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The Nashville Predators should pursue a trade for Fabian Brunnstrom

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Darren Dreger filed a report last night at TSN indicating that Dallas Stars GM Joe Nieuwendyk is hearing from other teams interested in trading for 2nd-year winger Fabian Brunnstrom, who scored 17 goals in 55 games last year (including a hat trick in his 1st NHL game, against Nashville no less). In May of 2008 he was a highly sought-after free agent, but this season he's gotten off to a slow start on a Stars team loaded with quality forwards.


Fabian Brunnstrom

#96 / Left Wing / Dallas Stars

6-2

203

Feb 06, 1985

GP G A P +/- PIM PPG SHG GWG GTG SOG PCT
2009 - Fabian Brunnstrom 17 1 6 7 -1 6 0 0 0 0 22 4.5

If there's any truth to that report that the market is being tested, then David Poile should be one of those GM's chatting up Nieuwendyk and sounding out options for a deal. This would appear to be a natural fit for all parties involved...

How Brunnstrom fits in Nashville

Let's take a look at his scouting report:

Assets
  • Has good NHL size and blazing speed. Can put a lot of pressure on opposing defenses with his skill and can also score highlight-reel goals.
  • Flaws
  • Lacks consistency, especially in terms of his commitment to playing defense. Needs to shoot the puck more and keep his game simple.
  • Career Potential
  • Flashy scoring winger.
  • Is he the ideal Predator? Maybe not, but he brings to the table exactly those qualities which Nashville needs desperately up front. Put him on the wing with Erat and Legwand, and they've finally got the speedster they haven't had since Paul Kariya left town. Or put him with Colin Wilson and Patric Hornqvist, and get some real offensive pop out of that line.

    A Swede contract

    According to CapGeek.com, Brunnstrom is on an entry-level deal with a base salary of $875,000, and bonuses that could take him to just over $2.2 million. After this season, he'll be a restricted free agent, meaning the Preds should be able to re-sign him for a reasonable sum, particularly since he hasn't had a breakout season yet.

    Suffice it to say that there's very, very few offensively gifted wingers available at that price, who are also still on the rise in their NHL careers, and can be locked up in their next contract. This is a guy that the Preds should be able to afford.

    What price for Fabian?

    What might the Dallas Stars want in trade? The best guess is probably help on defense, where Nashville does boast a bevy of developing talent. If they want to swap 2nd-year forwards that have underperformed so far, there's Ryan Jones available. Of course Nashville is usually hesitant to deal away draft picks, but this might make a suitable situation to do so; the asset being acquired is a 24-year-old NHL sophomore, not an aging veteran headed for free agency.

    Mike Heika in the Dallas News talks about these options:

    It could be draft picks, it could be a young defenseman, it could be a right-handed right wing. I don't think the Stars can take on big money right now, and Brunnstrom only makes about $900,000 (with A-level bonuses that he probably won't reach that could push it to $2.25 million). So unless Tom Hicks surprises us (and he has before), I don't think the Stars will make a move for a proven player with a big contract.

    Well, so much for sending them Martin Erat. Anyway, the Preds do have many of these assets in their stable, and should leverage them to get a guy who can be a difference-maker on the wing.

    An undervalued player

    I wanted to come back to the one deficiency that's often cited about Brunnstrom, his supposed lack of defensive responsibility. His -8 Plus/Minus rating was among the worst on the Stars last year, but if you check out those Stars players when sorted by PDO, Brunnstrom stands out as a potential diamond in the rough.

    PDO is, quite simply, the sum of Shooting Percentage and Save Percentage in 5-on-5 play while a given player is one the ice. 1.000 is considered average, and over the course of a season, teams as a whole converge to a very narrow range of 0.98 - 1.02 or so. For the definitive article in which this idea is laid out, consult mc79hockey.

    On the 2008-9 Stars, Brunnstrom was 2nd-worst on the team with a 0.967 PDO, built upon the Stars scoring on 9.13% of shots when he played (an average figure), and the Dallas goalie putting up an .875 save percentage during his time on the ice. That .875 figure is stupendously awful, as Toronto had the worst performance in the NHL as a team and racked up .898 during 5-on-5 play.

    That smells like a guy who caught bad bounces more than anything else, and happened to be out there when Marty Turco failed to make the save. It's not just that Turco had a bad season (he did), but simply due to randomness, some players will be on the ice when pucks go in more than others, whether they had anything to do with it or not.

    There's precious little evidence that individual skaters (let alone wingers) have much impact on their goalie's save percentage. A team's overall defensive scheme may have such an impact, but not single skaters. When a goal gets scored, however, observers start assigning blame to the skaters who failed to stop it, in a way that they very rarely do when a goalie makes a save to bail the team out.

    Unless the evidence is overwhelming that Brunnstrom is gift-wrapping dangerous scoring chances for his opponents on a regular basis, I'd say that his defensive issues are likely to be overblown, and are artificially depressing his value both to the Stars, and on the trade market in general.

    David Poile should pounce on this opportunity, and land the young, talented goal scorer that he failed to acquire this summer when the Leafs got Phil Kessel. The good news is that this time, the price should be much more affordable - both to make the deal, and to lock up the acquired player for years to come.