Nick Foligno: 2nd Line? Trade Bait?

In a GDT recently, someone mentioned that, despite posting the fourth highest point total among Senators forwards, Nick Foligno routinely finds himself out of the equation when it comes to our top two lines. Many fans on the site have realized Nick's value, often using him as the obligatory ‘roster player' added to fantasy moves for Rick Nash, Jeff Carter, and other enticing players.

But this made me wonder, what is Nick Foligno's value? I'm pleased as punch to have been able to pick him up for nothing in my hockey pool, but should Bryan Murray drop him if someone else becomes available? Should Paul MacLean use him on our second line with Alfie and Turris?

To get a better understanding of his value, let's look at his stats. In 61 games this year, Foligno has 12 goals and 22 assists for 34 points. Of his 12 goals, 1 was a powerplay goal and 2 were game winners. His shooting percentage is 11.4%, he has taken 105 shots, and has a whopping 83 PIMs (I was a little surprised by this). His TOI average is 14:53. This includes season lows of 8:07 on December 10 against Vancouver and 5:56 on December 22 against Florida, when he was ejected in both games for questionable hits (collecting 17 and 15 minutes of penalties respectively). This average also includes the relatively high 20:05 (his season high) in a game on December 14 against Boston and 18:30 on December 13 against Buffalo (the Buffalo game was when Karlsson took Michalek out and consequently, the top line winger missed the Boston game).

Those seem like decent returns for Foligno, perhaps not quite the production we'd want from a second line winger, but better returns than Colin Greening (61-12-15-27) who has seen significant first line time but only gets an 8.6% return on his 139 shots or Erik Condra (60-7-14-21) a frequent choice for Turris' wing, who's shooting percentage is a measly 6.7%. Chris Neil, who frequently plays a role on the powerplay (which I think is better served by Foligno), also falls shy of Nick's totals (52-9-10-19, 9.2%).

If Bobby Butler's current play merits first line consideration - it does - than the Senators second line wing options for the Turris-Alfie line seem to be Foligno, Condra, or Greening, and it should be Foligno. But should Murray capitalize on his value and trade Foligno?

To get a better understanding of Foligno's value on both the second line and as trade bait, I'll compare Nick to other similar top-six wingers in the Eastern Conference.

First, teammate Milan Michalek, the Senators undisputed top line left winger. Milan and Nick play a similar style: both go to the dirty areas in front of the net to create chances. While Milan frequently puts it in the net from between the circles, Nick is often creating a distraction and opening up space for his teammates. While Michalek has missed five games with a concussion (who says Karlsson can't play physical?) his point total compares to Foligno's. In 56 games, Milan's had 25 goals and 14 assists for 39 points. Milan's obvious advantage is that he has double Nick's goal total and his 15.8% shooting percentage is the main reason why. However, Milan averages 19:22 in ice time, which includes his season-low 10:05 when he suffered a concussion midway through the Buffalo game on December 13. That's over four minutes more than Nick.

Let's look at the opposition. Philadelphia's Wayne Simmonds' is a winger who plays a comparable game to Nick's: physical, with offensive upside. Wayne also has a similar stat line to Nick's: 59 games played, 22 goals, 17 assists, 39 points, 75 PIMs, with a shooting percentage of 15.5%. That's good for fourth on the Flyers (Nick sits fifth for the Sens). His TOI average is 16:03, over a minute more than Nick.

Milan Lucic is Boston's top left winger and sits third in team scoring. While the Bruins do have some games in hand on the Senators, Lucic's numbers aren't that far off Foligno's. In 56 games this season, Lucic has 20 goals and 22 assists for 42 points. Add to that 109 PIMs and you have a recipe for a vintage power forward. Lucic actually shoots about as much as #71, having fired 106 pucks at opposition goalies. It's what he does with those shots that makes the difference (ie. does not miss with the frequency of Jason Spezza). Lucic is the owner of an 18.9% shooting percentage, which makes him a beast and means he should probably shoot at goalies more instead of running them over. Lucic's TOI average is a modest 16:34; however, this average includes several games with misconducts, including the game against the Canucks on January 7th, where Lucic played just 1:27. Still, it's approximately 1:45 more than Foligno.

Boston has a second top-six forward who compares with Foligno, the ever irritating Brad Marchand. Marchand is currently tied for fourth place in Bruins scoring with David Krejci (who is having an abysmal year). Limited to 51 games because of poor decisions (ie suspension), Marchand has still contributed 19 goals and 21 assists for 40 points, only two behind Lucic. Like Foligno, Marchand is a natural centre who often plays wing. While Marchand has a better points-per-game ratio than Foligno [.78 P/G vs. .56 P/G (although Nick's is much better than fellow Senators Greening .44 P/G and Condra .35 P/G)], I like Foligno's decision making ability better when it comes to physical play. However, referees do not agree with me (both Marchand and Foligno have received multiple misconducts this year). Marchand also plays three minutes more per game than Foligno (Marchand's TOI average is 17:26).

Like Foligno, New Jersey's David Clarkson also falls into the second line/third line limbo. He's sixth on the team in scoring, but has produced 23 goals and 10 assists for 33 points in 59 games. Of his 23 goals, 5 have been game winners. He has the most sandpaper out of all New Jersey's point producers, with 97 PIMs. He definitely takes more shots than Foligno (166), but is also better at converting them (13.9%). His TOI average is 16:15.

Finally, let's look at New York Rangers captain Ryan Callahan. Callahan is a gritty winger and leader who has already hit the 20 goal mark this season. Yet his stat line compares reasonably well with Foligno. In 58 games, Callahan has scored 23 goals and 20 assists for 43 points, while adding 53 penalty minutes. Callahan is second on the Rangers in scoring, in front of marquee free agent signing Brad Richards (40 points) and behind only the guy who stole the All Star game MVP from Alfie (Gaborik - 50 points). However, Callahan is turning into a new Captain Clutch: of his 43 points, 11 of them are on the powerplay, he has 1 shorthanded goal, and 6 game winning goals (tied for 6th best in the league). His shooting percentage is slightly better than Nick's at 12.9%, but he certainly takes more shots (178). He doesn't benefit from taking a regular shift with the blue shirts star Marian Gaborik, but probably benefits from not facing the defensive match ups that go along with that. Callahan averages over 20 minutes a game (20:51 TOI), which includes a mind boggling 28:11 against Tampa on December 8th, after playing over 25 minutes against the Leafs in the previous game. That's elite shutdown defenseman playoff TOI, not regular season second line forward time. No wonder he's the captain.

Perhaps most interesting of this group is Callahan. Two years Foligno's senior, Callahan split two seasons between the Rangers and their AHL affiliate the Hartford Wolf Pack. Callahan played 73 combined games for the Wolf Pack in 2006-07 and 2007-08, scoring 42 goals and 70 points. Nick never spent a full season in Bingo, playing only 28 games for the B-Sens in 2007-08, recording 6 goals and 19 points before becoming a permanent member of the NHL team that same year.

Callahan's stat lines with the Rangers illustrate his development at the NHL level: 06-07: 14-4-2-6; 07-08: 52-8-5-13; 08-09: 81-22-18-40; 09-10: 77-19-18-37; 10-11: 60-23-25-48. Foligno's stats show similar growth but, admittedly, less production than Callahan: 07-08: 28-6-13-19; 08-09: 81-17-15-32; 09-10: 61-9-17-26 (season hampered by broken leg); 10-11: 82-14-20-34. While last season's 48 points in only 60 games represents a breakthrough for Callahan, it is important to remember that since 2008-09 Callahan has been averaging more minutes playing as part of the Rangers top-six while Foligno sees less ice team and has alternated between 2nd, 3rd, and 4th line duty during his time with the Senators, mostly finding a home on the 3rd line. Will Nick Foligno becomes the next Ryan Callahan? Maybe not, but with increased minutes and top-six opportunity, perhaps Foligno can produce at a similar level.

One final consideration: Nick is 24 years old and carries a salary of $1.55 million. Callahan is 26 and makes $4 million, Lucic is 23 and also makes $4 million, Clarkson is 27 and brings home $3 million, and Marchand is 23 and makes $2 million. Only Wayne Simmonds, aged 23, makes less than Foligno, and not by much (Simmonds' take home pay is $1.5 million). While Nick will undoubtedly receive a raise in his next contract, I believe he would come cheaper than Callahan, Lucic, and Clarkson and his new contract would probably be lower than new deals given to Marchand and Simmonds. In a cap world, this is significant. While the others looked at clearly have an advantage in terms of goals scored, Nick Foligno's production and salary should not be discounted.

This FanPost was written by a member of the Silver Seven community, and does not necessarily reflect the beliefs or opinions of the site managers, editors, or Sports Blogs Nation, Inc.

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