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UFA Spotlight: Is Richard Panik a Fit for the New Jersey Devils?

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Today’s spotlight takes a glimpse at another player who could help to improve the team’s offense and depth in Richard Panik.

Arizona Coyotes v New Jersey Devils Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

Today we draw one day closer to the start of free agency, and we continue to look at players who could be a fit for our New Jersey Devils. While this week has so far seen profiles on Gustav Nyquist (Monday from Mike) and Joonas Donskoi (Tuesday from Brian), today we look at another player to possibly round out the forward ranks. We will be deciding if Richard Panik is a fit for the New Jersey Devils or not.

Career So Far

Panik has bounced around the league a bit since being drafted by the Tampa Bay Lightning in 2009. A left-shooting right wing with some size (listed at 6’2” and 207 lbs. on Elite Prospects) he would develop in the OHL until 2011-12 when he would spend his first full professional season in the AHL. He would debut for Tampa in 25 games during the lockout shortened 2012-13, where he would contribute 9 points ; he would make 50 appearances the next season (which included a mid-season demotion back to the AHL), and in double the games, would only improve his point total to 13 for that season.

The next season would see his struggles initially continue, as he failed to make the Lightning out of training camp; as such, he required waivers to be sent down, but was instead claimed by the Toronto Maple Leafs., where he posted 17 points in 76 games. 2015-16 would see another setback, as he would be sent down to the Toronto Marlies to start the season before being traded to the Chicago Blackhawks. Upon joining the Hawks, Panik would post 8 points in 30 games. He would remain with Chicago for 2016-17, where he finally saw a breakout season, with 22 goals and 22 assists, decimating his previous career high of 17 points in one season.

He would split time in 2017-18 between the Blackhawks and the Arizona Coyotes (thanks to a mid-season trade), but still registered a total 35 points in 72 games. This past season he stayed with Arizona and contributed 33 points in 75 games. Safe to say, Panik is a well travelled young veteran at 28 years old, and as somewhat of a late bloomer, he could have some good, productive years remaining.

By the Numbers

Of players who appeared in more than half of Arizona’s games, Panik posted the third best Corsi For % behind only Conor Garland and Oliver Ekman-Larsson, meaning he was helping to drive play on a team that was fairly competitive for most of the season. His last couple of seasons have been his best individually for driving play as well. He does seem to get used in the offensive and neutral zone a bit more by his coaches, so he’s used more as a scoring player despite his career high being 44 points. While the Devils do have an open slot on Travis Zajac and Blake Coleman’s wing, Panik is not screaming “shutdown line player” to me.

Courtesy of Evolving-Hockey

Moving on to Panik’s Wins Above Replacement and Goals Above Replacement per 60 (thanks to Evolving Hockey), he’s had a couple of outlier seasons, but if you remove those, Panik is pretty much a slightly above average player. I feel his WAR number at the top of the image is a big skewed by his 16-17 season, but he’s only good for an extra .26 goals on average per 60 minutes. While I’d certainly rather a positive than negative number here, it’s not all that impressive of an impact he’s having on his team’s games.

Continuing on with additional stats from EH:

Panik’s rate impacts from last season courtesy of Evolving Hockey
Panik’s three year rate impacts courtesy of Evolving Hockey

Both of those charts are a whole bunch of “yikes” from me; while there are probably 10 Devils ahead of Panik for PP time, he’s bringing absolutely nothing with a man advantage. Considering we saw a lot of players who did that last season during The Injury Plague, I (and probably many others) really don’t want to see that again. Additionally, his numbers from this past season are lower than the sum of the past three; some of this is absolutely due to his 2016-17 career year with Chicago buoying him, but it is also a cautionary tale that Panik could be seeing some regression already, as he is out of the “prime” age range for forwards, even as someone who didn’t produce until later in his career.

The fear here is that 44 points could remain his career high for the duration of his time in the NHL; his points have dropped to 35 (17-18) and 33 (18-19 with more game played than 17-18) in the past pair of seasons, so the worry again is that in 2019-20 he may not even be a 30 point player if he continues to trend in this direction. I have to reference Brian’s article from Tuesday again here, as he highlighted the positives Joonas Donskoi could bring, while also looking at his projected 3 year deal at under $3 million a season

Credit to CJ and his A3Z Player Comparison Tool

Donskoi has performed better in virtually all of the metrics measured by CJ’s model; while the Devils aren’t pressed to the cap right now, they will need to be re-signing key pieces in the near future, and with what is expected for Donskoi versus Panik, I’d rather have Joonas. How much is Panik expected to make? I’m glad you asked.

EvolvingWild’s projection model sees Panik commanding roughly 4 years at a touch under $4.8 million per year. This is the final red flag for me, as we’d be paying roughly $5 million a season to a player who has scored 20 goals once and has a career high of 44 points. Elite Prospects also stated that he needs to work on his game without the puck; for the money he’s set to earn, I just don’t feel good about this option. Again, there’s a better performing player available; while Panik might be a fit for the Devils, I don’t see him as the best fit. If he’s available for less, sure, pick him up, but if he’s asking for anything near what EW thinks he will, the Devils would be best served passing.

Summarizing Thoughts

Pros

  1. Offensive-minded forward who helped to drive play forward on a decent/good Arizona Coyotes team.
  2. Positive GAR and WAR numbers in all but one NHL season.
  3. Would help the team with zone entries and exits, a known weak point.

Cons

  1. Career high is 44 points, and his totals are trending downward as he approaches 30 years of age.
  2. Absolute net negative on the power play.
  3. Similar players available who do slightly more and at an anticipated lesser price point.

While Panik would be a fit for the Devils Bottom 6, his price point and declining production mean that signing him to an extended contract (even just a four year deal) would be the definition of a regrettable UFA deal.

Your Take

What are your thoughts on adding Richard Panik to the New Jersey Devils in free agency Are you a fan his game and do you believe it would gel with the current Devils team? Do you believe he would fill a team need? Do you think the Devils be looking at other players such as Donskoi first as I do? Leave any and all comments below and thanks as always for reading!