On the surface, the trade of Jussi Jokinen for Mike Cammalleri makes sense for both the Edmonton Oilers and the Los Angeles Kings. Both players are capable NHL forwards in the late stages of their careers. They were both recently bought out of their contracts following the 2016/17 season, and then signed as depth forwards at a reasonable price point and term. They’re low risk assets at this point with the potential of being regular offensive contributors. Considering their ages, it’s probably wiser to keep expectations low, but in the right situation an NHL team could get good value out of them.
In his 15 games this season with Los Angeles, Cammalleri put up some points but gradually saw a reduction in his ice-time due to the emergence of some younger forwards including Adrian Kempe and Alex Iafallo. And although Jokinen posted some excellent shot-share numbers in Edmonton, he wasn’t able to contribute much offence, only registering one assist and being a healthy scratch for a few games. After the team’s poor start, his name popped up in trade gossip, signalling the end was near for his time in Edmonton.
While Jokinen could be considered a better all-round player, it was Cammalleri’s scoring history that likely caught the attention of Oilers management and forced the trade. While the Oilers did a good job limiting the shots against when Jokinen was on the ice this year and often had possession of the puck, Jokinen couldn’t help where the team had been struggling most this season: scoring goals.
After 18 games, Edmonton ranks among the top five in the league when it comes to any of the adjusted rate of shot-metrics, whether it be shot attempts, unblocked shot attempts or actual shots on goal. Unfortunately for the Oilers, they can’t buy a goal, posting the second worst team shooting percentage in the league with 6.12% at even-strength. Their goals per hour rate of 1.87 is the fourth worst in the league, a significant drop from last season when they posted a rate of 2.36 goals per hour, eighth in the league and second in the western conference.
So in a way the Oilers acquiring Cammalleri makes sense. His career shooting percentage prior to this season was 12.1% across all game states, and 13.0% over the last five seasons. His ability to convert shots into goals is above league average, which is typically around 10% among NHL forwards. And he’s an upgrade in shooting talent when compared to players like Ryan Strome (8.7% shooting percentage over 258 games) and rookies like Kailer Yamamoto and Jesse Puljujaarvi who are both still developing and figuring out how to score at the NHL level.
McLellan recently addressed the teams issue of not being able to convert on their chances, and how Cammalleri could help.
“He’s a shooter. Since he’s entered the league, the one thing he has is an incredible shot and a quick release.”
“Given [our] lack of scoring, we think he can come in and use that shot. It’s not that we haven’t created opportunities, we just haven’t finished a lot of them. If we can continue to create and he happens to be the receiver of some of those passes, maybe we can get a little more offence out of him.” (Source: Edmonton Oilers)
This is all well and good. But I can’t help but think of the path the Oilers took to get Cammalleri, what the process was, the rationale for the preceding transactions, and if there have been any improvements.
First of all, the Oilers sent away a proven NHL forward who could play across the lineup, and potentially help on special teams. Jokinen didn’t get the results he wanted in his short stay in Edmonton, but he did post 1.86 points per hour at even-strength over the last five seasons prior to this year, which is slightly higher than Cammalleri’s rate of 1.73 over the same stretch. When it comes to shooting ability, Cammalleri has the edge posting a very solid 13.0% shooting percentage over the past five seasons across all game-states, while Jokinen has converted 11.0% of his shots into goals. Career-wise, the two are actually even with both posting a 12.1% shooting percentage. The Oilers gave up a more all-round player for someone that’s a little more one-dimensional.
The interesting thing here is that Jokinen was originally signed by the Oilers to fill the role and skill set left vacant following the buyout of Benoit Pouliot’s contract. The two have similar careers, were each on similar long-term deals, had a history of good possession numbers, and were able to play in the top six and contribute on special teams. It was a bit of a lateral move, with the Oilers saving some money and re-allocating their risk in a veteran player coming off of a down-year.
So in a way, Cammalleri is now replacing Pouliot as the experienced forward who can produce in a top six role. Cammalleri doesn’t have the underlying shot numbers like Pouliot or the versatility, but at least he can help with scoring goals.
Here’s the thing though: Cammalleri isn’t really an upgrade to Pouliot when it comes to converting shots into goals. While some may focus on the bad penalties, it’s easy to miss the fact that Pouliot’s shooting percentage over the past five seasons is identical to Cammalleri’s. Add to the fact that Pouliot also has a better rate of point production, he would probably be a pretty good fit right now for the Oilers and provide a little more to the team than Jokinen and Cammalleri.
Between 2012/13 and 2016/17
|Player||Games||Points/60 (5v5)||Shooting% (All states)|
The money the Oilers saved from buying out Pouliot hasn’t been allocated to improve the roster, making it hard to understand the Oilers rationale for parting with him. Considering that management tried to replace Pouliot’s role and production with Jokinen, and then tried to improve their shooting percentage by bringing in Cammalleri, the Oilers appear to be making important roster decisions without a real plan or foresight.
Acquiring Jokinen in the offseason made sense, but the Oilers should’ve known that they’d be needing shooting talent and some productivity after buying out Pouliot. It was only when the team struggled to score that management pursued shooting talent, which is ironic considering they not only gave up Pouliot, but Eberle as well, in the offseason.
What this thread of transactions indicates, to me at least, is that the Oilers management team does not have a great read on their own players. The fact that they’re making decisions on such small sample sizes and giving up proven scoring talent is troubling and needs to be addressed if they want to build a stronger roster.