Sabres betting on past performance with Frolik
Jason Botterill acquires veteran forward Michael Frolik to help bolster his offense
Jason Botterill finally made a pair of trades to move out a defenseman and acquire some help at forward for his club. The first deal was to send defender Marco Scandella to the Montreal Canadiens in exchange for a 2020 fourth-round pick. The Sabres then flipped that pick to the Calgary Flames to acquire forward Micahel Frolik.
The 31-year-old forward has a cap hit of $4.3 million and will be an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season. Frolik is not going to be a player that is going to change the fortune of the Sabres. They essentially moved Scandella for a similar version at forward.
Through 38 games with the Flames this season, the Czech forward has five goals and 10 points. His career-high in goals (21) came back in the 2009-10 season and career-high in points (45) was in the 2008-09 season. Frolik has seen a significant dip in his ice time this season with the Flames. According to Natural Stat Trick, he averaged 12:30 minutes per game last season and is down to 10:32 per game this season while playing primarily on the fourth line.
Throughout his career, Frolik has been a solid two-way forward at 5 on 5. He hasn’t played much on the power play this season but has been part of the Flames penalty kill unit. The veteran winger’s underlying numbers throughout his career grade him out as a play-driver offensively and strong defensively in Micah McCurdy’s impact model.
Michael Frolik (to Buffalo for a fourth) is a strong play-driving forward with a slightly below-average shot. pic.twitter.com/qwLIQLazZR— Micah Blake McCurdy (@IneffectiveMath) January 3, 2020
The Evolving Hockey twins RAPM model also grades Frolik out favorably over the last three years in terms of on-ice impact, especially offensively.
Betting on the past
The catch with Frolik is that Father Time may be catching up to him. He has not been the same player this season as he’s been in the past. Not only in terms of production, but in his on-ice impacts as well. The twins’ RAPM model has graded him far worse this season than the majority of his career.
His on-ice shot possession (CF%), shot quality (xGF%), and goal differential (GF%) at 5 on 5 are the lowest they’ve been in the last three seasons according to Natural Stat Trick. He’s no longer playing at the level of an offensive driver on the wing. With this move, Botterill is hoping that the player we saw before this season returns for the final 40 games with the Sabres.
Where’s the Fit?
It’s interesting to think about where Frolik fits in the lineup. Realistically, at this point in his career, he’s at best a third-line winger. The Sabres injury situation may force him into the top six right immediately. Especially if the injury to Victor Olofsson last night keeps the scoring winger out for a significant amount of time.
When the team is healthy, it could make sense to put Frolik with Jeff Skinner and Marcus Johansson to play a role similar to the one played by Vladimir Sobotka earlier in the season. The difference in this situation would be that Frolik can give you some more offense than what you’d expect from Sobotka.
At the end of the day, Frolik is not going to move the needle much. This can’t be the only move by Botterill if he expects his team to compete for a playoff spot this season. They’ll still need to acquire a more impactful forward to contribute to the scoring.