Tuesday, 26 June 2007

2006-07 Off-Season UFA's (Part Three - Centers) - A

The third in a series of posts on the UFA market that will hit this coming off-season. The first post was all about goalie's and the second was all about defensemen. My latest update to those posts is here.

Convential wisdom has it that building a team starts from the net out. All else being equal it is better to have a good goalie than it is to have a good defensemen than it is to have a good center than it is to have a good winger. Funny then that marquee centers have traditionally received more pay and press than most goalie's or defensemen.

Easy call really. The top-scorer on a team is almost always a forward and the center on a line tends to direct the play. Goalie's and defensemen might have a greater impact on wins and losses but for the vast majority of fans out there it is the center who sells the tickets.


Age .. .$$ .. avg toi .. pp .. sh/gm

32 .. 5.75 .. 18.17 .. 4.07 .. _.10 .. Peter Forsberg
29 .. 3.08 .. 18.46 .. 4.25 .. 2.56 .. Chris Drury
29 .. 2.13 .. 20.59 .. 5.13 .. 3.02 .. Michal Handzus
28 .. 5.00 .. 19.18 .. 4.45 .. _.18 .. Daniel Briere
26 .. 5.00 .. 18.55 .. 4.28 .. _.02 .. Scott Gomez
32 .. 7.42 .. 17.04 .. 3.33 .. _.24 .. Alexei Yashin

36 .. 0.80 .. 12.20 .. 1.56 .. 1.34 .. Trevor Linden
34 .. 1.98 .. 17.59 .. 3.15 .. 2.08 .. Bryan Smolinski
33 .. 1.63 .. 19.07 .. 3.09 .. 3.06 .. Josef Stumpel
31 .. 1.48 .. 17.13 .. 2.27 .. 2.35 .. Todd White
31 .. 0.87 .. 16.24 .. 2.06 .. 1.24 .. Viktor Kozlov
28 .. 1.30 .. 16.14 .. 2.34 .. 1.58 .. Eric Belanger

35 .. 3.80 .. 16.49 .. 3.34 .. _.06 .. Robert Lang
33 .. 2.50 .. 14.39 .. 3.34 .. _.02 .. Eric Lindros
32 .. 0.50 .. 12.05 .. 2.17 .. _.14 .. Glen Metropolit
30 .. 0.60 .. 14.08 .. 1.39 .. _.24 .. Randy Robitaille
29 .. 2.90 .. 16.39 .. 4.37 .. _.04 .. Petr Sykora
28 .. 2.85 .. 12.30 .. 1.47 .. _.31 .. Mike York

36 .. 1.44 .. 14.53 .. _.10 .. 2.05 .. Wes Walz
32 .. 2.50 .. 17.24 .. _.24 .. 4.17 .. Michael Peca
31 .. 0.73 .. 10.55 .. _.24 .. 1.49 .. Kevyn Adams
31 .. 0.53 .. 12.32 .. _.08 .. 3.14 .. Scott Nichol
30 .. 2.39 .. 15.52 .. _.28 .. 2.57 .. Radek Bonk
30 .. 1.13 .. 13.32 .. _.51 .. 2.29 .. Wayne Primeau
30 .. 0.95 .. __.__ .. _.__ .. _.__ .. Jason Wiemer (inj.)

25 .. 3.00 .. 15.14 .. 3.22 .. _.19 .. Mike Comrie
25 .. 0.90 .. 12.12 .. _.08 .. 1.19 .. Patrick Stefan
25 .. 1.15 .. 13.23 .. _.53 .. _.31 .. Josef Vasicek

37 .. 0.45 .. _8.17 .. _.04 .. 1.51 .. Jim Dowd
36 .. 1.50 .. 13.53 .. 2.01 .. 1.09 .. Jeremy Roenick
35 .. 0.70 .. 15.33 .. 3.15 .. _.24 .. Yanic Perreault
35 .. 0.50 .. _8.53 .. _._5 .. 2.59 .. Travis Green
34 .. 1.52 .. _9.53 .. _.20 .. 1.38 .. Mike Ricci

29 .. 0.50 .. _9.30 .. _.12 .. _.02 .. Wyatt Smith
29 .. 0.45 .. _9.27 .. _.07 .. _.01 .. Eric Rasmussen
29 .. 0.45 .. _9.46 .. _.15 .. 1.06 .. Byron Ritchie
29 .. 0.45 .. 10.46 .. 1.55 .. _.__ .. Mark Hartigan
28 .. 0.70 .. 10.24 .. _.51 .. _.41 .. Mark Smith
28 .. 0.48 .. 12.55 .. 3.21 .. _.02 .. Jeff Hamilton
27 .. 0.63 .. 13.46 .. _.51 .. 2.56 .. Mikael Holmqvist
27 .. 0.75 .. 13.37 .. 1.06 .. _.48 .. Brett MacLean
27 .. 0.68 .. _7.33 .. _.04 .. _.02 .. Adam Mair
27 .. 0.45 .. 13.40 .. 1.21 .. 1.57 .. Toby Peterson
27 .. 0.45 .. _7.22 .. _.16 .. _.02 .. Tommi Santala

Group A: the 'name' players

This is an interesting category. Forsberg and Handzus have health issues, Briere and Gomez are offensive dynamo's who don't play much defense and Yashin will put up the points without a care in world (which IS the problem). Drury lacks the big numbers but is the better all-around player.

If Forsberg plays it will be in Philly or Colorado so look for him to be in Philly at $4.8 mill /yr (one year). Briere and Gomez are proven point producers and could end up anywhere so look for them to sign 4 or 5 yr deals in the $6.5 mill /yr range.

Handzus will cash in on his 'potential' (big guy who can play) yet again and will garner a $4.0 mill /yr payday while Yashin will get signed late August by some team that needs some offense ($3.5 mill /yr for one year).

The wildcard is Drury. Great leadership and 'clutch-player' rep will get him a payday a la Briere and Gomez but the question becomes - where? I will, actually, be disappointed if San Jose doesn't make a play for him. Signing Drury and trading Marleau for the pieces they need is the smart move.

Group B: the 'all-around good guys' group

Not the 1st-line ES, PP of PK but they can do it all and are often first over the boards for the 2nd-line PP or PK teams. It may be because they really are good at everything (a guy like Linden has years of veteran savvy to fall back on) or it may be because the team is undermanned (Stumpel is THAT good on the PK?) so do your research and make your call accordingly.

Linden will retire in Vancouver so look for a retirement contract for him (2 yrs at < $1 mill /yr). Smolinski is a guy who is good enough to be wanted by teams but not so good that they keep him, look for him to sign for a couple of years at $2 to 2.5 mill /yr. Florida likes Stumpel and Stumpel likes Florida; he'll get 3 years at $1.8 - 2.2 mill /yr.

After years of working his tail off White will finally get land a paycheque that fits his tweener status (better than 3rd line but not quite 2nd line); he'll want 3 or 4 years at $1.8 mill /yr or 2 years at $2 mill /yr. Belanger's numbers improved in Atlanta so he may get a slight bump into the $1.5 mill /yr range (expect a 2 year deal).

Kozlov is the wildcard of the group. Is he finally putting it all together? He had a good year last year and that may just land him a bigger contract. Look for a 3 year deal in $1.2 to 1.5 mill /yr range. I think he would like to go to a team that wants him - I do not know if that is New York.

Group C: the 'friends of the power-play' group

Players who, for better or for worse, aren't known for how they play defense. They tend to get lots of power-play time and some of them even earn it. The wildcard in the group is Lindros. His injury history is scary and he has changed his play because of it BUT he can still play the game pretty well. He will sign where he can, probably short-term, and get some $2 mill /yr for his troubles.

Lang and Sykora are more consistent than most but neither one is a 'core' kind of guy. I expect both to take pay-cuts. Sykora will probably stay in Edmonton the next 2 years for $2.8 mill /yr while Lang will get a chance to see more of the USA; also a 2 year deal and this one pegged at $2.5 to $3.25 mill /yr.

Metropolit, Robitaille and York represent the bottom end of this group. They will be paid accordingly. The first two will sign anywhere that needs a center who can work a 2nd power-play unit and they will be happy to make 700k to 800k a year doing it. York, after a dismal season is kind of in the same boat. His good years in Edmonton will get him a 2 year deal somewhere making $1.2 - 1.6 mill /yr.

Group D: the 'what's a power-play?' group

Players who, for better or worse, never see PP time because they are too busy being relied upon to play well defensively or because they wouldn't be any good on the PP regardless and SOMEONE has to play 2nd unit minutes on the PK. If Wiemer can ever play again (I never looked it up) he will get short-term 'see-if-he-can-play-again' deal for 550 - 700k /yr.

Peca is the big name and if healthy he is a legit difference maker. His big payday days are long gone but expect the Leafs or Islanders to give him a multi-year deal that averages $2.2 mill /yr or so. Walz is the elder statesman of the group and he will go to a team that needs a veteran like him who can play. Expect a 2 year retirement deal at $1.2 mill /yr or so.

Bonk has turned himself into a legit, top-end, defensive forward. I see him taking a pay-cut but it shouldn't be much of one - he'll go to anyone who pays him and I expect it will be 3 years at $2.2 mill /yr. Primeau is the very definition of generic 3rd line defensive forward. Given the lack of quality depth in the NHL a 2 year deal awaits him, somewhere, for $1.2 mill /yr.

Nichol and Adams are the guys who are kicking around because they can play better than the current rookie de jour and thus will hurt the team less in tight games. Look for Nichol to get a slight bump in pay to 650k /yr while Adams will take a slight cut in pay to 650k /yr. Both players will sign short term deals.

Group E: the 'wanna-be' players

A small group of players who have the talent to make some noise, and are still young enough to do so, BUT don't have the 'it' that it takes to get them over the hump. Comrie had a good play-offs with Ottawa and he will probably get the biggest paycheque of the bunch - just smaller than before. 3 year deal, somewhere that needs an offense first-last-always forward, for $2.5 mill /yr.

Stefan and Vasicek were both, once, highly touted prospects. Not great years for them however. Vasicek will get roughly $1 mill /yr for a couple of years from someone who wants to take a chance while Stefan may be re-inventing himself into a defensively sound forward. Take a couple more years for him to do that so expect another couple of 800 - 900k paydays for him this round.

Funny thing about Vasicek... not a good year in Carolina but dig a little deeper and you find out the guy played some very tough competition through-out the year. One of the best 'Quality of competition' stats in the NHL last year (courtesy of Desjardins). Interesting.

Group F: the 'it's a good-life' players

The guys are hanging on to their jobs every game of every year. I won't go into detail on most of these as it is fairly clear that the majority of them will be lucky to get 2 year contracts that aren't two-way deals. The best of them will get 650 - 750k contracts and the average will probably be in the 500k range.

Of the guys mentioned above, Peterson and (M) Smith may have solidified a reputation for being dependable utility forwards while Hamilton, MacLean and Hartignan may have given themselves a future as 2nd line PP fill-ins. Holmqvist and Ritchie make up the PK utility set of this this group. Rasmussen and Mair haven't done themselves any favors and (W) Smith and Santala are just fill-ins.

With this group of forwards it is always hard to say as to what will really happen. Why they even get playing at all can often be up for debate (some are only injury fill-ins, etc). The only thing that isn't debateable is that they won't make much more than the minimum and that even the smallest NHL paycheque is still a pretty good paycheque to have.

Group G: the 'you still play?' players

Centers tend to be under a LOT of pressure to perform in the NHL. They can get pushed out of their roster spot very quickly. Excepting Perreault, all the players in this group are guys who have fallen off the map (sts) in regards to their level of play and they should probably retire soon or sooner. None of them will get a contract longer than 2 years.

Perreault gets by on superior face-off skills and some decent PP work. He will find a job somewhere and make $1.2 mill /yr or so doing it. Ricci, Green and Dowd may get work as dependable 4th-line PK vets while Roenick never learned how to adjust his game to match his roster spot (not specialized enough in any one area of the game) and so he may be waiting on a new contract for quite a while. Expect most of the signings to be at or near the minimum.


Next part of this post follows directly below.


RiversQ said...

Goalie's and defensemen might have a greater impact on wins and losses but for the vast majority of fans out there it is the center who sells the tickets.

Funny, I've never seen anyone make a convincing argument that a good dman is more valuable than a good forward when it comes to winning hockey games.

Personally, I'd argue that a good centre is more valuable than a good dman anyway. They just drive the offense so much and they are a significant factor in GA as well. In general, the top forwards seem to do fairly well in terms of GF/GA regardless of the D pairing behind them. Defensemen? Not so much.

Of course I'll give on Lidstrom and Pronger because they're both clearly way ahead of the rest of the pack, but after those two, I'd spend my $8MM/yr on an impact forward.

Goalies are of course a whole different issue. That's probably the most important position in sports and there's no arguing with it.

RiversQ said...

Oh yeah, I'll also eat my hat if Briere, Gomez and Drury all top out at $6.5MM/yr. I bet they blow that out.

In fact it wouldn't surprise me if one of them gets $2MM/yr more than that.

YKOil said...

I'll take the good d-man every time. They put in more minutes per guy, there are fewer of them on a team and there are fewer of them in the league.

We agree on goalie's.

As far as Gomez / Briere goes... well... this article was first drafted almost a month ago... my bad for not updating certain parts of it to reflect market changes.

I will still be surprised if either of them approach Richards money if only because anyone with a brain knows what has happened in Tampa with so much money tied up in so few players. If I had to set a new target look to 7.0 - 7.4.

Mr DeBakey said...

Center is, I think, the least of the Oilers worries. With Horcoff, Stoll, & Pouliot I think they're OK.

For the the fourth guy, I'm in the devil you know mode:
- play Reasoner, let him babysit a couple of youngsters - roll Nillson, Thoreson, Brodziak, Jacques thru
- play Sykora. stick Nillson on one side, another scorer on the other - Nolan, or the newly available Ouellet. Sort of a ready-made 2nd PP unit. Have Thoreson & Jacques sub as required.

Gomez & Briere are going to cost a fortune, and there is going to be a long line-up.

Of the others, I wonder how V Kozlov or Alexei "some team that needs some offense" Yashin would look with Horcoff & Hemsky?

Bonk, I like.
Mair, enjoy the NHL season on a budget.

Lowe better take take Boynton if he gets the chance. I'll be searchin for letter bombs on the internets if he don't.