clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Silver Nuggets: Are there any potential top-six forwards that fit the Sens?

New, comments
Brothers in being undervalued by the Ottawa Senators
Brothers in being undervalued by the Ottawa Senators
Jean-Yves Ahern-USA TODAY Sports

As the offseason drudges along, there's not much breaking news going on in Sens land. Exit interviews are done, Matt O'Connor is the only college free agent that appears to be in the Senators mind, and they haven't ventured into Europe to look at signing players there in quite some time. Thus, we're in a stoic waiting period until draft day.

That doesn't mean that there's nothing to talk about, though! I quickly wanted to highlight some of Bryan Murray's comments on free agency from his exit interview last week and see what you all thought. These are both from the 6th Sens, as always.

On wanting to add a couple of pieces and whether Murray can divulge what it is he’s looking for…

"No, I don’t think I want to necessarily say that right now, but there are a couple of areas we’ve identified that we sure can improve in. More, not necessarily a younger, but a more middle-aged kind guy that can come in here with some game experience in the National Hockey League. Now that’s a dream. Every team in the league says that at the end of the year: ‘We just have to add a star right winger or left winger’ or whatever it may be, but it’s very difficult to do. We do think that we have a couple pieces that might work for another team, but that (remains) to be seen."

On his ideal trade target being a top six forward and whether that line of thought changed over the final stretch…

"Well, if you’re looking for players, you’re always looking for top guys. So yeah, my dream is to find a top six guy. I think if we could add one more piece up front, I’m not sure about the blue line, but right now, up front, that would make a huge difference on our team."

I bolded the points that I find really interesting. Nichols touches on the "absurdity" of Murray looking for another forward in his piece, so if you're interested in reading about that at this time, I'd recommend checking that out. For the purposes of this piece, I wanted to look at potential free agent forwards that fits Murray's description. Using War On Ice, I sorted forwards by their ice time per game (min. 200 minutes on the year) and filtered by potential free agents. I excluded players who exclusively played centre as I think the team is set on Mika Zibanejad in that role. Here's who was left:

Name

Games

Age

P/60 (EV in ())

Penalty Differential

CF% Rel @ EV

On-ice sh% @ EV

TOI/G

Salary

Vermette

82

32

1.51 (1.15)

-12

-3.16

6.92%

17.90

$3.75M

Soderberg

82

28

1.88 (1.53)

-2

-0.52

8.10%

16.75

$1M

Ward

82

33

1.50 (1.04)

+3

-1.70

6.72%

16.59

$3M

Winnik

79

29

1.56 (1.77)

+10

+2.60

8.06%

16.57

$1.3M

Stafford

76

28

2.08 (1.94)

+2

-1.48

9.05%

16.33

$4M

Williams

81

32

1.92 (1.53)

+8

+2.63

8.26%

15.80

$3.05M

Erat

79

33

1.54 (1.33)

-13

+6.11

7.30%

15.76

$4.5M

Glencross

71

31

1.90 (1.29)

-6

-0.90

7.88%

15.59

$2.5M

Comeau

61

28

1.97 (2.01)

-10

+1.55

8.01%

15.46

$0.700M

Ryder

47

34

1.64 (1.61)

-4

-2.23

9.38%

15.17

$3.5M

Fleischmann

66

30

1.68 (1.95)

+7

-0.13

9.37%

14.60

$4.5M

Cole

68

35

2.40 (2.12)

+12

-0.12

9.67%

14.32

$4M

Hansen

81

28

1.74 (1.57)

+5

-1.79

7.67%

14.05

$1.5M

Bernier

67

29

2.19 (1.73)

+11

+1.13

9.55%

13.10

$0.600M

Bergenheim

56

30

1.56 (1.48)

-3

+2.05

7.08%

13.07

$2.75M

Stempniak

71

31

1.85 (1.81)

+5

-0.05

8.49%

12.79

$0.900M

Upshall

63

30

1.12 (1.15)

+5

-0.16

4.71%

12.79

$3.5M

Chimera

77

35

1.16 (1.37)

-5

-5.49

7.56%

12.76

$2M

Downie

72

27

1.88 (1.70)

-19

-4.28

7.92%

12.41

$1M

Kennedy

38

28

1.99 (1.91)

-2

+2.12

7.33%

11.10

$2.35M

For reference, Mika Zibanejad's P/60 at EV this year was 1.63, with Milan Michalek following at 1.57 and Erik Condra at 1.41. Thus, to get top-six production, we'd probably be looking at a bracketed P/60 number that's 1.50+ to be a fit. (Fun fact in favour of the Sens not needing a top-six forward: Mike Hoffman's P/60 was 2.54 at EV). One of the reasons why I included both all situations P/60 (not bracketed) and the same number at EV is to try to still see who did stuff in their special teams minutes, and who had the bulk of their production at even-strength. It's generally easier to project even-strength production as powerplay success varies a lot team-to-team in terms of the tactics and player usage.

Also of note, even-strength shooting % generally hovers around 8% year-to-year. There's a ton of context to consider here, such as usage, the player's career rate, etc. and closer to free agency, I'll analyze some of these forwards a bit more in detail. For our rudimentary understanding though, think that a player who has an on-ice shooting% way below 7.5% (Upshall, Ward, Vermette, Bergenheim) is bound to rebound, whereas players with numbers way above 8% (Bernier, Cole, Fleischmann, Ryder, Stafford) may see a bump in production next year.

The "classic" top-six forwards of this crop are Vermette, Soderberg, Ward, Stafford, Williams, Glencross, and Cole. These players have played these minutes in the past and it's safe to say that they have this reputation around the league. Given Murray's quotes above and past free agent history, he may be targeting one of these players from the start. Vermette is likely out of the Senators budget, even though his play in Chicago may hurt him (unless they go to the Cup). Ward and Glencross, teammates on the Capitals, may price themselves out of Murray's budget as well, although that may be a good thing with their poor even-strength production. Drew Stafford and Erik Cole are two players that look right up Murray's alley - big body forwards who can contribute at even-strength and on the powerplay. Despite Cole's superior numbers, he's the oldest of the bunch and may be looking for a retirement contract that may hurt a budget team like the Senators in the future. Stafford, on the other hand, is only 28. He's generally a passenger possession-wise at EV, though, and I don't know if Mika Zibanejad can carry two players (Stafford + Ryan) at even-strength. It's no coincidence that Zibanejad played his best hockey with another possession dynamo (Hoffman) on his left-wing.

Thus, out of our initial group, we're left with Carl Soderberg and Justin Williams. Whoever gets Williams will surely be playing for his playoff experience as he looks for a raise on his $3.05M salary this year. He's been a strong possession player throughout his career (although he has been with Anze Kopitar for most of it) and his even-strength production fits above our criteria. It also helps that he draws way more penalties than he takes. If he's too expensive, Soderberg may be a good fit. He has worse numbers across the board than Williams, but is four years younger and fits our P/60 criteria. He'll surely want a raise from his paltry $1M salary, but the Sens may be able to get him for ~$3M.

There are a ton of other names on this list as well. Daniel Winnik is a really similar player to Erik Condra but had a fantastic year this season production-wise. If the Senators can't even fit Condra in, I doubt they can outbid a number of suitors for the former Leafs forward. Martin Erat is a potential interesting name as a "buy-low" candidate. Given his reputation in Washington, and being buried in Arizona this year, I think Erat will make less than his $4.5M salary this year. He had really strong possession numbers for the 'Yotes, but took a ton of penalties and didn't really produce that much. The two Devils on this list, Ryder and Bernier, had great years production wise but likely benefitted from an above-average on-ice shooting % at EV. Bernier is significantly younger, only made 600k last season, and was the better possession player.

A couple of unconventional fits are Tomas Fleischmann, Lee Stempniak, Sean Bergenheim, and Tyler Kennedy. All four are likely thought of as third line forwards, so it'll take some more digging to see if their good EV production comes from facing weaker competition. I think that all four could potentially be had in the $3-4M range, and their age (28-31) meets Murray's requirements above. Among other things, all four are solid possession players and/or draw more penalties than they take, so there are added benefits to be had as well.

Do any of you see a fit here for the Senators? Let me know in the comments!

--

Sens Links

  • Our report cards continue here at Silver Seven. Ross has the grades for the forwards, and Michaela has the grades for the defense. Over at WTYKY, James has some stuff to say about the defense as well!
  • We also revisited our pre-season predictions! I... screwed up. [Silver Seven]
  • Matt O'Connor is expected to make his decision today. [SensChirpSenShot]
  • The May edition of Chet Sellers world-famous offseason power rankings. [WTYKY]
  • Speaking of the offseason, my boy Erik Condra may test free agency :(((((((((( [SensChirpSenShot]
  • Trevor has a look at some of the free agents this year as well! [SenShot - forwardsdefense]
  • Jack speculates on what Ottawa's current free agent crop (RFA + UFA) are worth. [SenShot]
  • Some news and notes, including thoughts on the goaltender situation, from Peter Levi. [Eye On the Sens]
  • All the best to our amazing managing editor, Amelia, in her future endeavours. The site must go on though - are you interested in working for SB Nation? [Silver Seven - ChangesApplication]
  • A breakdown of the Sens thank you video from the WTYKY crew. [WTYKY]
--

Thanks for reading!