Yost: Analyzing the Flyers’ trade for MacDonald

The Trade: Philadelphia Flyers trade their 2014 3th round and 2015 2nd round draft picks and minor league forward Matt Mangene to the New York Islanders for defenseman Andrew MacDonald. (March 4)

The Flyers had been stuck in trade market purgatory for most of the season as the team was up tight against the cap ceiling but could not find a buy for their plethora of overpaid depth blue liners. With Andrej Meszaros as the only feasible option on defense the Flyers could deal away heading into the deadline, it was clear that they needed to wait for the market to drop for a relatively cheap UFA rental type player. The Flyers had been linked to MacDonald (his cap hit barely registers a blip on the payroll) for several weeks among pundits so it came as no surprise  when the deal was completed.

MacDonald Regular Season Stats 2010-14.

Season Games TOI G A Pts PPP +/- PIMs
2010-11 60 23:25 4 23 27 12 9 37
2011-12 75 23:22 5 14 19 2 -5 26
2012-13 48 23:41 3 9 12 3 -2 20
2013-14 63 25:25 4 20 24 11 -19 34

At first glance, it would seem MacDonald is having an average season with the Isles. He has been a minutes eater, leading the team while playing mostly on the top pairing with Travis Hamonic, and also skating on the top power play unit. Always regarded as a sound skater coupled with good puck instincts, MacDonald seems like he would be a welcomed addition to any team at the deadline. But a closer look at his advanced numbers paint a different picture.

MacDonald Advanced Stats 2010-14 (via Behind the Net)

Season Rel Corsi ESP/60 PPP/60 OZ % Start OZ% Finish QoC (rel) PDO GVT
2010-11 1.2 0.59 3.46 44.4 46.4 0.739 1012 7.6
2011-12 -2.5 0.67 1.18 47.9 47.4 0.628 998 6.3
2012-13 -10.8 0.61 2.49 45.9 44.7 1.005 989 3.3
2013-14 -20.14 0.55 2.31 48.1 50.4 1.129 1004 1.5

MacDonald has been a possession black hole for the Islanders and one of the worst in hockey  relative to his teammates.The Flyers should be wary considering their own possession issues with their back end. Lack of execution by the defense has been an achilles heel since Chris Pronger last played and a deeper look into MacDonald’s numbers should raise red flags all around. At even strength, the Islanders were nearly 300 shot attempts worse with MacDonald on the ice than with him off. This has been a downward trend the last four seasons, in particularly this season and last, where his relative corsi has been deep in the red.  His overall GVT is just 1.5, which would be lowest amongst the current Flyers’ defensemen (yes, that does include Nicklas Grossmann).

While MacDonald faced the toughest competition of his Islander teammates, this is a task he will not have to endure with the Flyers. MacDonald can slide right into a third pairing role and avoid such stingy competition. Despite his flaws driving possession, he is finishing shifts in the offensive zone at a higher rate than where he starts his shift. He will see more favorable zone starts with the Flyers. If taking a look at Luke Schenn’s (his probable defensive partner) usage, his OZ start percentage should be around 54-55. Also, MacDonald skating a normal game-high of 23-25 minutes will be a thing of the past, as he should expect to drop around 18-20 minutes per game going forward.

Flyers’ Defensemen 2013-14 GVT

Player Offensive GVT Defensive GVT Shootout GVT Total GVT
Andrew MacDonald 0.0 1.5 0.0 1.5
Braydon Coburn 0.0 4.8 0.0 4.8
Erik Gustafsson 1.8 2.0 0.0 3.8
Kimmo Timonen 2.5 2.8 -0.3 5.0
Luke Schenn -0.4 2.5 0.0 2.1
Mark Streit 5.1 1.3 0.0 6.4
Nicklas Grossmann -0.4 2.5 0.0 2.1

From the Islanders vantage point, this was a fair return as Garth Snow received for the services of MacDonald. The Islanders had hoped to keep the pending UFA as they offered a four year, $16 million dollar extension, but MacDonald was prepared to test the open market. It was clear that Snow needed to get some type of value for the very favorably priced player. The Islanders receive an extra third in this year’s draft as well as a second in 2015, in what is being already called a very deep draft class. This deal might be considered the lone positive of the trade deadline for the Islanders brass.

In Philadelphia, if MacDonald falls into a third pairing role going forward and sees a reduction in minutes (and overall reduction of responsibility,) it’s possible that the Nova Scotia native will be passable fit with the Flyers. There already have been reports that the Flyers are prepared to sign him to an extension at some point, a questionable decision for a team already hampered with several multi-year contracts given to bottom pair defensemen. For the time being, it’s a risk-free acquisition for the Flyers, but it’s what they do in June/July with MacDonald that may ultimately define this deal.

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