Today the Oilers added Mark Fistric from the Dallas South Stars in exchange for a third round draft choice in this year’s Entry Draft. My first impression was that this was a pretty good trade, but then again I’ve been supportive of moves in the past (Nicholls for Ciger!!) that didn’t quite work out. I don’t really know much about the Dallas stars, other then how they practice the occult, so I decided to have a closer look at this young chap.
Here is a look at Fistric’s advanced stats at even strength compared to his new Oiler comparables (Potter, Teubert, Peckham). The top table here shows the raw stats, and the bottom shows the ranks (out of 9 for Oilers defensemen with > 20 GP and 7 Stars defensemen, with the highest meaning better, not the higher raw number). Fistric saw the lowest TOI at even strength in Dallas, while his Oiler peers were all in the bottom half with the Oilers, with Potter buoyed by his fast start. Fistric played middle of the road competition (though Tyler’s post has a longer history that’s not so positive) with middle of the road teammates, while the Oilers generally played against crap with crap. In terms of scoring, Fistric isn’t going to provide much, with a points per minute production lower than even Teubert and Peckham, which is fairly hard for an animate object to accomplish. What he is good at though, seems to be defense, with the lowest goals allowed and the 2nd lowest shots allowed per minute on his team, while his competition on the Oilers was terrible at both (notable exception of Potter at shot prevention). Fistric was a terrible 5th out of 7 on his team in RelCorsi, while the Oiler comps were 2nd, 6th, and 7th out of 9 — sort of a draw here. Fistric is the obvious choice among the defencemen above for penalty prevention, with a 0.8 penalty minutes taken per 60 minutes mark that is closer to the huggable Corey Potter than the similarly-styled Teubert and Peckham. Perhaps the most impressive area is in territorial advantage, where Fistric started in the defensive zone the most on the Stars but ended up in the offensive zone the 3rd most. Quite an accomplishment, when you consider the Oiler comps didn’t really do much with easy zone starts (God, look at Teubert’s zone differential… *punches himself in groin*).
An area where Fistric is likely to be given substantial icetime will be on the penalty kill, as shown by this table:
It’s really only fair to compare Fistric to Peckham in this table, as both Potter and Teubert played less than a minute per game while shorthanded. This shows that Fistric played the worst competition on the PK with the Stars, while Peckham played middle of the road competition. However, Fistric was 4th best on his team in shots against per minute and 3rd best at goal prevention, while Peckham was dead last in shot prevention and in the lower half in goal prevention.
I think this trade shows that the Oilers will play the season without acquiring a legit top 4 defenceman and see how Whitney is playing. With Whitney’s deal expiring after this year, they can wait to make the decision to either resign him based on his play, or reinvest his $4M cap hit in a replacement. Fistric seems to be a solid bottom pairing NHL defenceman, and not a replacement-level fringe guy like Peckham or the other Oiler comparables. His procurement suggests that the Oiler careers of Peckham and Teubert (both similar in style) will likely be numbered, depending on free agency this summer. Speaking of which, I think his $1.475 per year cap hit is a bit high after the new CBA, and the fact that he is a UFA will mean he isn’t due a qualifying offer, and can sign a lower deal if necessary. I haven’t read the new CBA, but potentially being forced to offer a raise to Peckham would be needless considering what he brings to the table. I can see the Oilers walking away from Peckham with Fistric in the fold.
I like the trade. It’s not exactly going to mean many standings points for the team, but Fistric is certainly an upgrade over the other potential #6 D-men. That spot will likely see a funk-ton of penalty kill time, to which Fistric seems more suited than any of the other options to fill. You can quibble about the accuracy of his hitting statistic, but the kid has obviously figured out how to be aggressive without taking many penalties, which is more than you can say for some of the other simians the Oilers have employed lately. I don’t ascribe to the ‘toughness is a prerequisite to winning’ mantra, but it’ll be nice to have a guy on the team who can be tough to play against without resorting to beheading people.
This kid is 26, 6’2″ and 233 lbs. Once upon a time, the Oilers acquired another defensive former first rounder in Jason Smith (who was 25 years old, 6’3″, and 220 lbs) for a 4th and 2nd round draft choices. Smith would go on to play for the team for over 8 years. This kid has a lot of runway ahead of him if he can carve a niche on this team, and can potentially even improve his game to become an everyday player essential to the team. Or, he’ll see a half season here and leave for nothing. Either way, I think it was both an understandable and positive move for the Oilers.