Top 10 2015 NHL Free Agent Centers

Our first expanded look at unrestricted free agency by Todd Cordell, who can be found on twitter @ToddCordell.

The 2014 NHL free agency class was less than inspiring, but, even with all of the top centers remaining unsigned, the 2015 class looks to be just as bad.

The fact that Mike Ribeiro, Brad Richards and Mike Santorelli, all of whom were free agents in 2014 and signed for nickels on the dollar, are among the best this class has to offer speaks volumes to just how weak it is.

In this post we’ll be looking at the top 10-centerman set to test the open market in July. 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.

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, War-On-Ice and HockeyAnalysis.

10. Shawn Horcoff – Dallas Stars – 36 years old

Prior contract: six years, $33 million ($5.5M cap hit)

Playing limited minutes on the Stars (averaging a hair over 12 minutes per game) Horcoff has scored five times and added 12 points in 32 games played.

He’s averaging 2.09 points/60 of 5 vs 5 play and is 3rd on the team in that category, only behind Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin among regulars.

Nobody will argue that his best days aren’t behind him, but he’s still a useful player and coming off a lucrative $33 million contract he probably won’t be looking to break the bank this summer.

He’s a solid player and would likely sign cheap, which makes him an attractive free agent option for any team looking for quality depth.

9. Shawn Mathias – Vancouver Canucks – 26 years old

Prior contract: two years, $3.5 million ($1.75M cap hit)

He’s off to a decent start in his first full season with the Canucks, having scored seven goals and added 12 points in 33 games. He’s averaging over a goal and almost nine shots/60 of 5 v 5, and at 6’4” surely has the size that GMs tend to drool over.

He’s not taking the league by storm, but should be good for 15 goals or more and is pretty versatile so he will attract some suitors.

8. Brad Richardson – Vancouver Canucks – 29 years old

Prior contract: two years, $2.3 million (1.15M)

Brad Richardson is enjoying a nice season in Vancouver having recorded 17 points in 33 games thus far.

He’s recording 1.68 points/60 of full-strength hockey, which ranks 6th on the Canucks.

Richardson is responsible defensively, is a very good penalty killer (he owns a 15.3CF% down a man), and is a useful contributor in pretty much every situation.

7. Mike Fisher – Nashville Predators – 34 years old

Prior contract: two years, $8.4 million ($4.2M cap hit)

He has dealt with injuries in recent years, but has been pretty effective when healthy.

In 11 games this season the 34-year-old has seven points while averaging over 18 minutes per night, and starting over 37% of his shifts in the defensive zone (5th on Nashville).

He can kill penalties and hold his own at full-strength, which is about all you can ask for in an aging player whose best days are long behind him.

6. James Sheppard – San Jose Sharks – 26 years old

Prior contract: one year, $1.3 million

Sheppard is one of the more underrated depth centers in the NHL, and at just 26, he should have plenty of suitors on the open market.

Sheppard ranks 11th out of 25 eligible Sharks with a 51.9CF% at even-strength, and ranks 6th on the team with a 1.58 points/60 despite starting almost 40% of his shifts in the defensive zone and 73% outside of the offensive zone.

5. Brad Richards – Chicago Blackhawks – 34 years old

Prior contract: one year, $2 million

His best days are certainly long behind him, but he’s still a capable player and can produce under the right circumstances.

Is he a top line center? Not if you’re expecting to go anywhere, but with a good supporting cast he’s still a capable player.

Averaging less than 15 minutes a night with Chicago, Richards has a respectable 18 points in 33 games.

Richards ranks 11th of 21 eligible Blackhawks with a 54.6CF%, and is 3rd on the team owning a 2.15 points/60 number at full strength.

Again, his best days are behind him, but he still is a very good player.

4. Antoine Vermette – Arizona Coyotes – 32 years old

Prior contract: five years, $18.75 million ($3.750 cap hit)

The Coyotes want to keep Vermette, but may not be able to due to their ownership situation.

Vermette is a guy who fares OK in possession – generally around 50% – playing against opposing team’s top players and starting a good chunk of his shifts in the defensive zone.

He owns a respectable 1.5 points/60 at 5 vs 5 over the last few years, and with easier minutes and/or better offensive linemates those numbers should jump a bit.

He’s also a very good penalty killer, and is someone you can rely on in all situations.

3. Mike Santorelli – Toronto Maple Leafs – 29

Prior contract: one year, $1.5 million

Based off Santorelli’s start to the season it’s safe to say he should finally get the multi-year contract he’s after next summer.

Averaging less than 15 minutes per game, Santorelli has produced offense at a very good clip during 5 vs 5 play.

15 of his 22 points have come at even-strength, and he’s averaging 2.02 points/60 at full strength, which ranks 2nd on the Maple Leafs (behind only Phil Kessel) among players who have seen at least 300 minutes of ice in that situation.

Santorelli also owns a 47.4CF%, which ranks 6th on the Maple Leafs, who are known for their possession woes.

Santorelli can play center, wing, kill penalties, score in shootouts and contribute offensively at full-strength, which should make him an attractive – and perhaps expensive – free agent option in July if he decides to test the open market.

2. Carl Soderberg – Boston Bruins – 29

Prior contract: three years, $3.025M ($1,008M cap hit)

Carl Soderberg is off to a nice start on a bit of an offensively starved team in the Bruins.

Soderberg has 23 games in 36 games while averaging less than 17 minutes per game. That’s good production given the team’s scoring woes and his somewhat limited ice.

His 1.90 points/60 ranks 3rd on the team, and his 53.27CF% is higher than that of his team’s when he’s not on the ice.

1. Mike Ribeiro – Nashville Predators – 34 years old

Prior contract: one year, $1.05 million

The Nashville Predators have been one of the biggest surprises of this season, and Mike Ribeiro is a big reason why. Centering Filip Forsberg and James Neal on the top line, Ribeiro has reverted back to the big point producer we’ve seen in years past.

At the time of writing this he has 28 points and a 56.3CF% in 32 games played. He also owns a 2.95 points/60 at 5 vs 5, which ranks 10th among all NHL players who have played more than 300 minutes in that situation.

This is a weak class and free agents always tend to be overpaid, so, whether he stays in Nashville or tests the open market, he’s in for a big raise.