In part 1 of this series, we looked at why the Bruins may want to explore signing some free agency defensemen. Check it out here. In that article, I identified 3 things that can lead to a good UFA signing:
1. We want a guy who's underrated, so his market value will likely be below his actual to-the-team value
2. We want a guy who's not that old on a relatively short contract
3. We want a guy who's playing style hopefully won't cause him to burn out quickly after starting his deal
These aren't requirements. They're more like helpful hints. Sorta like Blues Clues except I'm Blue and I'm not a dog I'm a human and the clues are on hypothetical unrestricted free agent contracts in the NHL instead of, like, a pillow, or something.
Let's look at some candidates. This article is a 2-fer. We'll start off discussing some depth guys. First up is David Schlemko.
(These neat lil' charts are courtesy of fellow Chowder writer Crazy Canucklehead, or @CrzyCanucklehed on Twitter)
Other key stats chart
Some of you may be pointing at that cap hit and those stats and yelling out "A Clue! A Clue!". Good nose. Schlemko is a pretty well underrated and underpaid defenseman. Our first clue criteria, then, would hint that he may be a real good buy. For years, fancy statters have been yelling that he's probably a top 4 guy that hasn't been given enough minutes. This year he got his chance to prove that with the New Jersey Devils. They gave him a teeny weeny contract and asked him to do the best he could on the third pairing. He did that. Then quickly moved him up to the second pairing, and there he stayed for the rest of the season.
From a stats perspective, he played minutes of average difficulty, and all his stats came out around average. He was put in situations where he was expected to have CF% and FF%'s of around 50%, and his CF% and FF% were around... 50%. He was your standard, average, #3.5 D. A Goldilocks style player where there's really no question where he belonged. And never forget, average is hard in the NHL! Average would have been a humongous big improvement over what the Bruins did get out of their D this season.
There's some stylistic information we can glean from his stats. He's very much a low event guy, even for a New Jersey player. We'll take that to the bank, considering it means he'll actually get ice time from Julien. His penalty differential was -7, which is a bad, but it does mean he'll fit in. His xGF% stats indicate that shot quality is this guy's friend, at both ends of the ice.
Whatever you're thinking, and I know what it is, no.
Lovejoy isn't bad. At least, by most metrics, not this year.
I know you want to think Lovejoy is bad.
But, in this year of our Lord Patrice Bergeron 2016, Lovejoy was not bad.
At worst, Lovejoy was average for his usage and contract. His traditional fancy stats (is this a thing now?) show him as a pretty meh, "good-3rd-pair-to-bad-2nd-pair" defenseman. Remember, he's paid 1.1 million a year. We're playing nearly 7 million total for McQuaid and Seidenberg. While Lovejoy is at worst a 3rd pairing guy, SeidenQuaid are both 3rd pairing guys at best. So, you know, perspective.
So, his basic CFrel and FFrel scores of essentially 0 aren't really anything to write home about. But looking at his dCorsi and xGF%, which are both Super Saiyan 2 fancy stats, tells us a different story. While Lovejoy's CF% and FF% relative were around 0, his xGF% rel is well above that. That means that shot quality is on his side. Now, considering the high levels of variance in shot quality estimates, there's a chance that it could be nothing. But, if there's something different about Lovejoy's on-ice shot quality, know that he affects it in a good way.
His dCorsi and dFenwick paint us a much prettier picture of Ben Lovejoy. They show that he's played in pretty tough minutes and does much better than he should in them, leading to some damn high overall impact numbers. He improves on his estimated possession numbers by about 2%, which is about half of one standard deviation in CF% and FF% if you know what I mean ;)
As in, ya know, if you know what a standard deviation is. Anyways, just absorbing harder to play minutes and letting more offensively gifted players take minutes against weaker competition is in itself a very valuable thing, even if he didn't improve up on his expected numbers. But the fact that he did is really darn good. Overall, his dCorsi numbers paint a picture of a solid second pairing shutdown D.
Another thing to think about his handedness. Lovejoy is an RHD, while Schlemko is an LHD. The majority of other good D UFAs this offseason are LHD, and we already have Krug and Chara as LHD. So, if you sign Schlemko, you're committed to Chara, Krug, Schlemko as your L side and whoever else you can find to play R on the R side. So, no Hamhuis, Goligoski, Yandle, Campbell, or any of the other big names. But if you sign Lovejoy, you can still get one of the big name UFA LHDs this offseason.
Lovejoy is also 32, meaning he probably doesn't have many good years left. Lovejoy is also most likely firmly aware of his status as someone who's 32 years old, and as such is probably willing to take a pay cut off his already anemic 1.1 mil AAV. 2 years at sub 1 mil sounds like a real good deal for this guy. Firmly falls into the "underrated deal" category of clues.
Personally, I'd take Lovejoy over Schlemko. It's the controversial choice, I know. Schlemko is the younger player and most would argue that he's just the better player. But he fits into the Bruins plans of "get some bridge guys" and he fills out at least one of the holes on the right side. Not to mention that Lovejoy's playstyle seems like it'd be the perfect peanut butter for Krug's jelly on a hypothetical 2nd or 3rd pairing. Either way, both of these guys will most likely end up as great buys for some GM this offseason.
For the Bruins to sign and use either of these guys would mean that McQuaid or Seidenberg would probably need to go. In the event of a trade or buyout of either of those guys, Schlemko or Lovejoy could both be great depth players that could move up in the lineup when need be. For the cost they'll likely come at, they'd both be huge improvements to the team and I'd take either.