The Pittsburgh Penguins made something explicitly clear this offseason, it was time to surround Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin with talented forwards. However, this is a double-edged sword, as the more money you spend on forwards, the less you can allocate toward defense.
As such, Paul Martin, a key free agent defender, was allowed to sign with another club.
He was signed as a free agent by former general manager Ray Shero five years ago. Martin was given a contract worth $25 million and after the first two years, many began to question if he was worth the money.
Shero sat down with Martin and asked him if he wanted to be traded because his performance simply was that bad. His answer shocked most, he responded that he did not want to traded, he knew his performance was unacceptable and he was going to work harder to show the fans why he was signed to such a large contract.
Since the end of the 2012-13 season, Martin put on extra weight and was the most crucial member of the Penguins’ blue line. But wouldn’t all-star Kris Letang be considered the most important defender? If you are judging on talent alone, yes, Letang is the most important. However, he’s had many injury issues and been unavailable for much of his career.
The bottom line is that when everything crumbled on the blue line, it was Martin holding everything together. Last season when the Pens were playing down a defender, Martin logged more than 30 minutes per night for weeks and continued to do so through the playoffs.
Not only will his ability to play big minutes that will be missed, so will his steadying hand for Letang.
Advanced stats in the NHL are great and they aren’t at the same time. You can easily find one statistic to prove a point and five others to showcase something different. If you look at with and without analysis of Letang and Martin, Letang technically has a higher Corsi-for percentage without Martin.
When Letang and Martin play together they have a Corsi-for of 55.2 percent and when Letang is without Martin his is 56.2 percent. However, there is something vastly different about the goal differentials.
When Letang and Martin play together the Penguins score 2.75 goals and only allow 1.6, when Letang is without Martin the Penguins only score 2.27 and allow 2.61. That difference is statistically significant and it does prove a point.
Couple that with Letang publicly stating he feels the most comfortable playing alongside Martin, you can see that the two have had tremendous success together.
Not only does Martin improve the play of Pittsburgh’s best defender and logs big minutes, but he can play in every situation. Martin is great at even strength, he’s good on the power play and he’s a penalty-killing monster.
Going by the accepted penalty killing statistic, fenwick-against per sixty minutes played, Martin was the team’s top penalty killer with a 71.01. The rest of the defensemen who killed penalties were Ben Lovejoy (71.73), Christian Ehrhoff (81.04), Kris Letang (83.35) and Rob Scuderi (90.15).
Comparing Martin to the rest of the league, it ranks 61st out of about 120 defenders. But when you consider that he played most of his short-handed time with Scuderi, that mark is quite impressive.
Martin wasn’t the biggest defender, he wasn’t the fastest, but he was the most consistent on the Penguins for the last three seasons. He will be missed next season, but there was no way the Penguins were willing to give him a four-year/$19.4 million dollar contract like the Sharks gave him.