My last article took a look at Jakob Chychrun of the Arizona Coyotes as a possible Leafs trade target.
Chychrun is a great player on a great contract, but there are a few things that could prevent him from winding up in Toronto:
- Given the current bidding war for Chychrun, the price could end up higher than what the Leafs are comfortable with.
- He’s just started to play the right side, so the Leafs might not feel confident that he can play there permanently.
- While his contract is a bargain, the Leafs would have to make some considerable trade-offs to fit in his $4.6 million cap hit for next season, and it’s difficult to pay for salary retention for a player with four years of term. Perhaps Chychrun is their top option, but they certainly need to have a backup option or two at the ready if they are set on upgrading their defense.
Enter Carson Soucy of the Seattle Kraken.
The 27-year old is a left-shooting defenseman who would cost far less than Chychrun and has plenty of experience playing the right side. His cap hit is a reasonable $2.75 million through next season, which is just $750k more than Justin Holl.
While the Kraken do not necessarily have to trade Soucy, they’ll get more for him if they trade him at this year’s deadline rather than moving him as a rental next year. With Adam Larsson, Jamie Oleksiak, Haydn Fleury, and Jeremy Lauzon in the fold, if there’s any team that can afford to trade a big defenseman, it’s the Kraken.
Plucked by Seattle from Minnesota over Kaapo Kahkonen in the expansion draft, Soucy is a 6’5″ defender who is a strong skater and puck mover for a player of his size. He’s played primarily with Jamie Oleksiak this season, which I have to assume is the tallest pairing in the league. While he can play the left side when needed, he’s shifted over to the right side for the majority of the season.
Carson Soucy By The Numbers
A bit of a late bloomer, Soucy has only 145 NHL games under his belt. However, he’s graded out quite well in terms of Evolving Hockey’s goals above replacement (GAR), expected goals above replacement (xGAR), and RAPM. He’s graded out well defensively by RAPM in all three of his NHL seasons. While many of his minutes in Minnesota came on the third pairing, he is matching up against top lines more often with Seattle.
In terms of GAR and xGAR, I decided to take out special teams impacts knowing the Leafs don’t care how defense targets perform on the power play given that they have Morgan Rielly, Rasmus Sandin, and Topi Niemela in the organization.
Soucy has graded out as a slight positive on both special teams over the course of his career, but I mainly use these statistics to gauge even-strength impact. Given his size, I’m not overly worried about his ability to kill penalties.
Even Strength GAR and xGAR Per 60 Minutes
153 defensemen have played 2000+ minutes over the past three seasons. Here is how Soucy ranks in terms of GAR and xGAR on a per-minute basis:
|Statistic||Number||Rank (of 153)|
|EV GAR/60 (Without Penalty Diff)||0.505||9th|
|EV GAR/60 (With Penalty Diff)||0.441||18th|
|EV xGAR/60 (Without Penalty Diff)||0.412||26th|
|EV xGAR/60 (With Penalty Diff)||0.348||32nd|
That’s pretty darn impressive, especially if you ignore penalty differential. While I don’t think we can ignore penalty differential completely, the refs are known to put the whistles away a little bit come playoff time.
Here is the list of players who rank ahead of him if we ignore penalty differential:
GAR: Ellis, McAvoy, Weegar, Makar, Hamilton, Pulock, Fox, Toews.
xGAR: Hamilton, Spurgeon, Makar, Weegar, Ekblad, DeAngelo, Toews, Fox, McAvoy, Matheson, Petry, Hedman, Orlov, Werenski, Grzelcyk, Pelech, Theodore, Josi, Holden (?), Carlson, Chychrun, Sanheim, Gosisbehere, Ellis, Fowler.
Not bad, eh?
Examining Soucy’s Fit In Toronto
Soucy is a near-perfect fit with the Leafs.
To start, his ability to play either side effectively is valuable knowing he can shift back over to the left side if one of Jake Muzzin, Rielly, or Sandin is injured. The power play is not his calling card, but his 6’5″ frame is an asset on the penalty kill. While he didn’t always face top competition with Minnesota, the Kraken certainly do not shelter him much when he’s paired with Oleksiak or Giordano. He’s used to playing top-four minutes on either side.
Next, Soucy’s a great skater for a player of his size, so his skillset should pair nicely with Muzzin, Sandin, or Lyubushkin. While I wouldn’t call any of those players pylons, they likely all benefit from playing with someone who covers as much ground as Soucy. Sandin also doesn’t offer much in terms of reach, so if he’s going to transition into the top four, you’d like him with a partner who can help to compensate for that.
Finally, unlike more expensive options like Jakob Chychrun, it’s easy to fit Soucy into Toronto’s cap situation for next season. His $2.75 million cap hit is comparable to Justin Holl’s, allowing the Leafs to spend more on their forward depth and goaltending. The Leafs could also pay for salary retention in a trade for Soucy, whether it’s from Seattle or a third team. That’s not exactly easy to do when you acquire a player with four years of term like Chychrun.
Soucy isn’t without offensive talent. Over the last three seasons at five-on-five, he’s not far behind Rielly in terms of points per minute and is about tied with Jake Muzzin (though it’s worth noting that Soucy’s shooting percentage is quite high). He also throws a fair number of hits with a fight card that includes Tanner Pearson, Ryan Getzlaf, and Lawson Crouse over the past calendar year.
Assessing the Cost
Soucy isn’t a household name, so he’s not garnering all that much attention. I haven’t seen him on many trade bait boards, but like Lyubushkin, that’s not a major surprise.
Seattle liked Soucy enough to take him over a good young goalie in Kaapo Kahkonen in the expansion draft, but I do believe they would trade him if the right offer came along. The Kraken are expected to trade Giordano ahead of the trade deadline, but they still have Oleksiak, Larsson, Vince Dunn, Haydn Fleury, Jeremy Lauzon, and Will Borgen under the team’s control for next season.
The Kraken are far removed from the playoff race, so they’d only get one season of value out of Soucy’s bargain contract. Perhaps they think they can extend him at a below-market rate, but he might not be considered a core piece for them at the moment.
Unlike when the Vegas Golden Knights came into the league, the Kraken haven’t stockpiled many draft picks yet. They don’t have any extra picks in the first three rounds of this year’s draft. Perhaps they would want a first-rounder for Soucy, but a second-round pick plus one of Travis Dermott or Justin Holl could be enough.
The Leafs gave up a first-round pick, Sean Durzi, and Carl Grundstrom for two seasons of Jake Muzzin. I don’t think Soucy would cost quite that much — he’s not nearly as established as Muzzin was — but it’s worth noting that he makes $1.25 million less than Muzzin did at the time (and that’s without any extra salary retention). I’d seriously consider giving up an extra pick for a team to retain 50% of his contract, which gives you an extra $1.375 million to use on forwards and goaltending next season.
Having watched plenty of Kraken games this season, they have a few players who I really like: Calle Jarnkrok is a great swiss army knife type of forward, Colin Blackwell and Ryan Donato are a little bit underrated, and Jeremy Lauzon is also quite good on the right side, but you probably don’t need him if you’re acquiring Soucy.
Perhaps you can create a larger trade that works for both sides, but if it’s just Soucy coming the other way, I’d be willing to offer a package that includes a second-round pick plus someone like Alex Kerfoot, Justin Holl, or Travis Dermott. I guess I wouldn’t completely rule out giving up a first-round pick for him either, particularly if there is salary retention or other pieces coming back.
The Leafs have a fair number of NHL defensemen right now, especially if Holl can build off of his performance from last night’s game against Washington. However, Soucy’s ability to play on either side would allow you to move someone like Dermott comfortably. I do see him as an upgrade; given his skating, strength, and long reach, it’s difficult for opponents to generate offense when he’s on the ice.
I believe Soucy can push several players one spot down the depth chart, and if the price is reasonable, acquiring him is worthy of serious consideration.
I see Soucy as pretty close to perfect for the Leafs.
With his size and speed, it feels like he covers half of the ice at all times. He’s also not a bad puck mover. The Leafs could use a player who can throw some hits and fight from time to time. With a skill set that would fill well next to Sandin or Muzzin and the ability to shift over to the left side, Soucy would give the Leafs some flexibility if they traded Dermott.
His numbers are excellent at even strength. Given how great Toronto’s special teams have been, that’s all they really care about. I watched him play on the right side against Boston’s top lines on Thursday night; he was also on the ice when his team killed a five-on-three. He doesn’t always take on the toughest matchups, but he’s not completely inexperienced at it, either.
Given that Rielly and Toronto’s goaltending is set to become more expensive next season, the Leafs could use a cheaper option like Soucy. While I still think someone like Chychrun is worth calling about, depending on where that bidding war ends up, Soucy might be the better bargain.