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2018 Free Agency Target: Is it worth taking a flyer on Tobias Rieder?

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The Canadiens are reportedly interested in the German forward.

NHL: Minnesota Wild at Los Angeles Kings Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Tobias Rieder, a 25-year-old forward, will be hitting the free-agent market this coming Sunday. The German is coming off a season where he split the year with the Arizona Coyotes and Los Angeles Kings, scoring 12 goals, and 25 points, in 78 total games.

In a market with a few big names like John Tavares, James van Riemsdyk, ans Paul Stastny, Rieder’s name doesn’t shine as brightly. He had an annual cap hit of $2.25 million over the last two seasons, and could come relatively cheap to any suitor who comes calling.

A number of teams, including the Montreal Canadiens, have expressed interested. But should they?

Arguably the biggest selling point for Rieder is his penalty-killing ability. As first discussed in Allan Mitchell’s piece on Rieder for The Athletic, the forward had among the lowest shot rates against on the penalty kill among his fellow NHL forwards last season.

Rieder’s abilities would be welcomed by the Canadiens, who ended the 2017-18 season with the league’s second-worst penalty kill. Among Canadiens penalty-killers on the same list linked above (limited to those who played at least 75 short-handed minutes), Paul Byron had the lowest Corsi against per 60 minutes among Habs players at 106.1, compared to Rieder’s 85.6.

Rieder’s offensive game won’t impress many people. In addition to his goal and assist totals, he has a negative shot-attempt differential and shouldn’t be counted on for his offensive prowess. He does, however, rank in a favourable percentile for primary assists, shooting percentage, shots against, and defensive-zone starts.

As shown in the graph below, his primary points per hour rose as he saw less time on the ice for Arizona and Los Angeles, suggesting the move still allowed him to maintain a fair level of offensive contribution. The Canadiens hoped to get similar production from Ales Hemsky last season in a low-risk signing that ultimately paid no dividends for the team.

Just for kicks, here’s a SKATR comparison between Rieder and fellow bottom-six forward Nicolas Deslauriers.

And another with Canadiens centre Jonathan Drouin.

While his numbers aren’t flashy, they may be just right for the Canadiens’ bottom-six. He’s a solid penalty-killer who doesn’t allow too many shots against when he’s on the ice. He is also listed as a centre, and has spent time on each wing.

His stats from last season will probably mean that he’s going to be an affordable player for teams, but the attention he may fetch on the open market might drive up his price. In any case, Bergevin should get the green light to consider Rieder, who could take away some of the defensive duties from the more offensively inclined players on the team.

All images are from Bill Comeau’s SKATR tool and Hockeyviz.com