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NHL Free Agency 2018: Should the Golden Knights consider signing Jay Beagle?

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Beagle is the kind of player teams value, but is he necessary in Vegas?

NHL: Stanley Cup Playoffs-Washington Capitals at Tampa Bay Lightning Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Golden Knights fans are familiar with Jay Beagle after he and the Capitals defeated Vegas in five games in the 2018 Stanley Cup Final. But Beagle himself is familiar only with the Capitals, as the 32-year-old has played his entire NHL career in Washington.

Free agency status

Though he’d love to stay, it appears as though Beagle will not return to Washington next season. In fact, Vancouver appears to be the frontrunner to land the fourth-line center, according to TSN’s Bob McKenzie. Beagle is coming off a two-year contract with a $1.75 million cap hit.

Season in review

  • 22 points (seven goals, 15 assists) in 79 regular-season games
  • Set a career low in Corsi For percentage in the regular season (39.2)
  • Set a career high in faceoff percentage (58.52) in the regular season
  • Eight points (two goals, six assists) in 23 postseason games, including two assists in the Final
  • Finished with a team-low 34.08 Corsi For percentage in the postseason

Strengths

Beagle set a career high in faceoff percentage during the regular season (58.52), which was good for fifth overall in the league among players who took at least 200 draws. He also finished first in the postseason among players who took at least 150 draws with a 60.1 percent win rate, which was second among players who played in at least five games. Also, 113 of his 184 faceoff wins in the playoffs came in the defensive zone, where he had a 63.5 percent success rate.

Beagle also set a career high in defensive zone start percentage with an impressive 74.8 percent rate. Despite being used primarily as a defensive specialist, Beagle still put up 22 points this past year and 30 the year before.

While Beagle’s possession numbers were rough, he had a hand in some big plays for the Capitals in their 2018 Cup run. His forechecking, faceoff dominance and defensive ability at even strength and on the penalty kill shined at key moments throughout the playoffs, and his two assists in Game 3 of the Final were not insignificant as they led to two two-goal leads for Washington in a critical game.

Though it’s not a fact-based argument, “Every team needs a ‘Beagle’” is a phrase you might hear people throwing around. While it’s true that he brings many of the so-called “intangibles” to the table, his game also possesses some obvious flaws.

Weaknesses

When you take a closer look at the numbers, it’s not pretty. In 79 regular-season games this past season, Beagle had a career-low 39.15 Corsi For percentage and a -10.8 Corsi Rel percentage, which was the lowest of his career in a season in which he played more than 10 games. He also had a 38.93 percent shot share, 44.9 percent goal share, 40.37 percent scoring chance share and a 34.82 percent high-danger share. The only one of those categories that wasn’t a team low among the standard roster players was goal share.

By comparison, his 2016-17 numbers were as follows: 47.1 percent Corsi, 47.56 percent shot share, 62.26 percent goal share, 48.31 percent scoring chance share and, interestingly, a 51.09 percent high-danger share, which ranked third on the team among players who played in at least 20 games. Clearly, it’s possible Beagle just had an awful year in 2017-18, though his postseason numbers were alarming as well. He managed a 34.08 percent Corsi, 36.79 percent shot share, 53.33 percent goal share, 41.67 percent scoring chance share and 39.13 percent high-danger share.

Though he became a more effective skater as the series wore on, Beagle was visibly the slowest person on the ice in the Final. While his style of play doesn’t require breakneck speed, it’s certainly a significant weakness of his game, and it’s one that would stand out in Vegas’ speed-driven system.

Fit with the Golden Knights

There’s no question where Beagle would slot in on the Golden Knights, or on any team, for that matter. That’s because he has a set role in the NHL; he’s a fourth-line center who can win faceoffs, kill penalties and help out defensively, though his regular-season production has been decent in recent seasons.

Beagle’s speed is one of the things that makes him a very questionable fit in Vegas, especially considering how the Golden Knights employ speed as a cornerstone of their system.

Also, it’s fair to argue that Beagle would be unnecessary considering the role Pierre-Edouard Bellemare already fills. Bellemare had a strong season as Vegas’ fourth-line center, setting career highs in assists (10), points (16) and faceoff percentage (51.15).

That being said, there’s an argument to be made for having two strong defensive players with solid faceoff ability on the fourth line, especially since Beagle offers a right-handed shot. Plus, Bellemare won just 48.8 percent of faceoffs in the playoffs.

But the Knights don’t “need” Beagle, and his age makes anything longer than an inexpensive two-year contract a bad idea. It wouldn’t be surprising to see Vancouver sign him to a three-year, $6.75 million to $7.5 million contract.

At the end of the day, while his leadership, experience and faceoff ability would be positive additions to the Knights lineup, Beagle is an unnecessary option. Vegas should look elsewhere.