[Wild About Numbers]: Should The Wild Sign Any Of The UFA Defencemen Left On The Market?

Jim McIsaac

After Day 1 of free agency, all the big names are gone. Are any of the remaining scraps worth signing?

Yesterday could hardly have gone better for the Wild. Clayton Stoner, Cody McCormick and Willie Mitchell all ended up not signing with the Wild and instead signed comically bad contracts elsewhere, Vanek signed for an incredibly short term and the Iowa Wild roster was shored up with the signings of Guillaume Gelinas as well as Stu Bickel and Brett Sutter.

Apparently the Wild are still looking for a "physical" defenceman to replace Stoner, but Chuck Fletcher is concerned by how bare the market is and how much players like that have been overpaid so far. This means he could go the trade route to fill that role, but if he decides to take a harder look at the UFAs available, he might find there are some decent options left, both in the "physical" mold and the regular just-a-good-defenceman mold.

I used CapGeek's UFA Finder feature to compile a list of UFA defencemen who played at least 40 games last season. I excluded Anton Belov because he is headed for the KHL and Nate Prosser because he just left the Wild, leaving 21 candidates.

To get a quick read on how good these guys are, I decided to use "dCorsi". As I said yesterday, basically, dCorsi uses all the contextual/deployment factors for a player, regresses the numbers and comes up with an "Expected Corsi" number. A player's dCorsi is that Expected Corsi vs Actual Corsi. So what it shows is the amount a player is over or under-performing the expected results based on their usage.

(There are a couple of Leafs bloggers working on this stuff separately using slightly different formulas. @MimicoHero published his data last week and Steve Burtch from Pension Plan Puppets should have his up somewhere in the near future).


-Here is the list of remaining UFA defencemen ranked by their dCorsi Rel rating in 2013/14:

Defenceman

dCorsi Rel (2013/14)

Average dCorsi Rel Since 2007/08

ANTON VOLCHENKOV

2.52

-0.80

CORY SARICH

1.73

1.31

SAMI SALO

1.65

-2.81

MICHAEL DEL_ZOTTO

0.38

-1.37

DEREK MORRIS

-0.44

-3.38

PAUL RANGER

-0.70

4.28

RAPHAEL DIAZ

-1.24

-2.31

ANDRE BENOIT

-1.36

0.12

HENRIK TALLINDER

-1.74

2.15

BRETT BELLEMORE

-2.69

-2.05

MARK FRASER

-3.27

-1.50

TIM GLEASON

-4.42

-3.54

KEATON ELLERBY

-5.92

-2.37

SHANE O'BRIEN

-6.07

-1.05

JAMIE MCBAIN

-6.59

-2.43

FRANCIS BOUILLON

-8.13

-4.01

CHRIS BUTLER

-8.32

-4.33

SCOTT HANNAN

-9.32

-4.84

SHELDON BROOKBANK

-10.77

-4.47

NICK SCHULTZ

-13.50

-4.11

DOUGLAS MURRAY

-14.92

-6.14

That's still a lot of names so, to narrow it down, I've eliminated players who were in the negative last year and also on average since 2007/08 except for Chris Butler, Jamie McBain and Raphael Diaz, who are 3 players I would like to look at a bit closer due to discussion of them on the blog yesterday.


-Here's the updated list with more details:

Defenceman

Age

Career GP

dCorsi Rel (2013/14)

Average dCorsi Rel Since 2007/08

ANTON VOLCHENKOV

32

650

2.52

-0.80

CORY SARICH

35

969

1.73

1.31

SAMI SALO

39

878

1.65

-2.81

MICHAEL DEL_ZOTTO

24

317

0.38

-1.37

PAUL RANGER

29

323

-0.70

4.28

RAPHAEL DIAZ

28

145

-1.24

-2.31

ANDRE BENOIT

30

120

-1.36

0.12

HENRIK TALLINDER

35

678

-1.74

2.15

JAMIE MCBAIN

26

275

-6.59

-2.43

CHRIS BUTLER

27

349

-8.32

-4.33

Before starting my main analysis, I looked a bit closer at the year-to-year numbers for McBain, Butler and Diaz to see if their average was being skewed by one bad year in an otherwise decent career:

Defenceman

2008/09

2009/10

2010/11

2011/12

2012/13

2013/14

JAMIE MCBAIN

-

-7.34

-2.45

0.13

1.97

-6.59

RAPHAEL DIAZ

-

-

-

0.01

-11.35

1.24

CHRIS BUTLER

-9.76

-0.21

3.48

-1.65

-9.60

-8.32

  • Butler has put up one positive rating in 6 seasons, which suggests that he is not worth pursuing.
  • The sample size is small for Diaz, but he has been positive in 2 out of 3 seasons. The problem is that his one bad season was really bad. He might be a decent bet to take a flier on, but I won't be analysing him any further in this article as there are better options worth devoting more time to.
  • McBain is another interesting case. His most recent season and his rookie year were terrible, but he had a couple of decent years in between. I don't think his good years were quite good enough for me to consider him as a good signing for the Wild.


-That leaves us with 7 defencemen to consider. Here's how they've performed year-to-year (open in new tab to see full size):

Dcorsi_rel_medium

BENOIT

DEL ZOTTO

RANGER

SALO

SARICH

TALLINDER

VOLCHENKOV

2007/08

-

-

5.62

-4.52

-2.55

2.96

-8.41

2008/09

-

-

8.10

3.03

-0.36

-1.84

2.41

2009/10

-

-0.47

-1.11

-6.79

0.07

0.07

-1.22

2010/11

-9.30

2.23

-

-6.59

1.11

6.22

-0.96

2011/12

-

-1.72

-

-3.32

8.29

0.68

2.13

2012/13

6.45

-7.11

-

-4.74

3.12

13.68

-1.87

2013/14

-1.36

0.38

-0.70

1.65

1.73

-1.74

2.52

  • It's worth noting that Paul Ranger played from 2007/08 to 2009/10 and then didn't play again in the NHL until 2013/14 after taking a personal break from hockey, which is why his data looks a bit strange on the line graph.
  • Ranger's numbers before he took his break are very good (his negative year was one in which he only played a handful of games). His comeback season wasn't too shabby either, making him an interesting option for the Wild.
  • Michael Del Zotto has been fairly up and down, but is still young and just had a decent season. I wouldn't be adverse to the Wild trading for him.
  • Andre Benoit had one very good season out of his three, but he has only played 120 NHL so the sample size is a bit too small for me to say for certain that he could do a job for the Wild.
  • Sami Salo will be 40 next year, has injury problems and just doesn't have numbers impressive enough to make me want the Wild to sign him, despite a decent 2013/14.
  • I think it's clear that the safest bets are Tallinder, Sarich and Volchenkov, who I will analyse in more detail below.
*

So, now that we've narrowed this down to the 3 best canddidates, it's time to figure out which one is the best fit for the Wild.

Anton Volchenkov

  • He's younger than the other two by 3 years.
  • He's known as a defensive defenceman who hits like a train and blocks shots.
  • His lack of speed could be a problem.
  • He is shorter than Sarich and Tallinder (6 ft 1) but is also heavier (225 lb).
  • He was just bought out of his contract by the Devils as they looked to free up cap room.
  • Sidedness doesn't really matter too much, but Volchenkov is left-sided for the record.

Henrik Tallinder

  • He's Swedish, looks a bit like an older Jonas Brodin and kind of plays like him too, being smart in his own end and having good hockey IQ.
  • He doesn't offer much, if anything, in the offensive zone.
  • He's made a career shutting down top lines and still has a lot to offer at his age.
  • He played for Sweden in the 2014 Winter Olympics as well as in 64 NHL games for the Sabres, so he seems to still have a lot of durability.
  • He is also left-sided.

Corey Sarich

  • Sarich is a big, physical, 6 ft 4 defenceman.
  • He fits the Clayton Stoner-mold but has a lot more ability. He drops the gloves 2-3 times per season.
  • While he plays with aggression, he is still a smart defensive player.
  • He is somewhat lacking in speed and has had some injury problems recently after being one of the NHL's leading "ironmen" earlier in his career.
  • He is right-sided.


-Here is their year-to-year dCorsi rel compared:

Sarich_medium

Defenceman

Age

Career GP

dCorsi Rel (2013/14)

Average dCorsi Rel Since 2007/08

ANTON VOLCHENKOV

32

650

2.52

-0.80

CORY SARICH

35

969

1.73

1.31

HENRIK TALLINDER

35

678

-1.74

2.15

  • It's funny that Tallinder had the worst rating last season out of the 3, but the best average since 2007/08, whereas Volchenkov is the total opposite. Either way, all 3 have put up very decent numbers over the last few years.
  • Volchenkov and Sarich have been a little bit more consistent overall, but the highs have been pretty high for Tallinder.



-Here's how each defenceman has scored at 5v5 over a couple of different time periods and where they ranked among other defencemen around the league:

Defencemen 5v5 P/60 (2007-2014, 6000+ mins played)

SARICH

0.58

117th /159

TALLINDER

0.57

129th /159

VOLCHENKOV

0.54

135th /159

Defencemen 5v5 P/60 (2012-2014, 1000+ mins played)

SARICH

0.61

121st /174

VOLCHENKOV

0.56

136th /174

TALLINDER

0.47

158th /174

  • None of these guys are particularly good offensively, but Sarich is clearly the strongest in that regard.

*

Overall, I think the safest bet for the Wild to make is a 1-year deal for Volchenkov, Tallinder or Sarich. My pick of the 3 is Volchenkov because of his age, his aggressive play and the fact that he is left-sided.

With Volchenkov on board, the depth chart could look like this:

SUTER-BRODIN

SCANDELLA-SPURGEON

VOLCHENKOV-FOLIN

(BALLARD)

Michael Del Zotto would be a good signing if the Wild are interested in a low risk/high reward project and Paul Ranger is a bit of a mystery but could pay dividends on a cheap contract.

Either way, there are clearly some solid options still out there, so I hope Chuck Fletcher signs one of these guys rather than someone like Tim Gleason or, God forbid, Douglas Murray.


What do you think, Wilderness? Are any of these guys worth signing?

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Follow me on Twitter for more hockey talk.

Thanks to Extra Skater, Hockey Analysis, Hockey Abstract and SomeKindOfNinja for all the data.

For a quick advanced stats 101, read this. For more in-depth stuff, read this.

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