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Behind The Numbers

Brian Elliott, Ron Hainsey head undervalued free agent all-star team

Kris Versteeg, Dominic Moore, PA Parenteau, Brian Campbell also among players that could help teams after July 1

by Rob Vollman / Correspondent

With free agency starting July 1, plenty of attention will be focused on big-name players like forwards Joe Thornton, Alexander Radulov and Jaromir Jagr, and defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk.

While these players could get big-money contracts, some of the most important signings may prove to be undervalued secondary players like forward Kris Versteeg and defenseman Ron Hainsey.

One of the more useful applications of modern hockey analytics is to help uncover some of the League's undervalued players. Here is an all-star team of such players who could become unrestricted free agents July 1, including an interesting statistic or two for each one (all salary cap numbers courtesy


Kris Versteeg, RW
2016-17 salary cap charge: $950,000

Versteeg has played for five NHL teams in the past four seasons, and has had between 34 and 38 points every season. In 2016-17 he had 37 points (15 goals, 22 assists) in 69 games with the Calgary Flames.

More than just a consistent source of secondary scoring, Versteeg performs well on the power play, where his 16 points were tied for second on the Flames, one point behind Sean Monahan.

He also has had success with his shot-based metrics. In 2015-16, the Carolina Hurricanes and the Los Angeles Kings beat their opponents 1,070-812 in 5-on-5 shot attempts with Versteeg on the ice, for an SAT of plus-258 that was 17th in the NHL.

Video: ANA@CGY, Gm3: Versteeg smacks a PPG past Gibson


Dominic Moore, C
2016-17 salary cap charge: $900,000

There are a lot of important roles on an NHL team, including a fourth-line center who can play in the defensive zone, win faceoffs and kill penalties. Moore checks all three boxes.

Moore has won 53.3 percent of his faceoffs during his NHL career (4,845 of 9,096), which is 22nd among the 180 active players to have taken at least 1,000 faceoffs.

His shorthanded ice time of 507:30 the past three seasons is ninth among active forwards.

During that same time frame he has lined up for 411 faceoffs in the offensive zone at 5-on-5, and 1,411 in the defensive zone, for a zone start percentage of 30.33 percent that is the 11th-lowest among the 527 forwards to play at least 20 games during that time.


PA Parenteau, RW
2016-17 salary cap charge: $1.25 million

There were 99 games decided in the shootout this season, making it worthwhile for teams to invest in at least one shootout specialist. Parenteau has scored on 20 of his 46 career shootout attempts, for a 43.5 success rate that is 16th among active players with at least 20 shots.

In terms of shot-based metrics, Parenteau's teams have increased their share of 5-on-5 shot attempts at 5-on-5 from 48.2 percent to 51.7 percent when he has been on the ice during the past three seasons. That works out to an SAT relative percentage of plus-3.4 that ranks 45th among the 384 forwards to play at least 100 games.


Ron Hainsey, D
2016-17 salary cap charge: $2.83 million

When facing the Pittsburgh Penguins during the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs, the defensemen that top opponents like Alex Ovechkin of the Washington Capitals, Erik Karlsson of the Ottawa Senators and Filip Forsberg of the Nashville Predators were most likely to face was Ron Hainsey and his partner Brian Dumoulin.

Hainsey, who started the season with the Carolina Hurricanes before being traded to the Penguins on Feb. 23, is no strangers to big minutes, having averaged 21:40 of ice time the past 11 seasons. This season he was 38th in the NHL with an average even-strength ice time of 18:49 per game, and was 12th in shorthanded ice time per game at 3:01.

Video: NSH@PIT, Gm5: Hainsey finishes smooth passing play


Brian Campbell, D
2016-17 Cap charge: $1.5 million

There's always a risk when signing older players but Campbell, 38, has missed two games the past six seasons.

Campbell had 17 points (five goals, 12 assists) in 80 games for the Chicago Blackhawks this season, his first time below 27 points since he had 11 points (three goals, eight assists) in 53 games for the Buffalo Sabres in 2003-04.

Despite the scoring dropoff, Campbell remains valuable in driving possession and helping to develop younger players, like his defense partner in 2014-15, Aaron Ekblad of the Florida Panthers, and in 2016-17, Trevor van Riemsdyk, now with the Carolina Hurricanes.

During the past three seasons while playing with mostly young partners, Campbell has an SAT Relative percentage of plus-3.0 percent, which is 22nd among the 198 defensemen to play at least 100 games during that span.


Brian Elliott, G
2016-17 salary cap charge: $2.5 million

He has gone through his ups and downs, but Elliott remains a top-20 NHL goalie by almost any metric. Given that the 20th-highest paid goalie, Devan Dubnyk of the Minnesota Wild, has an average annual salary of $4.33 million, Elliott will be a bargain if he is signed anywhere near the salary he made this season.

Among the 59 goalies to start at least 50 games the past three seasons, Elliott's .918 save percentage is 15th, and his .925 save percentage at even strength is 18th. He has led the League in save percentage twice, with a .940 mark in 2011-12, and .930 in 2015-16, both times with the St. Louis Blues.

Elliott's potential value to a team also can be demonstrated from having received 14 first game stars, 20 second game stars and 11 third game stars in his 128 starts the past three seasons, as tabulated at Sporting Charts. That works out to receiving a game star in 35.2 percent of his starts, which is tied with John Gibson of the Anaheim Ducks for ninth among NHL goalies.

Video: CGY@VAN: Elliott dives to make brilliant pad save

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