David Schlemko And The Minnesota Wild’s D Woes

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For the second time this season the Arizona Coyotes have placed 27-year-old defenseman David Schlemko on waivers. Many have suggested that the Minnesota Wild would benefit from claiming Schlemko as a solution to one of the two glaring roster issues the team has this year. (The other being goaltending.)

The problem he solves is twofold: The team needs a third pairing defenseman who doesn’t feel out of place moving into a second pairing role. Nate Prosser is fine in the third pairing, but doesn’t look as good when placed in a second pairing role. Christian Folin is quickly proving he could play his way into a second pairing role and thrive, but a second option would be nice.

Especially a second option that is a left shot. The Wild don’t have a left shot option that far down the lineup. If the team needs a left shot playing up the lineup, they don’t really have an option. Ryan Suter, Jonas Brodin, and Marco Scandella are all left shots, but are firmly placed inside the top four. Friday night saw Prosser playing the left side in the third pairing again, something Yeo has been hesitant to do in the past.

If Yeo wants a left shot in the third pairing, he’s currently got Folin, Prosser, Matt Dumba, Jonathon Blum, Justin Falk, and Stu Bickel as options in the third pairing and of them only Falk is a left shot. The addition of Schlemko, a left shot, could solve that problem. It doesn’t say much about Yeo’s confidence in Falk that Yeo would rather play Prosser on his off-hand — something that kept Prosser out of the lineup last year — instead of keeping Falk on the roster.

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Schlemko has been in the doghouse in Arizona for a while. Schlemko has 207 total games of experience spread over the course of seven seasons. He scored four goals in the 2010-11 campaign, but hasn’t posted more than a single goal in any other season. He has a career-high of ten assists, which he’s done twice.

His possession numbers aren’t anything to write home about either. They aren’t awful, but he’s had a negative Corsi For Relative in three of the six seasons where he’s played any significant time. That’s tempered by having a negative relative offensive zone starts in four of those seasons.

However, Schlemko may be trending upward. Last season he played a career-high 48 games and posted a 53.4% Corsi For, that was 5.4% CF%Rel. Not a bad mark on a team that was just barely into positive possession numbers at 50.5%. That wasn’t with protected usage either. He had a -.2% ZSO%Rel.

This season he’s posted a 49.2% CF% through 20 games, good for a -1.4% CF%Rel with -1.4% ZSO%Rel. He’s bounced around a fair amount when he’s been in the line-up, possibly making it a little difficult to settle into a rhythm, spending about equal time at even strength with Michael Stone, Zbynek Michalek, and Connor Murphy.

Here’s where Schlemko situates himself inside the struggling Coyotes’ blue line group.

There’s a lot about Schlemko’s game that seems to fit the Wild’s immediate needs at a low cost. He’s in the final year of his contract with a cap hit of $1.19M. He’s a left shot defenseman with some experience and a stay-at-home build. You could read into his stats and see that he’s becoming a decent possession guy and could shore up some of the serious depth problems the Wild have when a top four defenseman goes out with injury or illness.

On the other hand, his offensive upside is low and there isn’t necessarily a lot of evidence that assures us that his possession game could really by on the upswing. Schlemko is serviceable, but a trade for a guy like Jeff Petry may still be the team’s best option. Petry can play up the lineup more easily, though he’s a right shot. We do know at this point that the Oilers are going to be sellers this season — they traded David Perron to Pittsburgh yesterday — and Petry could be had.

Will this happen?

While waiver claims happen less frequently than we like to talk about them, they do happen. Earlier this season the Columbus Blue Jackets claimed defenseman Kevin Connauton off waivers from the Dallas Stars (you may remember he grabbed his first goal of the season against the Wild on New Year’s Eve). And when the Edmonton Oilers saw that the Nashville Predators had placed Derek Roy on waivers they used the opportunity to make a trade for the winger, seeing that he’d fallen out of favor with the Preds.

Will this one happen? It’s not super likely, but waiver claims aren’t free, so the Wild would likely want to be certain that they’d use Schlemko if they’re grabbing him. Schlemko could fit into a third pairing role and his being a left shot is useful, but I’m not sure he plays into a second pairing role any better than Prosser does. And I don’t think he’s a better option in a second pairing than Folin, but that assumes that we’re judging only on skill and not valuing handedness. (Though with three left shots in the top four, keeping a left shot in the third pairing makes moving a guy like Folin, Dumba, or Blum into the second pairing a little easier.) He’s on a one-way contract and if he doesn’t work out he’ll cost the team money and leave them in the same situation they’re in now. In a third pairing role, he makes the team better.

To be honest, if the Oilers are sellers again this year, it may make sense for them to grab him and trade another D-man for picks. Schlemko’s cost and term fit the bill for a full-on rebuild if that’s what they’re going for.

If the Wild claim him off waivers we’ll know at noon EST on Saturday.

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Update:
The Star Tribune’s Michael Russo mentioned Schlemko as an option for the Wild in an article today.

Arizona Sports Hub also mentioned around 10:55am that they have sources saying the Wild are “seriously considering” claiming Schlemko. They don’t give sources for information and I’m not super familiar with their track record, so take that with a grain of salt.

The Russo mention may be more telling.

Update 2:
Dallas has claimed Schlemko off waivers. Friday night’s win put the Wild ahead of Dallas, meaning Dallas had waiver priority. Friday’s win may be the reason Schlemko isn’t playing for the Wild this season.

So much for this follow up tweet to the above one: