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UFA Options: Brooks Orpik and Mark Eaton


Brooks Orpik is a name that has been bandied around as a tough defenseman about to recieve a massive contract as an unrestricted free agent. Mark Eaton, not so much. Largely as a result of the Penguins' playoff success, Orpik has been hyped while Eaton, injured for all but 36 games this season, is all but ignored. Let's compare the two statistically.

Orpik ranked 8th(!!) in TOI/60 among Penguins defensemen, with 15:08 at even strength, 1:16 shorthanded and 0:33 on the powerplay. Eaton ranked 4th, at 15:18 even strength, 4:12 short handed, and 0:09 on the powerplay.

At even strength, Brooks Orpik played the weakest opposition of any Penguins blueliner, tied with notable stalwarts Kris Letang and Darryl Sydor, while Eaton ranked 4th. Both did decent things with their minutes, with Orpik posting a 2.32 GFON/60 and 1.86 GAON/60 whil Eaton had the slightly less impressive 2.16 GFON/60, 1.94 GAON/60. It's worth noting that not one defenseman on Pittsburgh finished with a negative +/-.

Orpik posted impressive numbers shorthanded (-4.96 ON/60), the best on the team in fact. Eaton had the 2nd worst statistic (-6.99 ON/60).

The RTSS stats give away what so many people love about Orpik- he's a killer. His 239 hits ranked first among Pittsburgh blueliners by a mile, nearly twice as much as his next nearest teammate, Hall Gill (127). Eaton, in contrast, had 17 in 36 games. They also give away one of the things Eaton does that coaches like MacTavish love - he had 89 blocked shots in 36 games, a pace that would have given him 203 to end the season. In contrast, Orpik had 125.

Both players were disciplined; Orpik had 21 minor penalties, very respectable for a physical defenseman, while Eaton posted an absurdly low 4 PIM in 36 games.

Looking at the numbers, I like both players. Orpik has played well in a softer role, while Eaton has posted slightly less impressive numbers in more difficult icetime. The difference between them, as I alluded to in my introduction, is what kind of money they're going to receive. Orpik is widely expected to recieve between 4.5 - 5M/yr on his next contract. As valuable as a physical element is, it simply isn't that valuable. It makes me wonder what Matt Greene would fetch the Oilers on the trade market. Eaton, on the other hand, will in all likelihood be eminintly signable, but there are concerns with him as well. Signed to a two-year contract by the Penguins in 2006, he's played a total of 71/164 possible games with knee and wrist injuries. That's getting up into Ethan Moreau territory, and to top things off he's still recovering from a torn MCL suffered last December.

So, while both players have appeal, money/injury should mean that neither of them is a player of interest to the Oilers.