The Martin St. Louis trade got all of the fanfare in Ranger circles yesterday, and deservedly so, but right before the 3:00 deadline Glen Sather sent a 2015 5th-round pick to the Vancouver for in exchange for the 28-year old defenseman Raphael Diaz. While I’d assume the Rangers were just looking for some defensive depth not named Justin Falk, the numbers suggest that Diaz could be a useful piece if given the chance by Alain Vigneault.
Here’s what Andrew Berkshire of Eyes on the Prize had to say about Diaz when he was traded last month from Montreal to Vancouver (in which he calls Diaz “the most unfairly maligned defenseman in Montreal this decade”):
Raphael Diaz came to Montreal from the Swiss National League A already cast as an offensive defenseman due to a relatively slight frame at 5’11″ and 197lbs, with a history of good offensive production. Because of this casting, Diaz’s lack of goal production over the last two seasons has seen people constantly attacking him, but here’s the problem with that, he’s better defensively than offensively.
In fact, he’s better defensively than almost every player on the Montreal Canadiens, including the guy Marc Bergevin handed a $4.1M/year extension to before he laced up a skate this season.
Of all defenseman to play 300 or more minutes last season, Raphael Diaz ranked third in the NHL in fewest goals against every 60 minutes of play with 1.128. This season that number has risen to 1.719, but remains the best mark on the Canadiens by a significant margin.
That’s a pretty nice little factoid at the end there. So Diaz hasn’t scored as much as people thought he would, but he hasn’t been anywhere near a defensive liability, either. Just goes to show how good NHL teams are at evaluating defenseman.
While Diaz has never posted a Corsi% at or above the 50% mark, he’s spent the majority of his career playing for terrible possession teams (the 11/12 and 13/14 Montreal Candiens). This season in particular his possession numbers have taken a hit from playing 159 minutes with Douglas Murray, the butt of many statistically-inclined jokes. In those 159 minutes, the pairing had a 41.4 Corsi% and Montreal scored just 14.3% of the goals scored with them on the ice. In Diaz’s time spent away from Murray, he’s posted a strong 50.2 Corsi%.
For comparison’s sake, here’s Raphael Diaz and Kevin Klein this season (click to embiggen).
It’s really quite easy to make a case that Diaz is better than Klein. While I’d be surprised if Diaz gets the chance to play over Klein, with the former being typecast as a failed offensive defenseman and a UFA at season’s end while the latter is thought of as a dependable, stay-at-home defenseman under contract for four more seasons, the Rangers stand to gain something by making this simple swap.
I don’t mean to gush over the addition of Raphael Diaz. There’s a reason he’s been traded for Dale Weise and a 5th-round pick in the span of one month. But I do think this is an under the radar acquisition that strengthens the bottom of the Rangers lineup.