Evaluating Free Agents: Using Advanced Stats to Find Moneypuck Players


by Rob Vollman, Guest Writer, AllHabs.net

MONTREAL, QC. — UFA season is upon us, and everyone is looking for the so-called “moneypuck” players – those that make contributions directly related to winning in ways that are currently undervalued.  These are the players who can play tough minutes, drive puck possession and territorial advantage, and contribute in other undervalued ways, like winning faceoffs and drawing penalties.

Finding moneypuck players isn’t that easy, since the traditional statistics don’t tell us these things, and the advanced statistics tend to just make everything more confusing.  To help everyone make sense of the upcoming signings and trades we’ve put together a short primer on the key advanced statistics required, including where to find them, how and why to use them, and which of today’s free agents rate well.

Goals Versus Threshold (GVT)

A catch-all statistic can be a useful starting point when evaluating a signing or a trade, and the best one currently available is Tom Awad’s GVT which measures in goals how much a player is worth relative to an AHL-level call-up.  Using hockey’s 3-1-1 rule, which states that every 3 goals gets you 1 point in the standings and costs you one million dollars, Goals Versus Salary (GVS) instead measures how much a player is worth relative to his cap hit.

It probably comes as no surprise that the Zach Parise has the highest GVT among forwards, but Ray Whitney is right behind.  Teemu Selanne, Alexander Semin, P.A. Parenteau, Kyle Wellwood and Jaromir Jagr also score well among forwards, and Jason Garrison actually leads Ryan Suter on defense, followed by Filip Kuba, Bryce Salvador and Matt Carle.

Even-strength scoring rate

A top-six forward can generally score at a rate of 1.7 points per 60 minutes at even-strength, and the higher the better.  Ray Whitney leads the free agent class at 2.81, followed by Keith Aucoin, Alexander Semin, P.A. Parenteau, Kyle Wellwood, Jiri Hudler, all ahead of Zach Parise and Jaromir Jagr.

Penalties Drawn

Each penalty you draw above and beyond what you take can earn your team roughly 0.2 goals, depending on their power play conversion rate.  That’s why stars like Zach Parise, Teemu Selanne and Jaromir Jagr, secondary players like Jason Blake, Torrey Mitchell, Kyle Wellwood, Ruslan Fedotenko, Marco Sturm and Lee Stempniak and even lesser known depth players like Darryl Boyce and Keith Aucoin could be worth closer looks.


A typically poorly named statistic, Corsi is simply a player’s even-strength plus/minus, but it based on shots instead of goals.  Since all shots, even those that hit the post or are tipped wide all mean the same thing – that your team had the puck, was in the opposing zone and was converting that advantage into a scoring opportunity – it includes all shots, not just those that reached the net (though there’s one variant called Fenwick that ignores blocked shots).

Typically presented as a rate of 60 minutes, the higher volume of data and reduced reliance on luck makes Corsi preferable to plus/minus.  To reduce team effects we often look at a player’s Corsi relative to the rest of his team (Relative Corsi), but it is still highly subject to how a player is used, which is why we should have the Player Usage Charts handy, which help make forwards like Alexei Ponikarovsky, David Moss, Petr Sykora, Shane Doan and Mikael Samuelsson and defensemen like Greg Zanon, Carlo Colaiacovo, Adrian Aucoin and Dylan Reese more interesting.

Relative Quality of Competition (RQoC)

To measure the ability of a player’s typical opponents, Relative Quality of Competition computes the average Relative Corsi (explained above) of one’s opponents.

Anyone with a QoC above 1, like forwards Olli Jokinen, Ray Whitney, Petr Sykora, Ryan Smyth and Sami Pahlsson or defensemen Ryan Suter, Sheldon Souray, Jason Garrison and Bryan Allen, are trusted to play against top opponents.

Offensive Zone Start Percentage

Where a player starts his shifts not only shows the coach’s relative confidence in their offensive and defensive abilities, but also puts their other statistics into proper context.  Offensive Zone Start percentage is the percentage of all shifts the player started in the offensive zone, but does not include neutral zone starts.

Forwards like Sami Pahlsson, Paul Gaustad, Brandon Prust, Tanner Glass, Jay McClement and Ruslan Fedotenko and defensemen like Bryan Allen, Ryan Suter and Brett Clark all often start in their own zone because they’re trusted defensively, and their other statistics can unfortunately sometimes suffer for it, occasionally making them bargain-priced.

Faceoff percentage

Winning faceoffs obviously gives your team the puck, and simultaneously keeps it away from your opponents.  Over 1000 faceoffs even a 1% edge gets your team the puck 10 times, or once every eight games, and Zenon Konopka, Jeff Halpern, Scott Nichol, and Paul Gaustad are all up over 57%.


Another poorly named statistics, PDO is simply the sum of a player’s on-ice shooting percentage and on-ice save percentage, and named after the internet handle used by Brian King when he pitched the idea to advanced stats guru Vic Ferrari years ago.

Since it has a strong and understandable tendency to 1000, players with unusually unlucky PDOs tend to bounce back the following season and might be undervalued, like perhaps forwards Marco Sturm, Daniel Winnik, Dustin Penner and Daryl Boyce or defensemen Brett Clark and Dylan Reese.

Quality Starts

How about goalies?  Borrowed from baseball, Quality Starts are awarded when a goalie plays well enough to give his team a 75% chance of winning, independent of the team’s offense, and instead based on the percentage of shots he stops.

The most consistent goalies available on free agency this year, who happen to also be the leaders in GVT, are Scott Clemmensen, Johan Hedberg, Martin Brodeur, and Curtis Sanford.

Where to find them

Most advanced statistics can be found at Gabe Desjardins’ Behind the Net, and all of the above information and more has been conveniently packaged in a spreadsheet over at Hockey Abstract.

The key so success in professional sports today is to find the players who are consistently doing things directly related to winning who are currently flying below the radar.  Free agents normally sign at a premium, but by looking at the nature of the minutes someone is playing, together with their shot-based statistics and a few select other measurements we can identify this year’s Moneypuck bargain players.

You can read additional articles by Rob Vollman at Hockey Prospectus


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