With the announcement in Dater's latest article for the Denver Post that the Avs are in talks with Jeff Finger, it seems like a good time to profile him in the Free Agent series I am doing.
Strengths: Finger dishes out the hits. He led the team in hits last season (Salei had more, but played for Florida for most of the season). On a defense that wasn't nearly physical enough for most of the season he was the standout physical player. As DD put it in his offseason Finger Grade :
His 121 hits were tops on the team and 51 more than the next defensemen (Clark) tallied - until the arrival of Salei and Foote, Finger was the one banger we had back there.He was, amazingly, one of the best D-men on offense last season. He had the best point shot on the Avs, which is kind of like saying someone is the most courteous DMV worker but still, and he actually shot the puck. He saw limited PP time and used it to his advantage. He can be played on the PP or PK making him fairly versatile.
Weaknesses: Finger would really be a better player if he were a better skater. He can get beat off the rush, especially to the outside (his solid positioning usually allows him to take away the inside). He also has been known to get caught play watching from time-to-time, which causes him to occasionally lose his man.
Analysis: Finger fell out of favor with (former) coach Q late in the season and in the playoffs. To be fair to Q, Finger didn't play very well against Minnesota and seemed to shrink in the bright lights of the playoffs. He was benched for the Red Wings series, and for the one game he did play he was pretty awful.To be fair this was his first full season with the big club, and he's been pretty good since being called up. It's hard to imagine that he's maxed out his potential just yet and should get better in the coming seasons. DD gave him an A- on the season.
All season the one sticking point for the Avs defense was an opponent's fast wing. Guys like Hemsky could take an Avs defender wide and still cut to the net for a good scoring opportunity. Finger is part of this problem. The Red Wings further exposed the Avs defense as a little slow footed at times and the Avs may pass on Finger to upgrade the team speed on the blue line. His biggest strength, his physicality, was neutralized a little bit by the addition of Salei and Foote at the trade deadline. He was no longer the only banger on the team and if the Avs wanted to let him go they could with those guys able to dish out the hits Finger normally lined up.
The Avs currently have 5 Defenders under contract (Clark, Salei, Leoprone, Hannan, Cumisky) and will probably sign Foote. Leaving Liles, Sauer and Finger as the free agents. This will probably create an odd man out situation in the back.
Verdict: Finger should not be the odd man out. Defensemen's salaries right now are a little inflated (DD actually tried to argue that Clark's $3.5 contract is reasonable!) but I see the 28-year old Finger getting resigned to a 3-year deal for between $1.75-2.25M/year