STATISTICAL ANALYSIS | Two of the Washington Capitals most glaring needs were addressed in the past week. Mike Ribiero, the second-line center fans have coveted for years, was acquired from the Dallas Stars in exchange for Washington’s second-round pick in the 2012 NHL draft and center Cody Eakin while Adam Oates, who spent six years with the Capitals as a player and captain, was named the 16th coach in franchise history. That leaves just a few more holes to fill this Sunday, most notably a top-six winger who can score and 4/5 defenseman.
The top talent in this year’s free agent crop, New Jersey forward Zach Parise and Nashville blueliner Ryan Suter , will likely cost too much for too long to be seriously considered, which means the Capitals will have to wade a little deeper into the talent pool to find the missing pieces needed for a serious Cup run.
For starters, Shane Doan of the Coyotes should get a long, hard look. One of the few true top-six forwards available as an unrestricted free agent, Doan is a 16-year NHL veteran who has scored 20 or more goals in 11 of the last 12 seasons. Last year, the Coyotes captain had 50 points in 79 games, with nine more in 16 playoff games.
Over the past three years, the Coyotes saw 53 percent of even-strength shots at net – goals, saved, missed and blocked – in their favor with Doan on the ice but broke even with their captain on the bench. Over that same time frame, Phoenix gave up 12 more shots against per 60 minutes on the penalty kill when Doan was off the ice compared to on. He improved the power play as well, which saw over six shots more per 60 minutes when he skated than when he didn’t.
Another option is Lee Stempniak , who joined the Calgary Flames in the summer of 2011 via a trade that sent Daymond Langkow to Phoenix. Stempniak started in the offensive zone 49.4 percent of the time and posted a Corsi relative to his teammates of 10.5. That means more shots were directed at the opposition’s goal than his own when he skated at 5-on-5. His 1.8 points per 60 at even strength last season was just as good as Alex Ovechkin (1.8) and his 2.7 points per 60 on the power play would help a unit that converted less than 17 percent of their opportunities during the regular season.
Here is a dark horse candidate for a top six forward slot: Mikael Samuelsson . He plays a solid game in all three zones, averaged 15:57 of ice time over 48 games this season and posted 28 points (13 G, 15 A), with six of those goals delivered during the man advantage. He faced off against some of the opposition’s toughest competition yet still managed to tilt the ice in his favor (5.4 Corsi relative to his teammates). Plus, he can play the point on the power play, freeing up Ovechkin from those duties. His durability may be an issue, but his cap hit of just $2.5 million the last three years could make him an affordable risk with tremendous upside.
On the defensive side, Matt Carle could be a great addition to the Washington blueline. Despite not putting up eye-popping offensive numbers (4 goals and 34 assists this season), the left-handed shooter has a good two-way game, moves the puck well and can join the rush. Plus, he is durable, having missed just two games over the last three seasons. His price tag, expected to be upwards of $5 million per year, may be a tad too rich.
Greg Zanon , on the other hand, would provide a physical presence on the blue line at a decent cost, as stay-at-home defensemen are typically undervalued in terms of contract dollars. Zanon was credited with 116 hits and 136 blocked shots over 56 games split between Minnesota and Boston during the 2011-12 season.
The departure of Dennis Wideman opens up a slot for a right-handed defenseman, making Michal Rozsival an intriguing option. He was one of Phoenix’s more reliable blueliners in both the regular season and during the playoffs. He averaged more than 19 minutes of ice time per game, which included 1:53 on the penalty kill. The majority of his shifts started in the defensive zone but he still managed to have a positive puck possession metric (2.8 Corsi relative to his teammates). He wasn’t playing against top competition, but as a 4/5 defenseman for the Capitals, he wouldn’t have to.
Follow Neil on Twitter: @ngreenberg
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