Top 10 2014 NHL Free Agent Wingers

Thomas VanekExpanded look at unrestricted free agency this week by Todd Cordell, who can be found on twitter @ToddCordell.

While this is recognized league-wide as a poor free agent class, those hoping to address the wing and add some scoring punch are in luck, as there are quite a few quality players to choose from.

In this post we’ll be looking at the top-10 wingers whom could test the market come July 1. The rankings will take into account standard stats such as goals, assists, and points as well as advanced stats such as Corsi For% relative to the team, and points per 60 minutes of 5 vs 5 and/or 5 vs 4.

If you missed yesterday’s post with free wingers ranked 11 through 20 and want to view them first, they can be found here.

Without further ado, here are my rankings for the top-10 free agent wingers available this summer.

10. Jussi Jokinen – Pittsburgh Penguins – 31-years old
Prior contract: three years, $9 million ($3M cap hit)

Jokinen is another underrated free agent option that I really like. He took a beating from the common fans during the lockout-shortened season because his shooting% was at an unsustainably low rate, but in reality he was playing pretty well.

Jokinen is coming off a very good season in Pittsburgh where he posted 31 points at full strength and averaged 1.81 points/60 in that same situation. He also drove play at a ridiculously high rate, as the Penguins generated almost 9% more of the shot attempts with him on the ice than without.

He was also extremely effective playing with the man advantage, as his 6.82 points/60 rate was atop all free agent wingers.

His contract demands likely won’t be overly high, and given his quietly high production rates as well as his versatility – he can play center or wing and in any situation – he could be the biggest steal in free agency.

9. Daniel Alfredsson – Detroit Red Wings – 41-years old
Prior contract: one year, $5.5 million ($3.5M cap hit)

Alfredsson probably only has one more season left in the tank, but if he leaves Detroit he could be a nice addition to a contending team.

As a 41-year-old Alfredsson was able to produce 49 points in 68 regular season games, which prorated to a full season equates to a hair under 60.

His 1.87 points/60 of 5 vs 5 play was 4th best among free agent wingers, as was his 4.92 points/60 minutes of ice with the man advantage.

He can’t carry the load offensively like he used to, but if you give him a couple good linemates and slot him in on the 2nd line, he should have no problems putting up points.

8. Ryan Callahan – Tampa Bay Lightning – 29-years old

Prior contract: three years, $12.825 million ($4.275M cap hit)

Callahan is a good player, but he’s a prime candidate to be grossly overpaid this summer. His heart, determination and willingness to put his body on the line to make plays are admirable, but he doesn’t produce near enough offense to be worthy of a seven-year contract worth upwards of $6 million per season he’s rumored to want. Factor in that his style of play forces him out of the lineup to recover from injuries a little too often and that he’ll soon be on the wrong side of 30, he doesn’t seem like a good long-term investment.

Not only that, but he’s conceived by many to be a ‘playoff player’ and he has just 24 points in 64 playoff games.

Don’t get me wrong, Callahan is a good player and would be a nice addition to any team in the short-term, but it’s only a matter of time before his body wears down and the money he’ll command will likely exceed his worth.

7. Matt Moulson – Minnesota Wild – 30-years old
Prior contract: three years, $9.4 million ($3.133M cap hit)

Moulson’s playoff run with the Wild was a little underwhelming in that he had just three points in 10 games for the team, but he still figures to be in for a nice pay day.

After bursting onto the scene during the 2009-10 season where he scored 30 goals in his first full NHL season, Moulson has scored at least 23 goals in four straight seasons (lockout year aside) and scored 30+ in three of them.

Moulson posted 51 points in 2013-14 while playing for three different teams – two of which missed the playoffs in New York and Buffalo – and would be a nice add for any team.

He averaged 4.72 points per 60 minutes of power play ice this season, which was 4th among UFA wingers who played in 70+ games and took a regular shift with the man advantage.

He was also a good possession player relative to the teams he played for, as on the year he had a Corsi For Relative% of +1.8%, meaning the team generated a larger portion of shot attempts for when he was on the ice than when he was on the bench.

6. Radim Vrbata – Phoenix Coyotes – 31-years old
Prior contract: three years, $9 million ($3M cap hit)

Radim Vrbata is a criminally underrated player and a free agent option I really like. He’s found twine 67 times over the last three seasons, which prorated to an 82-game schedule averages out to be 29 goals per season.

His power play production rates last season were exceptionally high, as he averaged 5.20 points/60 minutes of play on the man advantage.

Vrbata’s 5 vs 5 points/60 was a respectable 1.53, and given he’d probably cost less than half of what the top free agents will command, he’s an attractive option.

5. Mike Cammalleri – Calgary Flames – 32
Prior contract: five years, $30 million ($6M cap hit)

Cammalleri is one of the best offensive wingers available. Despite playing in just 63 games for a poor Calgary Flames team, he was 4th among UFA wingers in total 5 vs 5 points with 30, and he averaged a very good total of 1.86 points/60 minutes of full strength. Cammalleri was also among the best in terms of driving play up ice and generating shots on the opposing goaltenders, as he posted an excellent +6.7 CF Relative%.

His success wasn’t just limited to 5 vs 5 play – though that’s the most important situation to be effective in – as he averaged well over four points/60 on the man advantage.

He’d likely cost less and accept lower term than Vanek, Gaborik and the rest of the top guys, and his production rivals – and in some cases – exceeds them in some categories.

4. Ales Hemsky – Ottawa Senators – 30-years old
Prior contract: two years, $10 million ($5M cap hit)

Hemsky is one of the most underrated and underappreciated players in hockey. He was nothing but a loyal soldier and consistent offensive threat when given minutes in Edmonton, and he was used as a scapegoat to their struggles.

After getting a much needed change of scenery Hemsky showed his true colors, dazzling on many nights and tallying 17 points in 20 games while playing for the Senators.

After a half ass effort by Bryan Murray to re-sign Hemsky (likely due to Eugene Melnyk’s financial struggles) where he was offered a little over $3 million per season, Hemsky made it be known he was going to test the open market.

Hemsky can still skate better than most, and he does a better job staying healthy than people give him credit for, as he played in 87% of his team’s games over the last two seasons.

He averaged 4.82 points per 60 minutes on the power play, which was 3rd among free agent wingers with more than 70+ games played.

Hemsky also posted a respectable 1.69 points per 60 at full strength, and had a Corsi For Relative% of + 2.8%.

Any team with some extra cap space that wants to add some speed and skill on the wing should have Hemsky near the top of their lists.

3. Jarome Iginla – Boston Bruins – 36-years old
Prior contract: one year, $6 million ($1.8M cap hit)

Boston would like to re-sign Iginla and to me they seem like the best fit for Iginla, but there will be plenty of suitors if he’s made available.

At 36 years of age Iginla was able to pot 30 goals for the 12th time in his career, and he tallied 31 assists to go along with them. His best days are undoubtedly behind him, but he’s still a very good player who can consistently put the puck in the net.

Iginla averaged a very impressive 1.95 points per 60 minutes of 5 vs 5 time, which was only behind Vanek and Gaborik among NHL regulars on the wing in this free agent class. On top of his excellent production at full strength, he averaged a very healthy 4.36 points per 60 minutes on the power play.

Any contending team that doesn’t want to dish out a long-term contract while adding some scoring on the wing should have their eyes set on the future Hall of Famer.

2. Marian Gaborik – Los Angeles Kings – 32-years old
Prior contract: five year, $37.5 million ($7.5M cap hit)

If Gaborik doesn’t re-sign in Los Angeles and elects to test the open market, he’ll certainly reap the rewards financially.

While he has struggled to stay healthy throughout his career and has only played in 88 of 150 regular season games over the last two years, he’s coming off an outstanding playoff run that will be fresh in the minds of all 30 NHL general managers.

Gaborik was a consistent threat and scored 14 goals while tallying 22 points and playing in all 26 Kings’ playoff games.

GMs drool over players who can fill the net, especially when the games count most in the playoffs, so he figures to be in for a big payday despite being 32 years old.

1. Thomas Vanek – Montreal Canadiens – 30-years old
Prior contract: seven years, $50 million ($7.142M cap hit)

While many feel Vanek’s playoff performance was less than adequate (10 points in 17 games), I thought he was better than most people gave him credit for, and that he’s the best offensive player in this year’s free agent class.

Marian Gaborik was exceptional in the playoffs, but over the last few years Vanek’s body of work has been much more impressive, so I have no doubt he’ll land a massive contract.

Vanek has 71 points during 5 vs 5 play over the last two seasons, which is 12th among all players in that span. Only Sidney Crosby, Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry, Phil Kessel, etc. are ahead so he’s keeping elite company.

Vanek was 6th in the NHL this season averaging 2.63 points per 60 minutes of 5 vs 5 despite playing for three separate teams, which I think is extremely impressive.

At 30 Vanek still has several quality seasons ahead of him, and would provide a huge offensive boost to whatever team he signs with. Luckily for him, offensive players are always in high demand so he’ll land a big contract wherever he goes.

Potential destinations: Anaheim, Nashville, Minnesota

Notes: Corsi For% is simply used to track shot attempts taken while a player is on the ice. If Player X is a 60% Corsi player, that means 60% of all shot attempts when he’s on the ice go towards the opposing net, while only 40% head in the direction of his goaltender’s net. This number is used to see who’s driving play, and generally having higher Corsi numbers leads to more production. Corsi For% relative to the team compares a player’s numbers to those of his team when he’s not on the ice. If Player X is a 60% Corsi player and his team is 55% without him, which gives him a Corsi Relative% of +5%.

Points per 60 minutes is simply how many points Player X records per 60 minutes of any given situation. If Player X had 10 5 vs 5 points in 120 minutes of ice, his 5 vs 5 points/60 would be 5. The same goes for goals and assists.

All numbers are via CapGeek, HockeyAnalysis, and ExtraSkater.