Joe Smith reports that defenseman Luke Schenn has signed with the Tampa Bay Lightning. He reported that it will be a one-year deal at the league minimum of $700,000. Schenn is coming off of a one-year contract that was paying him $800,000.
Edit: the deal is done.
Luke Schenn, not to be confused with his younger brother Brayden Schenn, is a right handed defenseman that turns 30 years old this November. He was a first round pick, 5th overall in 2008 by the Toronto Maple Leafs. He’s listed at 6’2” and 220 pounds so he brings a good bit of size on the blue line. After four seasons with the Maple Leafs, he moved to the Philadelphia Flyers where he played for three and a half years. Since the Flyers, he has played for the Los Angeles Kings, Arizona Coyotes, Anaheim Ducks and Vancouver Canucks.
After playing the 2016-17 and 2017-18 seasons with the Coyotes, Schenn signed a one-year contract with Anaheim last July. He played in eight games for the Ducks and did not record a point. He was then waived, not claimed, and assigned to the San Diego Gulls of the AHL where he recorded 10 points in 22 games. In January, he was traded to the Vancouver Canucks. He spent another month in the minors playing seven games with five points for the Utica Comets before being called back up to the NHL with the Canucks. He finished out the season with the Canucks recording two points in 18 games.
Schenn jumped right into the line up with the Maple Leafs after being drafted. His career high in points is 22 which he did twice with the Maple Leafs. Since then, his career high is 16 points in a season. At even strength, he has not been a particularly strong player, especially over the last four or so seasons. He’s been on the wrong side of the goal differential and expected goal differential in almost every season of his career.
According to Evolving-Hockey.com Wins Above Replacement (WAR) statistic, he has been a negative player over the past three seasons. Before that, he was a decently positive player in about the range that you would expect of a third pairing defenseman. Shorthanded and in terms of penalty differential, he has at least been a positive for the most part of the past three seasons.
So where does Schenn fit into the grand scheme of things for the Lightning? Well, he’s right handed depth. At the moment, the Lightning’s right handed depth consists of Erik Cernak, Jan Rutta, and Cal Foote. Mikhail Sergachev is also expected to play on the right side again this season though he is left handed. Braydon Coburn is also capable of playing on the right side, but like Sergachev, is left handed.
If the Lightning make no other moves to bring in another defensemen, that leaves us with two scenarios. The good thing about both scenarios is that they are interchangeable and the team can flip from one to the other without much issue if one isn’t working out as well as they’d like. If you read my article earlier this week on the Lightning’s Salary Cap outlook after the J.T. Miller and Ryan Callahan news, then you’ll already be familiar with both of these scenarios, just one name will be different as Cameron Gaunce would be replaced by Luke Schenn.
The Lightning go with Victor Hedman, Ryan McDonagh, Erik Cernak, Mikhail Sergachev, Braydon Coburn, Jan Rutta, and Luke Schenn as their seven defensemen out of training camp. Schenn would clearly be the 7th defenseman in this scenario. My best guess at pairs would be Hedman-Sergachev, McDonagh-Cernak, and Coburn-Rutta. Schenn could also rotate in for Rutta depending on match ups if the team feels that Schenn’s more physical style could be useful during a game.
The Lightning go with the same defenseman as above, except they place Schenn on waivers and keep Cal Foote on the roster. Foote could be paired with Hedman or Coburn and eased into the line up. I personally would prefer him next to Hedman as I think his style will fit better with Hedman than Sergachev’s will. Coburn with Foote would be a capable defensive pair, but I think they would lack on the offensive end of the ice. Coburn’s offensive numbers looked far better this past year, but I attribute a lot of that to Sergachev’s ability to push play up the ice while Coburn covered for him. In this scenario, Rutta would be the seventh defenseman.
The good thing about both of these options is that Foote does not require waivers and Schenn is unlikely to be claimed on waivers. If Schenn is on the roster, he’s also cheap, which will help the Lightning with their salary cap situation. Foote’s cap hit will be a little bit more, but not that much more that it will cause any problems.
So if the Lightning end up going with Scenario 2, and Foote just isn’t working out, it’ll be an easy swap to send him back to Syracuse and bring up Schenn. If they go with Scenario 1, the team can waive Schenn with a fair amount of confidence that he’ll pass through even after the season has started, and bring up Foote to play.
Since this was a question asked of me on Twitter, I’ll answer it here as well. The concern that this fan expressed was that by bringing up Cal Foote now, that he would be eligible for the expansion draft. Expansion draft eligibility counts NHL and AHL seasons and since he will have accumulated two years either way, he’ll be eligible. Playing him in the NHL this year does increase his chances of being taken if he shows well. However, I think the Lightning are already in a position where they will be forced to make an expansion draft related deal to protect the roster appropriately.