The question in the headline has been weighing on me for the last month or so, and finally became worthy of an article when Ryan Dzingel was made a healthy scratch for Game 2 of this series against the Boston Bruins in favor of Alex Wennberg.
Dzingel was considered an important acquisition for Jarmo Kekalainen and the Columbus Blue Jackets at the trade deadline, but has this deal been a failure?
First, let’s look at a stat comparison. This shows his numbers last season in Ottawa, this regular season (split between his time in Ottawa and his time in Columbus), and finally his playoff numbers from this past month.
Ryan Dzingel Stats
There’s the obvious disclaimer that we’re dealing with some small sample sizes with his time in Columbus: just 21 regular season games and six playoff games.
The first thing that jumps out at me is how much more offensive zone starts he’s earning in Columbus than in Ottawa, when he was getting first line minutes with Matt Duchene. Despite these starts, his possession numbers are below 50%. That’s not what you want out of a top player.
The other thing that jumps out is that while he’s a good shooter, that shot has dried up in the playoffs. The more games the Jackets play in this postseason, the more likely that he will score a goal. Per Natural Stat Trick’s expected goals metric, Dzingel is ninth on the team with 0.73. This is ahead of Seth Jones, whose figure is 0.42 and yet has scored two goals so far. Dzingel is sixth if you break ixG per a 60 minute rate, behind five players who have scored multiple goals.
But it’s not all luck working against Dzingel. Another part of the problem is that he’s just not shooting enough. He went from shooting nearly three times on goal per game in Ottawa this season to just once per game in Columbus.
He is seventh on the team in the postseason with 6.27 shots per 60 minutes of even strength play. He is fifth with 12.53 shot attempts per 60, but falls to ninth with just 7.16 unblocked shot attempts per 60. In addition, he has no rush attempts and no rebounds created.
The last stat there concerns me, because it suggests he’s just shooting directly at the goalie’s chest. Those shots are saved and it doesn’t create any opportunities for a teammate who may be near the net. The lack of rush attempts is disappointing as well, considering his speed. It should be a great asset to break through the Boston defense, but that hasn’t come to fruition.
The difference between Corsi and Fenwick suggests there’s something about the type of shots he’s taking that make them susceptible to being blocked. That is something that could be fixed through video review and practice.
What may be holding him back? Certainly the lack of minutes hurts. In addition to less 5v5 minutes, he has also seen his power play time reduced greatly. He played 125 minutes on the PP with Ottawa in 57 games, but just 12 minutes in 21 games in Columbus, and none in the playoffs. But in both scenarios, who would you bump to give Dzingel more minutes? Most of the players above him have done more to earn their time. Hell, even the much-maligned Brandon Dubinsky and Riley Nash have delivered strong performances in the playoffs, making plays at both ends of the ice.
You also cannot blame his quality of teammates. He has spent 49:37 minutes with Matt Duchene in the playoffs, and just 16:16 without. In the 21 regular season games after they were reunited with the Jackets, the split was 166:25 together and 115:09 away from Duchene. Joining a new team is an adjustment, sure, but you’d think playing with a familiar linemate would have helped. Instead, Dzingel actually had a better CF% without Duchene than with (50.00 to 45.39).
What is next?
Dzingel is one of a handful of major free agents which the Blue Jackets will be trying to re-sign this summer. At the time of the trade, both Dzingel and Kekalainen expressed interest in making a deal.
On Dzingel’s end, he is familiar with Columbus from his time at Ohio State. For the Jackets, his presence could perhaps help sway Duchene to re-sign as well, and the price to pick him up (two second round picks and Anthony Duclair, who will be a restricted free agent) suggest that the team viewed him as more than just a rental.
What would it cost to keep him? He is coming off a two year bridge deal that paid him $1.8 million per season. In recent Jackets history, Boone Jenner and Cam Atkinson each signed a two year contract after their ELC just like Dzingel did. Boone’s carried an AAV of $2.9 million while Cam’s carried one of $1.15 million. The former got an extension after that of four years at $3.75 million per, while the latter got an extension of three years at $3.5 million per. However, each of those was negotiated while they were still restricted free agents. Dzingel is two or three years older than they were, and is an unrestricted free agent. This is first chance for a big payday, and he has all the leverage.
Jenner had one 30 goal season and nothing else over 20, while Cam had two consecutive 20 goal seasons before signing his extension. Dzingel also has consecutive 20 goal seasons.
Would four years at $3.6 million AAV work for Dzingel? It would double the length and annual value of his current contract. For Columbus, it would be a steal for a player who can score 20 goals, but overpriced if he cannot. There’s also the risk of committing to him until age 31 on a team that is young and getting younger.
Let’s talk this out in the comments. Do you share my concerns about Dzingel’s play, or are you happy with the trade? Do you think we should still re-sign him this summer, and if so, for what term and value?