The past few days, I've been focusing on the pending unrestricted free agent (UFA) centers for this summer's free agency period. I've highlighted 23 centers, including the soon-out-of-contract New Jersey Devil centers of Rob Niedermayer and Dean McAmmond, and looking at various statistics to determine who the New Jersey Devils target this summer.
First, I determined who the 23 centers are, divided them up into three groups based on their even strength time on ice per 60 (TOI/60), and organized their faceoff stats to prove that they indeed were centers last season and how good they were on draws. That post can be found here.
Today, I showed the same thing but only for 5-on-4 situations, which are most power plays. The metric I've used to filter out the players are once again games played and TOI/60. The minimum games played must be 30, and the minimum TOI/60 must be 1. I'm only interested in those who have played a some role on their team's power play. I've expanded the scope to all forwards for ranking purposes as sometimes centers are at other positions on man advantages.
To that end, not all 23 UFA centers from the past three posts showed up after the players were filtered out. Only 14, including a few names that would surprise you. Find out who they are and what impact they had on the ice for their team's power play last season after the jump.
The 14 UFA Centers On-Ice & On-Ice Impact on 5-on-4 Situations
Remember that for the impact numbers, negative is positive impact since they are Off-Ice minute On-Ice values.
In any case, that Jeff Halpern and Glen Metropolit appeared on this list really surprised me. Not that they did all that much, though they had a slight negative impact on their on-ice GF/60. The players at the very top of the list shouldn't be so surprising: Patrick Marleau, Vinny Prospal, Robert Lang and Tomas Plekanec were offensive players for their team, played a lot on 5-on-4 situations, and
Going back to surprises: Metropolit and Malhotra with one of the highest on-ice GF/60 in the league. And Malhotra improved the on-ice GF/60 when he came on the power play in those rare situations. Maybe he should play more? As far as guys who shouldn't, look no further than Brendan Morrison and Eric Belanger. The on-ice GF/60 and SF/60 got worse when they stepped on the ice; especially the SF/60 in Morrison's case (19.9!!!). Kyle Wellwood didn't get a lot of time, but at least those two numbers improved when they were on the ice.
As far as a sleeper goes, maybe would Michael Lombardi fit? On the ice for 28 PPGs, a slight improvement to GF/60 when he came on the ice, and a big improvement in SF/60 at the same time. Plus, the benefit of him not being really old like Prospal or Lang or cost as nearly as much as Plekanec and Marleau would be.
Now, I said I filtered out all forwards who met this criteria, so I ended up with 241 forwards. Here's how the UFA centers ranked among them.
Given that all of these are out of 241, most of the UFA centers look OK among the rest of the league at the forward position. In the case of Malhotra and Marleau, I'd attribute those high ranks more to the success of San Jose's power play. Marleau was a big part of that as indicated by his TOI/60 of 3.30; Malhotra - not so much
Keeping the halfway rank of 120 in mind, Kyle Wellwood's numbers ranked better than I would have thought. Mind you, I didn't expect Wellwood to be featured on Vancouver's power play as much as he did - even if it was secondary minutes. Likewise, Halpern (not a surprise) Belanger, and Morrison look pretty bad by rank. As far as players who ranked well among their peers, Saku Koivu ranked well in all four stats - consistent like Matt Cullen, but even better. More so than Matt Lombardi, except for impact on on-ice SF/60. Perhaps Koivu is the true sleeper UFA center for power play help?
You know who else did well in all four stats? Marleau and Prospal - the two guys at the top to begin with. Beyond that, there's Koivu, Wellwood as a possible bargain, and then I'd put the guys who have had positive impacts on SF/60 more than anyone else. After all, you can't score if you don't shoot and shooting is far easier to control than scoring.
However, I wouldn't recommend making a choice just based on 5-on-4 play. Contracts will be signed for the whole season and most of their time will come on even strength. The purpose of looking at these stats are to highlight who could possibly help and most of the UFA centers probably won't help so much. Do they have to? That's up to the new head coach to decide moreso than anyone else.
Now that you've read the on-ice and on-ice impact on 5-on-4 situations for the 14 UFA centers, what do you think? Concerned that not so many even played much on the power play? Worried that most UFA center may not take the Devils' power play to the next level based on these stats? Did these numbers change your mind on who the Devils should target? Please leave your thoughts and feelings in the comments. As usual, thank you to Gabe for Behind the Net for the numbers used in these posts; and thank you for reading.
By the way, the next post will be about 4-on-5 situations: the penalty kill. The other UFA centers will show up there.