Capitals Make Bold Trade For Jason Chimera: Our Analysis

Chris Clark and Milan Jurcina in a Blue Jackets Uniform

Chris Clark and Milan Jurcina in a Blue Jackets Uniform. Weird.

The Washington Capitals made a trade this week, picking up Jason Chimera from the Columbus Blue Jackets for Chris Clark and Milan Jurcina. Given that I spent all weekend putting together a spreadsheet trying to approximate the Goals Versus Threshold that Puck Prospectus uses to give an idea of a player’s contributions, I thought it would be a good time to put it to use. I wasn’t able to match their GVT exactly, but I got close enough to make the thing potentially viable.

First, on what GVT is:

“To explain in terms already familiar to sports statisticians, GVT is very similar to VORP in baseball: it is the value of a player, in goals, above what a replacement player would have contributed. The fact that GVT is measured in goals is crucial: statistics that divide up “Win Shares”, so that the ratings of a team’s players sum to that team’s number of wins, are very erratic and non-linear, since wins don’t increase or decrease linearly with team caliber. While hockey is ultimately about winning or losing, players’ contributions always come down to scoring goals and preventing them. A player cannot “win” a game, even though he may be put in a situation where scoring a goal or making a key save would create or conserve a win. Each player’s role, no matter his position, is to try and increase the goal differential in favor of his team. An offensive player who scores a hat trick only to see his teammates allow 4 goals against has nevertheless done his job; a goaltender who stops 39 of 40 shots only to lose 1-0 has likewise performed well. Using this standard, all players can be compared by the same yardstick: how much did they help (or harm) their team’s goal differential?…

  • GVT is measured in goals. This makes it a convenient unit that hockey fans are already comfortable with.
  • GVT compares hockey players of all positions and over any period of time.
  • GVT only uses statistics that lead directly to goals. You cannot incorporate goaltender wins into GVT, because they are not a measurement of goals prevented. However, if you can rationally explain what are the odds of a faceoff win (or loss) leading to a goal or goal against, it would be possible to incorporate faceoff wins and losses into GVT, though I have not done so.
  • GVT has built-in accounting. The sum of player GVTs on a team equals that team’s GVT plus the replacement level. This is essential, as player statistics often come with caveats. “Kovalchuk scored 43 goals, but he doesn’t play defense and his team isn’t good”. This makes it much easier to measure “how good would this team be replacing player A with player B?” It is also essential in that player success is correlated with team success, which after all is the entire point of the sport.
  • GVT automatically normalizes for the strength of the league…

GVT does not measure a player’s talent. The statistic measures a player’s contribution to his team’s goal differential. A goaltender that faces zero shots will have a value of zero, regardless of whether he is Patrick Roy or Andrew Raycroft. Likewise, a player that is injured or gets little ice time will see his GVT reduced accordingly. It also does not take into account environment: a player will score more with better linemates, and I make no attempt to adjust for that…

GVT does not measure intangibles. Things like leadership do exist in hockey, and they do help to make your teammates better. However, there is no way to measure this through statistics, and any attempt to quantify it is futile. In effect, we are not trying to see what information is “hidden” in the statistics; we are simply trying to better characterize the information that is at hand”

Alright, on to the trade!

Jason Chimera
Pos: F
Goals: 8
Assists: 9
Games: 39
Offensive Goals Versus Threshold: 1.0

Not a top scorer by any means, but he’ll add a little bit and was projected by VUKOTA (Puck Prospectus’ projection system) to be at +1.4 OGVT for the season (in 60 games). Depending on who’s playing around him on the Capitals, his scoring may even go up.

Plus/Minus: -7
Defensive Goals Versus Threshold: -0.1

Had a +/- of +8 last year, and -5 the year before that. VUKOTA had him contributing more on defense than on offense with a +2 DGVT. Maybe dial that down a touch rate-wise, but as long as he’s playing more that might be accurate as a raw number.

Overall, Chimera looks like around a 3-4 GVT player. With 6 goals being a win, and one win being worth about $3 M on the open market, that would make Chimera worth about $1.5 to $2 M. He’s going to be paid $1.875 M both this season and next, so his contract looks just about on the button. One could theoretically take into account the amount by which acquiring Chimera increased the Capitals’ chances of making the playoffs (where is certainly worth something), but I think the effect would be negligible.

Chris Clark
Pos: F
Goals: 4
Assists: 11
Games: 38
Offensive Goals Versus Threshold: -1.2

Clark wasn’t expected to add much on offense – VUKOTA projected him at just 0.1 OGVT – but it seems he’s done even less than that.

Plus/Minus: -4
Defensive Goals Versus Threshold: -0.8

He was projected to have a +0.6 DGVT this season.

Overall, the 33 year-old isn’t a major contributor to the team. He makes $2.63 M this season and $2.63 M more next season before his contract is up, so in some respects it’s a plus just to get that off the books.

Milan Jurcina
Pos: D
Goals: 0
Assists: 4
Games: 28
Offensive Goals Versus Threshold: -1.0

The guy isn’t exactly a scoring defenseman. He had just 3 goals and 11 assits last season, and is likely around zero with the OGVT in the near future.

Plus/Minus: 0
Defensive Goals Versus Threshold: -1.0

VUKOTA had projected Jurcina to be a +2.9 DGVT player this season, and with numbers this small the precision becomes an issue. Maybe say he’s a +2 DGVT (for a full season) guy going forward.

Overall, Jurcina hasn’t played all that well and despite his size isn’t an impact defenseman. He’s making $1.375 M this season, and will be an unrestricted free agent. At -2 Goals Versus Threshold, Jurcina wouldn’t actually be worth anything. As a 2 GVT player (all on defense), he would be worth about $1 M. Therefore he was just worth his salary at best, and isn’t a loss to the team.

I’d say the Capitals pretty clearly came out ahead here – maybe by $5 M in value (which might not sound like a lot, but could cover most of Semin’s contract extension) – dealing couple of guys who didn’t contribute much and were possibly paid more than they’re worth for a player who will at least add something to the team and might even be a (very) small bargain.