Flyers acquire Matt Carle

According to the Philadelphia Flyers have sent Steve Downie, Steve Eminger, and a 4th round pick to the Tampa bay Lightning in exchange for Matt Carle and a 3rd round pick. First off, let’s look at the cap hits:

Matt Carle – $3.4M for the next four seasons, UFA

Steve Eminger – $1.2M this season, RFA
Steve Downie – $822K for the next two seasons, RFA

Tampa Bay, which was rumoured to be trying to clear payroll, picks up a pair of cheaper players for Carle. Philadelphia, on the other hand, is in more of a bind than they were before this and are skirting right on the edge of the cap. When players start coming back from injury (Randy Jones, with a $2.75M cap hit, is expected sometime in December) they’ll be forced to make a move if not sooner.

It’s an interesting decision by the Lightning to trade Carle. Just this past summer, Dan Boyle was moved to San Jose for the young defenceman, and in a good will gesture, the Lightning used their final pick of the 2008 Draft on Carle’s younger brother David, who was forced to stop his career before it even started because of a heart condition.

Here are Carle’s numbers from Behind the Net from last season, along with his ranking among Sharks defencemen with 20 or more games:

Quality of Competition: -.06 (8th)
Quality of Teammates: +.06 (3rd)
Even Strength Points/60: 0.23 (7th)
Powerplay Points/60: 1.93 (7th)

Even back in 2006–07, when Carle had a tremendous offensive year, he wasn’t doing it against tough competition, playing some of the easiest minutes on the Sharks’ defence. Looking through the last few Lightning games, Carle has played against some tough forwards, but also against a liberal mix of easier opposition. Against New Jersey two games ago, he barely saw Parise. Against Ottawa, only on other defenceman saw less of Heatley and Spezza. Even against New York, where he played against everybody, he saw plenty of the third and fourth lines. He’s done a good job of keeping his head above water, but hasn’t scored at all on the powerplay and has only two points overall. One would think his offence will come around, but at this point in his career, Carle’s a risk. Still, at 24 years of age and with an incredibly successful NCAA career behind him, he could very well be a risk worth taking for Philadelphia.

At the very least, Carle’s an upgrade over the defenceman going the other way. First, here are Steve Eminger’s numbers from last season, along with his ranking among Capitals defencemen:

Quality of Competition: -.11 (8th)
Quality of Teammates: +.6 (7th)
Even Strength Points/60: 0.56 (6th)

Much like Carle, in 2006–07, Eminger was playing soft minutes. Despite the relative ease of his match-ups, Eminger has never been a plus player as a professional; the last time he posted a number better than zero was in 2002–03 with the Kitchener Rangers. In Philadelphia’s last game, against Ottawa, only Andrew Alberts saw less ice-time against Spezza and Heatley; against Edmonton, again it was only Alberts who saw less playing time against Hemsky. He’s still young at 25 years of age, but injuries (he’s missed 43 games with various maladies since the lockout and has already had multiple head and ankle injuries since his draft) have likely lowered his ceiling.

The last player in the deal, and the most interesting, is the troubled Steve Downie. Let’s summarize his career to date (much of this information is taken from Gare Joyce’s Future Greats and Heartbreaks). Downie was taken 29th overall in the 2005 NHL Entry Draft, after a phenomenal season and playoffs with the Windsor Spitfires. The next season, he came to national attention following an ugly hazing incident. Downie, the Spitfires captain, had ordered Akim Aliu and a group of his fellow rookies to stand naked in a tiny bus bathroom. Aliu refused, and at the next day’s practice, Downie savagely cross-checked Aliu, knocking out three of his teeth before engaging in an equally vicious fight with him. The incident was caught on camera, leading to a five-game suspension and the dismissal of the Spitfires’ GM, Moe Mantha. Just a few months later, Downie played a leading role on Canada’s gold-medal winning World Junior Team, scoring six points in six games. This led to a number of favourable commentaries by national sportswriters, including Cam Cole of the Vancouver Sun who described him as “the embodiment of Team Canada’s game.” In Downie’s first game back in junior after the World Championships, he earned a five-game suspension for jumping Andrew Gibbons and battering him with his fists before Gibbons could even get his gloves off. One scout described Downie’s personality this way:

”That’s what kills you as a coach, the fact that Downie doesn’t have to be disruptive – he chooses not to be a team guy.”

Downie’s NHL debut didn’t go any better—before his rookie season had even started, the NHL suspended him 20 games for charging Ottawa Senators forward Dean McAmmond. McAmmond missed ten games with a concussion. On the ice, Downie’s professional career has been marked by ill-advised penalties and a general lack of discipline. It’s probably also worth noting that Downie’s never played more than the 61 games in a season that he put up in his draft year. In any case, here are Downie’s numbers from last season:

Quality of Competition: -.08 (14th)
Quality of Teammates: +.29 (1st)
Even Strength Points/60: 2.13 (3rd)

It’s worth noting that Downie’s rather excellent scoring numbers were driven, at least in part, by an unsustainably good shooting percentage (24 per cent); a number that would have been the second-best in the NHL over a full season (and nearly a full six per cent better than Ilya Kovalchuk’s 18.4 per cent). In my personal opinion, the potential upside isn’t worth the headache of dealing with Downie, and it isn’t even close.

I don’t think there’s a winner of this deal; Tampa Bay saves some money by downgrading their defence and taking on one of the least stable prospects in the NHL, while Philadelphia upgrades at the expense of adding a long-term, big-money contract on a team that already has too many.

  • Hippy

    Interesting stuff Jon-o.

    On a personal level I can't stand guys like Downey. Let alone clowns playing our sport. I'm sure we've all come across them at some point in our lives. Tucker and Avery are two in the same mold.

    This "Future Greats and Heartbreaks"…. Is this an annual pub or a book thats been released recently? You get a lot of really great stuff from it. Would be interested to read it.

  • Hippy

    Future Greats and Heartbreaks came out Christmas of 2007 (I think). For my money, it's the best look that's ever been published of the modern NHL scouting process.

  • Hippy

    Seriously, n00b? He lacks control. Lucic has control. Hell, by comparison, Todd Bertuzzi has control.

    Downie is going to destroy himself and drag down whatever team he's on unless he can put some brakes on his personality. He isn't worth the risk.

  • Hippy

    I recently saw a clip of Laraque, then of the Pens, pushing him head first into the boards, and the announcers saying he's had a tough life, including being nearly completely deaf in one ear from a car accident. That accident, on the way to one of his hockey games, killed his father.

    Sad story, but you have to think that based on his conduct, there is something seriously not right with the kid.

    To be part of a team, you need the respect from team mates, otherwise all the skill in the world wont make you a benefit to any organization. I wonder what the Philly players think of him. Nothing I've heard says that he was a problem, like what we heard about Pitkanen.

    Still the kid has issues that make him about as worthy of "buyer beware" handle as the is. I hope he can turn it around in TB, but I'm pretty doubtful.