In retrospect, it shouldn't have been much of a surprise the Dallas Stars traded Brenden Dillon.
The young defenseman was a big part of what helped the 2013-14 team reach the playoffs, but he was also a part of a large group of relatively young, left-shot defensemen with similarly offensive-minded tendencies who were pushing for a roster spot.
His 150 games of NHL experience, large frame and relatively high upside gave him significant trade value, and when the Stars started looking in earnest for a right-shot defenseman, Dillon made sense as trade bait.
The Stars got a bite in late November when they sent Dillon to the San Jose Sharks for defenseman Jason Demers and a 2016 third-round draft pick. The move was a little contentious at the time - Demers brought a needed right shot and experience, but Dillon was a high price to pay. So how do things look as we near the end of the regular season?
Neither team looks headed for the playoffs, which is probably more of a disappointment for the veteran Sharks than it is for the Stars. Both have had long runs of awful play and other times where they looked as good as any other team in the league.
And both Dillon and Demers have been mainstays on defenses that, quite frankly, needed to be much better at times.
So how do the defensemen compare after most of the season with their new teams? Let's take a look at the numbers.
These totals are only for the time spent with the new team:
Demers' five goals ties a career high (he didn't have any this season with the Sharks), and his pace of 31 points over an 82-game season would be near a career high as well.
Dillon's production is well down, both in goals and total points, though it must be noted this is only his third full NHL season while it is Demers sixth.
But scoring numbers only show part of the story, especially for defensemen who have a large amount of responsibility in the defensive zone. There really aren't any great numbers for comparison there, but some of the deeper-looking analytics can help paint a more complete picture. These statistics, from War-on-Ice.com, are all calculated in 5 v. 5 situations and only in the time with the new team:
|Player||Corsi Rel||Fenwick Rel||Scoring Chance +/-||PDO||O-Zone Start %||Penalty Differential|
A quick primer if you're new to advanced stats - Corsi is a measure of all shot attempts (on net, missed and blocked), and Corsi Rel is a measure of how successful a player is relative to his own teammates. Fenwick is a measure of shots on net and missed shots, and Fenwick Rel is the measure relative to teammates. In both cases, the more positive a number, the better.
Scoring chances are calculated via War-on-Ice based on shots taken from a particular area of the ice, and the plus-minus is calculated in the traditional manner. PDO is the addition of on-ice save percentage and on-ice shooting percentage, with the idea that the number should be somewhere around 1.00. Offensive zone start percentage and penalty differential are self explanatory.
Demers dominates Dillon in all the possession categories and especially in the relative scoring chances for. Some of that is possibly team related - Dallas is plus-210 in that category that season (fourth in the league behind Tampa, Nashville and the Islanders) while the Sharks are only plus-23 (19th). Still, the individual difference is astounding and also marked by the relative possession marks.
PDO indicates that Dillon has been unlucky this season, and his individual season shooting percentage of 2.9 is 1.3 below his career average. But while Demers shooting percentage of 6.7 is 2.1 above his career average, his PDO also indicates he's been somewhat unlucky as well.
I had real difficulty sorting out the quality of competition numbers on War on Ice, but the zone start percentage shows that neither player is being particularly sheltered this season. And which player is in a more difficult team situation is very arguable - Dillon is part of a defense that has struggled to find chemistry at times and bounced around defensive pairings while Demers is part of a team shepherding three rookie defensemen in their first season (and four when injuries and illnesses hit).
The real difference between them may be in the age and contract situations.
Dillon is the younger of the two at 24, turning 25 next November, but went through a contentious contract negotiation with the Stars as an RFA last year and ended up signing a one-year deal well into training camp. Demers is turning 27 this summer and has one more year on a deal with a $2.21 million cap hit before hitting UFA status in the summer of 2016.
So Dillon struggled more this season but is two years younger and a much more controllable asset in the near future. Demers had the much stronger season but will probably get a good raise in the summer of 2016, perhaps with a team outside of Dallas if the Stars go looking for more back-end stalwarts rather than two-way guys.
Given that, even with the rather chaotic state of the Sharks franchise, they are still likely happy with this trade. Cost-controlled young defensemen are an asset any way you slice it.
But the Stars are almost certainly still happy as well. They traded from a position of redundancy (relatively young, left-shot defensemen who really want to have a two-way bent rather than being a solely defensive presence) for a more veteran option that benefited them in the short term. Demers became the third most experienced player on the Stars blueline after the trade of Sergei Gonchar, and his right shot gave the team an easier matchup situation to use alongside younger players.
They also avoided what could be another long contract battle this offseason while keeping a relatively valuable player locked in at a very reasonable price. Yes, there will be a cost to pay for that in the summer of 2016, when Demers is due a new contract that will likely bring him a good raise, but ideally by that point, the crop of rookies the Stars are bringing along now are ready to take on more rounded roles and can fill the potential hole.