Weekly Question: Should the Senators Trade for Adam Larsson?

Some rumblings indicate that Adam Larsson may be up for grabs from the New Jersey Devils. Should the former 4th overall pick be a potential target for the Ottawa Senators?

The question for this week is: Should the Senators trade for Adam Larsson of the New Jersey Devils?

I've seen a few tweets like these over the past few weeks and I can't help but think Larsson will be traded sooner than later.

The Way Things Were

Adam Larsson was originally drafted 4th overall in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft by the New Jersey Devils, behind only Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Gabriel Landeskog, and Jonathan Huberdeau. At the time of his draft, he was even compared to Nicklas Lidstrom. The young right-handed defenseman was described by Hockey's Future as "the complete package, capable of taking over a game with his size, skating and elite two-way skills." They also wrote that he can rush, shoot, and pass well, even though he may never put up high point totals. He had a strong rookie season, but if we look at his basic statistics below, it's obvious that he's had some struggles over the past few seasons. Part of these issues have been due to injury, as he missed quite a few games over his career with knee, shoulder, and thigh injuries. Having to recuperate so many times early into his career may have contributed to his slow development.

If we look at the graph below of rookie defensemen from 2011-2012, courtesy of Corey Sznajder of Shutdown Line, we can see a few more things about Larsson's rookie season (I've put a green square around him). Even though these statistics are a few years old and before his injuries, etc., I feel that they indicate the potential that Larsson has and could build on if he's given more opportunity to play.

According to Sznajder, the x-axis indicates the players' offensive zone start percentages, so the further right a player is on the graph, the more offensive zone starts he had. As we can see, Larsson was around 50-50 for zone starts. This could indicate that he was trusted on both ends of the ice. The y-axis indicates his corsi relative to the quality of competition, so the higher up a player is, the tougher the competition he faced. Once again, Larsson was in the middle of the pack, meaning he didn't typically face the toughest competition, nor did he face the easiest competition. To show how well the players did in these situations, Sznajder used the coloured bubbles to show their corsi relative rating. This is how many shots they gave up compared to their teammates. Larsson has a blue bubble, which means he had a positive corsi relative. The size of the bubble is how high the rating is. In this respect, Larsson's bubble is small, meaning he was positive, but not by a staggering number. Regardless, he was still positive, which is a good thing. Overall, these statistics provide some evidence that Larsson had a decent season for a nineteen year old. Nothing here is obviously negative, which is always a positive.

The Way Things Are

Larsson has struggled transferring his skills - especially his skating - to North American ice according to Brandon Worley of Defending Big D. Basically, he's considered to be slow and waits too long to make plays. This could explain why Larsson's minutes have declined over the years (aside from his time missed due to injury). He played the majority of the shortened 2013 season with New Jersey, but only registered six points which undoubtedly failed to impress the Devils. Last season, Larsson split time between the AHL and NHL, only suiting up for New Jersey in 26 games. This season, Larsson has only played in one of the Devils' eight games and he has been a healthy scratch for the others.

From what I've read, Larsson had a strong pre-season so it's a bit strange that he's been out of New Jersey's lineup this frequently already. I suspect that his development might not progress any further under the watch of Peter DeBoer at this point, especially if he doesn't allow him to play. Devils fans and bloggers alike have been questioning DeBoer's player usage early in the season. He's been playing, in their opinions, players like Bryce Salvador (no doubt because Salvador is the captain) and Marek Zidlicky ahead of Larsson, despite some glaring mistakes on their part. Indeed, if DeBoer is more of the problem than Larsson, a change of scenery and a second chance could be all that Larsson needs to get back on track.

The Way Things Could Be

The risk vs. reward factor comes into play when considering whether the Senators should pick up Larsson. One risk is Larsson's injury history. He has a tendency to get hurt often and the Senators may not be willing to take a chance on a player who may (a) get hurt again and miss considerable time and (b) who could truly have lingering issues that are affecting his play. The brings us to the second risk, his play. The Senators currently have their own lightning rod, Jared Cowen, who's career to date has been similar to Larsson's. This might make some hesitant about trading for Larsson because it could mean having not one, but two Cowens.

The rewards, however, could be that the Senators gain a dark horse who proves that he needed out of New Jersey. Our first-line centreman, Kyle Turris, was in a similar situation in Phoenix (now Arizona), but he's blossomed quite nicely in the Nation's Capital. Ottawa might be a good destination for Larsson too, given that he'll have a group of young guys - including some young, fellow Swedes - to play with and that the Senators are a fairly patient organization when it comes to player development. If Larsson improves his play and is given a second chance, he could provide some stability to the Senators blueline. Ultimately, one of the most important things to remember about Larsson is that he'll be only 22 in November. He's still young and has time to gain back what made him special when he was drafted. When looking at the list of draftees from that year, plenty of them have yet to make a big splash in the NHL, including Mark Scheifele, Oscar Klefbom, Duncan Siemens, and to some extent, Mika Zibanejad. What I'm getting at here is that he's still young and should be able to improve his play.

Obviously the cost of acquiring Larsson is important. When balancing the risks/rewards of trading for Larsson, Murray will have to consider that Larsson is a restricted free agent at the end of the season (currently has a one-year, $900K contract). In terms of dollars and cents, this makes trading for him relatively low-risk if he's terrible. If he does well, Murray will be given the opportunity to re-sign him. If Murray is enticed by Larsson, what would he be willing to part with that's also attractive to the Devils? Maybe a one-to-one swap of Cowen for Larsson would be enough, but I doubt it.

In all seriousness, I really cannot guess what the Devils would want in return for Larsson, as I haven't seen anything suggesting what they might be looking for. They have around $4M in cap space, so they won't want to take on a big contract over Larsson's $900K, unless they really like the offer. I suspect for that reason, Lou Lamoriello may be looking for a combination of cheap roster players, prospects, and draft picks. He doesn't have a lot of leverage, he's essentially trading a one-year contract of hope to another team. I do think if New Jersey decides to trade Larsson, he could end up being a bargain for some lucky team though. Sometimes players don't work out for certain teams and Larsson could be one of them with the Devils. That doesn't mean that Larsson can't work out for another team. Could that be the Senators? I guess time will tell.

Thanks for reading!

Should the Senator take a chance on Adam Larsson?

Yes. He needs a second chance.212
Maybe, depends on who we ship to the Devils.294
No. Do we need Cowen #1 and Cowen #2?55
Decline harder than an Interac purchase.20

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