Any discussion of the Dallas Stars signing UFA-to-be right wing Michael Frolik is inevitably going to bring up Ales Hemsky comparisons. Both players are a few years removed from their career years, and both players are seen as complementary possession drivers who won't be setting the world on fire in the points department.
The two wingers are still very different, though, as the 27-year-old Frolik has never even sniffed the 70+ point totals that Hemsky accumulated in years past. In fact, Frolik has never surpassed 45 points despite a pair of 21-goal seasons in Florida to start his career.
So why then is Frolik being talked about as one of the most valuable UFAs? Overall weaknesses of this year's UFA class aside, our friends at Arctic Ice Hockey put it like this:
Michael Frolik is a metaphorical swiss army knife on a hockey rink. He can play all three forward spots in a pinch and he can play on any line. Anywhere you put him, he is unlikely to disappoint. This versatility is an incredible asset to both a coach and a hockey team.
This versatility is a byproduct of hard work and well above average hockey sense. That said, Frolik isn't without flaws. Michael is a stout defensive player and a top notch possession player. Frolik was second on the Winnipeg Jets in Corsi Relative this season. He was also second in raw Corsi, his weak point comes in the offensive zone.
Michael Frolik is a pure volume shooter. He puts pucks on net from everywhere. He isn't a savvy playmaker and he isn't a sniper by any stretch. Still, the net result with Michael Frolik is a player who can comfortably be relied upon to play top six minutes - in tough checking minutes - and still contribute a plus to his team. He won't make your team an offensive powerhouse, but he should contribute to more goals for than against.
Hold up--Swiss army knife, you say? That sounds an awful lot like one Patrick Eaves, another right winger who may be getting a lot of phone calls come Wednesday afternoon. Both players have the "ability" to play wherever they're asked, but neither of them are going to challenge Ovechkin for any scoring titles. In fact, Frolik's point totals (comparatively meager though they are) may be all the more impressive for the fact that he doesn't necessarily have an exceptionally pretty one-timer like Eaves. On the other hand, if the Stars ended up replacing Eaves with Frolik, there's no guarantee that he would fit as well on Seguin's right wing as Eaves did (at times) last year.
Price-wise, Frolik is likely going to command even more than Hemsky got last year in the open market, with numbers like $5 million for at least four years being suggested as a starting point. Possession is a big deal these days, and while Frolik's Corsi relative to his team was rather sterling (as mentioned above), his overall numbers are closer to solid than outright dominant. That doesn't mean he's a bad bet at all, just that there's no guarantee that he'll be equally strong on a different team, so his new bosses may want to set their expectations accordingly.
The salient question is whether the Stars should sign Frolik, though, and that's where Hemsky makes things tricky again. With Nichushkin and Hemsky seemingly being locked into the top two right wing spots, and with the team having reached out to Eaves on some level, it's tough to see where a pricey acquisition like Frolik would fit in unless a corresponding roster move were made. Would the Stars give up on the remaining two years of Hemsky's deal in favor of a longer, higher-dollar one with a historically (though not most recently) lower-scoring option like Frolik? Frolik's two-way potential is enticing, but despite Hemsky's struggles last season, he was often seen backchecking and taking care of business in his own zone. If you think his scoring will rebound along with the fortunes of the rest of the team this fall, then the biggest difference between the two players next year may end up being their salaries.
Bottom line: Michael Frolik would make just about any team better. The Stars have less roster room than other teams, so picking up the ex-Jet would entail a fair bit of maneuvering before the bidding process even starts. Given the Stars' need for another good defenseman and their preference for intelligent salary cap management, I don't really see them being able to sign Frolik this summer unless the roster gets a pretty quick shakeup. Things move quickly on July 1st, and if Nill finds a way to reinforce Dallas's forward corps, it's more likely to involve a trade than an acquisition. That's a pity when players like Frolik are available, but a rebound season from Hemsky and a healthy one from Nichushkin could make the Stars' right side look just fine by this time in March. That's probably the gamble Jim Nill ends up taking.
Unless you're okay with Frolik playing on Spezza's left side, that is. Sure, you're icing an over $15 million second line at that point, but go big or go home, right?