With the Los Angeles Kings on the verge of winning the Stanley Cup and teams already making moves towards next seasons (i.e. Vokoun to Pittsburgh) it is time to take a closer look at class of unrestricted free agents. Today I’ll take a look at the free agent forwards.
As I have mentioned previously, I feel the best and most reliable player ratings are my 5v5 zone start adjusted HARO+ offensive rating, HARD+ defensive rating and the combined HART+ rating (yes, I am biased but as far as single all inclusive ratings go, I feel these are the best) using the past 3 seasons of data. So, with that in mind, here are how the 2012 unrestricted free agent forwards stack up.
If you want a better way of looking at the info in the table, the following bubble chart should help.
Ok, well, maybe that isn’t that much better as it is pretty cluttered but may provide a bit more context. Across the horizontal axis is HARO+ (good offensive players to the right) and along the vertical axis is HARD+ (good defensive players towards the top). Blue indicates players under age 30, red between 30 and 34 and yellow 35+. The size of the circle is indicative of a players ice time, more ice time the larger the circle. The larger the circle also means the more reliable the rating as the sample size to develop the ratings from is larger. So, the best players would be those that have big blue circles towards the upper right corner meaning they are young, get a lot of ice time, and can contribute both offensively and defensively. Clearly Semin and surprisingly Wellwood stand out offensively and defensively respectively and Dominic Moore is a very poor player considering the amount of ice time he has gotten.
Another interesting observation is the relationship between HARO+ and HARD+. There seems to be a slight, but clearly obvious, negative correlation. The better offensive players are generally weaker defensively while the better defensive players are weaker offensively. This is largely due to playing style and roles and is also largely expected, but it is always interesting to see expectations so visually apparent.
Beyond some of those obvious observations, it is pretty cluttered to lets take a look at the age groups separately starting with the under 30 group.
Generally speaking, any player with a rating above 1.00 (HARD+ or HARO+) is good or at least better than average so as you can see, within this under 30 group there are a number of quality defensive players with only a few below average. Conversely there are far more weak offensive players.
The defensive rating of Kyle Wellwood may shock some, but he has consistently had pretty good HARD+ ratings. Over the past 5 seasons starting with 2007-08 his HARD+ ratings are 0.969, 1.210, 1.724, 3.798 and 1.053. It’s difficult to get a reliable rating with just 1 season of data and thus you see the significant fluctuations but the fact that every season he rates quite well defensively is telling I believe. He certainly seems to be a useful player that can probably be signed on a pretty cheap contract.
To me, despite all the question marks raised this past season, Alexander Semin seems to be the cream of the free agent crop, especially offensively. His 5 years of HARO+ ratings are 0.922, 1.395, 1.554, 1.381, 1.247. Compare that to the other elite forward Zach Parise whose 5 year HARO+ ratings are 1.075, 1.331, 1.234, 1.086, 1.027 which are still consistently pretty good but definitely a notch below Semin’s.
There is also a group of quality defensive forwards consisting of Torrey Mitchell, Brandon Prust, Jarret Stoll and Jordin Tootoo that would probably be solid additions to any teams third line. We have certainly seen some good things from Stoll these playoffs. The only guy on the list that you would probably absolutely want to stay away from is Jay McClement who struggles both offensively and defensively. The remainder of the players you can probably find quality roles for them to play such that they will contribute to a teams success whether as second or third line regulars or quality depth players.
Now let’s take a look at the 30-34 age group.
A quick look and you will see that this group is clearly inferior to the under 30 group. The only 2 players with an offensive rating above 1.00 are Brad Boyes and Olli Jokinen. Shawn Thornton, Sammy Pahlsson, Taylor Pyatt, Paul Gaustad and Travis Moen provide some solid defensive abilities and can certainly fill a needed role for many teams. A few others such as Kostopolous, Hagman, Ponikarovsky, Kelly and Cullen are decent 2-way players that can provide some forward depth as well but ultimately there isn’t much to get too excited about here.
Now, how about the 35+ group.
While the group is definitely older, there is much more quality in the 35+ group than there is in the 30-35 group. Whitney, Selanne, Doan and Smyth are all quality players but if they return next season it will probably be with their existing teams (though if Phoenix relocates all bets are off on Whitney and Doan). Steve Sullivan, Hecht, Samuelsson and Arnott are quality offensive players as well and all but Sullivan are responsible defensively as well. I have always been a fan of Brendan Morrison and his 2-way ability but injuries and age may be creeping up on him too much to make him a reliable full time contributor anymore. Holmstrom and Rolston may also be nearing the end of their careers but Halpern, Madden and Langenbrunner can probably still contribute a little given the right team and role. Dvorak, Blake, Brunette and Langkow are probably not worth consideration at this point.
There are a number of other depth type UFA forwards but none will get much more than league minimum or a 2-way contract and a training camp invite.