Analyzing Trade Rumors: Should the Kings Bring Back Mike Cammalleri?
It is time to bring Mike Cammalleri home?
I've previously argued that the Kings' biggest need is a forward who can drive play and score on the left wing of the second line. So far, Ales Hemsky is the only player who meets all those criteria. Today we'll look at another possible fit: pending UFA Mike Cammalleri.
Right off the bat, we need to dismiss two arguments that unhelpfully dominate the narratives around Cammalleri: his postseason heroics and his terrible plus/minus. To take his postseason play first, Cammalleri's 17 goals in 32 playoff games is undeniably amazing. That's the third best rate among all active players (although seven of those goals were against Marc-Andre Fleury and probably shouldn't count). But 32 games is a tiny sample, so it's important not to draw too many conclusions from his playoff performance. Cammalleri's shot totals in the playoffs are virtually identical his regular season numbers. The difference is a massive spike in shooting percentage. It seems reasonable to conclude that Cammalleri's game is roughly the same in the regular season as the playoffs, but that he has enjoyed much better luck in the latter. This is not to diminish his postseason achievements, only to note that he is unlikely to continue them going forward. It's best to judge him primarily by his regular season accomplishments.
As for Cammalleri's plus/minus, the numbers certainly look awful. His -24 is fourth worst among all NHLers, and 2013-14 will be his fifth consecutive minus season. These plus/minuses are partially the result of playing on miserable Flames teams and partially the result of bad luck. He's had the fourth worst on-ice save percentage of any NHLer this year, which has nothing to do with him being bad defensively and everything to do with Flames goalies being terrible. Don't hold the -24 against him. Cammalleri is actually quite good at defense, as we will see.
Cammalleri is enjoying the best possession season of his career. He's posting the best possession numbers on the Flames despite receiving middling zone starts and playing very tough competition. There is some reason for skepticism about this. It is obviously easier to post gaudy Corsi relatives on bad teams. Furthermore, these impressive results are not in line with Cammalleri's career, over which he has typically been a slightly above average possession player. I'd trust the larger sample of his career numbers more than his recent possession success. Nevertheless, Cammalleri's two-way play is clearly not a weakness, in contrast to the likes of Thomas Vanek. He could play on the Kings' second line without hurting the team's possession game.
Cammalleri's goalscoring ability is rightly considered his best asset. He is a career 11.8% shooter, which would be a nice boost for a Kings team deficient in shooting talent. His scoring has been down a bit this year, but this is mostly bad luck; in fact, his underlying numbers hint at a rejuvenation. After years of decline, Cammalleri's 5v5 shot rates have rebounded to levels close to his prime. He would generate even more shots playing on a dominant puck possession team like the Kings. Cammalleri has also long been one of the NHL's best shot producers on the power play. His assist rate has plummeted this year, but this is probably more bad fortune (he's posted a career low on-ice shooting percentage). His career numbers suggest a perfectly competent passer. Despite his low point totals this year, Cammalleri could significantly contribute to the Kings' goalscoring at even strength and on the power play.
The Fit with LA
Cammalleri is a natural fit on the left wing with Mike Richards and Jeff Carter, and his biggest strengths - goalscoring and power play ability - mesh perfectly with LA's needs. Unfortunately, he carries an unwieldy $6 million cap hit (meaning some salary would have to be sent back) and would likely cost more in trade than Hemsky. While Cammalleri's poor puck luck this year will hopefully drive down the cost, the Kings might have to part with a first round pick or a good prospect to get him. It might be savvier to opt for the cheaper Hemsky instead of giving up significant assets for a rental. Still, if the Kings want to make a splashy move, Cammalleri would be the best choice. He's going to start scoring soon. He would look awfully good doing so on LA's second line.