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RFA Option: Valtteri Filppula

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Over at Cult of Hockey, David Staples has admonished me to consider Valtteri Filppula has an option for an RFA offer sheet this summer. I had planned to focus exclusively on unrestricted free agents, but what the heck, I'm going to take a look.

The first thing to know is that I'm inherently biased; Filppula is a Finn, and the Oilers are certainly short on Finns right now, with only Joni Pitkanen to bear the standard of the nation of famous Oilers Kurri, Tikkanen, and Janne Niinimaa.

Among Red Wings forwards, Filppula finished third in even strength ice time, at 13:54 per game. He also averaged 1:13 SH and 1:49 on the PP, where he was the 5th option for the second unit (behind Samuelsson, Hudler, Cleary and Franzen).

Filppula seems to have been Babcock's weapon of choice against soft opposition, as Behind the Net indicates that only four regulars (Hudler, Drake, Kopecky and Downey) played against softer opponents. Filppula also had the advantage of playing with good linemates, as his Quality of Teammates ranks behind only Holmstrom, Zetterberg, and Datsyuk. What can be said in Filppula's favour is he made the most of his opportunity. His GFON/60 (2.48) dwarfs his GAON/60 (1.59). It isn't a terribly impressive offensive number except for the fact that his opponents could get nothing done against him at all. Samuelsson and Franzen (who I believe were his regular linemates) have similar numbers, with Samuelsson surprisingly having the best of the three.

Detroit's powerplay numbers are sick. Filppula had a decent showing on the second unit (4.74GFON/60, .43GAON/60) and would certainly be a 2nd unit option for the Oilers, but the Wings second unit (Hudler, Samuelsson, Franzen and Cleary) have absolutely dominant numbers, posting 1st unit goals/60 ratios despite playing behind the (even more impressive) group of Datsyuk, Zetterberg, and Holmstrom. I can't recall seeing any other team in the league with a 2nd PP unit this impressive, and it's unsurprising Filppula was unable to play very often on it.

Filppula was also given spot duty short-handed, notching the second worst record of any penalty kill regular (Franzen, with a -6.51/60, was worse) at -6.39/60. This number is well back of all six Oilers penalty-killers (Brodziak, Reasoner, Moreau, Pisani, Horcoff, and Stoll) and I can't imagine him getting much ice time 4-on-5 with Edmonton.

Additionally, NHL.com gives us some other information: 5'11, 202lbs. Not large, but certainly stocky enough not to be considered frail. Filppula's 26 blocked shots were second among Detorit forwards (would have ranked 9th on the Oilers) to Pavel Datsyuk, although he only had 35 hits (also would have ranked 9th on the Oilers, between Brodziak and Cogliano). Additionally, he had a 50.6% number in the faceoff department, in somewhat limited use, and he's well down in total shots (122) which he makes up for with a high shooting percentage. Although in the NHL to date he's been a decent goal-scorer, his career statistics point to more of an aptitude for playmaking. Finally, from Behind the Net, we learn that he's taken 10 penalties and drawn 23.

Statistically, we get a similar picture to what I've seen on the ice with my eyes; a smallish player who is strong on the puck, plays a disciplined game, and wreaks havoc on soft opposition. He's decent on special teams but not remarkable, but his 5-on-5 play has been excellent and he's clearly ready (in my opinion) to have a go against some better opponents. I'd say he has a really good chance of turning into what so many Detroit projects do: an unheralded, smart, efficient European player who helps his team win.

The next question to consider is whether this player would thrive in Edmonton. He isn't a shooter, which is something that I (convinced by Lowetide) have really come to believe we could use. He thrives against soft opposition, which fits with putting him in a position with Gagner/Nilsson on the second line, but in my opinion his player type is duplicated (to some extent) both on the roster (Gagner, Cogliano, Nilsson) and among the prospects (Pouliot, Schremp) and he doesn't bring the things the roster is lacking (size, grit, shooting, experience against tough opposition). I'm firmly convinced he'll develop into a fantastic player, but I'm also fairly sure that he's not a player of interest to the Edmonton Oilers.