Pat Holden also writes about hockey on Russian Machine Never Breaks. You can follow him on twitter here: @pfholden
Every offseason, there’s at least a few deals handed out that raises eyebrows. While there might not be an overpay like David Clarkson or Brooks Orpik among the 2014-15 UFA class, there are still players who are very likely to receive contracts their new team will come to regret. Here are three of those players.
Antoine Vermette hasn’t skated under 17 minutes a game since the 2006-07 season. Throughout his career, he’s largely been used as a second-line Center. Paying the soon-to-be 33 year old Vermette second-line center money on the free agent market would be a mistake.
Production wise, Vermette leaves a lot to be desired. Over the past three seasons, 373 forwards have skated 1000-plus 5v5 minutes. Vermette’s 1.39 points/60 during that time ranks 249th. His team has scored just 47.9 percent of the goals when he’s been on the ice over that span, which ranks 283rd.
The picture doesn’t get any prettier when looking at possession. Vermette’s relCorsi over that same three season span is -2.82 percent, and he’s only been a positive relative possession player twice in his 11 seasons.
Vermette also doesn’t make those around him better. In 2014-15, of the three forward teammates he skated the most minutes with in each Arizona and Chicago, only one saw an improvement in puck possession when on the ice with Vermette, as the chart below shows.
Mikkel Boedker is the only forward among the six that benefitted, possession wise, from playing with Vermette.
Vermette hasn’t been a solid second-line center option for much of his career. Any team that signs him with that expectation, as he enters his mid-thirties, is going to be disappointed. And no, a couple of “clutch” goals in the playoffs doesn’t make up for his otherwise underwhelming body of work.
Matt Beleskey picked a good time to more than double his career-high in goals. Having never topped nine goals in his NHL career prior to 2014-15, the UFA to-be netted 22 goals this past season, and he’s about to cash in on that performance.
Buyers beware: Regression is coming.
Did Beleskey suddenly become a sniper or did he have puck luck on his side the season before he hit free agency? Any GM willing to bet the former had better keep a rabbit’s foot handy.
2014-15 was also the only season in his career that Beleskey has been a positive relative possession player. Much of this has to do with Beleskey finding chemistry with Ryan Kesler. When Beleskey skated with Kesler, the Ducks saw 55 percent of the shot attempts, but that fell to 51.5 when Beleskey was on the ice without Kesler. But Beleskey has dragged down plenty of top six caliber players during his career, as well. In the 757 minutes Beleskey has skated with Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry, the trio has posted a Corsi of just 49 percent. That’s not good enough for a team’s top line.
While Beleskey’s individual shot generation/60 over the past two seasons is in the top ten in the league, there are too many signs pointing to 2014-15 being a career year to justify giving him a big payday.
Chris Stewart was an effective player for the Minnesota Wild after being dealt there in early March. But, if a team pays for the player Stewart was for those six weeks, they’ll be ignoring the much larger body of work over the course of his career that suggests Stewart is not an effective top six player.
His production tells a similar story.
Stewart has shown flashes of top-six ability throughout his career, but has never sustained it. Any team betting on those six weeks of productive play in Minnesota would be turning a blind eye to his body of work over 463 career games.
All three of these players will catch on with a team this offseason. And all three of them could be effective players for the team they sign with. But GMs should be realistic with their expectations and cautious with the dollars when signing any of these three players.