When news broke yesterday that Kris Versteeg wouldn’t be heading to the NLA due to insurance issues, yet another able-bodied forward became available. This isn’t a Chris Higgins situation but more of a chance to pursue a player considerably more skilled.
And if we’re being honest here, Kris Versteeg offers more than some existing roster players.
Why This Is a Smart Idea
From a purely non-hockey perspective it’s the classic Alberta-born veteran looking for an opportunity to continue playing the game he loves. But, for the sake of this discussion we’re not going to emphasize that point because frankly it has little place in discussing Versteeg’s actual performance.
That value comes in a few highlighted areas that the Flames could take advantage of on a PTO:
- Warm body for pre-season hockey
- It’s a no-risk, high-reward situation if it hypothetically works out
- Right-handed shot, on the right wing (two dire concerns in the organization)
- Versteeg’s on-ice impacts are still pretty strong for what he is: a serviceable mid-six forward
On-Ice Results: Surprisingly Strong
One of the more exciting and new methods of determining on-ice impact is data mined from Ryan Stimson‘s Passing Project. With the help of Sean Tierney of Hockey-Graphs, a bulk of the data tracked has been visualized to showcase shots and shot-assists.
For a team in need of helping boost their shot metrics then a bargain exists in Versteeg due to his ability to help generate shots (13.79 S/60), which was a HUGE area of concern that has plagued the Flames. His 19.26 shot-assists per 60 is further indication that he’s an asset to his teammates while on the ice.
For even further context, here is how Versteeg stacked up against the rest of his cohorts in Carolina (hint: look up at the top):
On a team in the middle of their own rebuild, he still managed to provide an extremely positive impact in this area and in counting stats. The additional value of pursuing Versteeg comes in his shot metrics and additional statistics as shown below (via Corsica Hockey):
Versteeg’s performance with Carolina up to the trade deadline was pretty great for what he is: a capable mid-six winger. In regards to shot metrics, Versteeg was more than capable in creating shots when on the ice and wasn’t a negative impact in those areas.
When examining Versteeg’s percentiles from 2014-2016, there is an indication that between 28-30 he could still perform in an above-average sense at 5v5 (via Corsica Hockey):
So if Kris Versteeg can still play, at an above-replacement level of performance, then why couldn’t he find an NHL deal? It’s dumbfounding, given these results, and the inherent narratives that many in the game speak so highly of:
- Two-time Stanley Cup champion (2010, 2015)
- Veteran with experience
Maybe there is a belief that heath could be a factor or it could have been financially driven. For the sake of comparison and with everything shown above, when compared to Brouwer the results are startling (via Own The Puck):
This point – by all accounts already – has been beaten to death, so we’re not going to dwell on it too long. At the end of the day if you’re a general manager in this league needing cheap, secondary offense and that does provide this caliber of results then your search is over. Keep in mind the emphasis on cheap.
Why It Might Not Happen At All
Honestly another team could offer him a PTO or a contract at this point. And they probably should, especially if they have the cap space to do so. He will likely provide value above or near his potential cap hit and he’s an asset that could be moved at the deadline again which provides further value.
But at the end of the day, Kris Versteeg is another example of a veteran forward who has a lot to offer still before the diminishing returns of age start to really impact his game. For now – or at least from last season – there is still enough gas left in the tank to add to a team’s secondary scoring.
NHL depth is at a premium now and teams need to augment often expensive cores with valuable, cost-effect, skilled depth now.