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New Jersey Devils Trade Jason Arnott to Washington Capitals for David Steckel & 2012 Second Round Pick

Tom Gulitti of the Bergen Record and Fire & Ice confirms the following trade was made right at the deadline:

Ok. It's Arnott for Steckel and Caps' 2012 second-rounder.

The move seals a short tenure for Arnott in New Jersey. He was acquired last summer in a trade with Nashville in exchange for New Jersey's second round pick in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft and prospect Matt Halischuk.   Based on the initial reports, the only deal that would work trade Arnott, an impending unrestricted free agent in this coming summer, was to take back a player: center David Steckel of the Capitals.

Then as I was initially typing this, it came out that the Devils get Washington's second round pick in the draft along with Steckel.  While the Devils have added salary to their cap with Steckel, $1.1 million/year for the next two seasons per CapGeek, I'm thrilled they got a second round pick out of it too.  I wish it was a 2011 second rounder, but one for 2012 is just fine with me.

More thoughts on this and a analysis of Steckel after the jump.  Feel free to discuss the deal in the meantime.

Just Who Is David Steckel?

David Steckel

Washington Capitals



Mar 15, 1982

Steckel is a big center, he's only 28, and he has a cap hit of $1.1 million/year for the next two seasons.  He has not been and probably will never be a point machine.  His most productive season came two seasons ago when he put up 8 goals and 11 assists.   He currently has only 5 goals and 6 assists this season.

2010-11 - David Steckel 57 5 6 11 -3 24 0 1 1 61 8.2 11:34

While he is not an offensive player or a big minute player, Steckel has some useful skills.  His biggest is faceoffs.  Steckel averaged less than 12 minutes on Washington, but he's second on the team in terms of total faceoffs with 670.  What's more is that he won 427 of them.  That's a winning percentage of 63.7% - the highest percentage in the NHL.  

His amazing winning percentage this season is not a fluke.  Last season he was second in the NHL with 59.2% of all draws won (out of 1,076); in 2008-09, he was fifth in the NHL with a faceoff winning percentage of 57.3% (out of 886); and in 2007-08, Steckel was tied for seventh in the NHL with success rate of 56.3% (out of 900).  The guy is a faceoff winning machine, which is a good benefit to have.

Steckel has been primarily used as a defensive player.  While his minutes are low, his quality of competition (0.078) is the second highest on the team at 5-on-5 according to Behind the Net.  His Corsi relative to his quality of competition is positive at 0.618, the tenth highest on the Caps.  Steckel has one of the lowest quality of teammates on the team, and that's reflected in his -2.121 Corsi relative to quality of teammates - the 21st highest value on the team.

His on-ice Corsi rate is -4.00, which isn't good by itself.  It means the puck isn't going forward when he's playing.  However, this is mitigated by his zone starts.  Steckel starts a majority of his shifts in his own end of the rink.: 41.3% according to Behind the Net.   Only Andrew Gordon has started in his end at higher rate than Steckel.  Steckel has a zone start difference of 73 more defensive zone starts.  Adjusting the Corsi for zone start turns Steckel's Corsi rate positive.  2.31, to be precise.   

For those of you who just glazed your eyes over at all of those numbers, let me put it simply.  He's an excellent faceoff taker and he's a defensive player who has played against tough competition.  I doubt he'll be going up against the toughs. He's only -5 at even strength (16 GF, 21 GA) this season according to Behind the Net.  Figure the adjusted Corsi rate in and he hasn't been getting destroyed by the opposition's best players.

On top of this, Steckel has penalty killing experience.  According to, he's averaged 1:42 of shorthanded ice time per game with the Capitals this season; 2:51 per game last season; 3:48 per game in 2008-09; and 3:46 per game in 2007-08.  Interesting that it has gone down in recent seasons, I wonder why? I'm not familiar enough with the Capitals to know for sure.  However, he's not completely out of the mix on penalty killing units, so at he hasn't played himself off of that special team.

What Can We Expect from Steckel?

Given that he's awesome on draws, Steckel gives Jacques Lemaire another option at center for important draws at either end of the rink.  His past penalty killing experience, while reduced this season in Washington, should be enough to get regular PK work in New Jersey.  His PK time will likely remain where it is, since Patrik Elias, Travis Zajac, Brian Rolston, and Vladimir Zharkov have been regulars on that end of special teams.  He's not going to suddenly be the first option at forward in a 4-on-5 situation.  Just a viable one.

I do think he'll get a chance to play on the third line.  While he has been on the fourth line this season in Washington, that he was traded for Arnott allows for a simple swapping of spots.  A big center for another big center.  A veteran with a mostly offensive skillset replaced by a in-prime player with a mostly defensive skillset. Whether he'll stay on the third line will be determined by whether he plays well with Zharkov and Mattias Tedenby.  Can he keep up with them? Can he use his size to support them? Will they mesh? Most of all, can they perform better against competition at evens?  If Steckel can help ensure that the third line doesn't get pinned back on a regular basis, then that would be a huge boost for all involved.  Except for the opposition, of course.

One possible side effect of the deal that I hope happens is that Jacob Josefson does not suit up for the Devils again this season.  With Steckel, the Devils are set at center and have two wingers who can play center if necessary (Dainius Zubrus, Adam Mair).  He can go back to Albany, play in all situations and for more minutes in the AHL, and his contract can slide for this season - which is the smart thing to do, in my opinion.

My Overall Take on the Deal

Given that Arnott is an impending unrestricted free agent in addition to being 36, having an injury history, and not enjoying the best of seasons in New Jersey, any return has to be seen as a positive.  It's not like today was the Jason Arnott sweepstakes. Getting an NHL center who has valuable skills along with a second round pick in the future is more than a fine return.

However, there is a downside to this deal, and it's not that the Devils still don't have a guaranteed second round pick for the 2011 draft.  The fact is that Steckel has a cap hit of $1.1 million/year for the next two seasons on his contract.  This is not a big deal for this season, since Arnott's big contract went elsewhere.  It's a big deal for the summer.  The Devils didn't have a lot of space for this coming offseason to begin with, now they have about $7.2 million left.    Sure, they now have one less player to sign.  However, trying to re-sign Zach Parise and retain other players is now that much more difficult.   I hope there's going to be a few more before the draft to give the Devils some badly needed cap space for 2011-12.

Outside of that rather important problem, I'm fine with the deal made.  It'll look worse if it seriously hinders the Devils trying to make the important signings (Parise) this summer.  It'll look a lot better if that 2012 second round draft pick turns out to be a NHL player.  I'll admit that's a shot in the dark since it could be a late pick  unless Washington collapses next season.   One last point, Arnott's basically done in New Jersey unless he signs for a ridiculously low salary.  With Steckel on the books, and the real possibility of Jacob Josefson cracking the lineup next season.

Your Take

Now that I've laid out what I could find about what kind of player Steckel is, what he excels at (faceoffs), what he doesn't (point production), and other information, I want to know what you think.  Where do you expect him to play? What do you expect from Steckel in the remaining 20 games of the season?  Do you like the trade (no poll because I want to read reasons)?   Please let me know of your thoughts and feelings on the trade in the comments. Thank you for reading.


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