Why a trade for Jeff Skinner and Justin Faulk makes sense for the Golden Knights

With Tampa Bay and Dallas crowding the Golden Knights out of the Erik Karlsson race, Justin Faulk and Jeff Skinner could make an excellent alternative.

It appears Erik Karlsson is out the Ottawa Senators’ door, but he may not be headed to the Golden Knights. Both the Dallas Stars and Tampa Bay Lightning have entered the fray, and though the Golden Knights have kept battling for Karlsson’s services, it appears as if Vegas is no longer in favor. And that might not be a bad thing.

Karlsson is the only defenseman worth trading Shea Theodore for. But if the Golden Knights can keep Theodore and get another defenseman in their top four, that’s a terrific trade. Theodore could be on the top pairing next season with Nate Schmidt. But the Golden Knights need someone to take over on the second pairing.

The Knights also would have liked to take on Bobby Ryan. Ryan would have lowered the price of Karlsson while adding another scorer to the second line, so long as he could remain healthy. With James Neal in Calgary and David Perron in St. Louis, the Knights need somebody besides Alex Tuch on the second line.

A trade that gets both pieces — a top six forward and a top four defenseman — would be ideal. Luckily, there is a team selling both of those pieces; the Carolina Hurricanes. Defenseman Justin Faulk has been pushed out of the top four, and the Hurricanes have Trevor van Riemsdyk and Haydn Fleury for the bottom pairing. Faulk is a terrific defenseman, however, and would be worth the cost.

The Hurricanes are also looking to trade Jeff Skinner, a three-time 30-goal scorer and two-time 60-point player. He’s also just turned 26, four years younger than someone like Neal and much healthier as well.

Vegas would make a ton of sense for both pieces. Faulk could run the second pairing with Brayden McNabb, while Skinner complements Tuch and Paul Stastny on the second line. Skinner with an excellent passer like Stastny and a power forward like Tuch? That’s a dangerous line behind the best one in hockey.

So here’s why, beyond the eye test, a trade for Skinner and Faulk makes sense for Vegas.

Justin Faulk

Faulk has played an average of 23:25 throughout his career and has been a prolific scorer from the blue line throughout his career as well. He has hit 30 points in each of the past five seasons and has hit 49 in his lone season of more than 80 games. He should have a bounce-back season from his eight-goal campaign last year, as he hit a four-year low of 3.8 percent in terms of shooting percentage.

Faulk has averaged 2.89 shots per game in the past four seasons and was at a 2.78 pace last season, even in fewer minutes than previous seasons. He’s excellent in terms of shot generation and can also help quarterback the power play.

He had a 55.29 percent Corsi, 54.52 percent shot share, 54.22 percent scoring chance share and 54.43 percent high-danger chance share last season. His goal share and high-danger goal share suffered, though (41.18 percent goal share, 46.15 percent high-danger goal share). That would likely change with different goaltending next season, especially with the excellent goaltenders Vegas has in Marc-Andre Fleury and Malcolm Subban.

Faulk had a .88 Corsi relative at even strength, the same as Jaccob Slavin, perhaps Carolina’s best defenseman. Faulk faced the third-best competition of any defenseman on the Hurricanes roster (of the Hurricanes’ weighted time on ice based on quality of competition, Faulk had 28.98 percent). Faulk also played with the third-best quality of teammates (27.52 percent).

Faulk also suffered from never having found a long-term defensive partner last season (he played 12.3 percent of Carolina’s even-strength minutes with Haydn Fleury, 8.3 percent with Jaccob Slavin, 6.8 percent with Noah Hanifin and five percent with Klas Dahlbeck). With a better, more consistent defensive partner, Faulk could do a lot more damage with a lot more confidence.

Faulk and Slavin both had better stats together than they did apart.


PairingCorsiShot ShareGoal ShareScoring ChanceHigh-DangerHD Goal ShareSave PercentOffense FaceoffTOI
Faulk and Slavin56.0258.3343.7552.8959.1844.440.88851.5365:58:00
Faulk w/o Slavin55.5853.2340.3854.6852.7146.670.88460.621062:18:00
Slavin w/o Faulk54.1452.951.2853.3354.2955.930.945.391224:49:00

Again, that’s what a defensive presence does for Faulk. It would free McNabb up to play the defense he did during the 2017-18 season, while giving him a more offensive partner than Schmidt.

Jeff Skinner

Jeff Skinner is young and he is a great scorer. This season, he produced 24 goals and 49 points with his lowest shooting percentage in three years (his PDO was at his second-lowest in his career). He’ll be due for a bounce-back season as well, and surrounded by excellent talent at both even strength and on the power play, he’ll get that bounce back. His down season was, to be noted, still better than James Neal in a good year.

Skinner’s shot generation is also excellent. He had 3.38 shots per game this past season, and he’s averaged 3.39 shots per game over the past five seasons. That’s quite a bit, and if it continues, he should continue to produce multiple goals well into the future. He’s one of the most underappreciated goal scorers in the league, and with the right team, he could get back on track.

His takeaway to giveaway ratio was also excellent, as he had 93 takeaways to 62 giveaways. A three to two ratio. That’s excellent, and as he has a history of keeping the puck safe and getting it off of opposing players’ sticks more often than coughing it up, that ratio should translate well into next season.

Skinner had a 55.89 percent Corsi, 55.18 percent shot share, 40.34 percent goal share, 56.84 percent high-danger share, 57.73 percent high-danger chance share and 50 percent high-danger goal share. He did that in 1,197:22 of even-strength ice time with a 65.8 percent offensive zone start rate and with a .878 on-ice save percentage.

Of Carolina’s forwards who played more than 15 games, Skinner had the fourth-best relative Corsi (1.21). He played with the tenth-best teammates against the eighth-best competition. He still managed to post those excellent possession stats, even while punching up.

Skinner also struggled with consistent linemates, spending most of his time with center Derek Ryan, playing with Justin Williams (4.2 percent of Carolina’s even-strength minutes), Lee Stempniak (4.2 percent), and even spending time with Elias Lindholm and Philippe Di Giuseppe (3.4 percent).

Here are those lines with and without Skinner:


LineCorsiShot ShareGoal ShareScoring ChanceHigh DangerHD Goal ShareSave PercentOff Faceoff Time on Ice
Ryan/Williams with59.0453.855056.9962.8272.730.89370.87160:04:00
Ryan/Williams without56.2355.625054.6857.1462.50.9251.54178:49:00
Ryan/Stempniak with57.0656.4738.4656.4156.92500.89263.55167:07:00
Ryan/Stempniak without56.5248.7633.3356.0453.6657.140.87157.5143:30:00
Lindholm/Di Giuseppe with57.255.9456.2556.150.9463.640.88953.66135:56:00
Lindholm/Di Giuseppe without45.6132038.463000.8827028:15:00
Ryan with58.4958.0641.5158.7663.3857.140.87567.71549:03:00
Ryan without55.5752.5547.0654.4854.07600.87951.15507:49:00

He’s not Reilly Smith, who can play anybody and play in the defensive zone, but that’s not what the expectations should be. The expectation should be for Skinner to jump on the ice in the offensive zone, help his line dominate puck possession, and continue to score goals. The Neal role, but in an upgraded capacity.

The return

Faulk is nowhere near as talented as Erik Karlsson. Skinner is far better than Bobby Ryan. The return could be less, but it should be somewhat similar. Carolina doesn’t need a player like Shea Theodore, however, and if the Knights trade for the Hurricanes’ available pair, he will likely get left out.

Hague and Brannstrom are likely safe as well. There’s a reason that Faulk got forced out of the top four, and it’s because the Hurricanes have a younger group signed long-term. The Hurricanes also have young defensemen like Haydn Fleury and Jake Bean behind that group. Trevor van Riemsdyk brings up the rear in their top six, but they could use an upgrade there.

Where the Hurricanes really need help is offensive prospects. Besides Martin Necas and Andrei Svechnikov, the Hurricanes don’t have a whole bunch. That’s why it would make sense for Carolina to want someone like Cody Glass to give them a long-term one-two punch with Necas down the middle.

In addition to Glass, the Hurricanes could take Colin Miller (an upgrade over van Riemsdyk), next year’s first-round pick and a goaltender (possibly Oscar Dansk). Glass, Miller, Dansk and a first isn’t a bad price to pay.

Now, you might ask — why would Carolina take this package? Well, for two excellent young pieces (Glass is a blue chip prospect, the first-round pick is a first-round pick), a proven NHL player in Miller and a better young goaltender than anything the Hurricanes believe they have (Nedeljkovic has struggled in the AHL while Dansk has succeeded), that could get the Knights a lot.

The Hurricanes could have a lot fewer questions with Dansk in net. They get the impact center they’ve been looking for, a really solid defenseman at a cost-controlled price behind their top four and a high pick. That’s worth taking for two players already established as on their way out.

Adding Faulk to the top four will force Deryk Engelland to the bottom pairing, where he could complement either Jon Merrill, Nick Holden, or Jake Bischoff. That could make Miller expendable for this package. Nick Suzuki impressed offensively, and it could be argued he’s a better prospect than Glass. That first-round pick has always been expendable.

For two younger players worth only two million more than Ryan’s contract (7.5 million AAV) next season, with the ability to extend both of them, that’s a price worth coughing up. A Skinner/Faulk deal makes the Knights better at two positions.

So, George McPhee, if the Karlsson situation gets you down, don’t let it. Go get the cheaper talent who will add more in the long-term, two players worth something instead of one elite player and one contract dragging his value down. Also, Jeff Skinner looks like Spider-Man and that’s worth the trade alone.