May 25 2009 08:15AM
UFA Options is a continuing series that gives a brief run-down of the unrestricted free agent market this summer, team-by-team. Our next team for consideration is the Chicago Blackhawks.
With a successful season in the books (regardless of how their series against Detroit works out) the Chicago Blackhawks will have some significant decisions to make in the offseason. Nikolai Khabibulin, who was signed to a massive contract after winning the Stanley Cup in 2004, returned to form this year after a pair of disappointing seasons and the Blackhawks are apparently interested in retaining him. Oft-injured scoring star Martin Havlat and other skaters will also need new contracts.
- Age is calculated based on how old the player will be during the 2009-10 season.
- QualComp/QualTeam are the Quality of Competition/Teammates rankings from Behind the Net; the number appearing is each player’s ranking by position (forward/defense) on his own team.
- Def/Off Faceoffs is a comparison of the total number of shifts starting in the defensive and offensive zones, courtesy of Vic Ferrari’s Time On Ice. A positive number indicates starting more in the defensive zone, a negative number the opposite.
- All advanced statistics are courtesy of Behind the Net.
Vital Stats: 29 years old, 6’1”, 204lbs 2008-09 Cap Hit: 6,000,000 US$ 2008-09 Basic Stats: 81GP – 29G – 48A – 77PTS, +29 2008-09 Contextual: 4th QualComp, 3rd QualTeam, -19 Def/Off Faceoffs 2008-09 Advanced Stats: +15.8 Corsi/60, 2.89 EVPTS/60, 3.77 GFON/60, 2.57 GAON/60
Young stars Toews and Kane get all the press, but the simple fact of the matter is that Martin Havlat was Chicago’s best forward this season. Havlat’s been a very good player for years now, and the kind of guy who would get a lot more credit if he could just stay healthy; this season was the first time in his 8-year NHL career that he’s hit the 80-game mark, and just the third time that he’s played in more than seventy contests. He’s a complete player who has an extensive history of groin and shoulder injuries, and he’ll be a gamble for whoever signs him.
Vital Stats: 32 years old, 6’0”, 205lbs 2008-09 Cap Hit: 1,400,000 US$ 2008-09 Basic Stats: 65GP – 7G – 11A – 18PTS, -17 2008-09 Contextual: 3rd QualComp, 12th QualTeam, +196 Def/Off Faceoffs 2008-09 Advanced Stats: -10.1 Corsi/60, 1.10 EVPTS/60, 2.49 GFON/60, 2.26 GAON/60
Samuel Pahlsson is a great example of a player that plus/minus does not measure adequately. He has minimal offensive ability (has never cracked the 30-point barrier) but despite that he has value as one of the few great checkers in the game. Most coaches have elected to run power-vs.-power, but Sami Pahlsson’s line in Anaheim has been run up against the big guns for years and was a key part of their 2007 Stanley Cup win. He’s physical without taking an inordinate amount of penalties, and he takes a ton of defensive draws.
Vital Stats:29 years old, 6’3”, 213lbs 2008-09 Cap Hit: 600,000 US$ 2008-09 Basic Stats: 65GP – 1G – 13A – 14PTS, +7 2008-09 Contextual: 7th QualComp, 8th QualTeam, +153 Def/Off Faceoffs 2008-09 Advanced Stats: +8.1 Corsi/60, 0.72 EVPTS/60, 2.54 GFON/60, 1.96 GAON/60
Matt Walker had a great season. For the second year in a row he managed to avoid taking a bus to the minors, and despite his limitations (not a great skater, somewhat limited offensive ability) seems to have solidified an NHL job as a third pairing defenseman. His numbers are truly impressive (likely even unrepeatable) when the volume of defensive draws he takes is considered. He’s got excellent size and adds a physical edge to the backend; he’s the kind of cheap depth blueliner that a team might consider over a prospect for a third-pairing role.
Vital Stats:26 years old, 6’2”, 211lbs 2008-09 Cap Hit: 525,000 US$ 2008-09 Basic Stats: 38GP – 3G – 5A – 8PTS, +19 2008-09 Contextual: 8th QualComp, 9th QualTeam, -5 Def/Off Faceoffs 2008-09 Advanced Stats: +4.9 Corsi/60, 0.93 EVPTS/60, 3.45 GFON/60, 1.33 GAON/60
Fun additional numbers: .954 on-ice save percentage, 12.2% on-ice shooting percentage (both numbers led the Blackhawks). I’ve been following Aaron Johnson since his career started in Columbus just before the lockout; he’s got size, offensive ability, and has the traditional “skates well for a big man” line tossed around a lot. It was nice to see his breakout this season, but it isn’t repeatable; both his on-ice shooting and save percentage are through the roof, and the stars just aren’t going to align two years in a row. That doesn’t change the fact that he’s a good depth defenseman.
Vital Stats: 28 years old, 6’1”, 210 lbs 2008-09 Cap Hit: 6,750,000 US$ 2008-09 Basic Stats: 42GP, 25-8-7, 2.33 GAA, .919 SV%
Nikolai Khabibulin had a remarkable season after some very poor years post-lockout. His .919 SV% is his best (by a lot) since 2000-01, and he hasn’t maintained it through 15 playoff games (.898 SV%). His numbers since the lockout are .909, .902, and .886, and I tend to think he’ll drop back around the .910 range going forward (which was what he did in Tampa Bay). He has the ability to get hot and has won a Stanley Cup, but after what happened in Chicago (the Blackhawks even acquired Cristobal Huet over the summer because they had no confidence in Khabibulin) I’d be very leery about signing him to the kind of contract he’s likely to get. Chicago is reportedly interested in retaining his services; if that’s the case I’d think a smart GM would be better off pursuing Cristobal Huet (.909, .920, .916, and .929 since the lockout) via trade.