This year's pool of free-agent centers is deep, but contains only a few select game-changers. In Paul Stastny there is at least one legitimate top two-way center, along with only a small handful of legitimately strong second-line centers, joined by an abundance of great checking line pivots. Which of them are the best?
As a starting point, the high-level value of each player was established for every available free-agent center listed over at Cap Geek. This was done with Goals Versus Threshold (GVT), courtesy of Hockey Prospectus, which is an all-in-one estimate of a player's overall contributions, both offensive and defensive.
The expected GVT of each free-agent center was calculated based on their previous three seasons, with each year weighted twice as heavily as the previous. This means that past seasons are included in the estimate, but the more current performance is worth more.
Since GVT is only a crude high-level estimate, each free-agent center was also placed on a player usage chart to see the context in which they were used, and how effectively the team was when they were on the ice.
Those with softer assignments and/or whose teams were less effective were dropped down our initial list, like Derek Roy, while those whose teams did well while they played tough minutes, like David Bolland, were lifted up.
In the end we found the top 10 available free-agent centers and identified their strengths and weaknesses. While only one team can sign Paul Stastny, and likely at maximum expense, there could be some potentially value-priced bargains for the NHL's other 29 teams who are hunting for a center this free-agent season. Let's begin.
All advanced statistics are via writer's own original research unless otherwise noted.