Florida Panthers: Free Agent Frenzy

July 1st is one of the most stressful days of a hockey fan’s year.  So often it is a day in which a team’s dreams are either realized or crushed, and July 1st, 2019 was no different.  Just ask the Florida Panthers, who experienced both at once. 

The 2019 off-season saw two highly coveted unrestricted free agents in Artemi Panarin and Sergei Bobrovsky.  Rumor had it that the Panthers were heavily courting both and that they wanted to stay together, having spent the last few years playing together both for the Columbus Blue Jackets and the Russian national team, but the pair was separated when Artemi Panarin was swayed by the allure of Manhattan, while Bobrovsky chose the sunshine and beaches of south Florida.  Though landing both (in addition to a defenseman) would have been the best-case scenario for the Panthers, they had a backup plan in motion, just in case. They added Anton Stralman to shore up defense, Brett Connolly to increase depth scoring, and Noel Acciari to center the fourth line.  This may not have been the ideal ending for the Panthers’ 2019 edition of free agent frenzy, but one cannot dispute that the team filled in the holes that needed to be filled.

The Florida Panthers had the fourth-worst goals saved above expected and the second-worst save percentage in the entire league in the 2018-19 season.  With Roberto Luongo’s age and injury history and James Reimer’s record as a starter, it was abundantly clear to the Panthers that they needed to add a goalie on whom they could rely for at least 50 games per year until Spencer Knight is ready for the show.  Enter Sergei Bobrovsky.  The Panthers signed the two-time Vezina Trophy winner to a seven-year deal worth $70 million ($10 million average annual value).  Bobrovsky’s price tag presents a big risk to the Panthers, as he has had issues with consistency from year to year throughout his career, but they certainly bought the two Vezinas and the team hopes that he can recreate those efforts more often than not over the next seven years.  Over the last seven years, since winning his first Vezina, Bobrovsky ranks 12th in save percentage on unblocked shot attempts and differential between actual and expected save percentage on unblocked shot attempts, 3rd in goals saved above expected, and 2nd in wins above replacement.  In 2016-17, Bobrovsky not only lead all NHL goalies in those four metrics for that season, but his stats for that year are also the highest marks any goalie has reached since the 2013 lockout-shortened season, making it the best single season any goalie has had in the last seven years.  Bobrovsky has been far from perfect throughout his career, however.  In each of the three seasons following his first Vezina, he posted negative results in his actual performance relative to his expected performance and ranked outside of the top 30 in wins above replacement in both 2014-15 and 2015-16 (Table 1).  In signing Bobrovsky, the Panthers acquired an established goaltender who has posted positive results more often than negative, including some truly top-tier performances.  However, Bobrovsky will be 31 before his first season with the Panthers begins and the term and money from the Panthers represent an enormous gamble that he will age gracefully and that he can continue to post his elite results more frequently than those below replacement level.

Moving up the ice, the Panthers also added to their blue line by signing Anton Stralman to what is probably the worst contract that the team handed out on Monday.  The three-year term will not handcuff the team in the long run, but the $5.5 million AAV will make it tough to add pieces over the course of this contract.  Stralman is no longer the top-tier shutdown defenseman that he once was (Figures 1, 2), having seen a steady decline in his on-ice results each of the past five years.  He was especially bad in 2018-19, posting career worsts in almost every defensive metric, but it stands to reason that it could have just been a down year compounded by an injury that kept him off the ice for nearly half the season.  Panthers fans should not expect a major bounce back for the 32-year-old (33 by the time the season starts), but basic statistical regression would point towards Stralman having a slight improvement on his 2018-19 season.

 

screenshots of Evolving-Hockey

The Panthers also added two forwards to their roster on July 1st, both pieces who can contribute in the bottom-9, something the Panthers have been lacking for quite some time.  The first was Brett Connolly.  The 27-year-old former top-10 pick signed a four-year contract worth $13 million ($3.25 million AAV) which, contrary to Stralman, is likely going to be the best value contract that the Panthers signed.  Connolly has spent the last three years with the Washington Capitals, with whom he also got his name on the Stanley Cup.  Connolly is not much for driving play (Figure 3) but he is certainly one for finishing it.  Over the last three seasons, Connolly ranks 11th in the league in goals per sixty minutes at 5-on-5 despite averaging just under 11 minutes per game at even strength (Table 2), mostly with Lars Eller and Andre Burakovsky as his line-mates.  Secondary scoring has been a major issue for the Florida Panthers in the past.  During the 2018-19 season, of the Florida Panthers 162 goals scored at 5-on-5, Aleksander Barkov was on the ice for 70 of them.  The 92 goals for which Barkov was not on the ice rank among the fewest bottom-nine goals for in the league.  Connolly’s shooting talent and scoring rates should be a huge help to their depth scoring and, potentially, their second power play. 

screenshot of Evolving-Hockey

The final addition that the Panthers made on the first day of free agency was Noel Acciari, who had spent his career up until this point in the Boston Bruins’ system.  With a three-year, $5 million deal ($1.67 million AAV), Acciari’s contract does not really move the needle one way or the other, but neither does his play.  He will likely slot in as the Panthers’ fourth-line center, another position which the Panthers have struggled to reliably fill in seasons past.  A low-event forward, Acciari is responsible defensively and mostly a non-factor offensively (Figure 4).  One under-appreciated part of his profile, however, is his penchant for staying on the right side of the penalty ledger.  Relative to league averages, he draws 12% more and takes 63% fewer penalties.  He will not allow much in front of Bobrovsky and he will help the power play get on the ice more often than he will force a penalty kill.  For $1.67 million per year, that will make for one of the more solid fourth-line centers the Panthers have had in a long time.

screenshot of Evolving-Hockey

Overall, the Panthers had a fine day on July 1st, 2019.  It is disappointing that they lost out on adding a top forward, but they added an elite goaltender, two good value depth forwards, and a veteran defenseman.  The Panthers improved in all facets of the game and did so in a way that will neither handcuff them from continuing to improve nor prevent them from maintaining their core when it comes time to re-sign Aleksander Barkov, Jonathan Huberdeau, and Vincent Trocheck.  Though it may not have been prudent to redistribute the money earmarked for Artemi Panarin so quickly, it is hard to harshly criticize where the money ended up.  That said, there is still plenty of room for this roster to improve and, while the Panthers may be done in the free agent market, fans should not expect the lineup as it is to be the one that enters the 2019-2020 season.

Stats from naturalstattrick.comevolving-hockey.com, and hockeyviz.com

RAPM charts from evolving-hockey.com

Shot location heatmaps from hockeyviz.com

Featured Image Photo Credit – Nikos Michals

 

Luke Schenn

Tampa Bay Lightning: Bringing In Schenn & McElhinney

featured image photo credit – Mark6Mauno/Flickr

The Tampa Bay Lightning didn’t make much of a splash on July 1st, ultimately signing just two true NHL calibre players.

Those two were Curtis McElhinney, former Toronto Maple Leafs and Carolina Hurricanes goalie, and Luke Schenn, a depth defenseman, who has travelled through Toronto, Vancouver, Anaheim, Los Angeles, Arizona and Philadelphia through his 11 year career in the NHL.

Here’s what the two of them bring to the table.

Curtis McElhinney

The veteran, 36 year old goaltender has had a long tenured career, and over the last couple of seasons, has been very important for his teams. He helped Toronto clinch a playoff berth two seasons ago, by stepping in and winning a very important contest to officially clinch. He then was a part of the miracle run in Carolina, where they went all the way to the Eastern Conference Finals. 

McElhinney is coming off of a career high in starts with 33, posting a career-best 20 wins in the process. He is an outstanding NHL backup, but the Lightning already have fan favorite, Louis Domingue, backing up elite net-minder Andrei Vasilevskiy. What was the point?

They gave McElhinney $1.3M. He’s more expensive than Domingue’s cap hit of $1.15M. Domingue had more wins (31) in less games (26). McElhinney (.912 Save%, 2.58 Goals Against Average) were better than Domingue’s stat line (.908SV%, 2.88 GAA), but that’s not a huge difference.

However, there is one area in which McElhinney stands out more than Domingue however, and that is goals saved above average. While Domingue posted a -1.81 GSAA, McElhinney had a +2.25. But, keep in mind, McElhinney has only posted more wins than losses twice since the 2009-10 season in years with more than 10 starts, and those seasons were the last two. That could either mean improvement despite his aging, or he’s just benefitting from being on a good team at the right time. Maybe that could continue with Tampa, but Louis Domingue has already proven his success with the Bolts, and I don’t understand why they don’t keep sticking with him in net.

This signing ultimately tells me that Domingue is likely to get moved, and I really don’t like that. 

Luke Schenn

Schenn will likely be a 7th defenseman, as he was signed to a 1 year, $700k contract. With that said, these are some players who could’ve been brought in instead (Dan Girardi) and some players he will be competing for time with. 

visual created by Kyle Pereira, stats from CJ Turtoro

As shown above, every other option would have been better. Schenn is atrocious when it comes to entering the offensive zone, and defending against the rush. He couldn’t break up an opponent’s entry, even if his life depended on it. He also is really bad at entering the offensive zone, as shown by his PossEntry60/PossEntry% on the graph. Schenn is really all over the place, and seemingly just shoots the puck a lot. Based on the above visual, I’d genuinely just take a flier on Callan Foote making the jump next season. Just a pointless signing in my book. 

In Conclusion 

The Lightning have had a very slow off-season. This first day of free agency didn’t change a thing. On the one hand, I’m glad they didn’t pull teeth for a guy like Joe Pavelski, but the depth signings, both of them, were just useless. They haven’t signed their RFAs yet. Brayden Point and Cedric Paquette need to get signed quickly.

Meanwhile, the Toronto Maple Leafs and Florida Panthers have done almost everything right in building up their roster for next season. The Lightning need to get it together, or they will quickly fall behind an ever-so competitive Atlantic Division. 

Spider Graphs created by Kyle Pereira, gathered by CJ Turtoro

Stats from hockey-reference

Salary Cap Info from capfriendly

Tampa Bay Lightning: Pavelski Wants The Sun

Joe Pavelski visited with the Tampa Bay Lightning yesterday, as his time in San Jose has seemed to run its course.

July 1st is right around the corner, and there’s no better date than that for hockey fans. Free Agent frenzy begins and there are countless names to look out for, like Artemi Panarin, Mitch Marner and countless others. There are a lot of “Hope so”’s and “What if”’s. But no one can truly predict where each player goes on that date. But there’s one move that seems to be getting more and more clear. Joe Pavelski wants to play for the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Is It Possible?

I could make this easy and just say yes, then move on, but there’s more to this story. The Lightning have about $10.626M in cap space, with Brayden Point still left to re-sign. That doesn’t even count the extra $5.8M from Ryan Callahan’s placement on Long Term Injured Reserve (LTIR), which then bumps the cap space up to $16.426M. Here’s to say that Point takes $9M per year, that bumps the space down to around $7.426M. Now Paquette is someone else I would like to re-sign, and he’s going to be fairly cheap, and take about $1.5M or so. That bumps it down to about $5.926M, but that’s not all. Without Pavelski, the Lightning line-up would look something like this:
Yanni GourdeSteven StamkosMathieu Joseph
Tyler JohnsonBrayden PointNikita Kucherov
Ondrej PalatAnthony CirelliAlex Killorn
Alex Barre-Boulet-Cedric Paquette-Taylor Raddysh/ Boris Katchouk
Now, those lines aren’t bad at all, but there are moves that can be made here. First, an Alex Killorn trade (Keep in mind, Killorn has a full no trade clause and must waive it for a trade to happen). If the Lightning go back to the Canucks end, and acquire a bottom 6 forward for cheap, such as Jake Virtanen or Nikolay Goldobin for Killorn and a bit of a sweetener, then you can free up around $3.5M, to bring the cap space back up to $8.426M, not counting the contracts of Barre-Boulet, Raddysh or Katchouk, as they’re just temporary place holders. If you bring back Adam Erne for about $1M, then sign Pavelski to a 1 or a 2 year deal for $4M per year (he could easily take more, but if he does take a discount, that would be the most I’d give him), that combines to take the cap down to $3.426M, roughly. So yes, it is definitely possible for the Lightning to go out and re-sign Point, and sign Joe Pavelski. They’d even have the space to bring in another player for no more than $3M. If those things were to happen, then the entire Lightning lineup would look a little something like this:
Gourde-Stamkos-Pavelski
Joseph-Point-Kucherov
Palat-Cirelli-Johnson
Erne-Paquette-(Virtanen/Goldobin)

Victor HedmanMikhail Sergachev
Ryan McDonaghErik Cernak
Jan RuttaBraydon Coburn

Andrei Vasilevskiy
Louis Domingue

Just to confirm the fact that Tampa can afford these moves, I built the team on capfriendly, using the armchair GM tool, and here’s the look of that, with cap space included.


As you can see, the Lightning actually have more space then I had worked out earlier in this article, but will ultimately have to have extra players called up for injuries. Those players likely include Barre-Boulet, Katchouk, Verhaege and Raddysh, all of which costing less than $1M each. They’re also waiver exempt, and can come up and go back down whenever the Lightning need it, and they won’t have to worry about waiver claiming from other teams.

Salary Cap info via Capfriendly

Feature image courtesy of Dinur Blum

Dan Girardi

Tampa Bay Lightning: Taking An In-Depth Look At Dan Girardi

Featured Image Photo Credit – Dinur Blum

The last Tampa Bay Lightning player evaluation that I did was on Braydon Coburn, so I’ve decided to stick with the blue-line here. This player is likely on his way out, though it is still an unknown at this point. The question is, should they? I will evaluate his skills and determine if it is worth the money to bring him back. That player is Dan Girardi.  

The Basics

Last season, Girardi played 62 total games, while in a rotation in and out of the lineup as a healthy scratch. Despite that, he scored 4 goals and assisted on 12 more, for a total of 16 points. He averaged 17:48 time on ice, due to the fact that he tended to play on the first defensive pair with Victor Hedman, with no special teams time. He started 49% of his shifts in the offensive zone, and racked up a 49.9 Corsi-For%, his best CF% in 10 years (the 2008-09 season). Girardi had a takeaway to giveaway ratio of 8 to 25, a -17 differential. It’s also a career low total in takeaways and giveaways. Girardi recorded a 100.7 PDO, which means he’s only a little bit lucky, relative to the average of 100 PDO.  With Girardi on the ice this season, the Lightning had an expected goals for of 45.7 and an expected goals against of 43.7, which is a +2 differential, his first career plus expected +/- since it was first calculated in the 2014-15 season. 

Advanced Analytics

Girardi wasn’t good or bad in almost all of his stats except the takeaway-giveaway ratio. However, he has never really been good in that metric in his career. He did improve in a few areas compared to prior seasons, but overall on the surface, he hasn’t been that good. If we look into the spider graphs, maybe they can hint at something that he is good at.

visual created by Kyle Pereira, data from CJ Turtoro

Girardi (red) is last in his shot contributions, which ultimately means he doesn’t generate any sort of offense from his shots (ShotContr60, ShotAssists60), but he does shoot the puck more than Jan Rutta (Shots60). He ranks dead last in all transition metrics, which looks at his success breaking out of the defensive zone (PossExit60, PossExit%) and breaking into the offensive zone (PossEntry60, PossEntry%). He is the best of the three defensemen shown on the graph for breaking up the opposition’s entry attempts (Breakups60), and has better defensive numbers than offensive, but still ranks last in allowing the opposition a high volume of entries in a 60 minute span (PossEntryAllw60) and second in how many entries he allows compared to the total number of entries he has to defend against (PossEntryAllw%).

Where I am intrigued the most is in his seemingly awful transition game, so let’s first look into his performance on the breakout by taking a look at CJ Turtoro’s Exit per 60 minute visual. 

visual created by CJ Turtoro, data from Corey Sznajder

Girardi ranks dead last among all other Lightning defenders (minus Rutta) in this metric. He only ever passes the puck up and out of the defensive zone to a teammate, and never skates it out. He relies very heavily on his dumps and clears when leaving the defensive zone which allows for the opponents to quickly regain the puck in the neutral zone and get another entry, hence his high PossEntryAllw60 metric on the spider graph. He ices it less than Coburn does, but still more than all other defenders, which isn’t bad, but still needs to be taken down a little bit. Girardi has a high amount of fails, and that’s where he really needs to turn it down. While he didn’t turn the puck over a whole lot last season, he had around the same amount of fails as Victor Hedman and Mikhail Sergachev, who are pace pushers and take risks moving up ice, which sometimes leads to fails. But in Girardi’s case, he doesn’t push the pace at all, and he’s just seemingly bad at breaking out. This isn’t a good look for Girardi.

Now let’s look at Girardi’s metric of entering the offensive zone using CJ Turtoro’s Entries per 60 minute visual. 

visual created by CJ Turtoro, data from Corey Sznajder

Yet again, Girardi ranks dead last in entering the zone, but this time there’s a better reason why. While he had a tough workload exiting the zone (lots of attempts), he had the smallest workload breaking into the offensive zone, as he never really made an attempt to do so consistently. For controlled entries, he passes to a teammate more than he skates it in himself, though it is pretty close. He constantly dumps it in however, if he even tries entering at all. The best part about the whole thing though? He very rarely fails in getting the puck in, when he tries doing so, and thus is fairly effective entering the offensive zone. Now, if we go back to the spider graph, we will remember that his best attributes were in his defensive zone play. 

Break-Ups versus Possession Exits

Let’s now take a look at Sean Tierney’s visual, Controlling the blue line. 

visual created by Sean Tierney, data from Corey Sznajder

Girardi, the left-most defenseman, had a high breakup%, about even with both Ryan McDonagh and Anton Stralman. However, as we saw before, he was not good at breaking out of the defensive end, and thus had the lowest, by a wide margin, Possession Exit%. He’s just an okay defenseman, because he breaks up the oppositions attack, but then can’t break out of the defensive zone, doesn’t really try to break into the offensive zone, and does little to make a difference offensively. 

In Conclusion 

Dan Girardi is just okay, as I touched on earlier. I feel as though the Lightning gave him too much ice time, and that he should not have been deployed more often than both Sergachev and Coburn. To me, Girardi is a solid 7th defenseman, who can slot into any lineup that needs him when an injury occurs. You know exactly what you’re going to get with Coburn due to his very consistent production, but he isn’t your guy if you already struggle breaking out or pushing offense. I don’t see the point in re-signing Dan Girardi with better options on the roster, and cheaper options in the trade market and within the Lightning’s farm system. I can see Girardi going to Long Island to play for Barry Trotz and the New York Islanders. 

All stats via Hockey-reference

Spider graphs created by Kyle Pereira, data gathered by CJ Turtoro

Controlling the Blue-line visual from Sean Tierney

Featured Image Photo Credit – Dinur Blum

Braydon Coburn

Tampa Bay Lightning: Evaluating Braydon Coburn

Part 14 of my Tampa Bay Lightning player evaluation is finally here, and it is going back to the blue-line.

The Lightning had one of the strongest defensive cores in the league in a lot of people’s minds, and that might just be because of the stellar season the whole team had. But yet, despite all the love the blue-line gets, the top four gets most of the credit.

But what about the bottom 2 defensive pair and the Lightning’s 7th defenseman?

I’m here to show you that they, too, contributed towards the Lightning’s success. First, let’s start off with Braydon Coburn, who was recently signed to a 2 year deal worth an average of $1.7M per year.

The Basics

Last season, Coburn played 74 games, recording 4 goals and 19 assists (23 points), which was his best season, from a production standpoint, since the 2011-12 NHL season. He averaged 16:07 time on ice, with a perfect 50% distribution of offensive and defensive shift starts. With the 50/50 on-ice distribution, he went on to have a 52.6 Corsi-For%, his best CF% since the 2009-10 NHL season. He had a takeaway to giveaway ratio of 17 to 22, which is a -5 differential.

While that may not seem good, it isn’t all bad, as he doesn’t really generate giveaways or takeaways. He recorded a 100.1 PDO, which is just a hair above the average PDO of 100, which tells me he is only slightly more lucky than the average NHL player.

When Coburn was on the ice, the Lightning had an expected goals for of 51.1 and an expected goals against of 45.9, which is a +5.2 differential. What that tells me is he pushes the tempo of play up ice, but isn’t always super reliable in his own end. Now, that may not be so true, so stay tuned.

Advanced Analytics

Coburn has always been thought of as a stay-at-home defenseman, generally. But while his point totals back that up, his expected goals for when he’s on the ice tells me otherwise. It tells me his loves pushing the play up ice, and trying to generate some sort of offense. By using my own spider graph, we can determine where he stands on both the offensive and defensive ends.

visual created by Kyle Pereira, stats from CJ Turtoro

Coburn (blue) is hands down, far and away, the best defenseman among the bottom 3 defenders on the Lightning roster when it comes to shooting. He shoots way more in general (Shots60), and generates more offense off of his shooting (ShotContr60, ShotAssists60) by quite a bit. He’s also far better at entering the offensive zone (PossEntry60, PossEntry%) by a wide margin as well. He stands out less when exiting, or breaking out, of the defensive zone (PossExit%, PossExit60), but is still better than the other two on the graph. Finally, his worst categories. All players on the graph mark around the same area on the graph when it comes to breaking up an opponent trying to enter the zone (Breakups60), ranks second when it comes to allowing entries over a 60 minute span (PossEntryAllw60), and then ranks dead last when it comes to how many he allows over the total amount of entries he has to break up, or defend against (PossEntryAllw%). But his prowess over the other two depth options is the reason why Lightning General Manager Julien BriseBois gave him a new contract.

Coburn’s Exits per 60

But, to dive deeper into his success, let’s check out CJ Turtoro’s Exit per 60 minute visual.

visual created by CJ Turtoro, stats from Corey Sznajder

Coburn ranks 11th on the Lightning roster when it comes to breaking out of the defensive zone. He has a fairly decent workload, just about even with Anton Stralman for the amount of breakout attempts. He relies more heavily on his dumps and clears, rather than passing or skating it out. That’s the reason why his seemingly good breakout game doesn’t translate to the spider graph, because the spider graph looks specifically at controlled breakouts and not chipping the puck out and away. He ices the puck a lot, which isn’t necessarily good, but it isn’t a huge problem, but that should still be brought down a little bit for next season. He has a high fail mark, which is the worst part about his graph. However, he goes for clearing the puck rather than a controlled breakout, and his clear attempts might be getting knocked down at the line often enough for it to negatively affect his game. All in all, however, he’s just alright at getting the puck out of the defensive zone.

Coburn’s Entries Per 60

Now, let’s look at CJ Turtoro’s Entry per 60 minute visual to see how truly good Coburn is at breaking into the offensive zone and driving the offense.

visual created by CJ Turtoro, stats from Corey Sznajder

According to the visual, Coburn had the third highest workload amongst defenseman when it came to entering the offensive zone, ahead of even Victor Hedman, but ranked just 5th on the team. He had a decent amount of controlled entries, where he passes to a teammate or skates it in himself, but just like all the other defensemen, he looked more for a quick dump in to get the job done. He doesn’t fail very often, considering how often he tries entering the offensive zone, so that’s not a problem there. Being a bottom pair defenseman, who is basically known around the entire league as a defensive defenseman, these are solid stats.

Break-Up % vs Possession Exit %

But to truly evaluate how good a defenseman is at, well, defending, we have to use Sean Tierney’s Controlling the blue-line visual.

visual created by Sean Tierney, stats from Corey Sznajder

Coburn, highlighted on the graph, does not have a high breakup%, which ultimately means that he allows the opposing team to enter the Lightning defensive zone more than he stops them from doing so. While that may sound really bad, and it surely isn’t good, he was just a little below Hedman and well above Mikhail Sergachev in that metric. Where he really struggled, which we touched on earlier and isn’t necessarily the case, is his controlled Possession Exit%. He wasn’t bad, but he wasn’t good, and that tells me he just goes in and does whatever the coach asks of him.

In Conclusion

Coburn is a very simple minded defenseman. You want him to get the puck out of the defensive zone, he will clear the zone one way or another. You want him to drive the offense and move the puck up the ice, he will move the puck up ice and drive the offense. If you want him to generate shots, he will shoot. He doesn’t play a flashy, risky game, but rather a slower, simpler game. He’s a very low risk, potentially high reward player, and for a guy to do that while averaging bottom D pair time on a night to night basis, that’s pretty solid, to me.

All stats via Hockey-reference

Spider graphs created by Kyle Pereira, data gathered by CJ Turtoro

Controlling the Blueline visual from Sean Tierney

Featured Image Photo Credit – Dinur Blum