Here's another former Shark to add to the team's list of free agent targets: right winger Mikael Samuelsson, last seen with the Florida Panthers. Samuelsson is another intelligent, two-way winger in the mold of the previously discussed Ray Whitney albeit without that level of offensive output. Where Samuelsson does help an NHL team quite a bit is in keeping the puck in the right end of the rink for the majority of his shifts where he then creates scoring opportunities for himself and his teammates at a very high rate while ensuring they're rarely scored against. As I mentioned in the post on Alexei Ponikarovsky as a free agent target, all of those things are pretty much exactly what the Sharks' third line failed to do last season, making Samuelsson an ideal fit in that role for San Jose. He's also more than capable of playing top six minutes as he did when he scored 30 goals on Ryan Kesler's wing in Vancouver just two seasons ago.
In terms of driving the play and outscoring the opposition at even-strength, few in this free agent class are superior to Samuelsson. Only eight forwards in the entire league who have skated at least 2000 5v5 minutes since 2007 have posted better raw possession numbers than Samuelsson over that span and only nineteen have outscored their opponents at a better rate. Granted, a lot of that has to do with the two seasons the Swedish Olympian spent in Detroit from 07-09 when they were arguably the best team we've seen since the lockout but he was similarly dominant in Vancouver and, as we'll see after the jump, was extremely effective playing a defensive role in 48 games with the Panthers this past year.
Mikael Samuelsson Statistical Overview
|Season||GP||DZone%||Corsi Rel QoC||Corsi Rel||Corsi On||5v5 S/60||5v5 G/60||5v5 P/60|
DZone% = percentage of 5v5 shifts Samuelsson began in the defensive zone, excluding those he started in the neutral zone; Corsi Rel QoC = a measure of the quality of opposing players Samuelsson faced 5v5; Corsi Rel = Samuelsson's on-ice Corsi number minus that of his team when Samuelsson was not on the ice; Corsi On = Samuelsson's on-ice Corsi number; 5v5 S/60 = Samuelsson's 5v5 shots on goal per 60 minutes; 5v5 G/60 = Samuelsson's 5v5 goals per 60 minutes; 5v5 P/60 = Samuelsson's 5v5 points per 60 minutes
As established, Samuelsson has been a possession machine for the last five seasons despite seeing his offensive-zone start rate steadily decline year-to-year, culminating in last season with the Panthers when coach Kevin Dineen deployed him primarily in the defensive zone against some very tough competition alongside another former Shark (who should be an offseason trade target) Marcel Goc. That duo, along with winger Sean Bergenheim, killed it as one of the league's best checking lines, generating a greater share of possession than their opposition despite facing off against the likes of Evgeni Malkin, Steven Stamkos and Alex Ovechkin on a nightly basis. Samuelsson's shot rate also really stands out to me on this chart--he was getting the puck on net at an elite level in Detroit and Vancouver before experiencing a slight decline last season as a result of playing much more difficult minutes. It's a very safe bet he'll be able to regain his shot-producing form on a somewhat sheltered third line in San Jose.
Samuelsson would be a great fit on the Sharks' third line but also has the talent to be a tweener forward who the team wouldn't miss a beat with in spot duty on either of the top two lines. He doesn't kill penalties but, apart from that, Samuelsson is a swiss army knife of a hockey player; capable of playing on any of the top three lines, in both predominantly offensive and predominantly defensive roles, as well as the point on the power play. He's also likely to come cheap; his expiring deal was a 3-year, $7.5 million one he signed with Vancouver in 2009 and it's unlikely he'll command a cap hit north of the $2.5 million he was just earning. And at his age and level of production the past two seasons, it's a strong possibility he signs for less. If Doug Wilson strikes out on some of the bigger names like Whitney and Semin, Samuelsson should be one of the first players he calls.