This afternoon the Philadelphia Flyers announced that they have acquired New York Islanders defenseman Andrew MacDonald in exchange for a 2014 3rd round pick and a 2015 2nd round pick. The reaction by Flyers fans has been somewhere between mixed and negative. Here are a few thoughts.
So far, Paul Holmgren has been true to his promise. He has added a defenseman while keeping the young forward core intact. Although Flyers fans may be upset with the acquisition of MacDonald, it is clear that Holmgren values these young forwards. If one of them is traded, we should expect a mammoth return.
Through 63 games Andrew MacDonald has four goals and 20 assists. MacDonald is also a minutes eater, currently 8th in the NHL in average ice time at 25:25. He is also the NHL leader in blocked shots with 198. MacDonald is a relatively mobile defenseman at 6’1 190lbs and is now the third youngest defenseman on the Flyers roster.
MacDonald’s advanced stats are pretty ugly. His CF% rel is -8.9%, meaning that the other team takes way more shots than his team does while he is on the ice. He has taken four more penalties than he has drawn this season and his quality of competition is 41st among NHL defensemen (not bad, not good). There are two things to keep in mind when viewing his advanced statistics:
First, he played on a pretty bad possession team. There are two ways to look that. You could say that he suffers from being on a bad team. But more likely, since he was most frequently on the ice with Kyle Okposo and John Tavares, he was a part of the problem. I am hopeful that being paired with Streit, and freeing Streit from Grossmann (there is no doubt in my mind, no matter what stats you use, that MacDonald is better for Streit than Grossmann is), will give MacDonald a better chance to spend some time in the offensive zone and get some shots.
Second, he has very unfavorable zone starts. He starts 34.1% of his shifts in the defensive zone as opposed to only 29.7% of his shifts in the offensive zone. Any reasonable person can tell you that starting more shifts in the defensive zone will result in more shots against. However, the fact that he rarely seems to drive play up the ice may be a problem. If paired with a guy like Streit, hopefully the onus will not be on him to carry the puck through the neutral zone and he can play to his strengths.
Ultimately, the best approach to this MacDonald trade is cautious optimism. Clearly, he has some rough stats. But he also played on one of the worst teams in the NHL and was called upon to be their number one guy. He has some skills and should fit into the Flyers top four, but his role on the Flyers will be greatly reduced from what he was called upon to do on Long Island. He is not a top pairing stud, but remember that we did not give up any of our young core pieces to get him. Look for the Flyers to dump a defenseman tomorrow to recoup one (or more) of the picks that they lost.
Let’s give MacDonald some time. He will need to adjust to a new environment and a new system, so if he plays poorly tomorrow night, that does not make this acquisition awful. On the flip side, if he has a great game tomorrow night, that does not make this trade deadline a success. Let’s be patient.
MacDonald is an impending UFA making $550,000. He rejected an offer of 4 years $16 million from the Islanders earlier in the season, so expect him to command between $4-$5M if the Flyers wish to re-sign him.