Underrated Bergenheim could fetch Panthers nice return at deadline

Florida Panthers forward Sean Bergenheim has eight goals and 18 points in 39 games while playing 14:09 per night, which is over two minutes below his average in his previous two seasons with the Panthers.

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Sean Bergenheim’s days as a Florida Panther appear to be numbered.

In a move that could be seen coming from miles away, the disgruntled 31-year-old forward recently made public his desire to be moved prior to the March 2 trade deadline after a string of healthy scratches quickly eroded his already rocky relationship with the organization.

"I wish none of this would have come out," Bergenheim told the Miami Herald last week. "When I asked for a trade, I thought everything would be kept — as it should — within the team. This shouldn’t have been done this way."

Well, much to Bergenheim’s dismay, the cat’s officially out of the bag — pun intended — and the Panthers are now in the process of moving on from a player with whom they’ve shared both incredible highs — a playoff berth in 2012 — and uncomfortable lows — a 2013 arbitration hearing.

One of four veterans with expiring contracts who will be unrestricted free agents on July 1, along with Scottie Upshall, Tomas Fleischmann and Tomas Kopecky, Bergenheim was more than likely already on his way out of South Florida with his recent actions only serving to expedite the process.

So far, Panthers general manager Dale Tallon says that he’s already received a few phone calls inquiring about the veteran forward’s availability.

"There’s some interest. We’ll see what happens there," Tallon told the Sun Sentinel. "I’ve said from Day 1, if you don’t want to be a Panther, then we’ll accommodate you."

In the meantime, Bergenheim, who carries an affordable $2.75 million cap hit, says that he’s just trying to get back onto the ice.

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"I just want to play," said Bergenheim, who last played on Feb. 12 at Minnesota. "This could be good for the Panthers. Maybe they get something in return that helps them become a better team."

When trying to figure out exactly what kind of return the Panthers can expect to garner for an intriguing trade chip like Bergenheim, there are a few things that must be considered first.

On the surface, Bergenheim’s offensive numbers aren’t much to look at. He has eight goals and 18 points in 39 games while playing 14:09 per night, which is over two minutes below his average in his previous two seasons with the Panthers. He has never in his nine-year career surpassed the 30-point plateau and has competed in more than 70 games in a single season only twice.

So why is there so much fuss over an injury-prone, career third-line forward?

Well, upon further inspection, Bergenheim is actually one of the most underrated forwards in the entire NHL in terms of driving possession and creating scoring chances for his teammates.

In the age of advanced analytics where terms like "Corsi" and "Fenwick" are quickly becoming as common as goals and assists, Bergenheim’s previously unheralded accomplishments are now carrying more weight than ever in the eyes of both fans and executives.

When at even strength this season, Bergenheim leads all Panthers skaters in terms of Corsi for percentage (55.6) and Fenwick for percentage (55.5) while also placing third in relative Corsi (plus-3.2) and relative Fenwick (plus-3.3). He leads all Panther forwards in shots for per 60 at even strength (33.7), which also places him 35th in the entire NHL — sandwiched in between Pittsburgh’s Sidney Crosby and St. Louis’ Vladamir Taresenko.

Simply put: Bergenheim has a major impact when he is on the ice, even if it doesn’t always show up on traditional score sheets. And, thanks to the hockey analytics website OwnThePuck.com, we can also see that his advanced statistics actually project him as a top-six player in most areas.

Clearly, there is more than meets the eye when it comes to determining Bergenheim’s value, and teams looking to bid for his services are likely well aware of these numbers.

Outside of his advanced analytics, Bergenheim also excels in an area of the game that statisticians have yet to properly quantify — coming up in the clutch. In 23 career playoff games split between Tampa Bay and Florida, Bergenheim has notched 12 goals and 17 points, including the game-winning goal in Game 7 of the Lightning’s first-round upset over the Pittsburgh Penguins in the 2011 playoffs.

In a rental pool highlighted by Arizona’s Atoine Vermette and New Jersey’s Jaromir Jagr, Bergenheim’s advanced analytics and playoff prowess should place him right below these players in terms of value on the open market come deadline day.

That being said, a high draft pick or quality prospect should be in play when speculating at a potential return for Bergenheim, especially given a recent report that the Toronto Maple Leafs are asking for a second and third-round pick for a similar, if not lesser, player in Daniel Winnik.

For now, however, the Panthers will need to practice patience as they hold out and wait for the best offer. Tensions will continue to mount as Bergenheim stews in the press box, but the end reward should be well worth the trouble.

You can follow Jameson Olive on Twitter @JamesonCoop or email him at JamesonOlive@gmail.com.