As the roster currently stands the Flyers have four defensemen that can be viewed as roster locks: Ivan Provorov, Travis Sanheim, Shayne Gostisbehere, and Radko Gudas. That is, assuming both restricted free agents, Provorov and Sanheim, sign new contracts. Samuel Morin and Robert Hagg are essentially locks as well, given that neither are waiver-exempt. Then there’s Philippe Myers, who after appearing in 21 NHL games this season will once again make a strong push in camp to make the team. That’s a crowded blue line, but also one that could be improved upon.
Making a trade in the NHL can be tricky, and achieving the goal of giving up less value than you gain can be even trickier. So how do you go about doing it? You look to capitalize on good players that have fallen out of favor with their current team. It’s what teams around the league will try to do by attempting to trade for Gostisbehere, who’s name has been floated in trade rumors for a while now.
“Value” isn’t straightforward. The way I value certain players is likely a bit different than how you do, and the same goes for NHL general managers. You’re not going to find a team that willingly goes out of their way to make a bad trade, but there are instances where their processes are flawed. For example, when the Minnesota Wild traded Nino Niederreiter to the Carolina Hurricanes for Victor Rask, they believed it was a good trade to make. They wouldn’t have made the move if they thought otherwise. The same can be said of the Florida Panthers’ decision to trade Reilly Smith to the Vegas Golden Knights along with allowing them to select Jonathan Marchessault in the 2017 NHL expansion draft. Both moves were highly criticized at the time, and look even worse in hindsight. But at the time, both teams decided that these were the right moves to make.
These are just two examples of the types of trades that can massively improve your team, and it’d be lovely to see the Flyers find the next one.
Trades that have one clear winner are impossible to predict. Well, almost all trades are, but the lopsided deals tend to be the ones nobody even thinks about because of how absurd they seem. Before the move went down you would’ve been openly mocked for suggesting that Adam Larsson could be traded for Taylor Hall. Yet, it happened. Now, I’m not saying that people should come up with wacky trade proposals, point to these moves and go, “well these happened so this could too,” but the people in charge should always be on the lookout for the next opportunity to pull off such a trade. And that’s where Colin Miller comes into play.
Data used courtesy of Corsica.hockey unless specified otherwise.
Miller, 26, just completed his second season as a member of the Golden Knights, appearing in 65 regular season games and scoring 29 points. In the season prior he played all 82 games and had 41 points. More than solid production, but his impact on the game goes well beyond point totals.
Going back four years to his days as a member of the Boston Bruins, the right-shot defenseman has always been an advanced stats darling. Through his 250-game NHL regular season career to date, Miller has a 55.48 Corsi-For percent (CF%) and a 56.4 Expected Goals-For percent (xGF%) at 5-on-5. Among the 318 defensemen that have played at least 500 minutes over the last four seasons, his 4.49 CF% RelT ranks eleventh and his 5.26 xGF% RelT ranks seventh. The latter of which just so happens to match Sanheim’s number through the first two seasons of his career.
In fact the two have been such similar players that last Summer when Travis Yost wrote an article comparing defensemen and how similar they were during the 2017-2018 season, the two had the highest similarity score of all non-teammate defensemen. This season alone the two weren’t as similar, but were still quite comparable via relative metrics.
Colin Miller & Travis Sanheim at 5v5
|Player||TOI||P1/60||CF%||CF% RelT||xGF%||xGF% RelT|
|Player||TOI||P1/60||CF%||CF% RelT||xGF%||xGF% RelT|
Despite his strong historical results, and him having another steady season, Miller found himself healthy scratched by the Golden Knights in back to back games in mid-February, and even sat out game one of the Stanley Cup playoffs. That’s why there’s a chance that he could be available, and undervalued by his current team. If there’s a disconnect there, the Golden Knights could look to move Miller and his $3.875M cap hit to free up the cap space they need to sign restricted free agents (RFAs) William Karlsson, Nikita Gusev, and Malcolm Subban. As their roster currently stands, CapFriendly projects them to have $5,875,000 in cap space after placing David Clarkson on long-term injury reserve. Karlsson alone will likely sign a contract close to that figure, if not higher.
And that leads us to our hypothetical trade proposal. If the Golden Knights look to move a defenseman, presumably Miller, they’ll probably look to acquire another defenseman either in return, or in another deal. Such a player would need to come with a small cap hit, and such a player could be Hagg.
As we said earlier, the Flyers already have a lot of bodies on defense, so adding Miller would require them to move someone else. The Knights, needing cap relief, could be interested in the younger, cost-controlled defenseman.
From Elliotte Friedman’s 31 thoughts last Sunday:
How will Vegas get under the cap? The Golden Knights are already over this year’s $79.5M figure and close to the projected $83M for 2019-20. Defenceman Colin Miller fell out of favour, but teams who tried to take advantage of his healthy scratches were told the Knights aren’t interested in simply giving him away.
Receiving a NHL defenseman in return certainly wouldn’t be “giving him away.” With one year remaining on his contract that carries a $1,150,000 cap hit, Hagg will become a RFA one year from now and it’s hard to envision a scenario in which his next contract’s cap hit exceeds Miller’s.
But a one-for-one trade isn’t a must, and if the Knights are looking for something else, say, a draft pick, it’d still be a good idea to make the move and find a way to clear a roster spot later. Miller would be a great addition to Philadelphia’s blue line, and should Vegas look to move him, some team will be getting a very good defenseman. I’m just hoping that team is the Flyers.