Senators RFA Dossier: Nick Foligno

NASHVILLE TN - DECEMBER 23: Nick Spaling #13 and Kevin Klein #8 of the Nashville Predators skate against Nick Foligno #71 of the Ottawa Senators on December 23 2010 at the Bridgestone Arena in Nashville Tennessee. (Photo by Frederick Breedon/Getty Images)

Drafted 28th overall back in 2006, Nick Foligno has never had to live up to the kind of impossible expectations foisted on top-pick prospects. Perhaps because of this, he's solidified a place on the Senators roster as a tenacious forward with some upside.

Foligno is as an RFA entering his prime at 24 years old, on a rebuilding team with a number of quality forward prospects in the pipeline. He's improved year over year, and Bryan Murray is now faced with the difficult decision of whether or not to include Foligno among the Senators' core players.


Nick Foligno

#71 / Left Wing / Ottawa Senators

6-0

208

Oct 31, 1987




GP G A P +/- PIM PPG SHG GWG GTG SOG PCT
2011 - Nick Foligno 82 15 32 47 2 124 1 0 3 153


Bryan Murray is on record saying that the team is looking for that elusive top six forward addition, and that he's hoping to go with an internal solution:

"That's exactly what I asked Nick today. ‘Are you going to be that guy? Are you going to be the guy that improves this summer strength wise and getting up and down the ice a little better?' He thinks he can and I've challenged him a little bit in that area."

Taking a long, cold look at the UFA market, clearly it's preferable to have your in-house players produce at a higher rate than to pay a premium for a mediocre, aging talent.

Contract Status: Nick Foligno is a restricted free agent, coming off a two year deal that paid him an average cap hit of $1.2M. It's worth mentioning that the actual salary nearly doubled from $850,000 to $1.55M from year to year. Clearly the Senators brass saw him developing quickly.

Season in Review

As Foligno enters his sixth season, perhaps there is one overriding concern: that the ridiculous deals handed out to David Jones in Colorado (four years, $4MM per) and Chris Kelly in Boston (four years, $3MM per) indicate a huge market for players with a 20 goal, 50 point ceiling.

Year

GP

G

A

Pts

+/-

PIM

Hits

BkS

PPG

PPA

GW

SOG

Pct

2007-08

45

6

3

9

0

20

51

11

0

0

0

44

.136

2008-09

81

17

15

32

-10

59

97

18

7

7

2

145

.117

2009-10

61

9

17

26

6

53

78

23

2

4

2

83

.108

2010-11

82

14

20

34

-19

43

119

41

5

5

3

149

.094

2011-12

82

15

32

47

2

124

196

30

1

3

3

153

.09

As you can see, Foligno had a career high in points last season, even if he didn't manage to break that mystical 20-goal point at which analysts consider you a true top six forward. He had a strong relative CORSI at 4.4 (and an even better 8.8 in the playoffs with comparable ice time), meaning that he fits in Paul MacLean's puck possession system. He plays with an edge, and seems to pattern his leadership style on the Chris Neil Finishing School for Young Upstarts. (He seemed especially adept this season at goalie interference.) His physical game has improved steadily, as he threw 77 more hits this year than last, in what is not at all a poorly-tracked stat.

He's also a deceptively productive player. From The6thSens excellent write up "Challenging Nick Foligno":

"Proportionate to his 5v5 ice-time, of NHL forwards who played in more than 40 games, Foligno had the 37th best points-per-60 minutes rate in the league at 2.40. Of the forwards who played in 80 or more games, Foligno had the 20th best mark in the league - finishing ahead of big name offensive talents like John Tavares (2.37), Anze Kopitar (2.25), Zach Parise (2.18) and Daniel Alfredsson (2.16)."

All told, Foligno is a quality depth player, and is getting better. The question is almost never whether or not he should be retained. It's if he should be paid the going rates for young RFAs with potential.

Comparable Players:


Kyle Okposo

#21 / Right Wing / New York Islanders

6-0

205

Apr 16, 1988



G A P +/- PIM
2011 - Kyle Okposo 24 21 45 -15 46


He was drafted to be more of a pure goal scorer, perhaps, but Okposo is a power forward in the same style as Foligno, and only broke the 20-goal mark last season. He's also the same age as Foligno. He's currently enjoying a five year deal with a $2.8MM cap hit (though the actual salary increases every year to $4.5MM in the final year), and though Okposo was drafted 7th overall-quite a bit higher than Foligno's 28th--and so is considered to have better pedigree--the deal is a fair one to pattern Foligno's on...

...if the team wants to keep Foligno in their plans. The Islanders clearly see Okposo as a core player for them, with all sorts of upside. Does Ottawa feel the same way about Nick Foligno?


Wayne Simmonds

#17 / Right Wing / Philadelphia Flyers

6-2

183

Aug 26, 1988



G A P +/- PIM
2011 - Wayne Simmonds 28 21 49 -1 114

A year younger than Foligno, playing in the same gritty style, Simmonds is on the last year of a two year, $1.75MM per deal. Again, he's more of a pure scorer, but as a young, complementary player who's expected to bring character and physicality, they're comparable. If anything, Foligno's new deal may just influence what Simmonds gets next season.


Jakub Voracek

#93 / Right Wing / Philadelphia Flyers

6-2

214

Aug 15, 1989



G A P +/- PIM
2011 - Jakub Voracek 18 31 49 11 32

Another Flyer, and another impending RFA looking for a deal, Voracek's numbers are much more in line with Foligno's. In four seasons he's never scored more than last year's 18 goals, and he hovers perpetually around that 50 point mark. The point being that his last deal paid him $2.25MM, and he's two years younger than Foligno. Again, he was drafted in the top ten, so pedigree might have been a factor in his last deal.

---

I tried to look at comparably aged wingers, but as you might imagine, there are a slew of forwards in that 40-50 point range, older guys who signed deals as UFAs and might now be classified as underachieving veterans. While Ottawa has some leverage with Foligno being an RFA, there are notable names in his point-producing strata whose salaries range from reasonable to insane: Ryan Kesler, Vincent Lecavalier, Danny Briere, Andrew Ladd, Jordan Staal, Mike Richards, Niklas Backstrom, Mikko Koivu, Mike Cammalleri and Shane Doan. While Foligno can't point to similar experience and hasn't been used in the same role, if negotiations really get out of hand he could ask for something more in line with these guys' salaries. And there's no telling which 50 point players are going to receive ludicrous deals and tip the market even further in the coming days.

Conclusion: Nick Foligno's fate may be one of the hardest to predict on this team. He may sign a short term deal (1-2 years) so the team can wait to see if he can claim his spot in the top six; he may sign a longer-term deal (3+) as he enters his prime; he may earn anywhere between $2M and $4M+ on either length deal; and he might just be the most attractive trade asset in Murray's hand outside of Karlsson, surely part of any package for big name players. In any case, you can bet on Foligno to at least double his salary from last year.

It sounds as if the team is banking of Foligno to step up his game and more consistently produce goals, but one wonders how patient they will be if he struggles to start the year. Ottawa has plenty of prospect depth up front, and will want to make room for younger players to develop.

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