The Top 20 Signings of the NHL Offseason, And Why the Sharks Should Have Signed Them, Part 6

(Editor’s Note. Don’t forget to vote in the poll or comment with your thoughts!)

In this series of articles, we will take an in-depth look at what we consider to be the 20 best value UFA signings of the offseason, in no particular order. We will first detail what makes the signings good from a neutral perspective, then discuss why the signing would have benefitted the Sharks (at the same contract terms unless others are discussed). There is no guarantee these players would have even come to the Sharks, but we find it interesting to analyze signings made this offseason through a Sharks lens. Enjoy!

If you missed the first four parts when they were posted, you can check them out here. Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, and Part 5. Now for Part 6.

ERIC BELANGER – C – EDMONTON OILERS
Age. 33. Height. 5’11”. Weight. 185 lbs. Shoots. Left.
Contract. 3 years, 5.25M, Edmonton Oilers.
2010-2011 Stats. 82GP, 13G, 40PTS, +11 plus/minus, 36PIM.

Eric Belanger is a third line center with the two-way skills to step up onto the second line if needed. He and Michal Handzus were probably the best “third-line” centers available in Unrestricted Free Agency. Belanger is a very good checker, and great at faceoffs. But unlike many checking line centers, he also comes with a dash of offensive talent. He has above average speed, good balance, and his hockey sense is good at both ends of the ice. His stick skills are above average. At 1.75M per season, Belanger represents good value because he offers not just dominant faceoff ability, which many teams pay 1.75M or more for by itself, but because he can also play hockey. You could make an argument that he was the Coyotes first line center last season. His 40 points were certainly much better than what you’d expect from a third line center. And putting up a +11 rating on the Phoenix Coyotes is indicative of his good two-way ability. Getting someone who can put up points five-on-five, captain your penalty kill, and rank 18th in the NHL in faceoff percentage, all for 1.75M per season, is a good deal.

WHY THE SHARKS SHOULD HAVE SIGNED HIM

This is a player many Sharks fans would have preferred over Michal Handzus, as he is faster, produced more offensively last season, is much better at faceoffs, and comes at a lower cap hit than Handzus’ 2.5M. Even if you don’t believe the Sharks should have signed him instead of Handzus, there is an argument to be made the Sharks should have signed him anyway. You can never have too many centers, as the Sharks proved last season with their three-center helicopter line of Mitchell-Pavelski-Wellwood. Belanger could have played the third line wing during play, then switched to center to take important faceoffs. But that’s just one way of doing it.

Regardless of where he’d slot in, Belanger is a very good two-way depth center, and 1.75M per year is a fair cost for him. He would have made a good addition to the Sharks for his faceoff expertise, defensive abilities, depth scoring, and prowess on the penalty kill.


 
MICHAEL RYDER – RW – DALLAS STARS
Age. 31. Height. 6’0″. Weight. 186 lbs. Shoots. Right.
Contract. 2 years, 7M, Dallas Stars.
2010-2011 Stats. 79GP, 18G, 41PTS, -1 plus/minus, 26PIM.

Michael Ryder is a skilled, sometimes-enigmatic top-six winger. He has good hands and a wicked shot that’s accurate, which he can release from many angles. His speed is above average when he’s got his legs going, but ask Bruins fans and they’ll tell you, he doesn’t always. Still, he’s usually good for about 20 goals during the regular season, and he proved himself a good playoff performer during Boston’s run to the Stanley Cup. At a 3.5M cap hit for two years, if you get top six production from him, you’re getting it for below market value. He’s coming off two seasons where he didn’t quite do that in the regular season, but I believe that’s simply due to low ice time. He received less than fifteen minutes a game last season. He has the skill to put up 25 goals in more ice time, which he should get in Dallas, and 20 – 25 goals for 3.5M is a good deal.

WHY THE SHARKS SHOULD HAVE SIGNED HIM

The Sharks just traded an inconsistent winger in Setoguchi, and I’m not sure Sharks fans would be wild about the idea of acquiring another one. But while Michael Ryder may be similarly inconsistent to Devin Setoguchi, he’s also just as talented, if not more so. And much like another winger who made our best signings list, Simon Gagne, Michael Ryder could have added some “sniper” characteristics to the team after it lost Heatley and Setoguchi. He would have further increased the skill quotient of this Sharks team and that’s never a bad thing as long as you have the cap space to do it. Not to mention, he’s a proven playoff performer, and he did it as recently as last year. That’s why, if Doug Wilson could have figured out a way to fit him in, Ryder could have been a pretty good addition to the Sharks. Not as good as some of these other players, but good nonetheless.


 
Further Reading.
Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, and Part 5 of our series on the offseason’s best signings.
A look at potential new NHL rules for next season, with our analysis.
Analysis of the Winnipeg Jets signing of ex-Shark Kyle Wellwood.

Written by Shark Circle

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