As John Glennon reported yesterday, the negotiations between the Nashville Predators and restricted free agent Antti Pihlstrom have hit a roadblock over the issue of a one-way contract. Pihlstrom, who made $530,000 last season, wants a one-way contract, which will pay him the same salary whether he's on Nashville's roster or sent down to the AHL affiliate in Milwaukee. For all practical purposes, such a contract would commit the Preds to keeping him at the NHL level all season.
|2008 - Antti Pihlstrom||53||2||5||7||-1||10||1||0||0||0||88||2.3|
The threat is that Pihlstrom could head back to Europe rather than accept a two-way deal. So what do you think, folks? Has Pihlstrom earned his stripes as an NHL regular?
After the jump, we'll review the cases for and against...
The Numbers (5-on-5)
Data from Behind the Net
Pihlstrom's speed is a difference-maker even in the NHL, and his willingness to hit any opponent actively disrupts the other team's attack. This is reflected in his Goals Against/60 figure of 1.47, well below that of the other regular Nashville forwards, and his Corsi value of 12.1 (which means Nashville fires 12.1 more Total Shots, per 60 minutes of play, than the opponent while Pihlstrom is on the ice) leads the entire team. He achieved this while usually playing with inferior linemates (his QUALTEAM measures the quality of teammates on the ice with him), and while he only scored 2 goals on 83 shots, that 2.3 Shooting Percentage is likely a fluke, given his 27 goals for the Milwaukee Admirals in 2007-8, which led that team.
Given another year to let his hockey sense catch up with his tremendous skating speed, Pihlstrom could make an effective winger on a shutdown line, with breakaway potential in the transition game.
Part of that outstanding defensive performance can be attributed to the quality of opposition that Pihlstrom regularly faced. His QUALCOMP of -0.08 is worst among the Nashville forwards, meaning his was matched up against 3rd- and 4th-liners to a great extent. Even though his Goals Against was admirably low (1.47), the fact remains that Goals For/60 Minutes was even lower (1.26) during Pihlstrom's shifts, which remains a losing combination.
His own personal ability to put the puck in the net was lacking; his shooting percentage was among the very worst in the NHL among forwards who played at least half the season, and his overall Points/60 Minutes of 0.63 shows that he didn't generate goals for his linemates, either. As he turns 25 this fall, there's little reason to believe that much upside remains in his offensive game. Most prospects have proven their goal-scoring ability by this point in their career, and Pihlstrom hasn't done enough in Nashville to warrant a one-way contract.