Four UFAs NHL teams should be careful to not overpay
GMs will be free to offer contracts to UFAs on Wednesday and whenever there are bidding wars, there are overpayments. With a fixed salary cap, it is essential to avoid contracts with a lot of duration and money for players who are likely to underperform them. It’s hard to do in unrestricted free agency when managers have to walk a tightrope in doing what they can to improve their team without overpaying for assets.
Whether it’s aging curves, downsizing candidates, or just players whose production hasn’t hit their peak in the past, there are always ‘cautious buyers’ candidates that teams should be wary of. . This doesn’t mean the players aren’t worth signing, it just means what they’ve done in the past is unlikely to continue at the same rate in the future. With that in mind, here are a few examples of “cautious buyers” players willing to become unrestricted free agents.
Wennberg enjoyed another season with the Florida Panthers in 2020-21. After scoring 15 combined goals in his last three seasons, Wennberg has scored 17 goals in 2021. Columbus’ first-round pick in 2013, Wennberg has always been more of a playmaker than a goalscorer. However, among the unmatched free agents available, Wennberg placed fourth in goals last season. The question then is whether he scored at a sustainable pace and that we can expect to keep moving forward?
Wennberg’s career shooting percentage was 9.8 percent at the start of last season and he had never finished a season with a shooting percentage above 12 percent. His shooting percentage climbed to 20.7 percent with the Panthers. It’s a red flag, but only the first step in determining whether Wennberg should surpass the league’s average shooting percentages.
Did Wennberg have better shots at the net? If he did, he might be able to continue at an above average shooting percentage, even if hitting 20% again is an unrealistic goal. Wennberg’s expected total of goals last season, based on the quantity and quality of shots, was 10.4, not counting goals in the empty net. As mentioned, he scored 17 goals, 15 if you go out of the net. This means Wennberg has surpassed his expected non-empty net goals total of 4.6.
Some players regularly exceed their total expected goals, which is based on the league’s average scoring probability on the type of shots the player has taken. No player has surpassed his expected goal tally more than Auston Matthews, who led the NHL in goals last season. However, that’s not a sign Matthews needs to regress as he consistently surpasses his expected goal tally every year. He is an elite scorer whose shooting is well above average. Wennberg doesn’t have the same historical sample of surpassing his expected goal tally, in fact quite the contrary.
Wennberg has underperformed his expected goal tally in recent years, scoring at a below average rate compared to the shots he threw on goal. Here’s a look at Wennberg’s goals and expected goal totals from last season versus the previous two, not counting goals in an empty net.
Wennberg played mainly with Aleksander Barkov and Patric Hornqvist in Florida and enjoyed playing with strong players in a high scoring team. Based on his shots and shooting types from last season, a 14-15% shooting percentage for Wennberg would have been sustainable. It’s still well above average and above his career average in Columbus. It’s also still well below the nearly 21% he actually pulled.
Wennberg is a good forward who has shown he can score goals when he decides to shoot the puck. If a team, including Florida, signs him a contract with the hopes that he will continue to score at the pace of 25 goals he scored last season, they will likely be in for a rude awakening.
A Vézina Trophy finalist on a “prudent buyers” list? Yeah, that’s right. We are by no means suggesting that Grubauer is not an above average goalkeeper. He has proven that he is. What we’re saying is that using traditional stats like goals against average, save percentage, and wins to assess goalkeeper performance, as most GMs and GMs do. agents, is only part of the equation. Grubauer was a good goalkeeper with a great team, not only offensively, but also defensively.
Last season, the Avalanche finished third in goals against and first in goals expected. No team has granted less scoring chances, slot shots, slot shots or rushing chances than Colorado. No goalkeeper has faced an easier workload, in terms of goals against, than Grubauer.
To reiterate, none of this is a criticism of Grubauer or his game last season. Behind the best team defense in the NHL, Grubauer performed well. His 0.07 above-average goals by 60 placed 16th among qualified goalies. Jonathan Bernier was a place ahead of him, Adin Hill was a place below. The two other Vézina Trophy finalists, Marc-André Fleury and Andrei Vasilevskiy, finished second and third respectively.
Partly because of the league’s best defense ahead of him, Grubauer posted a 1.95 goals-against average which placed second overall. His save percentage of .922 was eighth. Again, none of these stats incorporate the quality of the shots, which is a necessary component when evaluating and projecting the goalkeeper’s performance.
Grubauer, who has battled injuries since joining the Avalanche, has shown he is a competent starting goaltender. He could even become a great starting goalie. However, his traditional stats have been bolstered by the team’s play ahead of him and this needs to be recognized before determining the length and amount of his next contract. Grubauer likely views Jordan Binnington’s six-year, $ 36 million contract as a comparable deal ($ 6 million AAV). He may be able to provide that kind of value in the future, but there isn’t enough evidence to say he’s an elite goalkeeper at this point in his career.
Another Colorado Avalanche player, Saad has scored at a rate of 30 goals over the past two seasons. The quick winger is a two-time Stanley Cup champion who just signed a six-year, $ 36 million contract. At 28, Saad will likely seek a similar unrestricted free agency deal. While there is a lot to like about Saad, like Wennberg, he has recently hit unbearable scoring percentages.
During his career, Saad’s shooting percentage has hovered around 11%, but those percentages rose to 15% in 2019-2020 and 22.1% in 2021. Saad scored 15 goals last season despite a total expected goals of 10.6. If Saad had finished the season more in line with his expected goal tally, he would have had a shooting percentage of around 15% – above average for him, but in line with his previous season where he scored in line with his expectations. goals in total. Saad creates the majority of his chances and goals in the inner lunge area in front of the net, so expecting him to score on 10-15% of his shots next season is not out of the question. .
However, Saad is unlikely to continue to score on more than 20 percent of his shots, which would make a 30-goal season unlikely. Additionally, Saad’s evenly matched ice time per game has also declined steadily over the past three seasons. Saad averaged 14:32 of evenly matched ice time per game in 2018-19 with the Chicago Blackhawks. That total dropped 44 seconds the following season and 91 more seconds last season with the Avalanche at 12:15 per game.
Saad should always be a good bet to score 20 goals in a full season, but he’s unlikely to break the 30-goal mark as he prepares to enter his 30s.
Up to eight teams could be looking for a starting goalie via free agency on Wednesday. The Toronto Maple Leafs need a replacement or a 1B to complete Jack Campbell. The Carolina Hurricanes need a starter and a replacement. The goalkeeper carousel will continue to rotate and Frederik Andersen will attract the attention of several teams.
Andersen, who just finished a five-year, $ 25 million contract, will be 32 when the season starts in October. Andersen lost his starting job at Toronto last season due to injury and a drop in play. Andersen failed to stop 90 percent of the shots he faced for the first time in his season. career, posting a .895 save percentage in 24 games. This, on the heels of a 2019-20 season that saw Andersen posting a .909 save percentage, which was the lowest of his career at the time.
Andersen’s game has steadily deteriorated over the past three seasons in terms of above-average save percentage and goals scored.
With Grubauer, the debate is whether he should be paid like an elite keeper or just like a competent good starter. With Andersen, the debate is whether he is worth a contract and capable of playing at an average league level.
Andersen has had identifiable weaknesses in each of his past two sub-par seasons. Last season, Andersen struggled on shots from his counter side, high in the net. Just over 42 percent of Andersen’s goals against the top, the fifth highest percentage in the NHL and 10 percentage points above the league average.
In 2019-2020, Andersen struggled on five-hole shots. Just over 18 percent of his total goals against has beaten him on five holes, the fourth-highest percentage in the league. No goaltender has allowed more goals on five holes than the 26 Andersen allowed.
There are enough samples of solid play in Andersen’s career to believe he might be able to return to the level of play that has seen him regularly display save percentages between .915 and .920. However, if the steadily declining performance we are seeing is the beginning of the end for Andersen, a medium to long term contract will be incredibly risky.
If a team interested in Andersen is comfortable with a one or two year contract at a reasonable rate and does not need him to carry the mail in net, they may be able to benefit from this signing of the contract. free agent. Predicting a goaltender’s performance is as difficult as it can get when evaluating the game of hockey. A team that signs Andersen will need to make sure he can elevate his game compared to the last few seasons.