Bargains are still available in NHL free agency


(Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)

According to Capgeek, NHL teams have signed 85 unrestricted free agents to contracts worth more than $572 million, with the Washington Capitals outspending everyone at over $69 million in contracts doled out.

But there are still some good values out there. Here’s one player at each position who can help any team looking to improve its roster.

Dustin Penner, left wing

Penner, a two-time Stanley Cup winner for two different teams, can be a disruptive force for opposing goaltenders when he parks his big frame (6 feet 4, 247 pounds) in front of the net. His shots on goal have dipped slightly each year since he averaged almost 2.5 shots per game in 2009-10, but when he does put a shot on net, it is usually up close and personal with the other team’s goalie.

Pennershotchart

He can help on the power play (2 minutes 16 seconds per game with the Ducks last season) and proved he can be productive when playing on the top line, as he did with Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry in Anaheim.

Derek Roy, center

Last season was a rocky one for Roy, posting just 37 points in 75 games for the St. Louis Blues, and he saw his shooting percentage continue a seven-year slide to 7.9 percent. His 1.5 even-strength points per 60 minutes is outside what you would expect for a top six forward (1.8), but Roy has shown he can still be a playmaker. Half of his even-strength assists (7 of 14) were primary passes and he had an assist on 55.6 percent of the power-play goals he was on the ice for last season.

Roy can also drive play. Ignoring special teams and lead-protecting situations over the past three seasons, his teams have seen 51.2 percent of shot attempts in their favor when he skates, while those same linemates muster just 48.8 percent when he is on the bench.

Lee Stempniak, right wing

A trade acquisition for Pittsburgh, Stempniak scored 11 points in 21 games as a Penguin but had just three points during the playoffs. However, Stempniak is a shot-generation machine and especially good at crashing the net.

Stempshotchart

Last season, he averaged 2.4 shots per game but converted just 6.7 percent of them on the ice — a far cry from his 10.5 percent career average. The biggest culprit was during the power play, where he made 29 shot attempts but didn’t have one light the lamp. Expect more puck luck next season.

Raphael Diaz, defenseman

The free agent crop for defensemen is slim, but Belov and Diaz could provide good value on the bottom pair.

With Edmonton, Belov was on the ice for 44.5 percent of shot attempts when the game was “close,” and while that might not sound like a lot (it isn’t), that was good for the second-highest mark on the Oilers blueline. You’d like to see a 27-year-old have a better debut than this one, but in a different system it’s possible he can give a team at least one solid year as a sixth or seventh defenseman.

Diaz was an offensive defenseman for the New York Ranger with good vision and an above average shot which helps on the power play. In limited time on the man advantage, he generated 2.5 points per 60 minutes and had 18 shot attempts in just under 100 minutes of power-play time.

(CORRECTION: Belov signed with a KHL team)

Neil Greenberg analyzes advanced sports statistics for the Fancy Stats blog and prefers to be called a geek rather than a nerd.
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