The Best 20 Free Agent Signings of the Offseason, And Why the Sharks Should Have Signed Them, Part 7
In this series of articles, we will take an in-depth look at the 20 best value UFA signings of the offseason from both a neutral and Sharks perspective, in no particular order. There is no guarantee these players would’ve come to the Sharks, but we find it interesting to analyze signings through a Sharks lens. Enjoy!
Today’s post will focus on underrated players. Stay tuned next week for our look at the Shark who made this list, as well as thoughts on the Young Stars Tournament.
BENOIT POULIOT – LW – BOSTON BRUINS
Age. 24. Height. 6’3″. Weight. 199 lbs. Shoots. Left.
Contract. 1 year, 1.1M.
2010-2011 Stats. 79GP, 13G, 30PTS, +2 plus/minus, 87PIM.
Benoit Pouliot is a left-wing who signed with the Boston Bruins this summer. He is a smooth skater with good agility and edge-control, and he is good at keeping the puck on a string. At 6’3″, 199 lbs, his frame is superior to most finesse forwards, and his fairly long skating stride is one benefit of this, along with greater reach. Overall, he is a slick forward who excels at the finesse aspects of the game. He has the skill of a top-six forward, and the Bruins nabbed him for Jody Shelley money. That’s value.
With that said, top-six skill is one thing; top-six production is another, and with the exception of two-thirds of 2009-2010, Pouliot’s production has not matched his skill-level. This explains why he’s largely flown under the radar recently. However, fans might remember him as the skater ranked #2 by Central Scouting for the 2005 NHL Entry Draft, behind only Sidney Crosby, and ahead of other such notables as Bobby Ryan, Jack Johnson, Marc Staal, and Devin Setoguchi. Pouliot certainly has not performed up to those lofty expectations in the NHL, but I started to see further flashes of his ability with Montreal last season, and it appears Bruins GM Chiarelli did too.
Despite those flashes, some still wonder why Chiarelli signed him, given his numbers. It wouldn’t surprise me if that 2009-2010 ‘exception season’ had something to do with it. Pouliot was actually on pace for 26 goals that season before getting injured after 53 games. Even last season, while his 30 points may seem low, he produced those numbers in only 11:31 of ice time per game, and less than a minute of that power-play time! The 48 seconds of PP time aside, that’s nearing fourth-liner ice time. So while his production may not have matched his skill level last season, it more than matched his low ice time, and what’s more important, his production-potential for this season absolutely exceeds his 1.1M contract. Need proof? If you extrapolate out Pouliot’s 13 goals in 11:31 of ice time to top-six ice time, say 18 minutes a night, Pouliot scores 20 goals. And that’s without even taking into account top-six power-play time, which would be closer to triple what Pouliot got last season.
The way I see it, Benoit Pouliot has the potential to score 20 goals in more ice time, despite the inevitably tougher competition, and 20 goals for Jody Shelley money is an excellent value. That’s what makes him a quality signing.
WHY THE SHARKS SHOULD HAVE SIGNED HIM
Skill is always at a premium in the NHL, and high-skill players often command the highest salaries. So when you have the chance to add that always-in-demand element to your team for a small cap hit, you should take that rare opportunity. It’s good business. Doug Wilson should have tried to lock up Pouliot for a few years while the price was low, so as to reap the rewards a year or two down the line when the player produces at a higher rate, but is still locked into a bargain basement cap hit. For example, see Alexander Burrows. He is an excellent top-six, all-tools speedster of a winger playing on the Canucks top line, but his cap hit is only 2M a season for two more seasons.
Ultimately, this is a textbook “Buy low, get high” (production) scenario, otherwise known as low-risk, high-reward. Pouliot would have brought speed and skill to the Sharks line-up for a very low price, and if his flashes of ability last season were any indication, he could be on the cusp of a breakout season next year if he gets more opportunity with Boston. After all, at only 24 years of age, he is a still a budding talent, with room to improve. That’s why Doug Wilson should have explored the possibility of bringing him to San Jose for, if nothing else, his potential.
STEVE MONTADOR – D – CHICAGO BLACKHAWKS
Age. 31. Height. 6’0″. Weight. 207 lbs. Shoots. Right.
Contract. 1 year, 1.1M.
2010-2011 Stats. 73GP, 5, 26PTS, +16 plus/minus, 83PIM.
At 11M over four years, the price is a little higher than you’d like for Montador, given that he hasn’t been valued this highly around the NHL until this offseason. The term is also a year longer than optimal since Montador is 31 years old. However, there is a reason for this. The market for defenseman was very high during this last free agency period, so more than ever, you had to give to get.
Saying all that, Montador is still good value at 2.75M per year. He is a good, sturdy two-way defenseman with good physical strength, and he hits hard as a result. His speed is only above average at best, but he has good balance and hands, and he makes a good first pass. He also has an above average shot for a defenseman. An intriguing stat, Montador has not had a minus season for a very long time, since 2003-2004. This exemplifies his quality as a complete defenseman. Overall, Montador is a good, gritty defender, who also has much more offensive ability than most realize, and he’s a good #4 defenseman.
WHY THE SHARKS SHOULD HAVE SIGNED HIM
Steve Montador would have improved the Sharks defensive depth, specifically in regards to adding more offensive skill and physicality to the backend. He could have either added more punch to the third pairing, or played in the top four and pushed Vlasic or Murray down to the third pairing. Either scenario would have created greater depth and skill on the Sharks blue line, especially in contrast to a player like Jim Vandermeer. I bring up Vandermeer because this is a signing you would make in Vandermeer’s place, which means Montador would have actually only cost 1.75M more this year to add (Montador’s 2.75M minus Vandermeer’s 1M), not 2.75M.
Montador is by no means the player on this list who would have most helped the Sharks, nor is he the best value at 11M over four years. But, he is a good defenseman, one who, even with the considerable raise, is still making roughly as little as Douglas Murray, even though he offers much more skill and versatility than Murray does. So while Montador is by no means a star player, or a great value at 2.75M, he is still a good player and value, and someone who could have helped the Sharks.
Editor’s Note. Don’t forget to vote in the poll or comment with your thoughts!
Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, and Part 6. 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
- Can Benoit Pouliot redeem himself in Boston? (prohockeytalk.nbcsports.com)
- Boston Bruins Training Camp 2011: News, Updates, Injuries, Schedule and More (bleacherreport.com)