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Behind The Numbers

Scoring upgrades remain available in free agency

Radim Vrbata, Jiri Hudler among those who could add secondary support to teams seeking offense

by Rob Vollman / NHL.com Correspondent

A number of forwards were signed quickly when NHL free agency began July 1, but others have been overlooked because they're older, have sustained a recent injury or are coming off a disappointing season.

Any team looking to add some scoring through free agency could consider making an offer to forwards Radim Vrbata, Jiri Hudler, or Alex Tanguay.

These three veterans can provide strong secondary scoring, play in the top six when required, work the power play, score in the shootout, contribute toward good shot-based team metrics, and may be available at a discount.

Radim Vrbata

Vrbata had a rocky season with the Vancouver Canucks, when he was shuffled across lines and struggled with lower-body injuries. In 63 games, he had 27 points, the fewest he's had since scoring six points in 18 games for the Tampa Bay Lightning in 2008-09.

At 35, some teams might feel Vrbata's value is limited. But when looking past last season's results, he was in the League's top 50 with 98 goals and 204 points in 270 games from 2011-15. In 2014-15, he had 31 goals and 63 points, which were tied for 12th and 35th in the NHL.

Video: ARI@VAN: Vrbata gets the Canucks on the board

Last season, Vrbata was minus-30, which was tied with Vancouver center Bo Horvat for second-to-last in the NHL, ahead of forward Mikkel Boedker, now of the San Jose Sharks (minus-33). Given Vrbata's past, that number may be an aberration. In terms of shot-based metrics, his team's share of all on-ice shot attempts the past six seasons is 50.9 percent when he's on the ice, compared to 49.3 percent when he's not.

Even if he can no longer be a top-line right wing, Vrbata can provide secondary scoring, shore up the power play, and boost a team's record in the shootout. Vrbata has scored 41 goals in 96 shootout attempts, which is second all-time to Frans Nielsen of the Detroit Red Wings, who has 42.

Jiri Hudler

Hudler, 32, is one the top offensive weapons in the 2016 free agent class. During the past three seasons, he has averaged 2.19 points per 60 minutes at 5-on-5, which ranks 16th in the NHL among those who have played at least 1,500 minutes at 5-on-5, according to Stats.HockeyAnalysis.com.

With the Calgary Flames in 2014-15, he set NHL career highs with 31 goals and 76 points. But last season, he had 35 points in 53 games for the Flames, and after being traded to the Florida Panthers on Feb. 27, had 11 points in 19 regular-season games and one point in six Stanley Cup Playoff games.

Video: FLA@MTL: Hudler seals win for Panthers with PPG

Like Vrbata, Hudler can contribute in the shootout, where he has 19 goals in 55 attempts. And for a team that values championship experience, Hudler won the Stanley Cup with the Detroit Red Wings in 2008.

Alex Tanguay

With the Colorado Avalanche in 2014-15, Tanguay had 22 goals and 55 points; it was his seventh 20-goal season and eighth with at least 55 points. Last season, he had 35 points in 70 games with the Avalanche and Arizona Coyotes.

Tanguay is similar to Hudler in many respects. The 36-year-old left wing won the Stanley Cup with the Avalanche in 2001 and has 22 goals in 60 shootout attempts. And like Hudler, Tanguay relies on shooting precision for his scoring, not high shot volumes. Tanguay led the NHL in shooting percentage in 2005-06 (23.2) and 2014-15 (21.2), and leads active players with an NHL career shooting percentage of 18.6 percent.

Video: EDM@ARI: Tanguay buries rebound past Talbot

As a bonus, Tanguay offers a defensive upside and can add to penalty killing. During the past six seasons, he has averaged 1:09 of shorthanded ice time per game.

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