In a column on June 27th, Michael Russo noted:
[...] barring a trade to unload salary, the Wild's free-agent moves, beginning this week, will mostly be depth moves.
The Wild could re-sign Ryan Carter, who played well before a second-half injury. It could sign a player like St. Louis Blues energy-bug Chris Porter, one of star winger Zach Parise's close friends.
Then today Russo wrote:
I'd think the Wild may have interest in guys like Chris Porter and Gregory Campbell. Ryan Carter is out there to be re-signed, too.
Now it's unclear whether this is based on anything concrete or if it's just Mike's own hunch, but it seems like as good a tipping off point as any for some free agency analysis. There doesn't seem to be much in the way of connections to any major free agents from the Wild camp so let's take a look at Carter, Porter and Campbell and see if they can be good additions to the Wild roster.
Obviously Carter is already well known to us as he played for the Wild last season on a one year deal. While most were happy with the signing at the time as he provided a much more legitimate depth option than Stu Bickel (who was waived to make room for Carter), his strong play was a nice surprise over the first half of the season. Unfortunately he only played 53 games and, by the time he was healthy towards the end of the season, the Wild had an overflow of forwards, with players as good as Erik Haula and Sean Bergenheim sitting in the press box during the playoffs.
Carter was something of a bit part NHL player for much of his career, often being a healthy scratch and getting waived by the Panthers in 2012 before being claimed by the Devils and going on to be an important part of their very useful 4th line in their run to the Stanley Cup Finals that year. He was signed by the Wild late in the offseason and impressed with his timely points, his physicality and his PK ability. The 31 year old hits free agency with no guarantee that he will be back with the Wild, but could be re-signed to fill the "size void" left by Kyle Brodziak and Chris Stewart (who will more than likely play their hockey elsewhere next season).
Porter, who is also 31, was drafted by the Blackhawks in the 9th round back in 2003 but has spent his entire NHL career since in the St. Louis Blues organisation. playing 188 NHL games and 291 AHL games since 2007/08. He didn't play a single AHL game last season but only featured 27 times for the Blues, posting 3 points.
He has scored 32 points overall in his 188 NHL games and 124 in 291 AHL games so it's pretty clear he is something of a non-factor offensively. Scouting reports paint him as a hard working player who lacks the offensive acumen or the intimidation factor to really impact games at NHL level.
Like Carter he is able to play centre and wing.
Campbell is also 31 and has played 780 NHL games, mostly for the Boston Bruins, since being drafted by the Florida Panthers in 2002. In those 780 games he's put up 189 points.
He's an atypical hard-working, shot-blocking, 4th line grunt but has enjoyed some degree of hero status in Boston for his heart and grit. Our Bruins-centric sister site, Stanley Cup Of Chowder, have some strong feelings on this subject.
He can play any position, has a reputation as a good penalty killer and can play an instigator/fighter role when required. He isn't the biggest guy in the world and also has a reputation for taking ill-advised penalties from time to time.
Before we get into the numbers, let's take a look at each player's deployment between 2010/11 and 2014/15 including the playoffs. The first chart below shows their zone starts and the quality of competition they faced. The 2nd shows the quality of the teammates they played with instead.
So overall, Carter has had the toughest deployment. He's faced pretty tough competition, usually while playing with lesser teammates and while starting a lot of shifts in the defensive zone.
Campbell has seen the toughest zone starts out of the 3 players, but the Bruins have made sure he only sees the ice against scrubs. This means his typical deployment is 4th line vs 4th line.
Porter has seen the softest zone starts of this group and has played with the highest quality teammates.
The above deployment factors should be taken into account when analysing the numbers below:
It's pretty clear from the above numbers that Campbell has been a hugely negative influence on his team in terms of tangible on ice results. Despite usually seeing the ice against 4th liners, the Bruins have been getting hurt badly when Campbell is out there. To get a clearer idea, they have scored 58.94% of goals with him off the ice and just 47.58% with him on it.
As for Carter and Porter, they have both had a slightly negative impact on corsi, scoring chances and goals differential but that is to be expected for 4th liners. Given his fairly tough deployment over the years, Carter's numbers are fairly impressive.
What the Wild are really looking for in any potential depth forward signings is a penalty kill specialist so let's take a look at some shorthanded stats and compare them to the Wild's outgoing PK specialists, Matt Cooke and Kyle Brodziak.
Carter's numbers jump off the page as being the best of the group. His teams have suppressed corsi, scoring chances and goals very effectively with him on the ice. His numbers hold up well against Cooke and Brodziak.
Porter's goals against rate is impressive, but it's worth noting that he's only played a small amount of PK time for the Blues over the last few years. Maybe he could be a good PKer, but if the Wild are looking for a specialist, they might be best off avoiding him.
The Wild's struggles at the face-off dot have been a much discussed issue this offseason. I imagine if they sign a depth forward, they will be looking for someone who can win a face-off. Here are the 3 players discussed in this article and the Wild's current group of centres:
Carter has the best record of the bunch but he's still below 50%. Porter has an even worse face-off record than Charlie Coyle.
Carter and Porter both had very low, team friendly cap hits last season while Campbell cost an exorbitant amount for a 4th liner.
I think it's very clear from all the information available that Gregory Campbell would be an inadvisable signing for the Wild. He doesn't seem to impact the game positively at 5v5 or on the PK and he is coming off a large cap hit (which he would likely be seeking something close to again). This isn't the kind of player the Wild need to be signing if they want to close the gap on the top teams in the division.
Chris Porter doesn't do enough for me to warrant a one-way contract. He could be a good signing on a two-way for some insurance down in Iowa but I don't think he's an adequate replacement for Kyle Brodziak or an improvement on anything the Wild already have in-house.
Ryan Carter is a far more intriguing option. I'd love it if the Wild could bring him back on a replica of his contract from last year (could maybe sell it to him as a "prove you can stay healthy and earn yourself a longer one" deal) and use him as a 12th/13th forward. Him being a Minnesota native could work in the Wild's favour here.
Carter provides decent 5v5 play, he's physical and he's a good penalty killer. The Wild could do with someone better in the face off circle as their 4C but I think Carter's positives outweigh the negatives here.
Thanks to War-On-Ice.com for the data.
Follow me on Twitter @GerWilderness.