The “New” Alternatives, Pt. 2

All right earlier today I outlined some good and perhaps reasonable trade scenarios that the Penguins may consider. Now I’m back to consider some of the remaining free agents still on the market.

Earlier today Matt Carle signed a $33 million dollar deal over 6 years with the Lightning. In other news, the Lightning continue to sign horrible defensemen. In light of that, Shane Doan is the only remaining free agent from my original list and I’m really feeling confident that if he doesn’t resign with Phoenix he’ll stay in the West and either go to Detroit or Los Angeles so I’m not even really considering him any more.

I also realize that I never really explained my passive aggression with Zbynek Michalek in the last post. Here are some statistics that really prove that Michalek was in fact more expendable and slightly worse in Pittsburgh than Paul Martin has been. Outside of the limited number of really talented offensive defensemen, looking at production isn’t particularly illuminating, so my emphasis isn’t on that (although for the record Martin’s 51 is a lot more than Michalek’s 32 over the last two years). I can’t really look at hits either because first, the way the NHL records hits is entirely subjective, and second, neither of them hit anybody so it doesn’t matter. What I’m interested in then is plus/minus and time on ice. I feel like these are two of the best statistics to judge the overall effectiveness of a defenseman. Plus/minus asks if the guy is keeping pucks out of his team’s net and if he is contributing to production in the other teams zone. Time on ice is a vital statistic for a defenseman because teams only dress three pairs of defensemen instead of 4 lines of forwards. Whoever the team is counting on most is going to get the biggest minutes. So then on to the stats themselves.

  •   This past season Paul Martin was a +9 and logged an average of 23:00 minutes per game TOI. To break that down a little more, he averaged 1:49 per game on the PP and 2:36 per game short-handed.
  • Michalek was a 0 this past season while averaging 21:38 TOI per game. His power play time somehow averaged :14 seconds and his SH time was 3:38 per game.

In other words, Martin was on the ice significantly more than Michalek, and despite that helped the Pens to a combination of fewer goals and contributed significantly more to the Penguins offense. You might be tempted to say, well that’s just because Z spent that much more time on the Penalty Kill and if you say that you’re wrong. Special teams don’t count against +/-, if you score on the power play you don’t get a plus, and if you allow a goal on a penalty kill you don’t get a minus. For the record if you allow a short-handed goal you do get a minus, and if you score a short-handed goal you do get a plus.

So that’s that, Martin is better in every way except maybe blocking shots. Deal with it.

Now finally, onto the new list of available free agents.

Forwards:

Alexander Semin: before you laugh, hear me out. Over his career Semin has averaged .870 points per game, that’s not bad. In fact, it is noticeably higher than Zach Parise’s career PPG average of .817. His 21 goals and 33 assists are nothing to laugh at and he’s twice reached 30 goals and once topped 40. The only time he failed to score at least 20 goals was in his rookie campaign. Further, you have to consider that his goal-scoring prowess has come on a team that doesn’t have anyone who can pass as well as Evgeni Malkin. That brings me to my next point: yes there are a lot of talks about his work ethic and his will to win, but I think that comes from playing most of his career for Bruce Boudreau on a team captained by Alexander Ovechkin. Boudreau couldn’t get tough with his players and they ran all over him. Ovechkin was benched on multiple occasions by interim coach Dale Hunter for not caring. If Semin played on a line with Malkin, with Sid as his captain and HCDB as his coach, I’m not quite as worried about his ethic. I think this is why Detroit is interested in him, he would play with Datsyuk under Mike Babcock, they would take no shit and I believe that Semin would be fine. Of course the issue with Semin would be contract, he would probably want numerous years and a cap hit in excess of $5 million. If he doesn’t get it, he could easily return to Russia and probably get a lot more. As a result I think this is a total longshot, but then again, I thought the same about the Pens trading for Marian Hossa…

Wojtek Wolski: he gives Zarley Zalapski a run for his money for best hockey name ever. A 26 year old with massive upside, and a massive history of injury, Wolski (pronounced with a “V” sound) could be an ideal high risk/high reward scenario for the Penguins. Another former Avalanche player who played under Tony Granato, his best years came in the high-paced system that saw Chris Stewart excel as well. He twice bested 20 goals and produced career high 65 points in 2009-10. If you click his link you will see that he’s moved around a bunch in recent years and he only managed 31 games and 12 points last year. As I say, this is high risk/high reward scenario, as such though; he will likely be cheap and not expect a long-term deal. If he can’t stay healthy or he’s lost his touch, you can move on at the trade deadline, however, if he could get back to his Colorado levels of production this could be a massive jackpot for the Pens.

Defense:

Scott Hannan: not a point producer but solid as they come in your own zone and known to lay a little lumber. Coincidentally, yet another player who played under Granato in Colorado. Could possibly slot in next to Brooks Orpik to form a new shutdown pairing, however, I think it might be better to view Hannan as a much more experienced version of Deryk Engelland, not that that’s a bad thing either. The only thing that worries me is that he’s changed teams three times in the last 2 seasons. Clearly he isn’t “sticking” anywhere as well as he once did when he played almost an entire decade with the Sharks.

Matt Gilroy: won the Hobey Baker Award as the top collegiate hockey player in the US in 2008-09. Since then though he’s actually struggled to really gel with a system in the NHL. The assumption here is that the Pens can recreate the magic they’ve found with Matt Niskanen again. Personally I believe they can and I think that Gilroy could be a good fit. Will the Pens spend on him, I have my doubts, but he does have a real cannon for a shot which could help to simplify the point situation on the power play in Sully’s absence.

So that’s the new list. Really, things aren’t anywhere near as bad as they seem. As I’ve said before, even if the Pens do nothing between now and the start of the season, that’s actually not a bad thing. Stockpiling money assets for the trade deadline might be the best decision out there.

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