Martin Hanzal: Price is what you pay, Value is what you get

“Price is what you pay, value is what you get.” –Warren Buffet

Last night, news broke that the Minnesota Wild had traded for Martin Hanzal from the Arizona Coyotes in exchange for a boat load of draft picks. The full trade is as follows:

ARI sends Martin Hanzal, Ryan White, and a 2017 fourth-round pick. MIN sends Grayson Downing, a 2017 first-round pick, 2018 second-round pick, and a conditional 2019 fourth-round pick, which if my research is correct, could become a second-round pick if the Wild win two playoff series this year, or could disappear if Hanzal plays <50% of playoff games (so think of it as injury insurance.)

Hanzal and White both have expiring contracts this year, so pretty much any way you slice it, the Wild gave up a lot to the Coyotes in hopes of bolstering their Stanley Cup chances this year. Boudreau has been pretty vocal over the last six weeks about how the fourth line needs to play better, so you can bet he’s happy for the improvement over someone like Graovac. Hanzal is 30 years old and has never cracked the 20-goal mark, but he’s 6’5″ and 226 pounds, and has 16 goals already this year on a DREADFUL Coyotes team. Plus, he hasn’t played in the postseason since the 11-12 season, so you’ve got to think he’s going to be motivated to contribute to a deep playoff run this year. Here is Hanzal’s HERO chart, showing his performance over the last three years:

Hanzal has performed basically as a middle-six player over the last three years, while getting top line minutes. He’s in the 59th percentile for goals, 52nd percentile for primary points, and mid-forties for first assists and possession. So not really game breaking but solid, especially on offense…and particularly considering that he’s going to play bottom-six minutes for the Wild. Minnesota has a very clear team composition of rolling out four scoring lines, and Hanzal clearly fits that mold.

Hanzal has six goals in the month of February, and we can see in the chart above that his goals/60 are at a career high (which certainly inflated his asking price.) His primary assists/60 have been trending down for the last three years, but honestly, I chalk that up to the awful teammates around him.

The above chart shows what I think we can expect Hanzal to do in a depth role for the Wild down the stretch: win faceoffs and put pucks on net. His 5v5 FO win percentage is a hefty 56.3% this year, which is slightly better thank Koivu (55.8%). Hanzal’s individual shot attempts/60 have been in the low teens for much of his career, which represents an upgrade over guys like Graovac and Schroeder. His shot quality is also pretty, pretty good this year as well–he will certainly give the Wild a strong net front presence, as we can see in the following shot maps:

Hanzal’s individual expected goals metrics would rank him in the top three on the Wild, behind Zucker and Parise. Click here for a refresher on expected goals:

Taken together, the stats say Minnesota is getting a veteran center who is middle-of-the-road but certainly not a liability in terms of driving possession, and who can also put the biscuit in the basket, particularly from the low slot. For a team that is among the favorites to win the Cup this year, the Wild got a pretty good value (according to Buffet’s quote at the top of this post,) but the price they paid was sky high.

In a vacuum, you never want to see your team give up a first-round pick for an expiring contract…let alone a first, a second, and a conditional pick that could become a second. Let me get this out of the way right here and now: it’s foolish, and frankly lazy, to take the “Wait and see” approach to evaluating the trade. Yes, if it ends up being a first and two seconds, that’s a different story than a first, a second, and a fourth. But hindsight is 20/20. Also, as Andrew Kerison points out on Twitter, the difference in picks may not be as exaggerated as it seems.

Furthermore, the Wild have a number of talented prospects waiting to make an impact in the coming years–Eriksson Ek, Kaprizov, Kunin, Greenway, Tuch, these are all ‘known quantities’ that are waiting in the wings, so while it stings to lose a first-round pick for an expiring contract, I think it’s facile to say the Wild are “going all-in” this year. Yes, obviously this is a win-now type of move, but if Hanzal doesn’t pan out (and frankly, it would be hard to see him making an impact to justify the price GMCF paid in a lot of people’s eyes) the Wild will still be in a pretty good position.

I’m not going to sit here and argue that the price the Wild paid is equal to the value they will get from Hanzal, but that almost never happens in these kinds of trades. I like the addition of a veteran center who will be set up to succeed in bottom-six minutes for Minnesota, but I certainly wish they could have retained their first-round pick. There’s also the consideration that Minnesota prevented Hanzal from going to another playoff contender, so there’s a certain value in that. Overall, you’re going to be reading a lot of hot takes that are going to say “ZOMG I CAN’T BELIEVE THE WILD PAID THIS MUCH FOR THIS GUY,” and to a certain extent, yes, they overpaid. But from my perspective, when we consider the Wild’s young talent and the weak draft class in 2017, this may not end up being as bad as it’s made out to be.

Oh, one last thing…don’t you think this photo makes Hanzal look a lot like Kelso from That 70’s Show? Just saying, if we need a nickname for him, and we don’t want to go for the obvious Zoolander references, “European Kelso” is there for the taking.

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