Is there Hope Andrew MacDonald Improves?

One of the Flyers under the biggest issues this season is the contract of Andrew MacDonald. It’s pretty much accepted that he’s at best a third pair defender, but thanks to Paul Holmgren, he’s in possession of a contract that pays him top pair money. This brings up the question, is there hope that Andrew MacDonald improves?

Via Own the Puck

Via Own the Puck

MacDonald’s HERO chart offers little hope. His shot generation is, per the chart, non-existent and his shot suppression barely registers. He drags down both the possession and expected goals of his teammates. And to pile on a little further, he doesn’t score at any reasonable rates to offset his possession impact with actual individual scoring ability as MacDonald’s boxcar stats aren’t impressive at the NHL level.

However, there is one place for some hope. On the Penalty Kill, Andrew MacDonald was the Flyers fourth best defender at shot on goal suppression, which means he still has a modicum of value on the penalty kill.

Luckily, early on this season, from a visual standpoint, MacDonald has been a bit more aggressive in stepping up in the neutral zone. And with Radko Gudas three games away from returning from suspension, the Flyers will gain a better defender which will lessen MacDonald’s role and mitigate his negative impact.

However, the Flyers would be wise to still play him for 40 games to make sure he’s eligible for the expansion draft, to at least give Las Vegas the option of taking him. While the odds MacDonald is selected are miniscule, Weise, Read, or Manning are all far more likely targets, the Flyers still should give Las Vegas the option to take the full contract.

In terms of improvement, there is hope, provided MacDonald buys into Hakstol’s system and challenges aggressively in the neutral zone. If he does, he may be able to improve to the point that he can slot in as an effective bottom pair defender. It’s highly unlikely that he ever becomes the defender he was envisioned to be when Paul Holmgren signed him, but if things break right, he just needs to create enough of an illusion of being better than he is that either Las Vegas takes him in the expansion draft or that a team who loses a defender next year decides that three years of MacDonald isn’t much of a problem.

Especially since the fact that Ivan Provorov and Travis Konecny made the team this year, solving the MacDonald problem is a bigger issue. With the two rookies on the NHL roster, Provorov and Konecny will join 2014 first round pick Travis Sanheim in needing a new contract in 2019, while MacDonald is still on the books.

And a buyout complicates things further, as it would increase dead weight term. Buying out Andrew MacDonald in 2017 would leave the Flyers with a dead weight of 1.83M until 2023. while a 2018 buyout is a 1.875M cap hit until 2022 and a 2019 buyout is 1.91667 cap hit until 2021.

Because the buyout would increase deadweight term, would could cause issues for re-signing the 2016 and 17 draft classes or giving post-bridge deals to Gostisbehere or Morin or the aforementioned group of Sanheim, Provorov, and Konecny, the Flyers would benefit from pumping Andrew MacDonald and retaining 50% this summer to move him at 2.5M. In a perfect world, they’d only have to retain 1 to 1.5M of MacDonald’s cap hit.

The Maple Leafs were able to do this with Dion Phaneuf and it’s something covered here before. Hopefully, Dave Hakstol’s system can turn MacDonald into something the Flyers can move, to help transition to the bright future of players like Travis Sanheim and Robert Hagg and Sam Morin.

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