Saturday, 30 April 2016

RFAs, the Series - Episode 7: Connor Carrick

Continuing on from the last episode on Garret Sparks, today we're going to discuss recently acquired defenseman, Connor Carrick.

Connor Carrick celebrates with Brooks Laich after scoring his first goal as a Maple Leaf. Image courtesy of
When the Toronto Marlies closed out their series on Thursday night, the show was stolen by this very individual. Carrick posted a 5 point night, including a hat trick, to send the Marlies past the Bridgeport Sound Tigers. His point presence was spectacular, with constant control of the puck and creative escape moves. Not to mention his shot was always placed in difficult areas for the goalie. Short side shoulder, between the glove and the pad, far-side corners, etc. 

The Maple Leafs acquired this new defensive prospect in a trade with the Washington Capitals for Daniel Winnik. The Leafs got Carrick and a draft pick in return.

His season stats were split between four teams:

  • 26 points in 47 games with the Hershey Bears
  • 0 points in 3 games with the Washington Capitals
  • 4 points in 16 games with the Toronto Maple Leafs
  • 10 points in 8 games with the Toronto Marlies (including playoffs so far)
For his advanced numbers, this pie chart should show a pretty clear picture of where Carrick stood relative to the league: 

Radar graph of Connor Carrick's percentiles
How this graph works, if you're unsure, is the thick grey circle is league average. If the blue part is bigger for a particular stat, that's a good thing. You'll notice, then, that his possession stats (Rel xGF% and Rel CF% particularly) were very good, while his production stats (P60 and GF%) were very disappointing. This isn't unparalleled for a defenseman still making his way in the NHL by any means.

Carrick is undersized by typical NHL standards, at just 5'10". But, his play style doesn't reflect what you might expect of a small player.  Small defensemen don't make it to the big time without developing the physical tools necessary to succeed despite their stature, and Connor has certainly done that. He is tough, he can hit to separate player from puck, and his strength carrying the puck is at least average.

Where his game needs the most work is the mental side of things. The biggest weakness area exposed in Carrick during his NHL with the Leafs was mistimed pinching. At the AHL level he can get away with more risks because the game is slow enough that he can catch up on a mistake. However, at the NHL level, when you take even a step or a reach towards a pinch when you shouldn't, the opponent can be behind you with the puck before you can say "breakaway". 

So, what?

This contract breakdown will compare significantly to the one I did for Frank Corrado, as the two players are in very similar places in their careers despite Carrick being 2 years the younger.

Both players will be in a short, cheap contract situation. Carrick has the benefit, though, of not being waiver-eligible. So, the strategy I mention in the Corrado post for spending more than he's worth doesn't apply.

Ideal: 1 year, two-way contract worth $750k

Pretty straightforward here, a cheap deal for a young defenseman that failed to produce significantly and only played 19 NHL games the previous year. The two-way component just saves the Leafs some money if Carrick were playing in the AHL.

Realistic: 1 year, one-way contract worth $700k

Once again, this is straightforward. Carrick takes a slight discount here at the NHL level to give himself financial security. Since it's a one-way deal, he'd still make $700k if he were sent down to the minors.

Pessimistic: 1 year, one-way contract worth $900k

This one is probably a bit of a stretch, but you never know. In this case, Carrick's pedigree as a prospect would give him some bargaining weight and force the Leafs to put a bigger price tag on him. This would take a really solid job by his agent, but not out of the realm of possibilities.


In the end, we have a pretty basic evaluation of Carrick. His immediate future is unquestionably with the Maple Leafs. Where he slots into the roster next season will have to be decided in training camp.

Be sure to keep your eye out for Episode 8, where we'll talk Peter Holland.

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