Potential PTO #2: David Schlemko, Defenseman, 32
David Schlemko is another player who’s career got away from him quickly, yet it still surprises me that a team looking for a potential veteran at cheap cost hasn’t given him a chance on a PTO.
I’ve never been against Schlemko or his play in the NHL. He’s a pretty stereotypical old-guard defenseman, capable of chipping in a few assists from time to time, but more built on physicality. He’s been in the league for a long time, with last season being his 10th season he’s played NHL minutes.
The issue with a player like Schlemko is whether his playstyle can equate to today’s hockey. Today’s hockey focuses much more on speed rather than grit, and physical guys that are used to laying the big hits face two unfortunate realities; an inability to adapt, or complete combustion of a player’s durability.
Yes, durability, a word that hasn’t quite been too common when talking about David Schlemko. Throughout his long career, the most games Schlemko has played in a season was 67. Even that season was one to forget, as Schlemko unsuccessfully tried to rebrand his game with a -22 plus-minus ratio, his career worse by far. He did manage to put up a career-high 19 points, however, but for a player to record a -22 after his worst ratio before that was a -5 saw him exiled from New Jersey.
The San Jose Sharks, however, gave him another chance on a four-year, $8.4 million contract, and he proved worthy. A solid bounce-back season of 18 points and a +4 plus-minus looked like Schlemko had found a permanent home for the remainder of his career. Then came the Vegas expansion draft.
Yes, Schlemko performed admirably and seemed to really fit in on a bottom-pairing role. In a place like San Jose, however, where there is a lot of talent to go around, Schlemko just didn’t quite fit the standard.
To wrap up, Schlemko was selected by Vegas, instantly flipped for draft picks, and was bought out after playing in just 56 games across two seasons for Montreal.
For as lifeless as things may seem, I don’t think Schlemko is done. I think if he finds the right fit, he can still have one or two decent seasons in the NHL.
For the Panthers, a guy like Schlemko as a potential healthy scratch defenseman in favor of Ian McCoshen might be an upgrade. Relying on him to play on a night-in night-out basis isn’t the standard, but playing behind Josh Brown on a cheap contract might be an alright deal for Dale Tallon.
The Panthers’ defense lacks a lot of physicality, and Schlemko might have a thing or two he could teach to guys like Mike Matheson, MacKenzie Weegar, and Josh Brown. Someone who has had a long rap sheet of injuries, yet still managed to play ten seasons of NHL hockey has a lot of experience to pass down to younger options.