The Best Free Agent Signings of the Offseason, Part 8, Michal Handzus

In this series of articles, we will take an in-depth look at the 20 best value UFA signings of the offseason in no order, from both a neutral and Sharks perspective. Enjoy!

If you missed the first six parts when they were posted, you can check them out here. Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, and Part 7 of our series on the offseason’s best signings.

MICHAL HANDZUS – C – SAN JOSE SHARKS
Age. 34. Height. 6’5″. Weight. 215 lbs. Shoots. Left.
Contract. 1 year, 2.5M.
2010-2011 Stats. 82GP, 12G, 30PTS, -5 plus/minus, 20PIMS.

Michal Handzus is a two-way center who is slated to play a third line role with the Sharks this season. He has great size at 6’5″ 215 lbs, and a very well-rounded skillset. His speed is average at best, but he is very sturdy on his skates. His balance, along with his size and reach, makes it difficult for defenders to knock him off the puck. Handzus also has good hands, especially for a third-line center, which further adds to his ability to protect and control the puck. Handzus’ vision on offense is average, maybe a bit above at best, but he does understand how to play a smart positional game. He is seldom caught out of position at either end of the ice. This does not mean that he is the elite defensive center some fans believe he is, but he is definitely a good, experienced center with a well-rounded game, who does not make many mistakes.

As for his production, Handzus is getting up there in age just ever so slightly at 34, and his goal total dipped from 20 in 2009-2010 to 12 last season. While it’s unlikely Handzus will get back up to 20 next season, he should definitely be scoring more than 12 in any full season with his skillset. I would expect him to come in around the 15 next season.

WHY THE SHARKS WERE SMART TO SIGN HIM

Put simply, the Sharks needed a new third-line center for next season, and Michal Handzus was one of the two best options available, along with Eric Belanger. The only argument you could really make that the Sharks should not have signed Handzus is that they should have signed Belanger instead, but if you’re a Sharks fan, you’re just happy to have one of the two.

As for why the Sharks needed a new third-line center to begin with, there are a couple reasons. First, Pavelski was the third-line center last season, but now he’s moving up into the top-six forward group with the trade of Devin Setoguchi to the Minnesota Wild. This left a void on the third-line that needed to be filled during the offseason. Enter Handzus. The second reason is that even if Pavelski was still slated to play on the third-line, the Sharks penalty kill would have still needed help. Why? Last year, the Sharks killed penalties at a meager 79.6% clip, good for sixth worst in the NHL. Once again, enter Handzus. He is coming to the Sharks from the Los Angeles Kings, the fourth best penalty killing team last season, and Handzus actually led all Kings forwards in shorthanded ice time last year.

Whether that means he was the sole reason, or biggest reason, the Kings penalty kill was that good, I highly doubt it. I imagine they will still excel without him, just because their defense and depth is still very good. But Handzus was definitely a big contributor, the biggest contributor among forwards in terms of shorthanded ice time, and he should make a welcome addition to the Sharks penalty kill. Whether he (and Colin White, Vandermeer, etc) will fix the PK problem remains to be seen.

That is, of course, assuming there really is a problem. The Sharks were actually an elite penalty killing team the year before last (and before that), fifth best in the league, with an almost identical defense core as last year, and much of the same penalty killers minus Malhotra, so one wonders if there even is a big problem to fix personnel wise. It’s possible the Sharks just had a long run of bad luck all year on the PK, or that the coaches did not make the necessary adjustments last season in the manner they did the years before.

Regardless, adding Handzus brings in another experienced penalty killer for the coaches to use at their discretion, and he can do nothing but help the 24th ranked penalty kill to improve. Additionally, Handzus will be much more of a contributor at even-strength than Sharks third-line centers in seasons past, Pavelski excluded. The likes of Marcel Goc and Manny Malhotra, especially, were good at defense and faceoffs, but they did not bring a lot to the table offensively. Handzus is not an offensive dynamo himself, but he should bring a significantly more to the table five-on-five than, say, a Malhotra. And given that Malhotra is making the same cap hit now in Vancouver as Handzus is for San Jose, I’d say the Sharks have upgraded, both in terms of the player himself, and his value cap-wise. For these reasons, Michal Handzus was a shrewd signing by the San Jose Sharks and General Manager Doug Wilson, and he should pay dividends this season.

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

Further Reading.
Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, and
Part 7 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