Though this free agent class is a demonstrably weaker class than most, it, too, stands to offer a number of free agents who are, to this point, still available for pennies on the dollar. Below are three players who I think the Rangers would be wise to place one of these calculated bets on:
[b]Daniel Winnik, 32[/b]
Winnik is your par for the course grizzled veteran bottom-six grinder whose physical game endears him to fans and teammates alike, but whose production isn’t nonexistent – an important factor to keep in mind when discussing signing players renowned for their hitting game. It’s this added dimension, among others, that separates him from his singularly talented, fixed gear peers like Tanner Glass, who the Rangers are thankfully past.
In the 227 games he’s split between the Washington Capitals, Toronto Maple Leafs, and Pittsburgh Penguins over the last three seasons, Winnik has compiled 27 goals and 78 points, good for a 0.34 points per games played (P/GP) average. The 25 points in 72 games he scored with the Caps last season nearly mirrors that production at 0.35 P/GP. This all, too, has come as his time on ice per game (TOI/G) has continued to fall over that span. He’s gone from averaging 16:50 TOI/G with the Leafs in 2014-15 to 12:54 with the Caps last season. His goal-scoring is on the lower end of the spectrum, even for a bottom-six player, but like Jesper Fast, his defensive game is stellar. He had the fifth highest shorthanded TOI/G (2:31) with the Capitals last season, and in terms of shot suppression, he’s among the best the league has to offer. For a Rangers team that gave up the sixth-most shot attempts against (3823), the sixth-most unblocked shot attempts against (2799), and whose penalty-kill (79.8) was just 12th league wide last season, improving in all three facets is something Winnik could help with.
He’s also not an analytics drain, either, which is another important aspect of judging players who often play much of their time without the puck. He’s averaged a 51.5 corsi for percentage (CF%) and a 51.9 fenwick for percentage (FF%) over the last two seasons with the Caps in which he’s been deployed heavily in a defensive role, averaging a 58.6 defensive zone start percentage (dZS%) to a 41.4 offensive zone start percentage (oZS%).
Other options include Alex Chiasson and Andrej Nestrasil. More on both in the article.