Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images
In our latest post that identify players that could be potential acquisition targets for the Washington Capitals this off-season, we’re going to take a look at Arizona Coyotes forward Nick Schmaltz. With the Capitals looking at reshaping and retooling their roster for the 2023-24 season, adding a top-six forward with a scoring touch is likely at the top of the list of priorities for General Manager Brian MacLellan.
The statistics and salary cap information used in this post are courtesy of Natural Stat Trick, Hockey Reference, CapFriendly, Dobber Sports, and Evolving Hockey. If you’d like to learn more about the statistical terms used in this post, please check out our NHL Analytics Glossary.
Schmaltz has been primarily used as a right wing this season, but adds some positional flexibility, since he’s played center in the past. Schmaltz has played top line minutes with the Arizona Coyotes, skating with Clayton Keller and Barrett Hayton for the majority of his time on ice this season.
Schmaltz can add some finishing to the right side of the ice for the Capitals, an area of the ice where the Caps have immensely struggled this season. He has shown high rates of scoring pace the past two seasons and is decent defensively.
Nick Schmaltz is a 27-year-old right winger and a former first round pick (20th overall) by the Chicago Blackhawks in the 2014 NHL Entry Draft. In 50 games played this season, he has 21 goals and 25 assists for 46 points. In his career, he has 99 goals, 188 assists, and 287 points in 414 games played.
In November of 2018, the Coyotes acquired Schmaltz for current Capital Dylan Strome and Brendan Perlini. Schmaltz carries a $5.85M cap hit through the 2025-26 season.
Why would the Coyotes be looking to move a top-line player for them and a high performer offensively? Well, the Coyotes have been no stranger to trading good young players for future assets (see the Jakob Chychrun trade to Ottawa at the trade deadline), and TSN had Schmaltz as number 16 on their Trade Bait list.
Five-on-five on-ice performance
Here’s Schmaltz’s performance in possession metrics during five-on-five play this season:
In terms of Corsi For percentage (CF%), Fenwick For percentage (FF%), and shots for percentage (SF%), Schmaltz’s possession metric performance is rather mediocre.
That mediocrity may be more a result of the quality of the roster the Coyotes have than an indictment on Schmaltz’s quality of play. The Coyotes are 30th in the NHL in CF%, 30th in FF%, and 30th in SF%.
Additionally, Schmaltz doesn’t get the benefit of starting the majority of his shifts in the offensive zone. Only 49.57% of his zone starts are in the offensive zone when the Coyotes change their lines with possession in the offensive zone. Only 46.85% of his zone starts are in the offensive zone when his shift starts with a face-off when he’s on the ice.
However, the key metric here in my eyes is his goals for percentage (GF%) compared to his expected goals for percentage (xGF%). This expected goals differential indicates that the Coyotes are very proficient in finishing chances when Schmaltz is on the ice. Adding a player with that level of impact on finishing rate is exactly what the Capitals need to add this off-season.
The Coyotes are better when Schmaltz is on the ice. Their GF% this season ranks 25th at 45.85% and their xGF% ranks 30th at 43.32%.
Here’s Schmaltz’s five-on-five chance generation performance this season:
Again, these look rather mediocre, but we need to consider the team around him to really understand Schmaltz’s performance this season. The Coyotes are 29th in scoring chance for percentage (SCF%), 29th in high-danger chances for percentage (HDCF%), and 27th in high-danger goals for percentage (HDGF%). I would expect Schmaltz’s performance in chance generation to improve with a higher quality roster around him.
Rate-Adjusted Plus Minus (RAPM)
Rate-Adjusted Plus-Minus (RAPM) is an efficient way to measure a player’s performance in relation to the league, and in relation to replacement level. Here’s Schmaltz’s RAPM chart from Evolving Hockey:
Overall, as we’ve seen with the on-ice metric percentages above, Schmaltz really excels in GF/60 and is still above the replacement level watermark for xGF/60. I did mention that Schmaltz is decent enough defensively, with his xGA/60 falling just a smidge below replacement level. I would consider that as a metric that would improve with a better roster around him.
Schmaltz is also decent on the power play, but likely doesn’t slot into the Caps’ top unit if he were acquired. The Capitals could use another right-handed shot for depth for the power play unit, as that was a huge weakness in their power play formation when Tom Wilson and TJ Oshie were out of the lineup.
I also want to show just how well Schmaltz has performed in his circumstance on the perpetually rebuilding Coyotes. Here’s the Coyotes’ team RAPM chart:
I would say that Schmaltz is a case of a player who can perform well on bad teams. What will be interesting is how he’ll perform on a better team with better talent around him.
Schmaltz does have a relatively high cap hit of $5.85M, but that cost isn’t necessarily prohibitive to the Caps. They’ll have $7,369,166 of cap space with a very likely salary cap ceiling of $83.5M next season. The Caps will have to tender new contracts to restricted free agents Martin Fehervary and Alex Alexeyev.
As with the potential of acquiring Brock Boeser, the Capitals would almost certainly have to move Anthony Mantha in the deal to acquire Schmaltz. But, the risks aren’t quite as high in acquiring Schmaltz as they were in acquiring Boeser. Schmaltz probably doesn’t have as high of a ceiling in terms of development as Boeser, but his floor is much higher.
Trading Mantha to the Coyotes makes sense for both sides. The Capitals would add a top six player who has high levels of production and term left on his contract. The Coyotes are in perpetual need of contracts to reach the salary cap floor, and Mantha could be an interesting rejuvenation project for them. Mantha would be a potential flip candidate at next year’s trade deadline if he plays with Keller and Hayton (like Schmaltz did).
It feels like Schmaltz could be had for a first or second round pick, Mantha, and a prospect. The first or second round pick price will change based on the quality of the prospect going the other way.
Does this make sense for the Caps?
In my opinion, yes. Schmaltz is a much less risky endeavor for the Caps than Boeser is, and Schmaltz has proven that he can score at a high clip on a team that’s at the bottom of the standings. Ideally, Schmaltz would slot in on the Caps’ second line to add a bit more goal scoring depth to the lineup.
On top of that, Schmaltz has been on a point scoring pace of 77.08 and 75.44 over the past two seasons, and has been on a goal scoring pace of 30.34 and 34.44 over the past two seasons. The Capitals desperately need another goal scorer, and Schmaltz adds that to the roster.
By Justin Trudel
Would be an awesome grab if we see Mantha going the other way.
I agree, I think Mantha is becoming a steady piece to how the Capitals will manage a quality upgrade.
Dont know if I want to be on the hook for $5.9 mil for the next 3 years with Wilson coming due after next season and then Kuzy, Sandin, Lindgren and Oshie the year after. If Arizona would take Mantha and Oshie and maybe Snively and /or Sutter rather than a pick that would be ok. Sooner or later these high salary players have to go either due to salary or age or both.
Why would Arizona remotely consider that? Mantha & Oshie salaries, Snively who is no longer a young prospect, and Sutter who maybe has an outside chance of being a 4th liner. That doesn’t exactly help a team that is rebuilding and looking for draft picks and prospects.
Because they need help making the minimum salary car. Mantha and Oshie would assure that they are over it. but I agree with you there is absolutely NO reason for any team to want Mantha or Oshie not just salary but age and injury history for Oshie and lack of performance for the past 2 years for Mantha. Just holding out hope that some GM will lose his mind for a few minutes and say yeas I want Them, I have to have them…..just hoping.
Mantha is arguably the worst player in the entire NHL — in terms of salary value. As described here before in NovaCapsFans, “Mo” is “the same player” that ticked off GM Yzerman in Detroit, and the fans too. Dollar for dollar: Show me a worse player!
The RICO Coyotes are a great dancing partner for a top-tier team like the Caps. The amazingly poorly managed Coyotes franchise can barely make the salary floor, year after year. Caps can unload a total disaster like Mantha, and help the RICO Coyotes stay salary-cap-solvent. Cha-ching!
Sorry but that honor goes to Backstrom. 4th liners are outperforming him.
Sign him up! Ship Mantha out!
What are the thoughts on resigning Connor Brown? He was supposed to be a top six winger.
I had heard a whisper a couple of months ago, that the Caps might be interested in resigning Brown. Nothing since though
The Caps will look strongly at resigning Brown on a prove it contract after being injured this year. It could be a bargain if he’s healthy.
I think the Caps should look for flexibility next year. Like Sandin who has one more year on a value 1.4M contract. Some key players who are proven for three years.
Brown should be looked at if we can get him on a prove it contract of 1.5M or less. Not sure that is possible.
Caps did a good job grabbing upside players. Strome, Milano, and NAK who all resigned because they proved to be good values. Need another 1 or 2 around the draft without taking on mid-long term (2+ year) contracts.
I recall Nick Schmaltz is the younger brother of Jordan Schmaltz who the St Louis Blues drafted #25 in the 2012 Draft. Jordan never really worked out well for the Blues and is now playing in the Swiss National League.