Next in our series of articles on the Ottawa Senators' free agents, we look at the team's strangely enigmatic young winger: Nick Foligno.
#71 / Left Wing / Ottawa Senators
Oct 31, 1987
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Contract status: Foligno has just finished the last year of his entry level contract. Foligno made $785k in 2009-10.
Season review: Statistically, Foligno had a steep regression from the previous season, where he scored 17 goals and 15 assists in 81 games. Foligno struggled through injuries this year, breaking his leg to block a shot on January 30th. This injury occurred just when he was starting to play his best hockey of the season -- he had racked up one goal and five assists in the seven games prior. Upon his return, he was not the same player. He only managed one assist for the rest of the year -- and just one more assist in six playoff games -- and finished on the fourth line. It was an ignominious end to what was supposed to be the year he established himself as a top six forward.
Comparable players: In putting together a list of comparable players, I looked around the league at younger forwards who recently signed their second contracts, with comparable statistics in recent NHL seasons as Foligno.
#17 / Left Wing / Boston Bruins
Jun 07, 1988
Cap Hit: $4.08M, three more seasons
Bear with me here. Last season, Lucic put up 42 points (17G, 25A) in 72 games. This year, he only managed 20 points (9G, 11A) in 50 games in a injury-filled year. Statistically, he's as close to Foligno as I could find. Lucic was given a three-year, $12.25M deal prior to getting injured this year. This is the top end of what Foligno could get, but I would be very surprised to see a deal close to this one. Boston seems to be much surer of what they have in Lucic than I believe Ottawa is in Foligno.
#29 / Center / Dallas Stars
Aug 19, 1982
Cap Hit: $2.95M, four more seasons
Ott is older than Foligno, but has bounced between the NHL and AHL for Dallas for several years before finally blossoming into a 20-goal scorer last year. He plays a similar type of game, and if Bryan Murray believes Foligno can develop into a similar player, we might see a contract that escalates toward this number.
#16 / Left Wing / Chicago Blackhawks
Dec 12, 1985
Cap Hit: $1.55 for one more season
Ladd won a Stanley Cup with Carolina, but never truly found his groove there, especially for a player who was chosen fourth overall. Acquired by the Blackhawks for Tuomo Ruutu, he has put up numbers similar to Foligno's the past two years. Whether that's enough to satisfy Chicago fans is not relevant for this article, but the Hawks did extend a two year contract to Ladd in 2008 for a very reasonable cap hit. Ladd will still be a restricted free agent at the end of that contract.
It was surprisingly more difficult to find statistically comparable players to Foligno than I thought it would be. It's my personal belief that Foligno will emerge as a Mike Fisher-type player, but he's clearly nowhere near that player consistently yet. I'm deeply skeptical that he'd land any contract similar to Lucic or Ott despite statistical similarities. Foligno may be a $4M a year player someday, but for now, I think Ladd is the best possible comparison. Anything different from a short-term "prove it" contract that leaves the Sens with RFA rights would come as a shock.