I’ve been asked by a number of emailers and commenters to take a look at the Robyn Regehr and Brent Burns swaps since the draft. The comparison seems like an apt one: both are top-four defenders exchanged in the same market to teams looking to shore up their defensive depth. The Sharks have also been interested in Reggie for years and reportedly made a play for him, so it’s fair to ask whether Calgary could have gotten a similar package to what Minnesota demanded for Burns.
There are similarities between the two players in that both can play in almost any team’s top-four rotation. There are a lot of differences too, however, making a straight-up comparison difficult. Burns is younger, brings more offense to the table, but hasn’t played the shut-down role as consistently as Regehr. Burns is also marginally cheaper this season ($3.55M), but only has one year left on his contract meaning he is in line for a raise next summer.
Before we press on, here’s a summary of the two deals:
1.) Robyn Regehr for Chris Butler and Paul Byron (we’ll exclude the Kotalik/second round pick portion for the sake of simplicity)
2.) Brent Bruns for Devin Setoguchi, former first round pick Charlie Coyle and a first round pick.
I don’t use the GVT statistic here very often, but in this case it’s a useful tool for comparing the two players. For those unaware, GVT stands for "goals versus threshold" and it measures the amount of goals an individual player would be worth over a replacement level player given the amount of minutes he plays and in what game state, etc. Both offensive and defensive contributions are included in GVT, making it possible to compare a defense-first type like Robyn to a hybrid player like Burns. We’ll take their last four seasons worth of GVT for the purposes of this comparison:
The tables show GVT in terms of offense, defense and total. The totals don’t completely line-up with OGVT and DGVT each time because they include a small shoot-out portion which I excluded here.
Burns is so far ahead in terms of offense that it makes him the better option overall, although Regehr’s the better defensive player despite consistently difficult assignments. Burn’s 2007-2008 season was a doozy though and I figured him for a future Norris candidate at that time, but a series of injuries seriously derailed his progress for a while. He’s been injury prone his entire career, but when healthy has been able to contribute at both ends of the ice pretty capably.
Through this analysis, we can see why Burns might be worth the better package: he’s five years younger than Regehr and has a higher ceiling because of offensive abilities. Keep in mind however that his biggest OGVT seasons were helped along by SH% of 9.5 and 10% respectively…a rate that is difficult to hold for even the most potent shooters on the back-end. Last year, only 10 defenders who played more than 30 games shot at 10% or above for instance.
Regehr doesn’t play on the PP very often, so his OGVT is always going to be fairly limited. His DGVT is remarkably stable, however, which where his true value comes from. Being six goals better than replacement level while playing the toughs is an impressive feat – one that Burns only once approached (back in 2007-08) in this sample.
I’d say it makes sense to pay a bit more for Burns who was a about +3 average GVT better Reggie over the last four years. That said, the Setoguchi package strikes me as a lot more than "a bit", suggesting an overpay on the part of the Sharks vs. what the Sabres gave up for Regehr. That was probably spurred by Burns’ 17 goal campaign last year which was a career high. We all know teams are more apt to pay for offensive counting numbers and even if the Sharks were aware of his probably unsustainable 10% SH%, they would probably be induced to hike the price thanks to the anchoring effect.
In short, a healthy Burns is the better player by a few goals above replacement per year, but the Sharks probably gave up more than they should have because of a career high shooting percentage.