Now that internet hockey fans have successfully killed off
the role of the enforcer, it seems that the next position in the crosshairs is
that of the traditional stay at home defenseman. It’s not even really the
internet doing this, Jay McKee was one of the first players bought out after
the 2005 lockout showed his style long fit with the accelerated game, Andrew
MacDonald is currently sitting in Philadelphia’s farm system because they
mistook him thriving in his role in New York as actually being a worthwhile
acquisition. The Leafs famously suffered through a long stint with Mike
Komisarek, drafted Luke Schenn, and made a handful of other deals that showed
that stay at home defenders were their preference to puck movers like Rielly
and Gardiner. And that’s how we came to see Roman Polak as a Leaf.
Roman Polak is essentially pretty good at his job. He blocks
shots, he hits, and he kills penalties. He’s your ideal stay at home guy. He
also has the added bonus of not being the slowest player to ever fill that
role, but when his work doesn’t often lead to the Leafs controlling the puck,
he’s going to see regular criticism.
Polak’s role is one that coaches love, because they see him
working hard out there. You can’t necessarily see him working smart out there,
but when the Leafs are pinned in their own zone he’ll be frantically looking
for something to do. This is going to resonate nicely with coaches, scouts, and
GMs, and will hopefully benefit the Leafs more than we expect come trade
By the numbers, Polak hasn’t been an unmovable mess. He’s
actually been pretty decent. He’s been a low event player primarily starting in
the neutral zone or defensive end and as far as even strength points go, he’s
leading the Leafs defensemen in P/60. As
far as that PDO goes, let’s just take that as Roman giving the Leafs the
opportunity to sell high on him.
In looking through the past three years at trades that
included a defenseman in a similar situation to Roman Polak’s I found that
deals had a pretty wide range on what the returns could be.
Pessimistically, you can treat Roman Polak like Ryan O’Byrne,
or a past his prime defender like Tim Gleason, Stephane Robidas, or Mike
Weaver, and this will lead you to believe you’re going to get a fourth or fifth
round pick for Polak, which isn’t entirely objectionable. (Note: it’s sad that
so many of the players are linked to the Leafs)
You can see where the Blue Jackets pushed to make the deal
bigger with Anaheim when they unloaded James Wisniewski. By taking salary back
in the form of Rene Bourque, they picked up a decent prospect in William
Karlsson and moved up to a second round pick from a third rounder. Given the
Leafs ability and past willingness to take on salary, this is probably the best
approach to consider in any dealings the Leafs have.
The deals that are fun ones to believe are possible are the
Douglas Murray, Andrew MacDonald, Robyn Regehr, and Jordan Leopold deals.
Roman Polak is light years ahead of Douglas Murray talent
wise and he landed a 2nd round pick along with a third rounder.
Basically the same return that Jagr got last season when Lou dealt him to
Jordan Leopold’s return seems to emphasis that in 2013 a
second round pick and a conditional pick were the going rate for bottom pairing
defenders, and Robyn Regehr sets the high watermark with landing two 2nd
So given that there’s interest in Polak, and the wide range
of recent history says that he can net anything from two second rounders down
to a fifth rounder it’s starting to make sense that a deal may take time to
work out. The returns last season weren’t nearly as good as what Andrew
MacDonald landed for the Islanders, but with the Leafs taking back a bad
contract or using their last opportunity to retain salary in the Polak deal it’s
starting to see likely that any trade that’s made will actually be viewed
positively by the Leafs and their fans and won’t just be about dumping an
expiring contract of a player who never really fit in with what the Leafs were
trying to do.