Dollars and Sense: How did the Red Wings Contracts Pay Off? Part 1

(Photo by Dave Reginek/NHLI via Getty Images)

One of the things that I, and probably just about everyone else that follows the Red Wings more than casually, complain about is the contract situation we have going on now. Now that the regular season is over and the Red Wings have not made the playoffs, the stats for our players for the season are set in stone. I thought it would be fun to sit down and see exactly what Ken Holland paid for this season, and how that compares to other contracts in the league, and what contracts were the worst value for us this season.

It is impossible for us to determine whether a contract is good or bad from just one set of numbers because there’s so much more to a player than points: points are year to year, different positions and usage on the ice will affect points. On top of that, you need to take into account term. But from these numbers, we can establish a reasonable baseline for what a good value contract was for the season.

Before we get into it I’d like to point out that while I did all of this myself using a spreadsheet, I found out later that Capfriendly has a fantastic tool that not only calculates all of this but lets you search by team, position, etc. If you’re interested in this sort of thing, I recommend you check it out.  I would also like to thank Brad Krysko from the Winged Wheel Podcast for letting me bounce some ideas off him (if you’re not listening to their podcast and you’re a Wings fan, you’re missing out).

What I’ve done is compare the Red Wings contracts to the Pittsburgh Penguins, reigning Cup winners and the next longest streak of playoff appearances; the Washington Capitals, the winners of the Presidents Trophy; and the Vancouver Canucks, the second worst team in the league. I didn’t want to pick the Avalanche because I don’t think that they are as bad is they performed this season, so I went one up. (Yes this means I do think Vancouver is actually very bad)

If you just want the raw stats I put together for this, you can view them here (you can spy on the defensemen numbers for Part 2 as well). I limited it to players with >20 games played.

Forwards

Here’s the raw numbers for the Red Wings forwards, ordered by Adjusted Cost Per Point from lowest to highest:

No surprises there. Our rookies continue to produce the most value thanks to those Entry Level Contracts. I was surprised to see Luke Glendening so high up there, but then I realized his extension hadn’t kicked in yet, if he was on that his Adj. Cost per Point would more than double. And down at the bottom, we see the new contracts: Frans Nielsen, Darren Helm, and Justin Abdelkader. (And poor Riley Sheahan). When stacked against the team, they really are the worst value contracts we have. But how do the Wings stack up against Washington, Pittsburgh, and Vancouver?

Here’s the top 15:

When you look at the top 15, you can see that a Pittsburgh’s made good with their rookies this season (playing with Crosby will do that). Conor Sheary is a only a whopping $9,368.96 per point, almost of Athanasiou’s. Entry level contracts are huge, the most successful teams are using them to complement their veterans without crushing the cap. It’s the difference between signing depth players to term versus constantly pulling up from your system replacement who can possibly light it up. Chicago does this a lot, with their high price core of Kane and Toews.

Moving down to the next chunk of Red Wings, here’s 19 through 39:

Here’s where we start getting into the big meaty contracts of players like Zetterberg, Crosby, Kessel, Oshie, Backstrom. Tatar’s bridge deal is great, and it is going to hurt when the Red Wings have to sign him this offseason. He’s a better value than Oshie and Williams by the numbers. Next year though, I’ll be surprised if he isn’t looking to make Nyquist money. I also appreciate how good Zetterberg’s contract is now. The term is massive, yes, but we only paid a hair over $6 million compared to Kessel’s $8 million. If we look at Adj. Cost per Point, Zetterberg was almost an identical value as Sidney Crosby’s contract (which, $8.7 million, what a steal). Drew Miller is even a pretty good value for what we paid.

Abby and Helm still haven’t showed up yet though. Uh Oh.

Here’s the bottom 12 players (40-51):

Once again, there’s poor Riley Sheahan. Such a down year for him, but the low cost of his contract saved him. He was dangerously close to a Brendan Gaunce divide by 0 error though. And here we find Helm and Abdelkader. Justin Abdelkader only beat two people: Daniel Sedin, a 36 year old near the end of his star contract (1 year remaining), and Loui Eriksson who had one of the absolute worst seasons of his career after signing a brand new $6×6 contract with the Canucks. Helm, Sheahan, and Nielsen both come in near the bottom, but they have the advantage of being centers, who are generally over paid in the NHL. Helm’s cost per point is pretty high but as a center, he brings more to the table than just points. Abdelkader, as a winger, is all about points. He’s making middle to top 6 Winger money, more than Hagelin and the same as Hornqvist, but being paid $20 and 80k more per point than they are.

For reference, the absolute most expensive player in the league for points, minus Andrew Desjardin’s 1 year $800,000 contract, is Colorado’s Carl Soderberg at a staggering $331,010 per point. He has 4 years left at $4.75m. Other high earners: Corey Perry at $162,736/Pt; Andrew Ladd at $168,765/Pt, Rick Nash at $167,715, and Anze Kopitar at $172,236 (I thought his $10M was too much when he signed it, so far I’m fairly confident in saying I was right))

Conclusions

In today’s NHL, I believe we are rapidly approaching a time where you need 4 lines that can score; as opposed to a top line, a shutdown line, etc. With that in mind, I think we can safely say that, based on how these contracts fell, around $100k or less per point for forwards is a solid number to shoot for in terms of how much you pay. Now, did I just say Ovechkin was overpaid? Maybe for this season. When I think Alex Ovechkin, I certainly think of more than 69 points and 33 goals.

If we do accept $100k as the baseline for a good value contract, then we can definitively say that Frans Nielsen, Riley Sheahan, Darren Helm, and Justin Abdelkader all underperformed based on how much we paid them this season. Even if you don’t accept that number, you can see that when ranked against other successful teams and even unsuccessful ones, they fall in the bottom half.

Next time, I will be going over the defensemen as well, and we can see how good Dekeyser was for $5 million dollars.

 

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