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Making the case: Maxim Afinogenov

In the past two seasons, Buffalo Sabres winger Maxim Afinogenov‘s production has taken a severe hit due to being the charter member of his head coach’s dog house.

Now I make no secret about this: I’ve been lobbying for Nashville Predators GM David Poile to go get Afinogenov for a long time. Maybe it’s because I believe a change of scenery could be all he needs to return to his point-per-game clip. Or maybe it’s because he’s a speedy 2nd line winger, which the Predators desperately need. Or maybe it’s because my favorite player growing up was another speedy Russian right wing who began his career in Buffalo by the name of Alexander Mogilny.

(For the record, no, I don’t believe the latter has anything to do with it.)

Poile and the Predators would do themselves a service by inviting Afinogenov into town for an interview and a physical because, let’s face it, if he were in high demand (thus commanding a high dollar amount), someone would’ve signed him by now.

Maxim is in his prime at 29 years old, he’s got blinding speed, is extremely agile, can produce highlight-reel goals (as evidenced here) and is also a bit of a playmaker, as suggested by his 51 assists in 2005-06. He’d be a perfect fit as the scoring threat on the 2nd power play line, he’d give the Preds instant credibility in the shootout and common sense says he’d be determined to prove that Sabres head coach Lindy Ruff was wrong.

And is there anything more satisfying than seeing a guy play with a high level of determination?

Let’s talk depth-chart for a second… If the Preds were to sign him, Afinogenov would be a 2nd line winger, which would see him flanking David Legwand with Martin Erat. It would have to be assumed that those two players’ production would go up instantly with a guy like Max on their line.

How about the power play? With Jason Arnott, Steve Sullivan and J.P. Dumont on the 1st power play line, adding a guy like Afinogenov would instantly give the 2nd power play line a severe scoring threat. He loves to shoot the puck too – which this team desperately needs – having amassed 230+ shots in a season twice in his career. His 151 shots in ’06-’07 – in only 56 games – would’ve been 4th on the Preds last year among forwards.

Fourth!

So what does it take to bring in a guy who, at his best, is a point-per-game scorer, has the speed and creativity that reminds most of Pavel Bure and would immediately boost the power play and shootout aspects of the team? Let’s talk money, shall we?

Last season, Afinogenov made $3.5 million, with a cap hit of $3.3. Now there’s no way the Predators bring in a guy they’re unfamiliar with who’s had a history of minor injuries for that kind of money. Especially when he’s destined for the 2nd line. But, by the same token, there’s no way he gets a contract worth that much from any other team for the same reasons. So, speaking realistically, Afinogenov is in store for multi-year contract at $2.5 million/year ($3 million at best). If the Predators were to sign him for $2.5 million a season, literally a fourth of the payroll would be skating on the 2nd line (the cap hits of Legwand and Erat being $4.5 each), which is a problem.

What’s also a problem is the fact that he’s had the history of minor injuries. Reportedly the groin has healed just fine and the neck injury wasn’t a cause of concern to begin with but, seeing as how Poile just resigned Sullivan, who also has a history of injury, it’s a gamble to bring in a guy like Afinogenov because, come mid-season, you don’t want to look at your injury report and see your only two pure scoring threats on it. But, at the same time, is it worth the risk?

I think it is in this case. Afinogenov brings so much to the table for a baragin price (for what he’s worth when healthy) that Poile and the Preds at least need to bring him in to see where his heads at. If his injuries are still an issue then obviously it’s a no-brainer.

But if his injuries appear to be a thing of the past… then it’s also a no-brainer.

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This is the third in a series that section303.com will be doing on the available UFA’s.

One Comment

  1. predswilrule

    July 27, 2009 at 3:35 pm

    a couple comments. 1st- agreed he has speed and CAN score goals, at least until lately, which would be great. if healed seems like a no-brainer if the moneys right. he does have several issues on the downside, or at least potential downside.1- inconsistent effort in his own end. ruff and trotz are similar there. if lindy had a problem w/ max i can see that trotzy might as well. 2- there is some reason nobody, and i mean nobody, seems interested. is it money, attitude or dare i say the R word. is he looking to the motherland? arad screwed the pooch for alot of russian players, note the nhl draft. fool me once, well you know the rest.