Monday, January 16, 2017

Paying The Young Guys, Part II: "Very Nice, How Much?"

Last week, I teased that I was going to be exploring how much Ron Hextall is going to have to pay his prized young players in the next six-to-forty-two months. Currently, the trio of Shayne Gostisbehere, Ivan Provorov, and Travis Konecny is among the league's best values because of the way NHL structures rookie deals.

Even though Gostisbehere finished second in rookie of the year voting last season, Provorov leads the team in ice time this season, and Konecny is one of the most exciting forwards on the team, they are signed for contracts that pay them each peanuts (via CapFriendly):

  • Gostisbehere: $925,000, expires after this season
  • Provorov and Konecny: $894,167, both expire after the 2018-19 season
Obviously, a number one defenseman and a top power play defenseman and a top-six winger should cost more than $2.71 million. Once they get real NHL contracts (read: not via restricted free agency), they will all almost certainly make more than that combined total on their own. 

But the purpose of this exercise isn't to forecast that big payday. I want to look at their next payday, and I want to know what star rookies like this get after their entry level deals expire. 

Basically, the only thing I accomplished last week in my introductory post was the following lists of players who we're going to use as comparables. 
  • Alex Ovechkin (2006)
  • Evgeni Malkin (2007)
  • Patrick Kane (2008)
  • Jeff Skinner (2011
  • Gabriel Landeskog (2012)
  • Jonathan Huberdeau (2013)
  • Nathan MacKinnon (2014)
  • Artemi Panarin (2016)
That is the list of every forward to win the Calder Memorial trophy as the league's best rookie since the salary cap was put into place. There were only two defensemen to fall into that group (and they were on wildly different levels), so I expanded the blueline category to include everyone who had finished in the top seven:

  • Dion Phaneuf (3rd, 2006)
  • Andrej Meszaros (7th, 2006)
  • Marc-Edouard Vlasic (6th, 2007)
  • Matt Carle (7th, 2007)
  • Toby Enstrom (6th, 2008)
  • Drew Doughty (5th, 2009)
  • Tyler Myers (1st, 2010)
  • John Carlson (5th, 2011)
  • PK Subban (6th, 2011)
  • Jake Gardiner (6th, 2012)
  • Justin Faulk (7th, 2012)
  • Jonas Brodin (4th, 2013)
  • Justin Schultz (7th, 2013)
  • Torey Krug (4th, 2014)
  • Olli Maatta (5th, 2014)
  • Jacob Trouba (6th, 2014)
  • Hampus Lindholm (7th, 2014)
  • Aaron Ekblad (1st, 2015)
  • John Klingberg (5th, 2015)

Let's get to it.

Travis Konecny

Clearly, Konecny is not quite as big a star as Ovechkin, Malkin, or Kane. Those three are all in the top ten in terms of star power in the entire league, and they have all led their teams to a Stanley Cup victory. They will be the high end of the salary projection. And even Skinner and Huberdeau will likely have received larger contracts than the one Konecny will get, because there is virtually no chance that Konecny will win the Calder.

So we're going into this portion of the exercise knowing that all of these contracts are high-end comparables for TK's new deal. Here's what those Calder winners signed up for when their entry-level deals expire:

  • Ovechkin - 13 years, $9,538,462 AAV
  • Malkin - 5 years, $8.7 million AAV
  • Kane - 5 years, $6.3 million AAV
  • Skinner - 6 years, $5.725 million AAV
  • Landeskog - 7 years, $5,571,429 AAV
  • Huberdeau - 2 years, $3.25 million AAV
  • MacKinnon - 7 years, $6.3 million AAV
  • Panarin - 2 years, $6 million AAV
Panarin, of course, was a bit of a strange situation (because he was so goddamn old when he was a "rookie"). But he's in line with the rest of the high-impact, big-name guys around six million dollars per year. The Russians at the beginning of that list are just comically not good comparisons to Konecny, so we'll ignore them entirely. 

I would, however, like to get some more comparables like Huberdeau. Let's see if we can find guys who are well-known (though not superstars) and had at least some success in their rookie years.
  • Dylan Larkin (5th in Calder voting, 2016) - has not signed a contract/extension
  • Max Domi (6th, 2016) - has not signed a contract/extension
  • Mark Stone (2nd, 2015) - 3 years, $3.5 million AAV
  • Kevin Hayes (7th, 2015) - 2 years, $2.6 million AAV
  • Ondrej Palat (2nd, 2014) - 3 years, $3,333,333 AAV
  • Sean Monahan (8th, 2014) - 7 years, $6.375 million AAV
  • Chris Kreider (10th, 2014) - 2 years, $2.475 million AAV
  • Brendan Gallagher (2nd, 2013) - 6 years, $3.75 million AAV
  • Vladimir Tarasenko (12th, 2013) - 8 years, $7.5 million AAV
I included the first two guys because I wanted to note that Konecny isn't going to be signing this deal for many moons into the future. The Summer of 2019 is probably when it's going to happen. Game Of Thrones will be completely finished at that point. Take a deep breath. 

And I included Tarasenko because I wanted to be able to reference that a TON of shit can change between right now and Summer 2019. He finished 12th in rookie of the year voting, and he received just one third place vote, two fourth place votes, and a fifth place vote. The vast majority of voters - damn near everyone - left him off their ballots entirely. The following season, he doubled his point total. In the two and a half seasons after that, he's scored 191 points in 201 games. He's a superstar, and he got paid like it. But it didn't happen in his rookie season, or even his sophomore one. He didn't sign his new contract until his entire entry-level deal had passed. 

So where does that leave us with Konecny? In terms of making it as cheap as possible, something like the Kreider or Hayes deals - two years, two and a half million dollars - keeps the Flyers' cap situation flexible. 

But in terms of maximizing value, I think it would make more sense to try to leverage the RFA status to ink Konecny to a more long-term deal. If we were shooting for the stars, I would really love that Gallagher contract. It would lock Konecny up in Philly through the conclusion of the Giroux/Voracek contractsand and even if it's not quite as manageable as Gallagher's $3.75 million, it certainly shouldn't reach the level of those Calder-winning franchise cornerstones. The likely range on a long-term deal, in my mind, would fall somewhere between $4-5.5 million. 

And hey, if Konecny blossoms into a goddamn superstar, I'll be happy to see him earn the Tarasenko contract. 

Gostisbehere & Provorov

There's not too much to say to introduce this. Let's just jump right into the list of comps:
  • Dion Phaneuf (3rd, 2006) -  6 years, $6.5 million AAV
  • Andrej Meszaros (7th, 2006) - 6 years, $4 million AAV
  • Marc-Edouard Vlasic (6th, 2007) - 4 years, $3.1 million AAV
These two, though their numbers might be a bit dated, are perfect comparables for Provorov. If he's a stalwart, he'll get the contract that Supposed-To-Be-A-Stalwart-For-A-Decade Phaneuf got. If he's merely serviceable over the next two years, we might be able to get him down around Meszaros' or even Vlasic's cap hit. On to the rest of the list:
  • Matt Carle (7th, 2007) - 4 years, $3,437,500 AAV
  • Toby Enstrom (6th, 2008) - 4 years, $3.75 million AAV
  • Drew Doughty (5th, 2009) - 8 years, $7 million AAV
  • Tyler Myers (1st, 2010) - 7 years, $5.5 million AAV
  • John Carlson (5th, 2011) - 6 years, $3,966,667 AAV
  • PK Subban (6th, 2011) - 2 years, $2.875 million AAV
  • Jake Gardiner (6th, 2012) - 5 years, $4.05 million AAV
  • Justin Faulk (7th, 2012) - 6 years, $4,833,333 AAV
  • Jonas Brodin (4th, 2013) - 6 years, $4,166,667 AAV
  • Justin Schultz (7th, 2013) - 1 year, $3.675 million AAV
  • Torey Krug (4th, 2014) - 1 year, $1.4 million AAV
I want to make an extra note here because Krug and Gostisbehere are similar in style. Krug's entry level deal was followed by one-year deals that paid him $1.4 million and $3.4 million, and his current contract pays him $5.25 million per year for 4 years. Back to the list:
  • Olli Maatta (5th, 2014) - 6 years, $4,083,333 AAV
  • Hampus Lindholm (7th, 2014) - 6 years, $5.25 million AAV
  • Jacob Trouba (6th, 2014) - 2 years, $3 million AAV
Another note, because Trouba and Ghost played together at the World Cup so comparisons will ultimately be drawn between them elsewhere as well. Trouba hates playing in Winnipeg, and the common belief is that he only agreed to this cheap deal to make himself more tradeable over the two seasons. The Flyers are not - definitely not, certainly not, don't-even-think-about-thinking-about-this-contract NOT - signing Ghost for $3 million per year. 
  • Aaron Ekblad (1st, 2015) - 8 years, $7.5 million AAV
  • John Klingberg (5th, 2015) - 7 years, $4.25 million AAV
Here's a question for Flyers fans: if you could sign Gostisbehere to Klingberg's contract and sign Provorov to Ekblad's contract (you have to take both), would you do it? Because that's the way this all seems to be trending. Provorov is the rock-solid number one guy, and we might as well pay him like one. Gostisbehere is the offense-first defenseman, who in all likelihood will be paid more than Klingberg. 

Like we mentioned with the forward group, we could throw bridge deals at these two until they stick us for a huge contract. PK Subban's bridge deal was great; it paid him less than $3 million per year. He now makes $9 million a year. 

I gave you a "likely range, in my mind" for Konecny, and I'll do the same for these two. Gostisbehere's LRIMM on a long-term deal is $4.5-7 million, and Provorov's is $5-8 million. Woof, that's going to be tough to work around. Maybe we should mix in some of those cheap bridge deals after all. 

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