by PuckStopsHere on 07/03/10 at 12:23 PM ET
We are into the third day of free agency in the NHL and things are beginning to slow down. It is time to ask how good a team can get if it is built through free agency. To attempt to do that, I picked an all star team of the 2009 UFA’s to be and another one this year. Last year’s team has 21 legitimate members. I attempted to put 23 on it but in the hours between my posting of the team and the opening of the free agent season Henrik and Daniel Sedin re-signed with Vancouver and were taken out of the mix. Thus the team is slightly smaller than intended and it takes a hit in quality as those two were the best two players on it.
Here is my 2009 All UFA Team along with their salary hit and key numbers:
Cap Hit (Millions)
Cap Hit (Millions)
Cap Hit (Millions)
The task now is to determine how a good a team this would have been. We know that the numbers these players would produce would be different under different circumstances. If they were on this team, instead of their NHL team, they would have different linemates, different roles and different amounts of ice time. In short their seasons could not be the same as they posted in the 2009/10 and we cannot know what they would have done. We must use their actual NHL numbers as a starting point.
This team has a total salary cap hit of $85.2 million. In the NHL last year the salary cap was $56.8 million, thus this team could not have been assembled under NHL rules.
If we take their games played and divide by 19 (a full line-up assuming only one goalie per game) we get about 72.5 games played. Thus this All UFA Team, like any older team, had problems staying healthy and would need some replacement level type minor leaguers to ice a full line-up. However, if we add up ice time of the individual players, we wind up with more ice time taken than that number of games would allow. This justifies using total goals or assists as an estimate for the team, games played show it as an under-estimate and ice time an over-estimate, so it is likely a reasonable guess.
This team scored 247 NHL goals last season and 442 assists. This is 1.79 assists per goal, which is a reasonable number. It does not reveal a discrepancy that this team scored far more goals than it assisted or vice versa. If we take 247 goals as their offensive total, that makes them a solid offensive team. Colorado is an NHL team with a similar goal total.
Defence is a bit harder to estimate. This team did not have particularly strong goaltending, especially when one considers that Khabibulin was injured most of the season and in general their defence was not particularly strong - its best player Scott Niedermayer was well into the minus range in his +/-. I estimate that this team is weaker than most defensively. If I assume 255 goals against this puts them in Anaheim, Atlanta and Carolina range. I think that is reasonable.
That gives this team a few more goals allowed than scored. They are minus eight using our approximate numbers. The team that is closest to -8 in team +/- is Montreal. Montreal was the 19th place team in the regular season and slipped into the playoffs, due to a weak East Conference. Of course Montreal had a good playoff run; making the semi-finals, but that has nothing to do with our analysis.
I think that having the regular season of Montreal is a reasonable expectation for this team. This All UFA Team would have either barely qualified for playoffs if they were in the East or missed out if they were in the West. That isn’t a particularly good return for $85.2 million. It shows that you cannot build a serious contender if free agency is the primary means of building your team.
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