The Rangers bottom six forwards are likely to go through a bit of turnover this summer with Ruslan Fedotenko, Brandon Prust, and John Mitchell all being unrestricted free agents and Mats Zuccarello seemingly headed to the KHL. Although discussion about signing third and fourth line players isn’t the most enthralling topic in the world, these transactions are still critical when putting together a team meant to contend.
Today we are going to look at the pros and cons of signing Zenon Konopka, who just finished up a 1 year contract (worth $800K) with the Ottawa Senators.
It’s no secret Zenon Konopka can fight. Listed at 6’0 210 lbs, Zenon is right smack in the middle of most enforcer’s weight class, which was a problem for the oversized Boogaard (RIP). Zenon was tied for third in the league with 18 fights. Clearly having his presence in the lineup would take some of the pressure off of Prust, should he be resigned.
It’s also no secret Konopka is very good at faceoffs. Last season he won 59% of his draws for the Senators. In 2011 he won 58% for the Islanders. For a Rangers team that spent way too much time in their own zone, having a faceoff specialist can be an advantage. Certainly Mitchell was no slouch either winning 53% of his faceoffs, but he wasn’t good enough defensively to see time on the penalty kill. During the playoffs, Mitchell played two minutes on the PK in total. Meanwhile, Konopka received over two and half minutes per game on the penalty kill.
The Rangers couldn’t beat the Devils because of their offensive depth. Should the Rangers be looking to add some offense to their bottom 6, Konopka wouldn’t be the answer, since he has never scored more than 3 goals or 9 points during the regular season.
Zenon is another guy who takes a good amount of penalties for someone who doesn’t see a whole lot of ice time. Last season he had 19 minor penalties, one more than what Prust and Bickel received.
As far as advanced stats go, there is nothing that jumps off the page for Konopka. His corsi numbers during the regular season weren’t particularly strong, but you could say the same thing for most fourth line players in this league.
Every summer when we start putting together these free agent posts, I always try to think of what I would do if it were me or someone I was advising looking for a contract. Put yourself in Zenon’s shoes. He is 31 years old. He has only been making NHL money for three seasons. At that, his contacts have been 1 year $700K, 1 year $600K, and 2 years $487K (but was only up in The Show for 1 year of that contract). Almost every year since juniors he’s played in a different city. If I had to make a guess, I would think he’s looking for a multi-year contract north of $1M per season, as he should.
The Final Word:
I think Zenon’s a better hockey player than most of the other enforcers around the league. He was certainly a matchup nightmare against the Rangers in the first round where he won 70% of his draws and received key minutes on the penalty kill. Still, are the Rangers willing to pay him six+ figures to play a bottom six role if we already have Boyle, Rupp, Dubinsky and potentially Prust?
It’s hard to say. Zenon would be an upgrade over Mitchell, but ultimately it depends on what Sather wants to do with the rest of our bottom six. I have no problem letting Mitchell and Fedotenko walk. With that said, the cost for some offensive help on the wings will likely determine what we spend on a fourth line center.
*Be sure to check out the rest of our free agent coverage here.