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Free Agency 2013: Which UFA Defenceman Should The Wild Sign?

May 9, 2013; Chicago, IL, USA; The Chicago Blackhawks shake hands with the Minnesota Wild after eliminating them in game five of the first round of the 2013 Stanley Cup Playoffs at the United Center. The Blackhawks beat the Wild 5-1. Mandatory Credit: Rob Grabowski-USA TODAY Sports

 

With Free-Agency underway, I’m going to provide some analysis of deals I think the Wild should make.

 

After signing Keith Ballard, the Wild have hepled solve some of their depth issues on defence. Assuing Kampfer, Dumba and others can’t make the step-up, one would assume the bottom pairing will be Ballard and Clayton Stoner or Nate Prosser. For me this is a step in the wrong direction.

The Wild need to have 3 pairings that are smart with the puck and can clear the zone. While Ballard will do a decent job, Clayton Stoner provides grit and fighting but is terrible in puck possession. I would go so far as to say that Justin Falk (marginally) outplayed him this year.

Here  is the current defensive depth chart as I see it:

Suter-Brodin

Scandella-Spurgeon

Ballard-Stoner

(Prosser/Kampfer/Dumba/Cuma/Connolly)

Trades are still possible at this point, but I’m going to analyse the remaining options left in the UFA defenceman market.

 

Here are the factors I think the Wild need to look for:

 

-Can play reaosnably tough minutes

-Smart defensively

-Experienced

-Can contribute to special teams

 

 

Here is the Usage Chart for all UFA defencemen (3 year performance):

 

 

 

 

Here is the 2013 Usage Chart for all the UFA defencemen who played at least 20 games this year:

 

 

 

 

From this group I have selected 8 to analyse based on their numbers above. I have tried to avoid players who faced releatively easy competition or ones who failed in their role.

 

 Here are their important stats:

 

PLAYER KOSTKA EATON LYDMAN HAINSEY STRACHAN SANGUINETTI CORVO WHITE
TEAM  TOR  NYI  ANA  WPG  FLA  CAR  CAR  DET
CAP HIT 2013  600,000  725,000  3,000,000  4,500,000 600,000  700,000  2,000,000  2.874,000
AGE  27  36  35  32  28  25  36  29
CAREER GP  35  650  847  591  120  45  683  503
GP (2013)  35 23 35  47  38  37  40  25
G  0  0  0  0  0  2  6  2
A  8  0  6  13  4  4  11  2
P  8  0  6  13  4  6  17  4
TOI/G  22:04  17:58  19:23  22:51  18:57  14:45  18:45  19:£5
PP-TOI/G  2:35  0:12  0:09  0:35  0:06  0:34  2:15  2:33
PK-TOI/G  1:25  1:40  2:09  2:57  1:53  1:09  0:43  0:01
OZONE STRT%  42.9  45.8  47.7  44.2  54.2  62.1  55.1  55.2
QUALCOMP  1.334  2.193  1.043  0.987  -0.753  -0.899  -0.672  -0.965
CORSI REL  +5.9  -12.13  +5.7  +8.7  +1.8  +16.1  -4  -0.2
ON ICE SV%  93.12  94.97  91.44  90.14  89.97  89.55  92.19  95.57
SA/20  10.747 11.086  7.832  10.050  9521  9.430  10.671  10.002

 

Now I will analyse each player and how well they fit the Wild’s needs:

 

#1: Mike Kostka

Mar 30, 2013; Ottawa, ON, CAN; Toronto Maple Leafs defenseman Michael Kostka (53) controls the puck in the second period against the Ottawa Senators at Scotiabank Place. Mandatory Credit: Marc DesRosiers-USA TODAY Sports

 

Upside

Kostka played tough minutes on a Leafs team that was terrible in posession, and suceeded in posting a positive Corsi. He really stands out from the graph above. Former Leafs GM Brian Burke said of Kostka:  ”[He has] High hockey IQ, great patience with the puck, can really thread passes on the power play.”

Seems like he might be a bit of a bargain, and low risk as his asking price would likely be sub-1 million. If it didn’t work out he could be moved along painlessly. But at 27, after a season like he had, there’s every chance Kostka can grow as a player. The Wild should move on this one.

Downside

He is inexperienced and is never going to be more than a 5th or 6th defenceman, but other than that, there is no real downside.

 

#2: Mark Eaton

 

Apr 11, 2013; Tampa, FL, USA; Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman Mark Eaton (4) against the Tampa Bay Lightning during the first period at Tampa Bay Times Forum. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Upside

Eaton played the toughest competition of this entire group, and while he didn’t succeed, he didn’t get blown out of the water either. He brings aveteran presence and smarts in his own zone. He won’t provide much offensively, but he will be solid.

Downside

At 36, his best days are probably behind him. It’s hard to say right now if he would be an improvement over Stoner.

#3: Toni Lydman

 

Apr 13, 2013; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Los Angeles Kings left wing Kyle Clifford (13) and Anaheim Ducks defenseman Toni Lydman (32) collide along the boards during the third period at the Staples Center. Kings won 2-1. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

Upside

Lydman had a good year, posting a nice Corsi score and contributing a lot of minutes at 35. He is extremely good in his own zone and would be a great addition to the Wild’s D-corps.

Downside

His cap hit was 3 million last year. While I don’t see him getting that again, in this poor market he will get close to that, which the Wild cannot afford.

 

#4: Ron Hainsey

 

Apr 22, 2013; Buffalo, NY, USA; Winnipeg Jets defenseman Ron Hainsey (6) before the start of the 3rd period in the game against the Buffalo Sabres at the First Niagara Center. The Jets beat the Sabres 2-1. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports

Upside

Hainesy is another guy who played very tough minutes and din’t find a lot of success. In theory, with a reduced role on a 3rd pairing, he could thrive as he faces softer competition. He also can put -up some points, something which the Wild blue line struggles to do.

He seems to have a bad rep in Winnipeg because of is albatross cap hit. Here’s a good quote from Arctic Ice Hockey on him: Hainsey, you see, has taken the brunt of Winnipeg’s acute confirmation bias; the kind of backwards logic that allows Zach Bogosian to roam unscathed of criticism whenever he makes the same boneheaded plays (trust me, it happens) that fans would string Hainsey from the rafters for making, should they get the chance. It’s deliciously ironic that a player deemed by some as “soft” currently ranks among the NHL leaders in blocked shots – one of the NHL’s toughest and most thankless jobs — but no matter; the bias sees what it wants.”

Downside

The question with him is his cap hit. It will definitely be lower, but for the Wild’s needs, it will have to come down to around 1.5 million, which might be too much for Hainsey’s liking.

#5: Tyson Strachan

 

Apr 6, 2013; Sunrise, FL, USA; Washington Capitals left wing Jason Chimera (25) fights with Florida Panthers defenseman Tyson Strachan (23) in the first period at the BB

Upside

Strachan is a bit of an unknown, but he did well playing reasonably tough minutes. He’s 28, and could be worth giving a 2-year deal for around 1 million per year. He is gritty and tough, so he could work out as a better version of Clayton Stoner.

Downside

He takes some dumb penalties and lacks skating ability. While he could be an upgrade on what the Wild have, he might not be enough of an upgrade to warrant using the little cap space the Wild have.

 

#6: Bobby Sanguinetti

 

April 9, 2013; Raleigh, NC, USA; Carolina Hurricanes defensemen Bobby Sanguinetti (24) celebrates his 1st period goal against the Pittsburgh Penguins at the PNC center. Mandatory Credit: James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports

Upside

Sanguinetti is another relative unknown. He played fairly soft minutes, being used as a two-way/offensive defenceman by the Hurricanes. He didn’t have much production, but  posted a healthy Corsi. He is only 25, and according to EliteProspects.com: “A puck-moving defenseman, Sanguinetti has excellent offensive instincts. With his hard shot and crisp passes, he excels on the powerplay point. He is an outstanding skater who will join the attack.
Still needs to add bulk and improve defensively.”

Downside

His defensive play seems to be the question mark surrounding his game, and his production could be better, but other than that, he seems like a worthy option who could be cheap….maybe around 2 million against the Cap.

 

#7: Joe Corvo

May 5, 2013; New York, NY, USA; A rescue dog fetches a frisbee during the first half of game one of the second round of the NBA Playoffs between against the New York Knicks and Indiana Pacers. Pacers won the game 102-95. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

 

Upside

Corvo is a gritty veteran who provides some leadership and decent offence. He did okay against reasonable competition last year.

Downside

Aside from the fact he’s an asshole (http://sportsofboston.com/2011/07/15/why-has-the-joe-corvo-assault-in-boston-been-largely-ignored/), his numbers just aren’t impressive, he’s old and he’s probably too expensive. Pass.

#8: Ian White

 

March 31, 2013; Detroit, MI, USA; Detroit Red Wings defenseman Ian White (18) skates with the puck against the Chicago Blackhawks at Joe Louis Arena. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Upside

White had an okay season playing average minutes. He was pretty much neutral all round. That’s not such a bad thing if you’re in the market for a bottom pairing D-man. He is experienced, can play big minutes and usually puts up decent point totals.

Downside

It is unlikely White will be available for a reasonable cap hit in this market. He will probably end up on the 2nd pairing somewhere else.

 

So, overall I think Kostka or Sanguinetti would be good fits and both are worth taking a flyer on. They both shoot right, so they would slot right in alongside left-shooting Ballard.

 

Thanks to Rob Vollman and HockeyAbstract.net for the Player Usage Charts!
 
 

Topics: Chuck Fletcher, Clayton Stoner, Jonas Brodin, Ryan Suter

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