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Havelid Traded to Devils for Salmela

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According to TSN Havelid was sent to the Devils for defensemen Anssi Salmela.

Anssi Salmela is 24 years old defenseman from Finland. He was a NHL rookie this year for the Devils and played 17 games. He is below average in size at 5'11" but is supposed to play with grit. He is tied for the most points by a defensemen on the Lowell Devils team despite playing just 38 games in the AHL.

His cap hit is $0.875 million this year, but that might include bonus provisions that will go unmet. According to Cap Central he will be a RFA in the summer, which means the Thrashers will have first rights to sign him.

The previous three years he played in the Finnish League for Tappara. In 2007-08 he played on the same team as Thrasher draft picks Jonas Enlund and Niclas Lucenius. Given the presence of TWO Thrashers draft picks on that squad it seems rather likely that at the Thrashers organization could have noticed him while checking in on their own draftees last season.

While in Finland he put racked up a fair number of penalty minutes. His profile over at Hockey"s Future states that 

Salmela is a fiery, and intense individual known for playing a physical brand of hockey. He is not afraid to mix it up, even dropping the gloves on occasion. He can play a bit out of control at times, but for the most part plays decent in his own end of the rink.

His points-per-game in Finland grew steadily as he matured.

Age League

Points Per Game

2008-09 24 NHL 0.18
2008-09 24 AHL 0.63
2007-08 23 FIN 0.57
2006-07 22 FIN 0.41
2005-06 21 FIN 0.33
2004-05 20 FIN 0.13
2003-04 19 FIN 0.00

Comments: I've never seen this guy play, but here is what the stats tell me. He was able to play in the senior league in Finland by the age of 20 which is a good sign. In terms of difficulty the Finnish League is in the same neighborhood as the AHL in terms of scoring difficulty.

I'm very impressed by his steady progression in the points-per-game department. If you treat the AHL as being on par with Finland he has shown basically a straight line progression from zero points in 10 games a 19 year old to .13 upwards to .63 this year. Many prospects show some statistical hiccups in their growth curve but his heads steadily upwards.

The scoring numbers also indicate that he probably has some decent puck skills even though those did not translate into points in his games with the Devils. Looking at his TOI summary with the Devils he average just 15:10 per games--which means they used him on the 3rd pairing. However they did put him on the Power Play during his 17 NHL games. In fact, it appears like they treated him as a PP specialist as he averaged 3:38 PP minutes which is MORE than Paul Martin their top PP defenseman. He received just 3 second of SH ice time.

Conclusion: It will be interesting to see what he looks like a Thrashers uniform. His Finnish numbers indicate some offensive upside and NJ Devils certainly were looking at him given the way they used him. Can he handle more than 3rd pairing minutes? This remains to be seen.