#34 / Center / Anaheim Ducks
2013 Cap Hit: $1,800,000
Daniel Winnik's strengths are all about controlling the puck. His puck possession skills make him a staple on the penalty kill, where he averaged 2:31 minutes per game last season. He has created memorable moments for fans, skating around with the puck at center ice, almost toying with the opposition, to drop 30 seconds off the penalty clock. He is also able to carry the puck out of the defensive zone, something the Avs lacked greatly last season. He's calm under pressure and doesn't have a tendency to dump the puck to escape a hard forecheck. He can be relentless on the forecheck himself, pressuring the opponent to make a passing play to exit the zone rather than skating out in transition. He's a hard-worker, one who will lay it out there every shift and play through injuries without question.
While a superb defensive forward, Winnik's offense leaves something to be desired. Goals come few and far between, something that has not improved with age. That's not to say he can't generate offense. He did just put up 30 points. It's just not something you can bank on. He's not an exceptional play-maker, either, which limits his versatility. He cannot do spot duty in a top-six role, so his play is limited to grinder and energy lines. Unfortunately, he isn't overly physical, and while he's been known to chirp and can get under other players' skins, it's not a regular part of his repertoire. Another weakness is mental. He has overvalued himself in the past, forcing frequent moves to new teams. He's been a part of four thus far in his short career, an average of less than two years per team.
Winnik is coming off of a two-year deal with the Ducks, worth $1.8M per year. That was almost double the contract he'd signed with the Avalanche two years prior to joining Anaheim. While one would think he'd recognized his role on a hockey team and adjust his salary expectations accordingly, Winnik has a bit of Character in him as well, generally wanting more than his body of work suggests he should get. In fact, he priced himself right out of San Jose because of it. He should be good for a nice cap-friendly repeat of his current $1.8M, perhaps a bit more, but it's hard to know if he's willing to take anything less than a pay raise.
Why It Works:
Goals against were the weakest part of the Avs' game last season, something driven out of poor possession numbers. Winnik can immediately help Colorado in that area as possession is his specialty. Getting away from the go-to dump along the boards to clear the zone and into controlling the puck during transition is essential to any success the team hopes to have and regression it hopes to avoid. While not abysmal (and at times quite good), the penalty kill could always use help, and having someone with Winnik's experience and abilities would help tremendously. He has a cap-friendly salary and can give the team some depth in the bottom six. A third line of John Mitchell, Jamie McGinn and Winnik would make for a formidable defensive line that can produce some goals and control the puck long enough to give the top lines the rest they need.
It's a compelling idea to bring Daniel Winnik back. A new regime and the absence of players with whom he clashed (see Quincey, Kyle) creates a perfect opportunity to start again. His defensive capabilities could help the Avs a great deal. However, given the fact that Roy likes Marc-Andre Cliche and Maxime Talbot so much, Winnik could be slotted for a role that saw him manning the fourth line and penalty kill only. Would his ego go for that? He surely knows that signing with the Avs would give him an opportunity to return to the playoffs, but chances are he'd forego the Avs for a bigger role on another team. After all, there are plenty of teams out there that want a penalty-killing third liner, a role for which Winnik is well-suited. Unless the Avs can offer him that, I don't see it happening.