As free agency approaches, it's time clean out all the remaining suggestions you had commented on for centers. Keep in mind that the next few guys probably won't be suited for the second line, rather they may be more useful on the third or fourth lines. After all, John Madden isn't guaranteed to return and Holik retired, so those spots do need to be filled in somehow. This post will take care of two of the remaining five suggested: Dominic Moore of Buffalo and Nik Antropov of the Rangers (and the heart of PPP).
Let's start with the actual center, Dominic Moore:
#17 / Center / Buffalo Sabres
Aug 03, 1980
2008-09 Salary: $900,000
|2008 - Dominic Moore||81||13||32||45||-2||92||4||1||1||0||165||7.9|
Whereas Jason Williams had a night-and-day season, turning it up when he was moved to Columbus; Dominic Moore had the opposite experience. He got worse after leaving Toronto. After 12 goals and 29 assists in 63 games with Toronto, he picked up only one goal and three assists in 18 games with the Sabres. Ouch! This is especially harsh when you consider his career numbers; it seemed that Moore finally was breaking through in terms of production. Moore finally cracked the 40 point plateau in his fourth NHL season, yet he was nothing short of a disappointment in Buffalo. D.O. at Die by the Blade, as well as the readers there, agree that he performed well below expectations if only for scoring one measley goal in 18 games. Given that Buffalo was fighting like hell to make the playoffs, that Moore wasn't a significant help in that step is a little unsettling. Of course, you can give him the benefit of the doubt for multiple reasons (e.g. how was he used, settling in with the team/new teammates, etc.) But I feel this will hurt his overall value, and it raises the important question of whether he can he do it again after a bad outing in Buffalo.
With respect to Moore's overall game, D.O. does have a fair summary of his strengths and weaknesses. For a third line center role, his strengths are desirable. He's gritty, he battles hard, and he's not terrible defensively. I'll even throw in his faceoff skills - Moore won 54.1% of the 1,244 faceoffs he took this past season. Definitely someone you may want as a checking center. However, the even strength numbers at Behind the Net aren't totally convincing for his defensive play. In this past season, the shots against per 60 did go down when Moore hit the ice from 26.2 to 25.5, which is good. That he had a CORSI of 6.2 is good. What's not good is that the goals against per 60 shot up from 2.73 to 3.11 when Moore went on the ice. Mind you, Moore was not out there against high quality competition and, in fact, he managed to have a high relative quality of teammates. So I'm left asking the question of what could cause the goals against to shoot up while the shots against went down when Moore was out there? While I can see giving Moore the benefit of the doubt as he was on the Leafs for a majority of 2008-09 and that could have skewed a lot of these numbers (for better or worse).
However, that his arrogance is listed as a weakness is a big red flag should it be true. As D.O said:
His other weakness could also be described as a stregnth depending on point of view. He is cocky and arrogant. It was that arrogance that forced the Leafs to trade him to Buffalo at the deadline because he was looking for too much money on an extension.
It's hard to fault a player for trying to seek the most money he can in free agency but Moore may never find another situation as good as the one he had with the Leafs.
One of the cornerstones of the Devils organization is a player's character. Lou wants players who are committed to the success of the team. Should Moore want to come to the Devils, he'll have to change his attitude otherwise he will not last. Even then, given that he's looking for big money, I don't think the Devils will - or should - oblige him despite an overall breakout season offensively. Not even for something like $1.5-2 million/year, which is feasible for the center. I cannot give him the benefit of the doubt for his attitude.
Moving onward, let's get bigger with another Maple Leaf that was traded at the 2009 trade deadline, Nik Antropov.
#80 / Center / New York Rangers
Feb 18, 1980
2008-09 Salary: $2.15 million
|2008 - Nik Antropov||81||28||31||59||-14||30||8||0||4||1||224||12.5|
Based on his production and ice-time (17:11 per game), Nik Antropov is a nice theorhetical option centering the second line. For starters, he was largely used on the top two lines in both Toronto and in short stay in New York. He's even bigger than Zubrus, so should the new coach want to continue Sutter's offensive tactic of winning pucks along the boards, Antropov could fit in very nicely with the right motivation. From what I've seen of him, he moves very well for a big man and that's an asset right there. The former-Leaf finally overcame what seemed to be annual occurrence of minor injuries to play more than 80 games for the first time in his career, so that's another plus. (Though his injury list should cause some concern.)
With respect to the even strength numbers at Behind the Net, it confirms that Antropov's strength is on offense. His CORSI was 7.5, and whent Antropov went on the ice, the shots for per 60 and goals for per 60 went up: 2.52 to 2.89 for goals; and 27.9 to 29.4 for shots. The numbers defensively aren't as positive. While the shots against per 60 did go down when Antropov was on the ice - from 26.1 to 25.8 - the goals against per 60 shot up like a rocket from 2.59 to 3.42! Again, a lot of this could have been due to playing in Toronto; but Antropov has played with a high relative quality of teammates and not a quality of competition. I'm wondering whether he is a defensive liability. Then again, the Devils may be able to correct that - or account for it. And, hey, he was in Toronto for most of the 2008-09 season, which would have skewed these numbers.
However, there's a big problem - and I've found this before with Cammalleri and Sullivan - Nik Antropov is not quite a center. He took only 199 faceoffs last season, and even Behind the Net listed him at a left wing. The assets on his player page state he can line up anywhere at forward, which helps. He did, in fact, play largely at center for Toronto at one point - back in 2002-03 (621 faceoffs, 40.1% won, 4th on team). Yet, given how long ago that was and that he's coming off career-bests in goals, shots, and points at wing, why would you move him back to center? Especially when he doesn't even win a majority of the few faceoffs he does take? For these reasons, I'm not even sure he would be an upgrade over Zubrus in that spot. His production may suffer if he can't settle in at center, and if that happens, then who will do it and who will be pushed out of the top six?
Moreover, consider the contract implications. The Schwab at Blueshirt Banter thought Antropov was just OK and Joe was more complementary, pointing out how Antropov's assets would make him as a fine Ranger. Yet, both agreed that Antropov could be get far more than they're willing to see the Rangers spend. There's a lot of attractive attributes in a player like Antropov: his size, his skating ability, versatility at forward, and the fact he can now put up over 200 shots in a season and 20-30 goals. As you would expect, that comes at a premium - especially when there aren't that many big forwards who can do all that in the NHL. I can see someone offering Antropov over $3 million/year.
However, because Antropov isn't really a center and hasn't largely played one in years, I don't think the Devils should be initially going after him with that much money. I feel that if you're going to pay someone $3 million/year or more for someone to play center, then it should be someone who has been playing center instead of someone who just can do it. If Koivu, Sullivan, Williams, et. al. are gone or they command too much, then the Devils making a play for Antropov wouldn't be a bad plan B. He does have the offensive skills to play on the second line and if the others are gone, then who else could do it without costing the Devils an arm and a leg? Still, as it is, I do not think he would be an ideal signing.
Now it's your turn. Do you think Dominic Moore's attitude can change and therefore make him a viable candidate for the third line? Do you think Antropov could be a viable second line center and make it happen? Have your say in the comments below.