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2017 NHL Trade Deadline Target: Buyer Beware with Martin Hanzal

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Before the playoffs arrive, the Habs are looking to add a top-six forward. Does the big Coyotes centre fit the bill?

Florida Panthers v Arizona Coyotes Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

The subject of trade rumours earlier in the season, Martin Hanzal has been mentioned as a potential addition that could help the Montreal Canadiens on their quest for a 25th Stanley Cup.

The 6’6” centreman is in the final year of a contract with the Arizona Coyotes that carries an average of $3.1 million per year. That is well within the Habs’ current deadline budget, right now projected to have the room to accommodate a player with an annual cap hit of about $4 million.

Facing the prospect of potentially losing a 30-year-old centre in the off-season to free agency, the Coyotes have been exploring options to exchange his skills for future assets.

Cost

The initial ask of the Canadiens, from the original report, was the return of the similarly sized Michael McCarron, with the Canadiens’ first-round pick for 2017 and an additional conditional draft selection added in. That was an early offer, with the Coyotes setting the high point for the negotiation, but it is apparent the team wants to get a younger prospect with the potential to replicate what the organization got out of Hanzal in his time there.

Obviously, Marc Bergevin didn’t jump at that offer outright, as McCarron remains with the organization and Hanzal still toils away on one of the league’s worst clubs, so the final asking price will be less than that original offer, though will likely require McCarron to head west if the Habs are to land Hanzal for the playoff run.

The player

Fans in Arizona got to see a glimpse of McCarron’s skills when Montreal came into town on February 9. Canadiens fans hoping to see what Hanzal had to offer were left unsatisfied, as Hanzal wasn’t able to participate in the contest.

It’s not the first time he’s been physically unable to perform, either, as missing time is a common theme for Hanzal. In the league for 10 years, he has never managed to play a full schedule (due to a combination of injuries and suspensions). Over his last seven seasons, his highest games-played mark was 65 in 2013-14, and he has missed nine games already this year. He was out of the lineup on four separate occasions in the month of January alone.

When he is physically and legally able to play, he has produced at about a half-point-per-game pace over his 601-game career (113-195—308), racking up 527 penalty minutes in the process. He’s added a further 12 points in 23 playoff games along the way.

This season, he has 12 goals (good enough the lead the Coyotes) and nine assists for 21 points (fourth). He’s also been their top faceoff man this season, winning 55.5% of the draws he contests.

Delving into his advanced stats, you can get an understanding of the type of player Hanzal is. Of the 14 most-used forwards in Arizona over the last two years, he has the highest average five-on-five ice time, at 13:14 per game. On what has been the third-worst possession team in that time, Hanzal’s Corsi-for percentage ranks fourth on the club at 47.0%, while ranking fifth in shot attempts both for and against.

His scoring-chance numbers are a very different story. While his shot numbers are fairly respectable, he is 13th of the top 14 forwards this season in preventing goal-scoring opportunities, allowing 12.5 in an average 60-minute interval of game time. At the other end, despite being one of the top offensive players, he’s only seeing 6.8 chances per 60 minutes going his way. The result is the third-lowest scoring-chances-for percentage of the forward corps, at a mere 35.3%; the opposition gets nearly two opportunities for every one he helps create.

To put his stats into context, we can compare his numbers to the Canadiens’ centres to see how he stacks up against what the team already has. We don’t have the luxury of a large sample for the rookie McCarron, but seeing as how his 36 games may be all the sample he gets before being the key piece in a major deal, I felt it important to include his data. Keep in mind the vast difference in quality of the Habs and Coyotes teams when comparing their relative statistics.

Player TOI/GP G/60 P/60 CF% CF% Rel SCF/60 SCA/60 SCF% SCF% Rel
Player TOI/GP G/60 P/60 CF% CF% Rel SCF/60 SCA/60 SCF% SCF% Rel
Martin Hanzal 12:44 0.70 1.53 48.6 3.1 7.2 10.0 42.0 -4.5
Phillip Danault 12:03 0.55 1.57 53.0 2.7 8.9 7.8 53.3 2.6
David Desharnais 12:19 0.57 1.55 51.3 -0.5 9.5 8.5 52.9 1.8
Alex Galchenyuk 12:37 0.97 2.01 52.7 1.7 9.7 8.4 53.6 3.1
Michael McCarron 09:37 0.17 1.01 47.3 -5.2 9.4 6.1 60.9 6.5
Torrey Mitchell 10:28 0.67 1.21 48.5 -4.2 7.4 6.7 52.4 -0.2
Tomas Plekanec 12:54 0.33 1.64 52.2 0.4 8.3 8.3 50.0 -3.5
TOI/GP = time on ice per game played; G/60 = goals per 60 minutes; P/60 = points per 60 minutes; CF% = shot-attempts-for percentage; CF% rel = relative shot-attempts-for percentage; SCF/60 = scoring chances for per 60 minutes; SCA/60 = scoring chances against per 60 minutes; SCF% = scoring-chances-for percentage; SCF% rel = relative scoring-chances-for percentage 5v5 data obtained from Corsica

In terms of goal-scoring, Hanzal is second in this comparison, though well behind Alex Galchenyuk in that category. In fact, he trails Galchenyuk in just about every metric.

As you would expect, Hanzal’s possession stats don’t compare well at all to the players on a much stronger Habs team. The only category he shows strongly in is relative Corsi-for percentage.

Another thing that is apparent from this data is just how good Phillip Danault has been. A strong possession player who contributes offence, with the ability to prevent scoring chances at his own end, Danault is a qualified candidate to hold a top-six centre position on the team.

Even the 21-year-old McCarron, while he hasn’t yet developed his offensive game at the top level, and ranks fairly low on possession metrics, has still been a force on the ice. He has good scoring-chance numbers to show for his efforts, suggesting that a sizable proportion of his line’s attempts on net are from dangerous areas of the ice.

Is Hanzal a fit?

For the Habs to give up a substantial collection of assets for a deadline acquisition, that player needs to fill a top role on the team. The only reason to acquire Hanzal would be to have him take one of the centre roles on the top two lines.

The problem is that, in several categories, Hanzal isn’t even among the top six forward slots on the Arizona Coyotes; the 29th-ranked team in the NHL this season.

On the Habs, the competition is even more fierce, and he simply doesn’t show the evidence that he can be better than Danault in a second-line centre role, and definitely won’t overtake Galchenyuk as the team’s top offensive centre.

It’s possible that a move to a team with a greater ability to gain the offensive zone could ignite some latent offensive ability, but giving up a top prospect and a high draft pick or two is a steep price to pay for a gamble that has a low chance of paying off. Even if he could make a massive leap to perform at the level of a top-six forward for the Habs, he could sustain yet another injury that takes him out of action for their playoff run, resulting in the loss of assets with no gain.

The risk strongly outweighs the potential reward with Martin Hanzal, and therefore he should not be sought by the Canadiens as their top-six rental.