Second thoughts: finding a fit

Robin Brownlee
July 19 2009 06:35PM

David Steckel

I said the other day unrestricted free agent Manny Malhotra was the best option for the Edmonton Oilers in terms of a third-line centre who can win face-offs and kill penalties. I was wrong.

While Malhotra might be the best player who fits that description, he might not be the best option for the contract-heavy Oilers, and there's a couple of reasons for that.

First and foremost, it looks like Malhotra, who made $1.5 million with the Columbus Blue Jackets last season, one in which he scored 11-17-28 and won 58 per cent of his face-offs, is expecting something north of $2 million a season on the open market. He'll get it. That's too pricey for the Oilers.

Second, with Malhotra being a UFA, GM Steve Tambellini has to take on a contract without giving one up. That's not the way to go. The trade route is. The problem, of course, is finding a trade partner that has what you want and needs what you have.

I thought about that for awhile, did some checking and came up with a name who makes sense -- those looking for a big splash or marquee dash can stop reading now. Nothing to see here.

That name is David Steckel.

HE FITS THE BILL

Who? I know. If you're thinking, Brownlee fell down the stairs and hit his big, fat head again, I get it. But hear me out or at least humour me, like you do with senile uncle Al when he asks who the hell you are for the third time at Thanksgiving dinner.

Steckel, for the vast majority of you who don't have his name on the tip of your tongue, is a six-foot-five, 222-pound pivot who just finished his fourth season with the Washington Capitals. While his boxcar numbers are less than inspiring, 8-11-19 in 76 games, he fits the bill on several levels.

-- Steckel, 27, is a demon on the dot. He finished the 2008-09 regular season among NHL leaders at 57.9 per cent. In 14 playoff games, he upped that to 58.4 per cent.

That's no flash in the pan, either. In 2007-08, he was 56.3. In 2006-07, he was 65.1, although that was in a span of just five games.

-- Steckel kills penalties and his face-off record shorthanded this past season was 153-130.

-- He's cheap. Steckel has one year remaining on a contract that will pay him $725,000 in 2009-10. Given that the Oilers already have about $51.3 million committed to salaries next season, price point, about one-third of what a player like Malhotra wants, matters.

-- Lastly, and most important, it looks to me like the Oilers and Caps each have something the other team wants on needs. The Oilers need a face-off man and the Caps could use some toughness at the bottom of the roster after losing Donald Brashear. I'm thinking J.F. Jacques could be their man.

A DEAL TO BE DONE?

Jacques, 24, is young enough and tough enough, despite back problems that stalled his career before he returned this season, to be of interest to the Capitals with Brashear gone.

Jacques has one more year left on a contract that will pay him $550,000 next season. While the Caps might want a prospect or pick thrown in to swing the deal, Tambellini wouldn't lose any sleep if he could move two contracts for one. He also has some depth in toughness and a logjam on the fourth line with Zack Stortini and Steve MacIntyre in the fold.

Those who've read this far can see this wouldn't be a big splash or a sexy deal, but it might be the right deal to address a glaring shortcoming, and the Oilers could use one of those right about now.

I will text the Steckel suggestion to Tambellini and await word back. As always, when I know what his response is, you'll know.

-- Listen to Robin Brownlee every Thursday from 4 to 6 p.m. on Just A Game with Jason Gregor on Team 1260.

Aceb4a1816f5fa09879a023b07d1a9b4
A sports writer since 1983, including stints at The Edmonton Journal and The Sun 1989-2007, I happily co-host the Jason Gregor Show on TSN 1260 twice a week and write when so inclined. Have the best damn lawn on the internet. Most important, I am Sam's dad. Follow me on Twitter at Robin_Brownlee. Or don't.
Avatar
#51 Lofty
July 20 2009, 07:17AM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers

Robin Brownlee wrote:

Oilers would have to offer more than cap relief, meaning they’d have to sweeten the deal — likely with a roster player.

Could Brodziak have fit the bill?

Avatar
#52 Mike76
July 20 2009, 07:26AM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers

Get over the Brodziak deal. He's gone its over.

I like thise deal. I watched all the Caps games on TV in the playoffs and Steckel seemed to stick out (positively) on a star studded Caps team.

They could throw Schremp in just to get him out of our system and off the airwaves (i.e. fans thinking he is our saviour). Lofty wrote:

Robin Brownlee wrote: Oilers would have to offer more than cap relief, meaning they’d have to sweeten the deal — likely with a roster player. Could Brodziak have fit the bill?
Avatar
#53 Robin Brownlee
July 20 2009, 07:30AM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers

Lofty wrote:

Dont know much about the guy but I wonder how well a six-foot-five, 222 pound beast can kill penalties. I can’t see him being too mobile protecting the points? Sure he could block some shots but the way the Oil ran around on the PK last year it could be ugly.

Well, Steckel average 3:48 of shorthanded icetime per game with the Caps last season, which put him second on the team. That per game average would have put him first on the Oilers ahead of Horcoff, Staios, Souray etc.

Avatar
#54 jeff
July 20 2009, 08:24AM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers

I really don't see Washington moving Steckel, especially this year. During the playoffs I see that he has great smarts in his own end and is relied upon heavily at the faceoff dot. If we want him we will have to overpay for him.

Avatar
#55 Jonathan Willis
July 20 2009, 08:35AM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers

Fun note on Steckel:

He played on the fourth line for the vast majority of the year, playing against low-end competition but with very low-end teammates.

His even-strength on-ice save percentage was .928 and the shooting percentage at evens with him on the ice was 5.5% for a combined PDO number of .983. Thus he ran up a negative +/- despite having a very decent corsi for a fourth liner.

Washington was a good team, so it's hard to find anyone who had to take a lot more defensive draws than offensive draws on the team (Alex Ovechkin, as one example, was on for 132 more draws in the offensive zone than he was in the defensive zone) but Steckel was one of the few who did.

In other words: on Steckel, all of the advanced stats arrows are pointing in the right direction.

Avatar
#56 jeff
July 20 2009, 08:41AM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers

@ Jonathan Willis: Stats or no stats. I like what the guy brings just from watching him. Problem is he isn't a player that fans notice, but coaches and GM's know what they have in guys like him.

Avatar
#57 Robin Brownlee
July 20 2009, 08:58AM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers

GREBESHKOV UPDATE: Might be posted somewhere else, but TSN has Denis Grebeshkov's arbitration hearing date listed as July 29.

Avatar
#58 Jonathan Willis
July 20 2009, 09:03AM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers

@ jeff:

The stats themselves are pretty straight forward. 4th-liners generally get killed in outscoring (that's why they're on the 4th line) but Steckel didn't despite:

a) lots of bad luck/linemates offensively and b) getting sent out in unfavourable situations

These are good things, and a rarity in the NHL.

Avatar
#59 MattL
July 20 2009, 09:28AM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers

This guy was clutch in the playoffs, I think the asking price would be pretty high considering the value he brings and his uber-low cap hit.

He's what Brodziak should have been last year.

Avatar
#60 Lofty
July 20 2009, 10:15AM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers

Jonathan Willis wrote:

Fun note on Steckel: He played on the fourth line for the vast majority of the year, playing against low-end competition but with very low-end teammates.

low-end competition describes the whole division. I remember an article posted on the Nation from some time last year talking about how players numbers drop off whenever they leave the southeast.

Avatar
#61 BigE57
July 20 2009, 10:18AM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers

Lofty wrote:

low-end competition describes the whole division. I remember an article posted on the Nation from some time last year talking about how players numbers drop off whenever they leave the southeast.

Off topic but I wonder how that would effect Ovechkin if he ever left the Southeast?

Avatar
#62 Lofty
July 20 2009, 10:21AM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers

Mike76 wrote:

Get over the Brodziak deal. He’s gone its over.

I dont have a problem with the Brodziak deal. However, if Washington would want to trade Steckel for a roster player and the Oil traded Brodziak for nothing it looks like a tiny blunder.

This is all hypothetical anyhow.

Avatar
#63 DanMan
July 20 2009, 10:22AM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers

Great stuff, Robin.

Steckel, to me, is like a cheaper, younger Michal Handzus.

I thought with the Morrison signing, maybe the glut at center for the Caps would make them think about moving one.

If they can't dump Nylander on anyone, I'd bet Brooks Laich is the one to go, but he can play LW too so who knows.

Avatar
#64 Lofty
July 20 2009, 10:23AM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers

BigE57 wrote:

Off topic but I wonder how that would effect Ovechkin if he ever left the Southeast?

Same goes for Vinny. I would offer up Oli the Oger as evidence when he went to Phoenix but he put up points in bunches with the flames... I guess playing with Iggy helps though

Avatar
#65 Jonathan Willis
July 20 2009, 11:19AM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers

@ Lofty:

Did I write that article?

Anyways, you're bang on. Guys like Ocechkin and Kovalchuk ar fantastic players - Ovechkin, (since I've looked him up before) puts up similar numbers against everyone in the league, so I don't think it's just a Southeast division thing.

Lecavalier's numbers take a beating; he really scores against his division.

Those are the only two I remember checking.

Avatar
#66 West Coast Oil
July 20 2009, 11:24AM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers

I like the Steckel deal these are the types of players Ive been advocating the Oilers chase. There must be a few players like this out there and I am hoping Tamby is chasing up on them. Would the Caps be interested in Brule for him? I would hate to see Brule go but this would be for the greater good. If the caps need toughness I woud also say Moreau and Staois would fit the bill.

Avatar
#67 Dr_Gonz0
July 20 2009, 11:27AM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers

No way do they trade Steckel. He is a very valuable role player for WAS and makes peanuts as you pointed out, and is also a fan favorite. How does trading the now biggest and toughest guy on your team for the smaller JFJ help the toughness issue anyways? I am sure GMGM would balk at such a deal, i know i would if i was him.

With all that being said though, i love the idea of picking him up. Our current possible bottom 6 centers are a joke. Zero toughness and their styles are really not suited to this role, with the exception possibly being Brule. due to a feisty side. Pouliot, O'sully, Cogliano, and Schremp are all way too soft and way too average on the dot for my liking.

Avatar
#68 Robin Brownlee
July 20 2009, 11:32AM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers

West Coast Oil wrote:

I like the Steckel deal these are the types of players Ive been advocating the Oilers chase. There must be a few players like this out there and I am hoping Tamby is chasing up on them. Would the Caps be interested in Brule for him? I would hate to see Brule go but this would be for the greater good. If the caps need toughness I woud also say Moreau and Staois would fit the bill.

Washington is looking for toughness, as in a tough guy, on the cheap to fill in for Brashear. Staios and Moreau don't fit Washington's style-wise or salary-wise. Brule? You can add any name you want from either side to make the numbers work, but that's all speculation. What I know is the Caps want to add toughness and the Oilers have some to spare.

Avatar
#69 Saurash
July 20 2009, 11:32AM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers

We're not the only people who recognize Steckel's value. The Caps do as well. And after he proved himself so valuable on the dot last year in the playoffs, it's going to take more than just J.F Jacques to land him in Edmonton.

Avatar
#70 Robin Brownlee
July 20 2009, 11:41AM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers

Dr_Gonz0 wrote:

How does trading the now biggest and toughest guy on your team for the smaller JFJ help the toughness issue anyways?

Steckel is a tall, lanky player, but he's not a monster and he's not tough in the gloves-off sense of the word, which is what the Caps lack right now. Steckel has two career fights in the NHL, both in 2007-08. Jacques is shorter, at six-foot-three, but he actually plays at 225 pounds, so he's not exactly a runt and he's way busier with the gloves off (except when Kevin Bieksa waxed him). Saurash wrote:

We’re not the only people who recognize Steckel’s value. The Caps do as well. And after he proved himself so valuable on the dot last year in the playoffs, it’s going to take more than just J.F Jacques to land him in Edmonton.

I agree, and I mentioned that in the item. How much more than Jacques is the question?

Avatar
#71 sittingatmydesk
July 20 2009, 11:43AM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers

@ Robin Brownlee: do you think they will sign Grebs, turn around and trade him, or trade one of the other 3 d-man...

Avatar
#72 Robin Brownlee
July 20 2009, 11:47AM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers

sittingatmydesk wrote:

@ Robin Brownlee: do you think they will sign Grebs, turn around and trade him, or trade one of the other 3 d-man…

Depends what the numbers are. At $3M-$3.25, Grebeshkov is good bang for the buck. I think Tambellini has to use his back-end depth to improve the club, so one of the top four has to go. My choice? You know that.

Avatar
#73 gdawg
July 20 2009, 11:49AM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers

Oilers? I thought they were already out of contention for playoffs. Oh well, we can all dream right?

Avatar
#74 gdawg
July 20 2009, 11:51AM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers

Seriously though, shouldn't Oilers wait a bit into new season and then test trade waters after seeing who comes to camp in serious shape and who gels with who? Im sure there will be some teams looking to do the same thing and find Oilers a decent trade partner.

Avatar
#75 Robin Brownlee
July 20 2009, 11:58AM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers

gdawg wrote:

Seriously though, shouldn’t Oilers wait a bit into new season and then test trade waters after seeing who comes to camp in serious shape and who gels with who? Im sure there will be some teams looking to do the same thing and find Oilers a decent trade partner.

Seriously, no. The needs are documented. Penner coming to camp in shape isn't going to turn him into a face-off man or a penalty killer. Tambellini knows right now he has an opportunity to turn his depth on the back end into a top-six left winger. What, it's best to offer up Souray or Gilbert to another GM just as the season is beginning and the coach has picked his line-up? Guess again.

Avatar
#76 West Coast Oil
July 20 2009, 11:58AM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers

@ Robin Brownlee

Do you think perhaps we are limiting our view too much? Are there any solid 3rd or 4th line centers who are demons in the face off circle in the AHL who are perhaps not getting a chance in the NHL because their parent teams have too much depth at center already? If so and we can trade a roster player for them I think that would be a huge benefit to the Oilers.

Avatar
#77 Robin Brownlee
July 20 2009, 12:02PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers

West Coast Oil wrote:

@ Robin Brownlee Do you think perhaps we are limiting our view too much? Are there any solid 3rd or 4th line centers who are demons in the face off circle in the AHL who are perhaps not getting a chance in the NHL because their parent teams have too much depth at center already? If so and we can trade a roster player for them I think that would be a huge benefit to the Oilers.

No, not if "we" includes Tambellini. He has his scouting staff looking at the AHL as well as NHL rosters. As for me, I'm focusing in on Steckel for all the reasons I listed in the item. Besides, I'm not big on guessing and throwing a dozen names out there and then saying, "I mentioned him" if it materializes.

Avatar
#78 Antony Ta
July 20 2009, 12:16PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers

What about Marcel Goc, guys?

Avatar
#79 Hemmertime
July 20 2009, 12:16PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers

Its a good idea, but I think we will have to pay too much. Any of our top 10 FW would be a no, and hes not of the quality to move any of our D for. If it happened to be JFJ and a pick I'd go for it. Although he is already 27, so that should lower his value.

I see WSH just signing an AHLer or calling someone up if they have one to fill the need rather than moving Steckel

Avatar
#80 Robin Brownlee
July 20 2009, 12:33PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers

Antony Ta wrote:

What about Marcel Goc, guys?

What about him? He's in the same price range as Steckel, is about as good on face-offs and he kills penalties as a second-unit guy -- his SH/TOI per game is half of what Steckel's is. Not only is Goc a notch below Steckel in my opinion, where's the match for San Jose? I don't hear that the Sharks are calling around looking for a tough guy. You have to have what the other teams wants and vice-versa.

Avatar
#81 BigE57
July 20 2009, 12:37PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers

Lofty wrote:

Same goes for Vinny. I would offer up Oli the Oger as evidence when he went to Phoenix but he put up points in bunches with the flames… I guess playing with Iggy helps though

Evidence? ERIC COLE

Avatar
#82 gogliano
July 20 2009, 12:46PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers

Brownlee: Goc wasn't qualified by the Sharks so he should be UFA unless he was signed and I wasn't paying attention.

Avatar
#83 DUANE
July 20 2009, 12:59PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers

Will you or do you really text him?

Duane

Avatar
#84 Robin Brownlee
July 20 2009, 01:01PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers

gogliano wrote:

Brownlee: Goc wasn’t qualified by the Sharks so he should be UFA unless he was signed and I wasn’t paying attention.

Right you are. Goc is listed as RFA at HockeyNumbers.com but he's now a UFA. That said, Steckel remains a better choice for the reasons above and because getting Goc means taking on a contract without giving one up.

Avatar
#85 BigE57
July 20 2009, 01:07PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers

@ Robin Brownlee:

Hey Robin, I'm not sure if you noticed my question earlier or not. I was wondering if you had an idea on how many more contracts the Oilers needed to shed to be in a position to chase down remaining free agents?

Avatar
#86 Robin Brownlee
July 20 2009, 01:11PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers

@ BigE57: I have a call into the Oilers to get the exact number of contracts they're at. Should know within an hour or so.

Avatar
#87 Birdie
July 20 2009, 01:19PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers

Always nice to see one of my favorites getting some love from another team's writers and fans. I agree with most of you, the chances of the Caps letting Steckel go are slightly less than zero.

To those wondering, yes, he's aggressive and shockingly mobile. He worked with some power-skating guru a couple of summers back and looks like a whole new skater (does that Fedorov-style glide really well), and has just incredible reach, plays very smart and challenges the other team when on the PK. He absolutely made Crosby look like a child playing against a grown man in the face off dot during the playoffs. I believe Steckel won upwards of 70% of his draws against Crosby, it was incredible. During the games in Pittsburgh, Bylsma refused to match Crosby up with Steckel; he really got in their head (in addition, his goal was the difference in game 2, as well as scoring the game winner in the drama-filled game 6 that went to OT and forced game 7). In short, Stecks has gone from a cult-like following to legit hero for a lot of Caps fans.

Avatar
#88 Robin Brownlee
July 20 2009, 01:31PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers

@ Birdie: OK, George. Can I call you George? We'll give you Jacques OR Stortini and Schremp, plus we'll throw in the rights to Jesse Niinimaki and a stack of signed Craig MacTavish 8X10s. Deal?

Steve.

Avatar
#89 john thompson
July 20 2009, 02:07PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers

Love steckel but so does Bruce Boudreau who played for him in the AHL. I would look at either Steckel or Boyd Gordon, very good faceoff man, good on Pk and also cheap

I would also consider moving Stortini if that would get it done

Avatar
#90 flyricky
July 20 2009, 02:50PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers

Last time I checked Blair Betz was still available. Good hometown boy who won't cry about coming back. I think it is important for the Oilers to pick more local guys and Europeans. They maybe the only ones who will wanna play here until their girlfriends convince them to go south. I think we did a nice job in the draft even though it is early to tell.

Avatar
#91 Matt
July 20 2009, 02:57PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers

GSC wrote:

Good call, Robin. Steckel is exactly the kind of player with the kind of contract that this team needs.

Interesting, because he's exactly the kind of player the Capitals need too... combine that with the fact that Bruce Bodreau has known Steckel since he was in the AHL (he appreciate what he brings to the table), there's no way this gets done.

Malhotra is avaliable, Steckel is not.

Avatar
#92 erixon
July 20 2009, 02:58PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers

Robin Brownlee wrote:

No, not if “we” includes Tambellini. He has his scouting staff looking at the AHL as well as NHL rosters.

Or a copy of the DVD, "The Exciting Side of NHL Hockey", by Jacques Lemaire

Avatar
#93 erixon
July 20 2009, 02:59PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers

What the hell, it quoted the wrote post?haha wtf, oh well I am sure you guys can figure it out.

Avatar
#94 erixon
July 20 2009, 03:00PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers

wow.... the WRONG POST... I'm on a roll, time to call it a day, mail it in and hope for a better tomorrow.

Avatar
#95 future champ
July 20 2009, 03:01PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers

"What I know is the Caps want to add toughness and the Oilers have some to spare."

You must have missed the recent article in the washington post in which mcphee publicly dismisses the need for enforcers in the game, citing detriot as a prime example.

As far as this proposed trade goes, you must be EFFING KIDDING!

Oh, and whoever suggested the caps may be looking to move brooks laich is an absolute idiot and should stop talking about the caps, cause you dont know what youre saying

Avatar
#96 Peter Pan
July 20 2009, 03:09PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers

Mike Sillinger still in the league?

Avatar
#97 bingofuel
July 20 2009, 03:09PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers

@ future champ:

For the benefit of all the "absolute idiots" on the site, could you provide a link to the mcphee article? Thanks!

Avatar
#98 future champ
July 20 2009, 03:25PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers

give me a minute ill try

and lets not be overdramatic please, read my post again, I called ONE person an idiot

Avatar
#99 future champ
July 20 2009, 03:34PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/07/01/AR2009070103524.html

the bit about the red wings must be from video of the interview that i saw on the caps website but wasnt included in the print story, either way, you get the idea, unless hes lying, which hes been known to do but doesnt make sense in this situation, the caps arent in the market for an enforcer. end of discussion.

And they definitely arent looking to trade brooks laich, but ignorance is bliss!

Avatar
#100 RiverRunner
July 20 2009, 03:51PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers

@ bingofuel:

Here is a link to the link...it's not from the Post, but the Washington Times last month: http://www.japersrink.com/2009/6/27/927765/one-thing-that-happened-for-sure

As for Dave Steckel, he had a real emergence this postseason and he is the certain 3C going into Caps' camp. The Caps organization not terribly long at the pivot in terms of guys 25 and under; outside of Backstrom (who is a stud everywhere except in the dot) there really aren't any who are NHL ready right now. Now, Boyd Gordon, the 4C, is just as effective in the dot as Steckel and is even better defensively, in my opinion. He is also young and cheap, and as likely to fit the Oil's style. EDM will have to give up young talent, specifically at Center, to get something done with Washington, not just some fourth line slag 'tough'.

Comments are closed for this article.