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Daniel Winnik Didn’t Defy Expectations

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Daniel Winnik was signed as a last minute 4th line filler, and that’s exactly how he finished the season.

Edmonton Oilers v Minnesota Wild Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images

After a season and a quarter playing for the Washington Capitals, Daniel Winnik signed a Professional Tryout (PTO) with the Minnesota Wild in September of last year. Winnik was kept throughout training camp and the preseason, but his signing was delayed due to the Wild’s cap situation. Just a day before the season started, Winnik and the Wild agreed to a $660,000 one-year contract, which was a 70.7% salary decrease from Winnik’s previous $2.25 million contract.

Coming into the season, not much was expected of Winnik. He was 32 years old and the highest he had ever scored was 30 points four seasons prior. Winnik wasn’t expected to score anymore than a typical 4th liner, but he was expected to be a good penalty killer as that was the primary reason for his signing. If the Wild made the playoffs, another expectation might have been that his 58 games of playoff experience could help the Wild reach the second round.

It’s not surprising then that Winnik didn’t light up the score sheets this season. He only scored 6 goals and 23 points, which tied him as the 11th best scorer on the team along with Marcus Foligno. Although, it is noteworthy that Winnik outscored Matt Cullen, Tyler Ennis, and Joel Eriksson Ek. At even strength, Winnik had the 5th worst Corsi For % (CF%) on the team, and he had the 4th worst Scoring Chances For % (SCF%). In addition, Winnik had the 6th worst Shots For % (SF%). While these percentages are fairly low, Winnik didn’t allow the most shots against (SA) or the most scoring chances against (SCA). In fact, his SA/60 and SCA/60 stats were only middling on the team. Instead, these low percentages come from Winnik being on the ice for so few shots for (SF) and scoring chances for (SCF). As such, Winnik didn’t actively hurt the Wild at even strength, he just didn’t add much either.

However, Winnik wasn’t signed for his even strength play, so how did he do on the penalty kill? Only twelve players had at least 60 minutes of ice time of the penalty kill, and among them, Winnik had the 7th highest shorthanded time on ice at 146:31. Among these twelve players, Winnik allowed the 4th most shots against per 60 minutes and the 5th most scoring chances against per 60 minutes. Winnik was only on the ice for 16 shorthanded goals against (7th fewest), but he also had the 5th best on ice save percentage. Winnik wasn’t the worst penalty killer on the team, but he didn’t necessarily meet expectations either.

All that was in the regular season, but the postseason tells a slightly different story. At even strength in the playoffs, Winnik had the 7th best CF%, the 3rd best SF%, and the 2nd best SCF%. On the penalty kill (minimum 4 minutes on the PK), Winnik had the 2nd best CF%, allowed the 2nd fewest shots against per 60 minutes, and allowed the fewest scoring chances against per 60 minutes. Whether because of his experience or because the Jets focused on the Wild’s other lines, Winnik was one of the Wild’s better players in the playoffs.

Winnik’s play in the regular season was slightly below expectations, but he was able to step up his play in the playoffs. To follow the Stanford Definition of Grades, Winnik would receive a C for his overall season, just satisfactory. While his playoff performance is admirable, it only counts for so much, and without it, his grade would likely be a C-.

The Minnesota Wild will have a new General Manager by the time Free Agency rolls around, and the 4th line probably won’t be the new GM’s top priority. If the Wild miss out on better options on July 1st, then Daniel Winnik could be a decent candidate to once again fill out the Wild’s 4th line.

Winnik’s career history was taken from Elite Prospects, while all season and post-season stats were taken from Natural Stat Trick.