Photo by “Rhys A.” via Wikimedia Commons
I had a great question from a good friend of mine, a Flyers fan, after the fervor died down from yesterday’s Scott Hartnell for R.J. Umberger and 4th round pick swap. He asked me:
“From what I’m getting from the advanced stats guys, it appears that the Blue Jackets robbed the Flyers blind yesterday by getting Hartnell for Umberger (a guy they were going to compliance buyout anyhow).
Is Umberger really this bad?”
The short answer is that Umberger is not very good; his With-or-Without-Yous (or WOWYs; where you compare Corsi when a player is with and without a teammate on the ice) suggest that nobody plays better with him than others, outside of maybe Ryan Johansen. Now, some of that is due to zone starts, as Umberger has been saddled with a lot of time in his own zone. Even so, three years of possession in your end 55%+ of the time is a little too consistent in its futility. I’d expect at least one year there where that figure lowered to 51 or 52% if he was showing some defensive abilities. He’s still an average player in the faceoff dot, but his offensive contributions are shrinking, and at 32 it’s hard to see them recovering much. Blue Jackets beat reporter Aaron Portzline noted the Jackets were contemplating buying him out of his $4.6m/year cap hit contract, which was moving into modified no-trade clause (NTC; player can specify a list of teams he’d be willing to be traded to) years.
The longer answer is that yes, Umberger is not good, but this trade is much more complicated than a player-for-player, or player-for-player-and-a-pick swap. A trade presumably always looks good enough from both sides’ perspectives in order to happen, so what were the incentives for Ron Hextall? Jarmo Kekalainen?