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Ranking the Best Power-Play Specialists Among 2014 NHL Free Agents

Rob VollmanContributor IMay 27, 2014

Ranking the Best Power-Play Specialists Among 2014 NHL Free Agents

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    USA TODAY Sports

    Although their services don't come cheap, signing the right free agent is the quickest way to address a team's major needs. Just as Marian Gaborik has helped unleash the Los Angeles Kings' full potential with the man advantage, signing a power-play specialist like Mike Cammalleri or Radim Vrbata can make all the difference in 2014-15. Who are this season's best free-agent power-play options?

    Analytics can be used to answer this question in a way that's free of personal opinion. This ranking is ordered by the rate at which each player scores on the power play over the past three seasons combined.

    All but the first of the unrestricted free agent (UFA) on this list score at least 4.5 points per 60 minutes. Those who just missed the list, like most prominently Derek Roy, Jarome Iginla and Marian Gaborik, do not.

    Obviously the list is biased against defensemen who aren't in on as much of the scoring as the forwards, and there's consequently only one of them included. Andrei Markov, Dan Boyle and Marek Zidlicky are other good options on the point for those looking to improve their work with the man advantage through free agency.

    While this ranking was composed in fashion that's free of personal opinion, that doesn't mean that there's no room for any. Please use the comments section to generously provide your own suggestions. Let's begin!

10. Daniel Alfredsson

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    Gene J. Puskar/Associated Press

    Power-Play Credentials

    Daniel Alfredsson has averaged 4.44 points per 60 power-play minutes over the past three seasons combined, the 10th-best rate among UFAs. With 29 assists, he is a lone helper shy of being one of only four UFA forwards with 30 power-play assists over that span.

    Alfredsson led Detroit's forwards with 18 power-play points this year, much as he did with 12 points for Ottawa in 2012-13.

    In his long prime, he topped 30 power-play points in a season five times, including when he was 24 and at 37, and he peaked with 48 in 2005-06. He is currently seventh among active players with 135 career power-play goals.

     

    Potential Impact

    Even at age 41 Alfredsson unarguably remains a legitimate (if no longer dominant) two-way top-six winger.

    The two-time Olympic medalist was actually a sixth-round selection in 1994 before enjoying one of the most distinguished careers in the history of Swedish NHLers.

    Though no longer used to kill penalties, Alfredsson remains a strong defensive player with strong leadership and work ethic. If healthy, he would be a considerable asset to any NHL organization.

     

    Price Tag

    Coming off a single-year deal with Detroit that paid $5.5 million, including performance bonuses, Alfredsson is considering retirement.

    One thing could entice the future Hall of Famer to continue playing, and it's the lure of finally winning a Stanley Cup.

    Alfredsson played at a discount in Ottawa, with a cap hit that was always less than $5.0 million and with a salary that was just $1.0 million in its final season. It's quite likely that he'd agree to play at an incredible discount in order to retire a champion.

9. Ray Whitney

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    LM Otero/Associated Press

    Power-Play Credentials

    Even at 42 years old, Ray Whitney is far from being washed up. He scored 15 power-play points this year, which was tied for third on the Dallas Stars, and he led the team with 12 in the lockout-shortened 2012-13 season.

    Prior to that, Whitney spent two years in Phoenix, leading the team in power-play scoring both years, and he led Carolina in scoring with the man advantage two years prior to that.

    As it stands, he averages 4.5 points per 60 minutes, both over the past three seasons combined, and in 2013-14 by itself. His 32 assists over that three-year span is second among UFA forwards.

     

    Potential Impact

    At 42 years old, the Wizard can't offer a great deal beyond that help on the power play and some veteran leadership.

    Whitney can't really pitch in defensively anymore, is 0-of-5 on the shootout over the past two years and may no longer be able to serve as the scoring line winger at even strength.  

    Drafted by the Sharks in the first round of the 1991 draft, Whitney is the last remaining active original member of that franchise.

     

    Price Tag

    Coming off a two-year deal with an annual cap hit of $4.5 million, Whitney would have to be prepared for a substantial pay cut if he decides to continue playing. Expect a single-year deal for $3.0 million or less.

8. Mike Cammalleri

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    Joe Mahoney/Associated Press

    Power-Play Credentials

    Mike Cammalleri has achieved a scoring rate of 4.75 points per 60 minutes over the past three seasons, based on his 14 goals and 27 assists.

    Cammalleri has led three different teams in power-play scoring in his career. His 19 power-play goals ranked second in the NHL in 2008-09, the year he first led the Calgary Flames with 34 power-play points, and he finished ninth with 16 in 2006-07, the year he led the Kings with 37. He led the Montreal Canadiens with 21 power play points in 2010-11.

     

    Potential Impact

    Calgary's 31-year-old 5'9" alternate captain is a well-established top-six winger who is not bad defensively.

    Recurring shoulder and knee troubles has kept the left winger to 67 games or fewer in each of the past six seasons. Cammalleri is 8-of-26 in the shootout over that span.

     

    Price Tag

    Cammalleri would not be a cost-effective way to upgrade a team's power play. Even a generous three-year, $15 million deal would likely be rejected unless it were offered by a top Stanley Cup contender.

    Coming off a five-year deal with an annual cap hit of $6.0 million and a 2013-14 salary of $7.0 million, Cammalleri is quite likely to get overpaid this summer.

    While it would be safest to base an offer around him being an effective second-line scoring winger who can help on the power play and the shootout, some team's quest for the 35-goal scorer he once was will likely result in far more.

7. Kimmo Timonen

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    Gregg Forwerck/Getty Images

    Power-Play Credentials

    Despite his age, the best available free-agent defenseman on the power play is 39-year-old Kimmo Timonen. Except for Ryan Whitney in very limited action, Timonen is the only one to average 4.5 points per 60 minutes over the past three seasons.

    He has 50 power play assists over the past three seasons, while no other free agent has more than Andrei Markov's 36 over that same span.

    Timomen led the Nashville Predators in power-play scoring three times with 24 points in 2001-02, 28 in 2002-03 and 26 in 2006-07.

     

    Potential Impact

    Timonen is a highly effective top pairing defenseman and penalty killer. The puck-moving defenseman is offensively deployed but takes on top opponents and dominates the possession game.

    The four-time Olympic medalist was Nashville's captain in 2006-07 before being traded to the Philadelphia Flyers with Scott Hartnell for the pick used on Jonathan Blum (nice deal!). He has since become an associate captain on the Flyers.

    Timonen was drafted by Los Angeles in the 10th round in 1993, but before congratulating them on their find, remember that he was quickly dealt to Nashville for Jan Vopat.

     

    Price Tag

    After concluding a six-year deal that carried an annual cap hit of just over $6.3 million, Timonen agreed to a single-year contract for $6.0 million.

    There's almost no such thing as an overpay for a complete top-pairing veteran defenseman like Timonen. Assuming he's healthy, there would be absolutely nothing wrong with a similar offer again this year.

6. David Legwand

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    Carlos Osorio/Associated Press

    Power-Play Credentials

    Though David Legwand is thought of as more of a two-way second-line center than as a power-play specialist, his power-play scoring rate of 4.98 per 60 minutes is just inches away from the top five among unrestricted free agents.

    Legwand's 29 assists over that time span are the exact same as established power-play contributors like Daniel Afredsson, Jaromir Jagr (who has recently re-signed with the New Jersey Devils) and the high-profile player coming up next.

     

    Potential Impact

    The reason that Legwand is seen as a two-way second-line center is because he is.

    Although he's an average faceoff man and his penalty-killing duties have gradually decreased before vanishing completely last year, the 33-year-old 14-season NHL veteran remains someone who is still capable of handling a top-six role at even strength.

    The second overall selection in 1998 can also be a helpful secondary option in the shootout, where he has scored 10 goals in 31 attempts over the past six seasons.

     

    Price Tag

    Legwand is coming off a six-year deal that carried an annual cap hit of $4.5 million. It wouldn't be unreasonable for him to try to secure a similar kind of deal this summer—but to a far shorter term. 

5. Thomas Vanek

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    Brian Babineau/Getty Images

    Power-Play Credentials

    Thomas Vanek led the NHL with 20 power-play goals in 2008-09 after finishing second with 19 in 2007-08. He again finished in the top three with nine goals in the lockout-shortened 2012-13 season.

    His 27 power-play goals over the past three seasons is second among unrestricted free agents, and he's one of only five with an average scoring rate of at least 5.00 points per 60 minutes over that span.

     

    Potential Impact

    The 30-year-old Austrian winger is a pure scoring-focused talent who is still quite capable (though unlikely) of scoring 40 goals for the third time. Such an achievement would require up to 20 goals on the power play.

    Buffalo's fifth overall selection in 2003, Vanek would also be a key contributor on the shootout where he has recorded 17 goals in 38 attempts over the past six seasons combined.

     

    Price Tag

    Vanek is a big name and a master negotiator who is on a huge playoff run.

    His expiring deal carries a cap hit in excess of $7.1 million and may actually prove to be less than what he settles for this summer. Such a deal would be an awfully big gamble, but there are some NHL teams prepared to make it. 

4. Radim Vrbata

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    Ross D. Franklin/Associated Press

    Power-Play Credentials

    Radim Vrbata is one of only four unrestricted free agents with at least 50 power-play points over the past three seasons combined. His power-play scoring rate of 5.15 points per 60 minutes over that time span is fourth-best.

    The 32-year-old Czech led the Phoenix Coyotes in power-play scoring in 2012-13 and the forwards in 2013-14 with 21 points.

     

    Potential Impact

    Vrbata, who was mysteriously left off the Czech Olympic hockey team this year, is the best available power-play option on the right side among unrestricted free agents.

    Originally drafted in 1999 by Colorado in the seventh round, the 12-season NHL veteran is also a shootout specialist with 26 shootout goals in 60 attempts over the past five seasons.

     

    Price Tag

    Vrbata's last two contracts have been three-year deals with annual cap hits of $3.0 million.

    Local blogger Dale LaMontagne of Five for Howling and Luke Fox of Sportsnet both seem to think he's only set to get a slight raise, whereas my conviction is that he carries a price tag of at least $4.5 million.

3. Jussi Jokinen

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    Gene J. Puskar/Associated Press

    Power-Play Credentials

    Jussi Jokinen was an effective power-play specialist long before he was paired up with Evgeni Malkin.

    Jokinen began his career with 60 power play points in 215 games with the Dallas Stars before moving on to the Tampa Bay Lightning and Carolina Hurricanes. He led the Hurricanes with 24 points with the man advantage in 2009-10 and almost matched that total with 21 in Pittsburgh this past season.

    The 31-year-old Finn currently leads all UFA forwards in power-play assists over the past three seasons with 34, and his scoring rate of 5.39 per 60 minutes is mere decimal points from second place.

     

    Potential Impact

    It's amazing that a player of Jokinen's talents was available for nothing off the waiver wire last season.

    The two-time Finnish Olympic medalist can set up plays and is a highly accurate shooter. He can win draws, play responsibly in his own end and produce over 20 points with the man advantage.

     

    Price Tag

    It was a deal with a mere $3.0 million annual cap hit that somehow scared away all takers when Jokinen was placed on waivers in 2012-13. The Hurricanes even had to retain part of his salary for the Pittsburgh Penguins to bite at the trade deadline.

    That seems to suggest that the former sixth-round selection could be available at the bargain price of $2.5 million or less. If so, there doesn't appear to any more affordable way to upgrade a team's power play through free agency than Jokinen.

2. Matt Moulson

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    Ann Heisenfelt/Associated Press

    Power-Play Credentials

    Matt Moulson leads all UFAs with 31 power-play goals over the past three seasons, and his 58 points are tied with Kimmo Timonen for the lead. The resulting 5.40 points per 60 minutes is second to only the player coming up next.

    The 30-year-old's power-play production broke out in 2011-12 when he ranked third in the NHL with 14 goals, before finishing seventh with eight in 2012-13.

     

    Potential Impact

    Moulson's scoring is unlikely to remain at the current level without John Tavares.

    Even just this past season the former ninth-round entry draft selection scored seven of his power-play points in just 11 games with Tavares, followed by just nine in 44 games with Buffalo and three in 20 games in Minnesota.

    While still one of the game's most underrated goal scorers, Moulson should be expected to serve as a capable secondary contributor only.

     

    Price Tag

    Moulson is currently completing a three-year deal that carried an annual cap hit of roughly $3.13 million per season. His salary steadily increasing from $2.5 million to its current $3.9 million throughout that deal, a rise that should be expected to continue.

    Expect a deal with a $4.5 million cap hit this offseason for the scoring line forward and shootout specialist.

1. Paul Stastny

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    Ross D. Franklin/Associated Press

    Power-Play Credentials

    Paul Stastny's power-play scoring rate over the past four seasons is 5.71 points per 60 minutes, the highest among this year's UFAs. In fact, only four others are even over 5.00.

    The 28-year-old center led the team in power-play scoring in 2007-08, 2009-10 and 2011-12.

     

    Potential Impact

    The free agent with the most game-changing potential is the Colorado Avalanche's Paul Stastny.

    The incredibly gifted two-way center was the team's core power-play specialist until having his ice time cut over the past three seasons with the team's influx of new talent.

    Stastny is one of the game's most underrated playmakers, is a highly accurate shooter and can immediately ignite any team's power play.

     

    Price Tag

    Stastny could earn this summer's biggest offseason contract. Currently carrying an annual cap hit of $6.6 million, it wouldn't be surprising to see the U.S. Olympian agree to a seven-year deal for upward of $8.0 million per season.  

     

    All advanced statistics are via writer's own original research unless otherwise noted. 

    Rob Vollman is author of Rob Vollman's Hockey Abstract, co-author of the annual Hockey Prospectus guides and a featured ESPN Insider writer. @robvollmanNHL.

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