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Trades & Transactions

Behind The Numbers

Trade works for Devils, Ducks

Analytics show Vatanen can help New Jersey on power play, Henrique will add depth to Anaheim attack

by Rob Vollman / NHL.com Correspondent

When the Anaheim Ducks traded defenseman Sami Vatanen to the New Jersey Devils for forwards Adam Henrique and Joseph Blandisi on Thursday, it was a case of each team dealing from an area of strength to one of need.

The Ducks, who are strong at defenseman, needed forward help because of several injuries. The Devils, who have benefited from a group of young forwards, needed to bolster their defensemen.

A deep dive into the numbers suggests the trade was a win for each team.

The most significant impact of this trade could be Vatanen's additional scoring on New Jersey's power play, where rookie Will Butcher has 10 points, which is tied for second among NHL defensemen.

Since the start of the 2014-15 season, Vatanen has averaged 4.65 points per 60 minutes on the man-advantage, which is 15th among defensemen to play at least 100 minutes, according to Corsica Hockey. However, with the Ducks, Vatanen was one of several defensemen used on the power play, limiting his opportunities. That won't be the case with the Devils, where he likely will switch with Butcher playing the point on their four-forward, one-defenseman deployment.

 

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At 5-on-5, New Jersey's top defenseman is Andy Greene, who plays on the shutdown pair with Steven Santini. Greene has started 85 shifts in the offensive zone and 198 in the defensive zone for a zone start percentage of 30.04 percent that ranks second-lowest among defensemen to Santini's 23.77 (minimum 10 games). That means Vatanen likely will be used on a more scoring-focused second pair with Damon Severson, whose zone start percentage is 54.70 percent, which is second to Butcher's 64.20 (minimum 10 games).

Despite a reputation for being an offensive-minded player, Vatanen is a complete two-way defenseman who can be trusted in all zones, in all game situations, against top opponents, and with a regular shift on the penalty kill.

Since the start of the 2014-15 season, Vatanen has averaged 2:04 per game shorthanded, and at 5-on-5 he has a balanced zone start percentage of 49.24 percent averaging 16:26 per game at even strength.

In terms of shot-based metrics, the Ducks were outshot 3,246-3,213 during this time frame with Vatanen on the ice, for an SAT of minus-33. Their share of shot attempts drops from 51.04 percent to 49.74 with Vatanen on the ice, for a relative SAT of minus-1.3 percent.

Though that may not be the most favorable aspect of Vatanen's game, it's not much different from Henrique, who has a career relative SAT of minus-0.6 percent in similar usage.

Video: Adam Henrique on his trade to the Ducks

Like Vatanen, Henrique is a versatile two-way player who is trusted in all situations, except he's a forward. However, the return of Travis Zajac from a pectoral injury and the arrival of Nico Hischier, the No. 1 pick of the 2017 NHL Draft, gave the Devils the depth at center to trade him for the help they needed at defenseman.

In Anaheim, Henrique will fill the immediate need for a top-six center, given the injuries to Ryan Getzlaf (face) and Ryan Kesler (hip), and will satisfy the long-term requirement for greater scoring depth up front.

Henrique set his personal NHL high in his rookie season, with 51 points (16 goals, 35 assists) in 74 games in 2011-12. He has had between 40 and 50 points in each of the previous four seasons, and has 14 points (four goals, 10 assists) in 24 games this season.

Like Vatanen, Henrique is a strong two-way player who takes a regular shift in all situations. Since the start of the 2011-12 season, Henrique has averaged 2:09 of ice time per game killing penalties, which ranks first among Devils forwards in that time (minimum 25 games), and 2:12 per game with the man-advantage.

Henrique's versatility means he can play anywhere in the lineup. Initially, Henrique could skate on the top line with Corey Perry and Derek Grant. Or, given the upper-body injury sustained by Jakob Silfverberg on Nov. 29, Henrique could play on Anaheim's top two-way line with Andrew Cogliano and Chris Wagner.

In either case, Henrique could best be used on the wing rather than center, given his weakness in the face-off circle. His face-off percentage of .473 is 115th among the 153 active centers to take at least 1,000 face-offs since 2011-12.

Once the Ducks get back to full health, Henrique can be kept in the top six, or he could help deepen the attack by centering a third line.

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