A look at the top unrestricted free agent wingers

This years free agent class is a relatively thin one, pending compliance buy outs of course, but there are a handful of good players that could be hitting the unrestricted free agent market this summer. Today I’ll take a look at the wingers.

In total I identified 15 wingers that I would consider quality NHL regulars. These are in no particular order Nathan Horton, Viktor Stalberg, Ryane Clowe, mason Raymond, Clarke MacArthur, Patrick Elias, David Clarkson, Dan Cleary, Pascal Dupuis, Brad Boyes, Alexei Ponikarovsky, Jarome Iginla, Michael Ryder, Bryan Bickell, and Matt Cooke. I have omitted from the list Teemu Selanne and Daniel Alfredsson since if they do return it will almost certainly be with the Ducks and Senators respectively. I have also omitted Damien Brunner because he doesn’t have enough of a track record as I am looking at 3 seasons of data in my statistical evaluation. I have also omitted Jaromir Jagr because, well, for some reason I forgot to include him and couldn’t be bothered to go back and plug him into all the tables. He still has some value, but I am not sure how significant it is.

(Note that unless mentioned otherwise, the stats below are 5v5 stats over the past 3 seasons)

Offensive Evaluation

In order to attempt to isolate a players offensive production from their team mates one think I like to do is compare their own on-ice stats with the on-ice stats of their team mates when they are playing apart from him. To do this I took each players FF20 and GF20 and divided by teammate FF20 and teammate GF20 respectively. Here is how the wingers stack up against each other.

Winger FF20/TMFF20 Winger GF20/TMGF20
Viktor Stalberg 1.180 Patrick Elias 1.358
Nathan Horton 1.138 Nathan Horton 1.343
Ryane Clowe 1.087 Jarome Iginla 1.290
Mason Raymond 1.083 Pascal Dupuis 1.188
Clarke MacArthur 1.076 Viktor Stalberg 1.124
Patrick Elias 1.074 Michael Ryder 1.116
David Clarkson 1.066 Clarke MacArthur 1.111
Dan Cleary 1.049 Ryane Clowe 1.075
Pascal Dupuis 1.048 Bryan Bickell 1.058
Brad Boyes 1.044 Brad Boyes 1.042
Alexei Ponikarovsky 1.018 Mason Raymond 1.037
Jarome Iginla 1.017 Matt Cooke 0.962
Michael Ryder 0.999 Alexei Ponikarovsky 0.896
Matt Cooke 0.917 Dan Cleary 0.892
Bryan Bickell 0.896 David Clarkson 0.874

Based on the above lists you’d probably have to rank Horton, Stalberg and Elias the top 3 with MacArthur and Clowe not far behind while Cooke, Ponikarovsky and Bickell don’t look so good in comparison. Those are on-ice stats though, how do their individual stats look in comparison.

Winger G/60 Winger Points/60
Nathan Horton 1.111 Pascal Dupuis 2.28
Jarome Iginla 0.987 Nathan Horton 2.22
Pascal Dupuis 0.985 Jarome Iginla 2.09
Viktor Stalberg 0.964 Viktor Stalberg 2.03
Michael Ryder 0.941 Patrick Elias 2.01
David Clarkson 0.846 Michael Ryder 1.99
Clarke MacArthur 0.802 Clarke MacArthur 1.97
Bryan Bickell 0.779 Bryan Bickell 1.86
Matt Cooke 0.743 Brad Boyes 1.70
Dan Cleary 0.722 Ryane Clowe 1.70
Patrick Elias 0.700 Matt Cooke 1.69
Mason Raymond 0.645 Dan Cleary 1.69
Ryane Clowe 0.610 Mason Raymond 1.68
Brad Boyes 0.544 David Clarkson 1.28
Alexei Ponikarovsky 0.462 Alexei Ponikarovsky 1.20

Horton, Dupuis, Iginla, Stalberg dominate the top 4 spots on both lists while Ponikarovsky trails both lists. Individual stats are heavily influenced by quality of line mates and one measure I like to look at is the percentage of goals that their team scores when they are on the ice that they scored themselves (IGP) or had a point on (IPP). The higher the percentage the more integral the player is to his teams offense when he is on the ice.

Winger IGP Winger IPP
David Clarkson 50.7 Patrick Elias 82.1
Jarome Iginla 35.6 David Clarkson 76.7
Viktor Stalberg 34.9 Bryan Bickell 75.5
Michael Ryder 33.9 Jarome Iginla 75.2
Nathan Horton 33.1 Clarke MacArthur 73.5
Bryan Bickell 31.6 Viktor Stalberg 73.4
Dan Cleary 31.2 Dan Cleary 73.1
Pascal Dupuis 30.5 Michael Ryder 71.8
Matt Cooke 30.5 Ryane Clowe 70.9
Clarke MacArthur 29.9 Pascal Dupuis 70.8
Patrick Elias 28.6 Brad Boyes 69.9
Mason Raymond 26.4 Matt Cooke 69.5
Ryane Clowe 25.5 Mason Raymond 69.0
Alexei Ponikarovsky 25.0 Nathan Horton 66.1
Brad Boyes 22.3 Alexei Ponikarovsky 64.7

David Clarkson didn’t look so good in previous lists but when he is on the ice he is a major contributor to the teams offense. Put him with some better offensive players and it is possible he could significantly boost his offensive production. The same can probably be said for Bryan Bickell who has been given more ice time on the Blackhawks top lines these playoffs and he has produced well above his regular season rates. He could be a good bargain pickup for a team who could get good production from him as a second line winger.

Defensive Evaluation

Defensive evaluation is much tougher than offensive evaluation and I think in general wingers are the least important position as far as team defense goes. The best way to evaluate a player defensively is compare their on-ice stats with their team mates. Similar to what I did above with FF20 and GF20 I looked at TMFF20/FF20 and TMGA20/GA20.

Winger TMFA20/FA20 Winger TMGA20/GA20
Alexei Ponikarovsky 1.150 Alexei Ponikarovsky 1.206
Patrick Elias 1.122 Clarke MacArthur 1.174
Clarke MacArthur 1.083 Brad Boyes 1.150
David Clarkson 1.069 David Clarkson 1.097
Viktor Stalberg 1.063 Bryan Bickell 1.086
Nathan Horton 1.052 Pascal Dupuis 1.078
Ryane Clowe 1.038 Viktor Stalberg 1.003
Matt Cooke 1.005 Patrick Elias 0.976
Bryan Bickell 1.001 Michael Ryder 0.954
Brad Boyes 0.996 Matt Cooke 0.948
Dan Cleary 0.973 Jarome Iginla 0.937
Michael Ryder 0.971 Ryane Clowe 0.933
Jarome Iginla 0.953 Dan Cleary 0.879
Mason Raymond 0.951 Mason Raymond 0.858
Pascal Dupuis 0.918 Nathan Horton 0.830

Ponikarovsky, MacArthur, Clarkson seem to be the best in the class here with Raymond, Cleary, and Iginla probably trailing the pack overall.

Overall Evaluation

There is nothing too scientific in this but if I had to rank the wingers in terms of value this is how I would rank them, with probably more emphasis on offensive value.

  1. Iginla – Perfect for a team close looking for some help over the next couple seasons.
  2. Clarkson – I am surprised I am ranking Clarkson over Horton but he comes out ahead in more categories and may come cheaper. I’d still be cautious about over paying but he has scored a bunch of goals on a bad offensive team so that is good.
  3. Horton – I really like Horton but injuries have to be a concern and he’ll likely demand a big contract. He is a first line guy though and would be a big addition to any team. Has a longer track record than Clarkson too so less risky (health issues aside).
  4. MacArthur – Good all-round winger ideal for a second line role or as a secondary player on a first line.
  5. Elias – Age is starting to show but still very solid. Probably stays in New Jersey on short term deal.
  6. Stalberg – Not quite as proven against top competition as MacArthur but similar potential.
  7. Ryder – All he seems to do is score goals and still can be a 30 goal guy if given top line duty. Less rugged version of Clarkson.
  8. Dupuis – Likely stick in Pittsburgh and continue benefiting from playing a bunch on Crosby’s wing.
  9. Bickell – Probably worth taking a gamble on and playing in a second line role. Might be a 20 goal, 50 point guy in that role.
  10. Cooke – More useful for his PK skills. Decent 3rd line guy but limited offense
  11. Boyes – Decent offensive depth guy if on a good value contract. Probably re-signs with Islanders as he probably has more value to them than anyone else. Probably gets more (and higher quality) ice time than he deserves.
  12. Cleary – Not as productive as he was a few years ago but still has some value as a 2nd/3rd line winger.
  13. Clowe – Probably best as a 3rd line guy you hope you can get some toughness secondary offense from.
  14. Raymond – From afar he seems like the guy you always hope can be more but never is.
  15. Ponikarovsky – He kind of like Cooke minus the agitator/cheap shot track record. Solid defensive 3rd liner at this point in his career.


This article has 7 Comments

    1. He plays both center and wing so I consider him more of a center that can play wing as opposed to a winger that can play center. If I get around to doing this for centers I’ll include him.

      1. Wings fan here. Filppula’s been a bad center when asked to center the 2nd line but a pretty effective winger. Word is that he wants 5M per, and while if I had to choose between him and Franzen I would definitely choose Val, he’s not worth anywhere near 5M to the Wings.

        Wings scoring line wingers were brutal this year, probably the position group most in need of an upgrade.

  1. So David when can we expect the center evaluation?

    If Leafs could sign two out of the following: Clarkson, Stalberg, Bickell and Bickell – the top 9 wingers would be pretty good.

  2. Hoping that you will repeat this analysis for other positions. Found this very informative, though I am interested to know more re the legend

  3. These are great stats, but are we supposed to understand what all the short forms are? TMGA20/GA20 this is great, but what the hell are you comparing?

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