Now that Shane Doan is officially off the market – although no one really expected the veteran winger to leave the desert – there are few options remaining for teams looking to add offense to their lineups. Yesterday we profiled five of the top forwards remaining in free agency that could conceivably fit the bill. One of those players, Brandon Pirri, noticably stuck out on that list due to his relative youth compared to his unemployed peers.
It’s not usually surprising that aging veterans whose best seasons are clearly in the rear view mirror might linger on the market well into the summer. In fact, many will either be forced to accept training camp invites or face the prospect of retirement. However, it’s exceedingly rare for one of the league’s most prolific goal scorers – based on rate stats – and who is still just 25-years-old, to be waiting for his next contract into the middle of July.
Pirri tallied 14 goals and 29 points last year in 61 games, splitting the season between Florida and Anaheim. The Ducks had acquired the 6-foot, 183-pound forward from the Panthers at the trade deadline in exchange for a sixth-round draft choice. The year prior, Pirri netted 22 goals in 61 contests, albeit with an amazingly low 2 assists, for the Panthers.
Over the last three seasons, Pirri has averaged 0.95 goals for every 60 minutes of ice time he sees at five-on-five play. That rate places him 30th in the NHL among all forwards who have suited up for a minimum of 120 games during that span. In terms of even-strength goal scoring prowess, Pirri is certainly among the best in the game.
Based on overall point-production, however, Pirri ranks just 203rd over the past three seasons in points-per-hour, due in large part to his 2014-15 tally of just two helpers. That ranking would seem to place him outside of a top-six role when it comes to offensive contributions.
Goal scoring is typically sought after and usually rewarded in free agency. Pirri’s continued presence on the open market is a bit of a mystery. It’s possible teams are scared off due to his low assists total from two seasons ago. Though it should be noted, if we remove that outlier from his career numbers, Pirri actually has two more assists than goals scored in his career and typically teams don’t pay as much attention to extreme statistical outliers.
Whatever the reason, it seems clear teams are hesitant about employing Pirri. He’s suited up for three NHL clubs over the last three campaigns and despite quality offensive numbers at the time of the trade, the Ducks obtained him from Florida for the lowly cost of a sixth-round draft pick. After the season, Anaheim elected not to qualify Pirri, a move that may have struck some as a bit surprising. He was eligible for arbitration and goals tend to be given extra weight when arbitrators decide on a player’s salary. It’s possible the Ducks wanted to avoid that process altogether. Nonetheless Pirri is free to sign with any team willing to give him a chance to show off his goal scoring acumen.
New Jersey – The Devils finished last in the NHL in scoring this past season but have already added top-line LW Taylor Hall to the mix and expect their best returning offensive player, Mike Cammalleri, to be healthy at the outset of the upcoming campaign. A look at the club’s depth chart, courtesy of our partner site, Roster Resource, indicates the Devils have plenty of forward options so their interest in Pirri would likely be tepid at best.
Edmonton – Even though the Oilers have filled the hole they created when shipping the aforementioned Hall to Jersey by signing Milan Lucic, they could still use an upgrade over Mark Letestu at the third-line pivot position. Edmonton finished 25th in scoring and didn’t necessarily improve in that department by swapping out Hall for Lucic.
Columbus – If the Blue Jackets are ever able to offload winger Scott Hartnell they could be in the market for another goal scorer. But it’s possible the team would rather reinvest any savings from a Hartnell move into their defense as they have a number of quality forward prospects ready to make the jump to Columbus.
Los Angeles – Currently the Kings list Dwight King, Kyle Clifford and Dustin Brown as top-nine wingers. King’s career best in the goal socring department is 15 while Clifford has never tallied more than seven in any single season. Meanwhile, Brown’s days as a productive player capable of adequately manning a top-nine role may well be over. On a cheap contract the Kings could make sense for Pirri.
Considering Anaheim passed on qualifying Pirri at just more than $1MM annually and given how late in the free agent season it is now, it’s not likely Pirri is going to find a deal representing much of a raise over the $925K he earned this past season. As such, a team like the Kings might be a terrific fit for Pirri on a one-year, make good deal at right around $1MM.