General manager Chuck Fletcher made a rather surprising trade on Saturday, as he was able to move Dale Weise to the Montreal Canadiens in a deal that featured a couple assets changing clubs. Christian Folin was also traded to the Canadiens while Montreal general manager Marc Bergevin sent 27-year-old forward Byron Froese and 31-year-old left-handed defenseman David Schlemko to Philly. Since Weise is now off the roster and Froese most likely won’t be a part of the organization next season, the most intriguing player in the deal for Flyers’ fans should be Schlemko, who is in Lehigh Valley with Froese at the moment. but has one more year on his contract with a cap hit of $2.1 million when on an NHL roster.
It’s fair to say over David Schlemko’s 11-year, (including the Vegas Golden Knights and Philadelphia Flyers) eight-team career that he isn’t known for producing points at the NHL level. In 415 NHL games he has 18 goals and 76 assists for 94 total points, a points-per-game average of 0.23. His career high in points for a single season is 19, when he potted six goals and 13 helpers while averaging 18:39 of ice time a game in 67 contests with the New Jersey Devils in 2015-16. As a depth defenseman for the entirety of his career, it’s not surprising his point production isn’t sky high even though he has displayed some offensive upside in the past.
Since it seems like there’s a decent chance he’ll play a fair amount in the AHL over the next season and a half, it’s worth pointing out that Schlemko has produced pretty well in the league below the NHL. In 148 AHL games he’s produced 15 goals and 58 helpers for 73 points, four of which came in eight games with the Montreal Canadiens’ AHL team, the Laval Rocket, this season. Schlemko also accrued 60 points in 123 tilts with the San Antonio Rampage (the Phoenix Coyotes’ affiliate at the time) over the 2008-09 and 2009-10 seasons.
A career 51.06 Corsi-For percentage player, Schlemko is a pretty reliable player in terms of helping his team win the puck possession battle. Schlemko posted a 56.65 Corsi-For percentage and 56.8 Fenwick-For percentage, as well as a 55.25 scoring chances for percentage with the Montreal Canadiens in 282:40 5-on-5 time over 18 games this season. He also led the team in relative Corsi-For percentage (4.19), relative Fenwick-For percentage (6.41), and relative scoring chances for percentage (4.89). A very small sample size, but he’s had seasons where he’s seen a lot more 5-on-5 time and produced similar outcomes.
Before he posted a Corsi-For percentage below 50 and a negative relative Corsi-For percentage last season, Schlemko (in his only two 60-game seasons in the NHL) posted a 1.45 relative Corsi-For percentage in 2016-17 playing primarily with Brenden Dillon on the San Jose Sharks and a 3.57 relative Corsi-For percentage in 2015-16 playing primarily with John Moore on the New Jersey Devils. In those two seasons, Schlemko posted some pretty impressive shot suppression numbers. In 2015-16, he had the lowest shot attempts-per-60 rate of the five blue liners who played 900 5-on-5 minutes or more for the Devils and finished 11th out of the 150 d-men across the league that played that many minutes with 46.85 shot attempts against per 60. The following year he and Dillon allowed 50.57 shot attempts per 60 in a little over 665 5-on-5 minutes together to finish 10th in the category out of 42 pairs that played 600 minutes together or more. What probably plays a factor into his shot suppression numbers is the fact he’s decent at breaking up opponents’ zone entries.
At the end of the day, Schlemko is a puck-moving d-man a team can probably stick on the third pair and expect above-average shot suppression numbers if he’s given favorable assignments. Pair that with the fact it looks like he’ll be with the Lehigh Valley Phantoms for the foreseeable future and it’s understandable to think of Schlemko as nothing more than a player that helped to get rid of Weise. What makes the acquisition a little interesting is the fact Schlemko’s contract runs through the 2019-20 season. With Phil Myers now on the roster, the Flyers currently have seven defensemen up at the NHL level and none of those seven are unrestricted free agents this summer (Ivan Provorov and Travis Sanheim are restricted free agents, but they aren’t going anywhere). With T.J. Brennan still signed through next season, Schlemko wasn’t brought in to be the veteran to show the young players in Lehigh Valley how to be good at hockey. Perhaps Chuck Fletcher just buys out Schlemko’s contract after the season and alleviates the log jam on the blue line. If Fletcher doesn’t buy out the contract, we might be seeing Schlemko on the third pair next season thanks to a departure of an unexpected name.
*All stats courtesy of Natural Stat Trick and Corsica Hockey