It’s not monumental one way or the other, but just one little tidbit of information that could swing some positive thinking for this trade.
All in all, this trade won’t mean much in the grand scheme of things. Schmaltz is essentially a massive right-handed security blanket in case fellow-righty Justin Holl doesn’t impress Babcock as much.
He can provide some mobility and useful puck transition, but when he’s on the ice, his team has been trending in the wrong direction and has given up an incredible amount of scoring chances. But the main thing is certain, just don’t expect this to be a massive win for the Leafs in any shape or form.