For the last few years, Tyler Bozak has been the centre of many, many trade rumours. Because of the youth movement in Toronto, it seems likely that this summer we will actually see a trade for Tyler Bozak. Bozak is a player whose value is incredibly hard to gauge, because of the large variance in opinion on him. Some see him as a high end, scoring 2nd line centre with defensive flaws, some as bottom six forward at best, and I’ve even heard people say he doesn’t belong in the NHL. So how do we determine Bozak’s value? Well, really unless we’re inside the front office of the Leafs and their trade partner, whomever that may be, we don’t really know how much they value Bozak as a player. What we can do is find similar players to Bozak and look at what their trade value was. This should give us some better insight into Bozak’s true value.
I started off by calculating player similarity, with a focus on possession numbers and offensive production. (On the pie chart you can see exactly what my inputs, and their values were, for the stats nerds who are interested). My findings were pretty interesting.
|Player||Similarity to Bozak|
|David Legwand (2007-2016)||94.15%|
|Martin Erat (2007-2016)||93.40%|
|Brenden Morrow (2007-2015)||92.71%|
|Mikael Granlund (2012-2016)*||92.48%|
|Jussi Jokinen (2007-2016)||92.14%|
|Michael Nylander (2007-2009)*||92.00%|
|Tyler Ennis (2009-2016)*||91.74%|
|Saku Koivu (2007-2014)*||91.29%|
(the * signifies players who were not traded during the time span indicated)
What’s interesting to me is that the top two players on the list spent the majority of their careers with the Nashville Predators, who seem to constantly looking for depth at centre. What we can do from here is take a look at trades that have featured these players, and compare how they might relate to a potential Bozak deal.
David Legwand was traded from the Preds to the Red Wings in exchange for Patrick Eaves, Calle Jarnkrok (then 22 years old) and a conditional draft pick. Legwand was in the midst of a season that saw him notch 40 points in 62 games, or 0.64 points per game. Bozak is pretty consistently around 0.61, so nearly identical. In terms of points per game (which is by no means a perfect stat, but for the purposes of trade value it works fine) 0.60 is a low end first liner. Legwand was two years older at the time of this trade then Bozak is now, and was a rental player who left via unrestricted free agent. Bozak still has two left at $4.2 million, which is a slightly lower cap hit then Legwand had at the time ($4.5M).
Martin Erat was traded from the Predators, along with Michael Latta for a prospect named Filip Forsberg. It’s fair to say this worked out well for the Predators. Erat lasted a few months in Washington unsuccessfully before asking for a trade when he was demoted to the fourth line, then another trade request when he was a healthy scratch. Now the Maple Leafs are not going to get a Filip Forsberg type player for Bozak. Over the two seasons prior to his trade Erat had 108 points in 135 points, which certainly raised his trade value.
Brenden Morrow, then the Stars captain was in the final year of his deal, and scoring at the points per game of a third liner. When the Stars decided to trade him, the Penguins were interested naturally, because whenever there is an expensive rental winger available for trade, the Penguins are always interested (remember that time Jarome Iginla was a Penguin?). Pittsburgh traded Joe Morrow (of no relation) and a fifth round pick to the Stars in exchange for Brenden Morrow, and he went on to produce 14 points in 15 games to end the regular season, then 4 points in 14 playoff games. Morrow made the Olympic team at the 2010 games, and came home with gold medal. The problem with the Morrow trade is that he was 34 at the time of the trade, and because of his more physical style he had already declined pretty significantly. Had he been closer to Bozak’s age, the return would have been much higher.
Jussi Jokinen has one of the weirder trade histories I’ve read about. For a player who has averaged 52 points per 82 games throughout his entire career, he sure gets tossed around like a bottom six plug. He was originally part of the deal that brought Brad Richards to the Dallas Stars from the Lightning (Jussi Jokinen, Mike Smith, Jeff Halpern and a fourth-round draft pick in exchange for Brad Richards and Johan Holmqvist), but less than a year later the Lightning waived him, then traded him to the Hurricanes for Wade Brookbank, Josef Melichar and a 2009 fourth-round draft pick. He played three successful seasons in Carolina, then when he got off to a somewhat slow start to the 2012-2013 season, he was waived again, then traded to the Penguins for a conditional 6th or 7th round pick. In a way, it’s not unlike Bozak, a player who consistently puts up good numbers but gets crap because people have decided he’s not a good player for whatever reason.
Where Might Bozak End Up?
Now that we’ve taken a look at similar players, we have a better idea of what his actual value is, but where would Bozak be a good fit? Personally I believe he’d be most effective on a team that could play him on the third line, but still give him ample minutes and talented linemates, similar to what we saw from Nick Bonino in Pittsburgh this year. Here are some teams that I figured might make a good suitor for Bozak.
If there was one weakness on this team, it was lack of depth at centre. The top two lines are set with Nicholas Backtrom and Evgeny Kuznetsov, but after that it gets real thin. Mike Richards and Jay Beagle did not cut it down the stretch. Bozak would be a great improvement over either of those two, and because of the strength of their top six forwards, Bozak would be given the chance to play weaker competition and maybe shelter him a bit more on the defensive side of things where he struggles at times. The Caps don’t have tons of cap space but the Leafs could retain on Bozak, or take a bad contract in order to get a deal done.
New York Islanders
If the Isles are going to be losing Frans Nielsen, they’ll need someone to pick up some of the slack. That person is not Tyler Bozak. Nielsen plays a heavy defensive role and is darn good at it. It is likely Anders Lee that will see a boost in his minutes, but Bozak could easily take over where Lee left off. The Isles don’t have a second round pick this year which might complicate things. I suspect a Bozak deal will likely be in the neighbourhood of two second round picks.
There is a growing sense among those loyal to the Canes that they could contend for a playoff spot this year. It’s not all that unrealistic either. They’ve got two very talented centres in Jordan Staal and Victor Rask, some of the best young defensmen in the NHL, a great strategist in head coach Bill Peters and a nice collection of young wingers, headlined by Elias Lindholm and the newly acquired Teuvo Teravainen. Bozak could really solidify that forward group and bring a new dimension the the Hurricanes attack. High end skill on forward is not their strength. But if they could transform themselves into a team that can roll 3 scoring lines, they would be a legit playoff threat. Bozak is exactly the type of player the Canes should be looking for. He’s underrated, he carries a decent sized cap hit to help them get to the floor, but not large enough to make it an albatross. He doesn’t need to play a defensive role because that’s what they have Jordan Staal for. He has plenty of NHL experience but is still young enough to contribute. Also he can play top six if he needs to, should Rask or Staal go down for an extended period of time.
Now I have no inside knowledge of the workings of NHL teams. If you can show me 3 NHL teams, I could probably give you at least 2 that aren’t satisfied with their depth at centre. So there should be a market for Bozak, even if it means keeping him until the trade deadline, which wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world. Ideally the Leafs wouldn’t have to retain anything on Bozak, but if it increases the return then of course. Now it’s time for Lou to call up Nashville and ask if they want David Legwand 2.0 in exchange for Filip Forsberg!