Thursday, July 4, 2013

Free agency targets--Sign Grabovski!

My take on notable UFAs and trade targets, and whether they may be a fit in Washington:

First, the UFAs. I don't think this team is looking at right-handed wingers too hard, since they've already got a solid--and expensive--group of four in Alex Ovechkin, Troy Brouwer, Eric Fehr, and Joel Ward. So let's just look at centers, lefty wingers, and defensemen. First, the forwards:

Stephen Weiss, C, 30 Update: signed with Detroit

Weiss' age scares me a little from giving him term, but he's scored like a high-end 2nd line forward for years and is good defensively as well. His last two seasons scare me a little, but I think the potential reward is worth the risk. I'd offer him $5m for sure, but I don't know that going up to $6m in a cap world is a good idea.

Vincent Lecavalier, C, 33 Update: signed with Philadelphia

Lecavalier is a pretty good player, better at 5v5 than Ribeiro and more of a scorer. His contract with Philadelphia is surprisingly not too bad. It's a little annoying seeing a team like Philadelphia being able to somehow snap up free agents even when their cap situation suggests otherwise, while teams that could actually accommodate those FAs without making a significant trade/buyout or two lose out. Oh well.

Mike Ribeiro, C, 33 Update: signed with Phoenix

Chances are, if you're reading this, that you know Ribeiro isn't even close to "the answer" at 2C. Lest you need reminding, though...

In economics, "costs" don't merely include paying for materials, power, etc--they also include the opportunity cost, or the best alternative. (e.g. If you invest in the market with a 1% inflation-adjusted rate of return, yes, you're making money, but why do that when you can stuff it in a bank at 2%?) Applying this to hockey makes sense, especially in a salary cap world. You can't just be spending money to make your team better--you have to make sure there's no more efficient way to spend the money. Ribeiro had himself a productive season, but did a lot of his scoring on the PP, when basically every player sees their scoring rate go up. The next best alternative, Mathieu Perreault, could probably replace almost all of Ribeiro's ES scoring given exactly the same minutes, and probably a good deal of the power play scoring, too. Brooks Laich at 2C wouldn't provide as much offense, but would be better defensively and should break even (unlike Ribeiro). Are the few extra assists on the power play (and the ripple-down effect of putting Laich on the wing and Perreault at 3C, roles in which they're both quite good) really worth ~$5m over 5 yrs to a guy who is already 33?

The other way to think about this is that Ribeiro was outscored at 5v5 by his opponents. I'm sorry, no second-line cornerstone on a Cup contender should be getting outscored by his opponents at fives. It's embarrassing, and at his age, it's not going to get any better.

I think the only real fit for him on a good team is where he can center two very good wings who play both ends of the ice (like Chicago--Sharp and either Kane or Hossa usually play on the second line--except with cap room to sign him with term).

Patrik Elias, LW, 37 Update: signed with New Jersey

I like Elias a lot. He has a long history of good results at 5v5, and for the Caps specifically, a left-handed playmaker like him would be valuable taking Ribeiro's spot on PP1 and feeding pucks to Ovechkin at ES. especially since he's a left-handed playmaker that Oates already has experience getting the most out of. But he's a career Devil, and having already won a Cup, I don't think he's leaving New Jersey.

Jaromir Jagr, RW, 41

Jagr, a lefty, would have to move to LW under Oates, I assume, but he could also fill Ribeiro's spot on the PP. (As a bonus, he's much more trigger-happy than Ribeiro, and I think the extra shooting threat would help the power play.) Given that how many teams he's played for, though, and his age, I assume he'll choose a team he hasn't played for yet, and one that also has a good chance at a title. I don't think the Capitals fit either criterion.

Vinny Prospal, LW, 38

Prospal is an interesting target. He's a left-handed playmaker (exactly two assists per goal in his NHL career) who has won a Cup. He's produced at least 0.6 points per game four years in a row, spending all four on poor offensive teams (the first two years with the Rangers and the last two with the Blue Jackets). His relative shot differentials and plus-minus are consistently good, and this team could use that reliable 9%+ on-ice shooting percentage. He's also a little more trigger-happy than Ribeiro, even at just ~2 shots a game. (Seriously, Ribeiro only took 63 shots in 48 games. That's not good at all.)

Coming off consecutive and identical one-year deals which each paid him $2.5m, I'd be willing to take a look. He has said, though, that he wants to stay with the Blue Jackets.

Tyler Bozak, C, 27 Update: signed with Toronto

Just no. Randy Carlyle seems to love him, but he drags down Phil Kessel and really everyone else he plays with. He's fine as a 3C, but some team will want him as a 2C or even 1C when he just doesn't have the offensive acumen or defensive dominance for it. (If you're not convinced, there's been plenty written on the subject.)

Derek Roy, C, 30

Roy is a risky option. He gets injured regularly. He did have a decent season for himself this year, though...depends on term. I wouldn't want to commit too much.

Saku Koivu, C, 38 Update: signed with Anaheim

Old. Pass.

Matt Cullen, C, 36 Update: signed with Nashville

Getting up there in years. A one-year stopgap who doesn't drastically improve the team doesn't interest me--all a player like that effectively does is drop the Caps' draft position a couple of spots. Pass.

Brenden Morrow, LW, 34 

He's not the player he once was. Pass.

Viktor Stalberg, LW, 27 Update: signed with Nashville

Jason Chimera with slightly better hands, but with (possibly) a cap hit twice as big. Pass.

Benoit Pouloit, LW, 26 Update: signed with NYR

Like Wojtek Wolski, Pouliot bounces around a lot, I guess due to off-ice issues, mostly. On the ice, he scores like a top-six forward. Good bargain potential here.

Clarke MacArthur, LW, 28 Update: signed with Ottawa

He had great chemistry with Grabovski and puts up very good possession numbers. He seems like a guy who would be a great LW on one of the top two lines, or really, whichever line could use his gritty game. I'd take him, but he may not come cheap.

Ryane Clowe, LW, 30 Update: signed with New Jersey

The three concussions this year and the fact that Fear the Fin--SBNation's stats-inclined Sharks blog--wasn't sad to see him ago makes me want to pass.

Nik Antropov, C, 33

He would have been a better pickup a few years ago--his play has trailed off a little over the last couple of seasons. (And it's not like he's playing with nobodies--he had the chance to play with Evander Kane on Winnipeg's second line, if he was good.)

Danny Briere, C, 35 Edit: Briere to Montreal.
He's like Ribeiro--a lot of powerplay scoring, not that great at ES anymore. (He might be slightly better, though.) He's had some recent injury issues. As for his playoff scoring, a) again, he's doing a lot of it on the power play, where it's easier to score, and b) he's at an age where he could, unexpectedly yet unsurprisingly, go into rapid decline at any moment. Pass.

Kyle Wellwood, C, 30

Although oft-maligned for fitness issues, he has a track record of posting decent Corsi numbers and scoring rates when given the chance. Could do worse, and he won't be expensive.

Scott Gomez, C, 33

Gomez is still competent in all three zones and is left-handed. He's probably more suited to a depth role if you want to build a strong team (he was a 3C or 4C in San Jose), but his speed and playmaking should make for a decent enough 3C who, playing with Laich and Ward, can play against top lines and do alright.

Boyd Gordon, C, 29 Update: signed with Edmonton

Gordon would be a great addition as a (relatively) big-minutes, penalty-killing 3C who plays top competition with hard zone starts, wins faceoffs like few others, and comes out ahead. In the midst of the decline of the Caps' top-six, it's easy to forget that under Boudreau, the third and fourth lines tended to be pretty strong as well. Gordon reverses some of that if you put him in a Malhotra-type role and let him do what he does best.

Dustin Penner, LW, 30

He was pretty good in Edmonton, but hasn't been the same player in Los Angeles (granted, he's not relied upon as much, either). Might command more salary and term than he should get. Pass.

There are slim pickings on the blueline. Tom Gilbert is easily the best of the bunch, and even though he's a righty, he's probably the one righty actually worth signing. Even though the righty would probably end up on the third pair--behind Mike Green and John Carlson on the depth chart, of course--Gilbert is good enough to carry Jack Hillen, Dmitry Orlov, or John Erskine in the occasional shift against good players. (I mean, when you think about it, John Carlson carried Erskine this entire season against either top lines or second lines. It's not impossible, and Gilbert has done it before.) No Caps pairing will need to be aggressively protected, and five of the six D will be able to skate with the puck (maybe six, if Orlov is able to supplant Erskine in the lineup), which would be really nice. (I realize Gilbert had a tough time in Minnesota, but he was very good in Edmonton, and I'm not going to fault him too much for struggling in a big mess in Minnesota.)

Anyway, here are the left-handed, more-mobile-than-Erskine, UFA D that could I could see replacing Erskine in the top-four: Andrew Ference (34), Ron Hainsey (32), Rob Scuderi (34), Filip Kuba (36), Wade Redden (36), Toni Lydman (35), Keith Ballard (30), and Carlo Colaiacovo (30). I think Lydman and Hainsey are guys that have flown under the radar for some time and wouldn't be too expensive.

Finally, trade chatter I've seen:

Edmonton: RW Ales Hemsky (29) and C Shawn Horcoff (34) Edit: Horcoff to Dallas.
Craig MacTavish said he'd be willing to move Hemsky and Horcoff. Horcoff is a pretty good 3C (or big-minutes shutdown 2C, which are rare nowadays but which Anaheim used to win a Cup in 2007) with a $5.5m cap hit for the next two seasons, so I'd pass on him. Although I didn't list any UFA RWs, I do think Hemsky is worth mentioning (...yet again) because, unlike the UFAs, he's a potential buy-low candidate, is signed for only one season, and is both old enough to be a proven dynamic offensive player while young enough that his skills aren't at risk of going into major decline anytime soon. The issue with Hemsky is, of course, injuries. If the injury risk and Edmonton's depth at wing don't substantially lower the asking price, though, I'm not interested.

Philadelphia: D Braydon Coburn (28)

Philadelphia is over next year's salary cap with Vinny Lecavalier now in the fold, so someone needs to go. It seems like Braydon Coburn is one name being shopped. (I don't understand why Philadelphia is shopping its second-best D when it needs more help on the blueline, but whatever.) Coburn can skate and shoots left. I don't know what the potential return would be, but Coburn is still under 30, has a contract for a $4.5m cap hit for three more seasons, and can beat tough minutes in the right situation.

I'm honestly not too worried about the division aspect of it. The Capitals and Flyers will meet either four or five times a year in the new division, which isn't really different from the four required meetings under the previous divisional alignment. They could meet in the playoffs, but while Philadelphia's starting goalie is Steve Mason, I'm not worried about the Flyers beating the Capitals.

Boston: someone Edit: Uh, I guess sending Seguin and Peverley to Dallas for Eriksson solves this problem.
With 12 forwards, 7 D, and no goalies signed for next season, Boston has ~$5m in cap room. Tuukka Rask's new deal is rumored to be in the $7m range per year. Add in Marc Savard's LTIR relief, and Boston can add ~$2m in salary, needing a backup goalie and another forward. I'm guessing Boston is willing to trade. (Supposedly Tyler Seguin's name was in play at the draft, but the asking price would be substantial to acquire him. Probably starting with something worth a lottery pick, and then some.)

Vancouver: D Alex Edler (27)

I'm not sure exactly why Vancouver is shopping one of their top-4, but apparently it's been happening. Vancouver is not in dire need of cap room--they have nine forwards, five defensemen, and two goalies signed with over $7m in cap room. (One F and one D are RFAs, too.) Maybe the Canucks want to chase a top UFA and are willing to push Chris Tanev into a top-four role? Maybe they want to get rid of the left-side logjam? (Hamhuis, Garrison, and Edler are all LDs, according to this.)

Edler is signed for six more seasons at $5m per season. He is at a pretty good age and will top 40 points when healthy and when getting good power play time. He isn't a guy who puts up monster Corsi, but his situation in Vancouver was a little awkward, so I'm willing to cut him a little slack.

If he were on a one-year deal, I might be interested in seeing what he could do. But six years is an awful lot of risk for taking on a D that isn't a dominant presence. That being said, he's definitely an upgrade on Erskine, and he pushes Orlov and others onto the third pair for the foreseeable future, which makes the blueline a big strength for this team.

Toronto: (speculation) C Mikhail Grabovski Grabovski (29) has been bought out and is a UFA.

I'm dead serious when I write that he is the best player (whose name is bolded) on this entire page. He can score at a near top-line level and he's good enough to carry a line (for the time being). If McPhee is able to acquire Grabovski for something somewhat reasonable--and coming off a down year offensively, he shouldn't cost that much--I will be really happy. And also actually pencil this team in as a Cup dark horse next season, and change that from "dark horse" to "contender" if Kuznetsov comes over and is good.

This is the legit 2C you've been looking for. He has all the possession skills of Fedorov, but is better offensively. (And, in case you're wondering, work ethic isn't an issue with him.) Want.

Actually, GMGM, just claim him. Please. Before he hits UFA. Claim him off waivers. He's worth his contract ($5.5m a year, four more years).

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