Buyout Market: Should the Toronto Maple Leafs pursue Cody Hodgson or Viktor Stalberg?

Teams have until noon EST on Tuesday, June 30th to initiate the buyout process for any players they plan to pay not to play – meaning that teams have one more day to place any buyout candidates on unconditional waivers. 

Neither the Nashville Predators nor the Buffalo Sabres waited for tomorrow. 

Hodgson was dealt to the Sabres on February 27th, 2012 in exchange for another struggling first rounder – Zack Kassian. 

Although both are still trying to find their stride in the NHL, Hodgson isn’t a cheap player. The 25 year old centre, who has been shuttled from the pivot to the wing in time and struggled to stay in the lineup for a bare-bones Sabres lineup, is only two years into a six year, $25 M contract with the Atlantic Division club. Prior to the announcement that he would be bought out, the forward – drafted tenth overall in 2008 – was poised to make an average of $4.25 M per season for each of the next four years. 

As with Kassian, it’s entirely likely that Hodgson has seen a dip in his production – going from twenty goals and forty-four points in seventy-two NHL games in 2013-2014 to six goals and thirteen points in seventy-eight NHL games in 2014-2015 – partially due to his deployment in Buffalo last year. 

That’s an important read for his game, though. A good play driver can be shifted from centre to the wing, first line to third (or see a rotation in his linemates from elite to struggling) and see the percentage drop in his production look far less painful than Hodgson’s. The best conclusion to be drawn from this is that Hodgson, for whatever reason, saw regression in addition to being dropped in the lineup – ultimately lacking the support necessary to see his numbers propped up at all. It’s a similar situation to that of Sam Gagner’s play or Tyler Bozak’s struggles this season. 

Stalberg, similarly, isn’t a bad player – just not worth the cost he brings to the Nashville Predators with a $3M annual cap hit both this upcoming season and the one following. 

A former sixth round pick of none other than the Leafs themselves, 29 year old Viktor Stalberg actually spent forty games in a Toronto Maple Leafs uniform during the 2009-2010 season, providing nine goals and fourteen assists before getting moved to the Chicago Blackhawks in the Kris Versteeg trade. 

Ten points in twenty-five games on a team full of offensive depth makes Stalberg a liability for the Predators, especially with a number of young skaters looking to make the lineup in the coming two seasons. Skaters such as Kevin Fiala, Viktor Arvidsson, and Austin Watson are just a small sample from the list of up and coming offensive talents in Nashville’s system – and keeping a veteran like Stalberg to serve as the extra forward (or even as an AHLer altogether) for a $3M cap hit is more than the Central Division club needs. 

Would Either Fit in Toronto?

For argument’s sake, I’ve created a graph (thank you, looking at scoring chances and possession for Toronto’s offensive lineup last year, adding in Cody Hodgson and Viktor Stalberg. 

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Obviously, there are a number of flaws with using this chart as a definitive measure of who holds the most value moving forward. The Leafs won’t see nearly a third of these players returning next year, if at all (and that’s with me filtering out anyone who played ten or fewer games on the team) and the Leafs were, to put it as kindly as possible, an absolute nightmare to watch over the second half of the season. Their data is about as unsustainable as anyone’s across the entire league last year. 

For a quick glance, though, this tells us two things. 

First, Cody Hodgson still holds offensive value. His Corsi for relative is a positive number, and I’m trying to look at whether these players can contribute to a club that fell apart at the seams last year. This suggests that even with his weird deployment (notice that the size of his graphic representation is similar to that of Richard Panik, using circle size to represent time on ice comparisons) he tried to create scoring chances. 

Second, Stalberg may be the better defensive option of the two. 

It’s hard to really figure out where each of these players fits into the lineup for Toronto because we’re essentially throwing the possession data for a player on a playoff club and a player from an unprecedented train wreck of poor possession and inability to win onto the graph of a team that held their own over the first half of the season then bottomed out more than any other club over the second half. Analytics can best tell us which skaters on a team are providing what (despite what our eyes tell us), but lack much efficiency when using this big a range of success. 

Despite this, though, Stalberg and Hodgson both had a similar high danger scoring chance rate – Stalberg’s was just in conjunction with somewhat successful numbers relative to a very good roster, while Hodgson’s were somewhat successful compared to a very bad roster. Given that Stalberg hasn’t completely regressed and is likely to take a cheaper option as a veteran, it may be worth looking at the Swedish forward instead of Buffalo’s fallen darling. 

The obvious thing to note here, though? Both are improvements on a handful of the skaters Toronto used for depth options last year (yes, Zach Sill, I’m looking directly at you) – so if either are able to be inked to short, somewhat inexpensive deals, it’s worth Toronto’s while. 

  • STAN

    Leafs management please go afte both of these players. Hogdgson was an OHL stud and just a few years ago an up in coming NHL star. I watched him a lot as a Brampton Battalion , a little soft, but high-end skill. On cheap contract, no-risk high reward.

    Stalberg has even some what of a good year, easy player to flip at deadline

  • Puck_Stops_Here

    Toronto should just focus on looking for guys in the UFA who can be signed short term and have something to prove. Richards is one guy I’d like. On a cheap contract you could flip him for a pick at the trade deadline.

    I’d make a deal with Philly and trade Bozak for Lecavalier + picks/prospects. Flyers get someone younger, can play more than 12 mins/game and save 300k.

    Then flip Lecavalier and Robidas at the deadline for Connor McDavid, lol.

  • Brooksterman

    The only hang up I have about Hodgson is for him to be successful he will need to be a top 6 centre as the main reason he struggled last year was Ted Nolan didn’t like him and would play him 4th line wing and he doesn’t play well on the wing or in a checking role. All the while I’d like to see what Holland and Kadri can do with more ice-time. Holland’s point production when getting over 14 minutes of ice time per game averages out to over 40 points in an 82 game season which suggests he’s got more offense than a 4th line centre. Plus he’s a player that is always looking to improve his own game which is opposite of Kadri who it seems needs a kick in the but from the coach to work on his game.

  • silentbob

    To me its all about his character.

    I think the Leafs should be looking for 2-3 guys (in my mind the ideal would be 2 forwards and a D-man) who could all be captains, who play the way Babcock wants the team to play, who will help create the culture Babcock and co. want (from his comments this includes – 1) Being a good person 2) Being fit and working hard 3) Being able/willing to speak to the media after every game, win or lose)

    If Hodgson can be that player for the Leafs, sign him. If not, what would be the point?