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Three potential landing spots for Sami Vatanen

January 23, 2020, 12:05 PM ET [40 Comments]
Todd Cordell
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The New Jersey Devils have a few notable rentals on their roster, with defenseman Sami Vatanen serving as the headliner.

Generally rentals on bad teams find themselves traded prior to the deadline. That’s a realistic possibility with Vatanen – as it should be – so I thought it’d be fun to look at a few potential landing spots for his services.

Obviously other teams will be involved, and where these teams sit in a few weeks could change their stance, but I’m going to take a look at three that stand out to me.

Carolina Hurricanes

They are a really savvy organization. I’m not sure buying high on Sami Vatanen is something they would do. You could argue they *should*, though.

With Dougie Hamilton out long-term, they could really use another right-defenseman. Not to just help them contend come playoff time – to help them make the playoffs in a very competitive Metro.

Brett Pesce is really solid but there’s not much after that on the right side. Even if Vatanen is a little overrated, he’d very clearly be an upgrade over what the Hurricanes have.

Take a look at how he stacks up to Joel Edmundson and Trevor van Riemsdyk in terms of Goals Above Replacement (per Evolving-Hockey.com).

Vatanen --> +2.8
Edmundson --> -1.8
TvR --> -3.4

So, Vatanen is worth 4.6 goals more than Edmundson and 6.2 more than TvR. That’s a pretty sizeable difference over ~half a season.

The Hurricanes are a tricky team to deal with. They’re sharp and they’re stingy with what they have. I would definitely want Matt Cane and Tyler Dellow involved and helping shape the targeted return.

Winnipeg Jets

I know the Jets have really struggled of late but they remain just three points out of a playoff spot. If GM Kevin Cheveldayoff believes there is a real chance to get in, I think he will do everything he can – within reason – to get some help on defense. The Jets certainly need it.

They rank 29th in expected goals against per 60 at 5v5 – only ahead of Chicago and New York (R). Volume isn’t necessarily the issue. Winnipeg ranks 21st in chances against and are in the same ballpark as teams like Arizona and Calgary. The real concern is when the Jets give up a chance, it is usually top quality.

The Jets are allowing more than 13 high-danger chances per 60 minutes, good for dead last in the NHL. That’s not exactly hard to believe when you consider their 2nd pairing features *checks notes* Luca Sbisa and Dmitry Kulikov.

That’s completely unacceptable for a team with playoff aspirations, which is probably why they’re on the outside looking in despite an all-world season from Connor Hellebuyck. They simply have to get better on defense.

While I think Vatanen’s perceived value is higher than his actual value, that doesn’t mean he’s a bad player. He is a competent 2nd pairing guy and would very clearly be a significant upgrade over what the Jets are trotting out on a nightly basis.

As far as the potential return goes, I could see a young forward like Jack Roslovic being involved.

Vegas Golden Knights

The Golden Knights want to tighten up defensively. That was rumored to be one of the reasons they made a coaching change, although systems can only alter so much. I would imagine they’ll also be looking to add personnel.

The left side is more of a weakness than the right but perhaps Vatanen, or somebody else, would be comfortable switching over. If that’s the case, I could certainly see Vegas having interest.

They’re currently trotting out Brayden McNabb, Nick Holden, and Nic Hague at LD. Though I think the latter has a really bright future, it’s a problem if you’re a contender and it can be argued he is the best option on LD.

Vegas would need to move a bit of money to make room. New Jersey could also eat salary to if the returning piece is worthwhile.

I think puck-moving defenseman Kaedan Korczak certainly would be.

Numbers via NaturalStatTrick.com and Evolving-Hockey.com

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