Don’t laugh, don’t get angry, don’t ignore the rest of the post. I’m serious on this one. Michal Rozsival could be a good temporary solution to the defensive depth issues we saw during the Rangers playoff run this year.
His name brings out the boo birds at MSG, and to be honest, it’s easy to see why. Many looked at his contract, that $5 million per year contract, and saw that Rozsival should be putting up better numbers. He shouldn’t be sitting back and playing fairly well in the defensive zone, he should be up on the powerplay and helping make it go. He did not, thus he was booed.
That’s why Rozi might be such a fit for the Rangers: He doesn’t need to be that guy to put up offensive numbers anymore. He won’t cost $5 million a year either. For the Rangers, he would be a depth defenseman, someone to play on the bottom pairing. And let’s remember that he was playing top-four minutes for this club just last year before Ryan McDonagh’s emergence made Rozi expendable. Despite lack of offensive production, he was still somewhere between serviceable and solid in his own end.
Since offensive output isn’t really going to be a priority for Rozi, it means we can focus on defensive metrics (OZone start, QoC, RCorsi), GVT/DGVT, and ice time for a proper analysis of Rozsival’s defensive game.
Let’s get the easy one out of the way first. Rozsival was one of Phoenix’s more reliable defensemen throughout the season and during the playoffs. Rozsival averaged over 20 minutes of ice time per game and generally played between 25-30 shifts per game. He may not be flashy, but it’s clear that two separate coaching staffs (NYR, PHX) relied on him to be a steadying presence on the blue line.
Going deeper into the stats, Rozsival managed to finish last season with a 4.1 GVT (1.1 OGVT and 2.9 DGVT splits) over 54 games. Prorated for 82 games, that’s about a 6.2 GVT and a 4.4 DGVT. Using my good ole PVT metric, Rozsival was worth about two extra points in the standings for Phoenix over 82 games. Not amazing, but not exactly a liability either.
Looking at his metrics, Rozi finished with a -.012 Qoc, a 2.8 RCorsi, and a 46.2% offensive zone start percentage. Those numbers aren’t exactly top notch, but they do illustrate that the majority of Rozi’s shifts were in the defensive zone, and he still managed to have a positive puck possession metric. He wasn’t doing this against top competition, but as a bottom pairing defenseman for the Rangers, he wouldn’t be facing top competition anyway.
Of course, these numbers mean nothing unless you compare them to some of the current in-house options the Rangers have been deploying on defense. So let’s see how Rozi compares to Stu Bickel, Jeff Woywitka, Steve Eminger, and Anton Stralman in these categories:
So right off the bat, we can eliminate any notion that Rozsival is a downgrade from Eminger, Woywitka, or Bickel. Sure, Bickel brings physical jam to the ice, but his five minutes per game in the playoffs shows that he just isn’t trusted. Rozsival is a major upgrade over these three.
The real comparison gets down to Stralman versus Rozsival. Rozsival has a better RCorsi (puck possession) than Stralman despite playing against tougher competition (QoC) and starting fewer shifts in the offensive zone (Ozone). Their DGVT is almost identical, but Stralman bring more to the table offensively, as noted by his higher overall GVT.
In the end, it comes down to two things: price and injuries. The biggest concern right now with Rozsival is his health. He suffered a knee injury in the playoffs after a questionable collision with Dustin Brown, and he was also recovering from a non-concussion related head injury. At 34, coming back from injuries becomes tougher, but it is assumed no team will sign him if he can’t pass a standard physical. Stralman has no such injury concerns.
As for price, well Rozsival won’t even sniff $5 million ever again. I would think he would peak at half that –$2.5 million– for a one year deal. He’s definitely serviceable and can still hold his own in the defensive zone, but he’s not going to get top-four money anymore. As for Stralman, he is NYR property as an RFA coming off his one-year, $900k deal. Considering the year he had and how effective he was in the playoffs, it isn’t out of the realm of possibility to see him double that salary, although I expect him to peak at $1.5 million.
As for the “intangibles” of playing in the toughest division in hockey, both have played there, so that’s essentially a wash. Both have played for Torts, so that’s a wash as well. Both would be expected to be bottom pairing defensemen, so that’s another wash.
It comes down to price, injuries, and age. Stralman is younger, cheaper (likely), and healthier. Rozsival is the seasoned veteran who may have an injury concern and is slightly more expensive. Stralman produced more offensively this year, but Rozsival is better in his own end. It’s really a give-and-take situation. If Stralman prices himself out of New York, the Rozsival could be a nice short-term stopgap. Contrary to popular opinion, the numbers show he’s not a liability, and that he would be a decent fit with the Rangers.