With their faces pressed firmly against the waiver wire this morning, there was disappointment among some factions of Canucks fans that Emerson Etem, waived yesterday by Anaheim, passed through without claim. Those feelings were short lived however, because we were quickly distracted by two more interesting names on the waiver wire as of 9:00am this morning: New York’s Dylan McIlrath and St. Louis’ Magnus Paajarvi.
The Canucks have already elected to bring Mike Zalewski up from Utica, but might they be enticed by these two new players that are available free of charge?
McIlrath (NYR) & Paajarvi (STL) on waivers
— Elliotte Friedman (@FriedgeHNIC) October 27, 2016
We’ll start with Magnus Paajarvi, since the Canucks seem to have more issues with depth up front than on the back end, given the injuries to Anton Rodin, Derek Dorsett, and Alex Burrows, as well as Willie Desjardins’ unwillingness to give Virtanen serious ice time and the general lack of threatening scoring talent in Utica.
This isn’t Paajarvi’s first rodeo: he’s been waived twice before and has cleared both times and the hockey twitter community continues to be confused why no one seems to want this guy for free. The tenth overall selection in 2009, Paajarvi is still just 25 years old. He’s clearly struggled to live up to expectations, picking up just 81 points in 279 career NHL games between Edmonton and St. Louis, after scoring 15 goals and 34 points in 80 games in his rookie season with the Oilers in 2010-11.
Paajarvi’s goal scoring over the last few seasons has been suboptimal, although it is not always how it appears. Last year Paajarvi scored just three goals, despite taking 88 shots on net, giving him a shooting percentage of 3.4 percent. That conversion rate ranked 359th out of 367 forwards that played at least 500 minutes in all situations in 2015-16.
This is in spite his 8.63 shots-on-goal per minutes minutes at 5-on-5 being 59th out of 352 (forwards with at least 500 5-on-5 minutes in 2015-16). His linemates weren’t faring much better, as Paajarvi had a 4.32 on-ice shooting percentage at 5-on-5, which ranked 341st out of 352, which all contributed to an abysmal PDO of 96.6.
If these numbers are making your brain hurt, this is all to say that Paajarvi was horrendously unlucky last season. Note also the effect that he has on his linemates’ Expected Goals-For ratios in the HERO chart above
.Paajarvi goal pic.twitter.com/aGEHIBtuSt
— Stephanie (@myregularface) December 22, 2015
Outside of past production, Paajarvi’s possession numbers suggest that he’s driving play at a second line rate, and suppressing shots at a first line rate. That’s the kind of possession that usually leads to production if fostered in the right environment.
McIlrath, a defenceman, is a former 10th overall pick, much like Paajarvi, though this time from the draft class. At 6-foot-5 and 236 pounds, he’s a big boy who has put up much in the way of points yet – though he’s still just 24 and hasn’t been given a wealth of opportunity.
While he has just two career goals to his credit, it has been in pretty limited ice time. He averaged about 14 minutes per night over 34 games last season in New York, predominantly at even strength, with a little shorthanded time mixed in.
McIlrath had the fourth highest even strength Goals-For ratio last season among defencemen with at least 400 5-on-5 minutes. Plenty of this is owing to his 95.2 on-ice save percentage and 103.7 PDO, but his possession numbers are still solidly in the black, with a 51.3 Corsi-For percentage. McIlrath excels at both shot generation and suppression, doing both at a top four rate.
One, Neither, or Both?
If I had a say in matters (and obviously I have no say in anything at all), I’d be taking a flyer on Paajarvi, given the depth on forward versus that on defence. There’s little in the way of quality prospect depth at forward in Utica, while at least Andrey Pedan and Jordan Subban remain on defence.
Some have suggested that McIlrath would be more palatable on the NHL roster than Biega, and while I’d agree in that assessment, the Canucks seem intent on keeping Biega for expansion draft purposes. Biega needs just 18 more games to reach the games played threshold, while McIlrath needs 35. Of course, Luca Sbisa is down to needing 22 games, so we’ll keep an eye on whether the Canucks get more flexible with Biega as Sbisa’s game total grows.
The argument could be made that taking both improves your lineup, and if you wanted to go that route, it’s certainly doable: they are low cap hits that will be hitting RFA status at the end of this season – if they don’t work, you simple don’t qualify them and move on.
Making space is not an issue either. Jayson Megna and/or Mike Zalewski could be reassigned without waivers, having cleared within the last 30 days, and Jake Virtanen never required waivers at all. The contract limit is also not a sticking point, as Ryan Biech pointed out earlier:
The #Canucks currently sit at 45 contracts – adding those two won’t severly hinder their trading abilities for the remainder of the season.
— Ryan Biech (@ryanbiech) October 27, 2016
He also pointed out that neither of the two players need to be world beaters to deserve a claim. They could be depth and even alternate in and out of the lineup, pushing play in the right direction while doing so.
Even if McIlrath & Paajarvi aren’t regulars in your lineup – they are depth pieces that don’t kill you possession-wise.
— Ryan Biech (@ryanbiech) October 27, 2016
We can write these recommendations all we want, but we all know that the final say rests with the Canucks front office, and they never seem to be in much of a hurry to lay a claim. After all, these two are no Brandon McMillan!