The Free Agent Debate On Boston Bruins’ Carl Soderberg

Boston Bruins center Carl Soderberg is in line for a summer payday.

The 29-year-old is a pending unrestricted free agent on July 1st. His stock received a boost on Wednesday thanks to a piece by Kevin Allen of USA Today. According to Allen, Soderberg will be viewed as one of the more intriguing and sought after free agents should he be allowed to hit the open market.

“He’s 6-3 and has averaged 46 points a season over the past two seasons. He would be a good fit for the Arizona Coyotes or even the Chicago Blackhawks if they can find the cap space. He should have plenty of options.”

Soderberg will be coveted by many teams around the league that are looking for a top-six center. However, given the poor free agent market at the position, general managers around the league seeking the Swede’s services will have to be careful not to overpay him.

Will Soderberg’s next contract be a by-product of the player or the market? You decide.

Evaluating the Player

The six-foot-three-inch center has spent the first two seasons in Boston playing on a third line with fellow countryman Loui Eriksson and Chris Kelly. In 2013-14, Soderberg enjoyed a solid first season in North America scoring 16 goals and 48 points in 73 games. “The Yeti” provided valuable secondary scoring for a hockey club that led the league in goals scored and won the Presidents Trophy. Opposing coaches had nightmares about how to prepare for the Bruins given the depth up front.

This season, he appeared to pick up right where he left off scoring 10 goals and 31 points in the 48 games leading up to the All-Star break. Soderberg was on course to eclipse his point totals a season earlier.

However, his production declined during the stretch run. In the final 34 games of the year, Soderberg scored just three goals and 13 points with a 22-game goal drought mixed in for good measure. His drop off in production does not breed confidence in a team that may be interested in his services.

Another red flag for Soderberg is his performance on faceoffs. Possession statistics are growing in importance around the league, especially inside the dot. Boston’s number 34 has a 46.5 percent success rate in his brief NHL career, which could be attributed to the adjustment required for a player accustomed to the European game.

How much bearing his faceoff numbers have in free agency remains to be seen, but Soderberg must show improvement in this area especially with the growing importance of puck possession and advanced statistics.

Evaluating the Market

Last month, Bruins fans who wanted Soderberg to stay were encouraged by his comments in Boston’s end-of-season gathering with the media.

“I want to hear from Boston for sure first. That’s my first choice. If we can find a solution together this coming couple of months, that would be great.”

However, the market of available free agent centers reads more like a flea market of aging players past their prime. Examples of unrestricted free-agent centers include Shawn Horcoff (36), Mike Fisher (34), Antoine Vermette (32), Jarrett Stoll (32), and so on according to General Fanager (the list can be found here).

This gives Soderberg an advantage in negotiations. He had a superior point total to the four players listed above. The Malmo native will turn 30 at the start of next season and is theoretically in the prime of his pro career. His offensive instincts make him a very desirable addition for several clubs looking for depth at the center position.

The only question is how much Soderberg can fetch in free agency. His cap hit was just north of $1 million dollars this season and is expected to multiply over the summer. The Bruins will be leery of paying upwards of $3-4 million a year for a player whose ceiling is a number-three center on the team.

Soderberg could easily find himself centering a franchise’s first or second-line next season instead of being relegated to bottom-six duty.

The free agent class this summer smiled kindly on the “One-Eyed Swede” and should result in a contract that he may not receive if there was a higher-profile list of names at the position from which to choose.

The debate will rage on between the Boston Bruins camp, Carl Soderberg, and his agent to decide his value.

The upshot is he is a solid player and should be a consistent offensive contributor in this league. The question is how much will teams be willing to pay and are the Bruins contenders or pretenders in retaining his services going forward?

Within the next few months, that question will be answered and Soderberg’s future will be decided.