Hello everyone. After trips to the Carribean, the Blue Ridge Mountains and Boston, I am back!!! For many, you have waited patiently for the latest post and I thank you for that. Besides, we all need something good to read while the sports calender has decided to make a big deal about preseason football (Come on Matt McGloin, you can do it!!!), Johnny Manziel (oh NCAA, you’ve done it again), Aaron Hernandez (oh dear) and Alex Rodriguez (wait, I thought he wasn’t jerk and never took steroids? Just kidding).
So let’s get back to my favorite sport to write about: hockey. Yes, it is weird to talk about a winter sport when it is 80-90 degrees outside but hockey could not be at a better place right now. The league wide talent pool could not be any better as there are about 80-90 players you can call “elite” right now. The salary cap has been healthy for the sport as it forces teams to stop giving away dumb contracts (oh wait, never mind). Most importantly, the old four divisions are back. It’s time to party like it’s 1992, but not really thanks to some alterations. Either way, the 2013-14 season will be a fascinating one to see if teams that did well or poorly in one division can find the same success or change their luck in another division. No matter what happens, the standings will be more interesting to watch this year than in years past.
What also makes this season great is my first installment of the NHL trade value rankings. With this post, our society now has trade value columns for all four major American sports thanks to Grantland founder Bill Simmons with the NBA and Grantland writers Bill Barnwell with the NFL and Jonah Keri with the MLB. Before I wrote this piece, I was not the first to think of this idea and I need to give credit where credit is due. Jeff Angus has posted trade value columns on his website for the last two years. I have absolutely loved his work and they have given me second thoughts to my list. However, you will see in my post that I like to look at things much differently than Jeff, which is why I hope you enjoy mine as well. I am looking forward to challenging Jeff to see which one is right or wrong in the future. Let’s get the countdown started!
First, the Trade value rankings were invented by ESPN’s Bill Simmons, who has now written an NBA trade value column for every season in the last 13 years. He has come up with the following rules to live by when making such a list. Here they are with an NHL twist to them.
1. Salaries matter. Would you rather pay John Tavares $5.5 million a year or Alex Ovechkin $9.538 million? Add the fact that the salary cap is decreasing this upcoming season and it is critical to KNOW that if you pay someone a top tier contract, that player better be worth every penny.
2. Age matters. Would you rather have Pavel Datsyuk for the next five seasons or Claude Giroux for the next 15?
3. Pretend the league passed the following rule: For 24 hours, any player can be traded without cap ramifications but with luxury-tax and next-day-cap ramifications. If Team A tells Team B, “We’ll trade you Player X for Player Y,” would Team B make the deal?
4. Concentrate on degrees. I don’t think the Capitals or Senators would make a Mike Green-Erik Karlsson swap, but Washington would at least say, “Karlsson’s available?” while the Senators would say, “There’s no way we’re trading Erik for someone five years older and is an injury waiting to happen.”
5. Positional scarcity matters. If a defensemen and center put up comparable numbers, the defensemen would be the more valuable player, since it’s much tougher to find a player with the offensive capabilties at th blueline than it is to find one who can man the pivot.
6. The list runs in reverse order. So if Ryan Miller comes in at no. 15, players 1 through 14 are all players about whom Buffalo would say, “We hate giving up Miller, but we definitely have to at least have a meeting and discuss this deal.” And the Sabres wouldn’t trade him straight-up for any player listed between nos. 16 and 50.
Corey Schneider, Craig Anderson, Jimmy Howard, Mike Smith
The first list you see comes from the first issue I had when analyzing all the top tier hockey players and trimming it down to fifty. Analyzing value for a goaltender is a f$cking nightmare! Yes, there are the standard statistics like goals against average and save percentage I can look at, but what about shot distance? What about even strength vs. special teams? How much does the defense help to either prevent shots or only allow shots that can be easily saved? What about knowing when a goalie peaks, especially if some are late bloomers? One would think goaltending should matter in hockey as they are the last line of defense, but by how much? hockey-reference.com believes that 15 of the 21 best players by point shares are goalies while its is only 15 goalies of the 85 best players by hockeyprospectus.com’s goals versus threshold.
It has been proven many times in the post-lockout era that you don’t need a world class goaltender to win hockey games, just a solid and consistent one to avoid losing. In essence, goaltending is such an unstable position that you will always see new names pop in and out of trade value columns every year. Last year, we were talking about Pekka Rinne being the best goaltender who deserved being the richest one in hockey. The next, Rinne had a down season and it was Sergey Bobrovsky, of all people, winning the Vezina Trophy. What about Conn Smyth winner Jonathan Quick? He finished 2013 dealing with back issues and the pressure to live up to a 10-year deal that will last until he’s 37.
As a result, if all general managers are smart (which they aren’t), signing a goalie to a nice cap hit is okay, but if the term is anything longer than say, three years (why, because I can’t remember every single thing about my undergraduate days without giving it some thought and it has been three years THAT’S WHY!!!). That is why Jimmy Howard and Mike Smith are on the outside looking in. Mike Smith has been nothing short of a savior to Phoenix the last two years, considering that they have lacked any form of a scoring punch and they actually have not been as staunch defensively as they appear. With that said, Smith will begin a 6 year/$34 million contract that will last until he is 37 and will give him the 10th highest cap hit this season. Add the fact that Boyd Gordon will be replaced by Mike Ribeiro and the sabermetrics will tell you that this will be a nightmare for Phoenix, even if they score more goals. Jimmy Howard has hit those levels too as he will begin a 6 year contract of his own worth $31.75 million (13th highest cap hit) that will last until he is 35.
Corey Schneider and Craig Anderson, on the other hand, are goalies hitting their peak and are on the second to last years on cheap cap hits. Despite his best statistical season ever, Anderson is 32, only played half of the regular season because of injury, and hasn’t had the best of save percentages on even-strength scoring chances during his career. Meanwhile, Schneider is hitting his stride at 27, but this really will potentially be his first ever season where he could be the starting goaltender for an NHL team and even that is not certain.
Joffrey Lupul, Bobby Ryan
The next list consists of two forwards who have had tumultuous careers but signs should be looking up for them. For Lupul, injuries and multiple transactions have hurt his stock and reputation while Ryan’s sulking has resulted in a full shot per game decrease in the last two years and a trade to Ottawa. However, if Lupul is healthy, he will team up with Nazem Kadri and Phil Kessel to form one of the most formidable lines in hockey while Ryan will be coached from free spirit Bruce Boudreau to one of hockey’s best tacticians in Paul MacLean. Expect both players to have a shot of making next year’s top 50.
Gabriel Landeskog, Nail Yakupov, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Jonathan Huberdeau, Alex Galchenyuk
This list consists of all the up and coming players that are still on their rookie deals and almost made the top 50, but I could not have the fortitude to put them on the list just yet. The truth is, we have reached two straight NHL drafts where we had some fascinating players, but we did not have a guaranteed cream of the crop superstar.
I feel sorry for Gabriel Landeskog because he has what it takes to be a great player, but he is 20 years old and is already developing an injury history and some traumatizing experiences from being thrust into the captaincy for a dysfunctional Colorado team. However, of all the players on this list, sabermetrics show that Landeskog has the most advanced two-way game of the five and has already received responsibility on the penalty kill. He will certainly become an important long term asset for playoff hockey.
Ryan Nugent-Hopkins has some injury issues of his own (has missed 28 of 130 games), but he is already becoming one of the best passers in the NHL. What will turn him into a superstar is getting back to being a first line shooter. According to somekindofninja.com’s shooting distance data, Nugent-Hopkins went from shooting 9/45 from even strength scoring chance areas (0 to 20 ft from goal) to a shocking 0/21. 2014 will prove whether all that data is a downward trend or an expected increase in puck luck.
Of all the players on that list, Nail Yakupov has the potential to move to the top 50 the quickest. Only Jeff Skinner, Jonathan Toews and Sidney Crosby have had higher goal rates in their teen years than Yakupov in the lockout era. As Rob Vollman shows though, Yakupov has been given an easy start to his career and will need to give up less shots on his own end in the future. With that said, Edmonton is facing a critical season and Yakupov did not even average 15 minutes of ice time. The sky is the limit for him.
I am proud for Florida to have a player like Jonathan Huberdeau live up to his hype. Time will tell if Jacob Markstrom and plenty others will do the same because holy crap will the Panthers need it. It will be nice to see that happen before Huberdeau leaves for free agency because…well…you know. Gaining first line minutes and making Florida some form of a hockey destination, let alone a playoff team, is the next step for Huberdeau’s development.
Finally, we have Alex Galchenyuk who potentially is the greatest goal scorer Montreal has ever had since Guy LaFleur!!! I know, I am getting too far ahead of myself, but not since Stephane Richer has Montreal had a teenager get off to such a solid start and Richer left Montreal for greener pastures when he was 25. The numbers were actually not as impressive as once thought, but since he only averaged 12 minutes a game of ice time. So clearly there is room for improvement.
Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Tyler Seguin
Now we’re on the list of players that are starting their second deals. To the surprise of no one, both contracts are long and are at lease above $5 million a year. This is because Ekman-Larsson is the youngest defenseman on the list while Jordan Staal and Sidney Crosby or the only ones to play more playoff games at 21 years old or younger than Seguin (42 games). For Ekman-Larsson, he is already Phoenix’s best defenseman, but …..For Seguin, however, his lack of years on planet earth definitely correlates to his (mostly perceived) lack of maturity. As a result, Seguin and teammate Rich Peverly were traded with Ryan Button for Louis Eriksson, Reilly Smith, Matt Fraser and Joe Morrow.
Loui Erickson, Matt Moulson, Keith Yandle
Speaking of the Tyler Seguin-Loui Eriksson trade, let’s not forget about the underrated skillful Swede. According to Sabermetrics, Eriksson and Seguin were basically used and produced the same way. The major difference is that Eriksson will be making $1.5 million less than Seguin for the next three years. This is very important for Boston needs to save up more money to spend on free agents and resign their own players to keep their Stanley Cup window alive. However, every number revolving Eriksson reached their lowest rate since his age-22 season in 2007-2008, and he just turned 28 last month.
The remaining players duking it out as the most underrated player heading into this upcoming season are two players that really get a lot of playing time in the offensive zone. Matt Moulson is the absolute definition of a late bloomer. After making his debut at age 24 and playing only 29 games in his first two seasons, he has missed only one game in his last four. Heading into his age-30 season, Moulson has become close to a point-per game player despite shooting less than 10% for the first time in his career. To go along with this, he will be on the last year of a very cheap 3 year, $9.4 million deal.
For Keith Yandle, he is entering this season with trade winds blowing through his hair. Even if it is a bringing in the future type of trade instead of a like for like type of trade, some will wonder why a key piece to Phoenix should be shipped at all. Despite his goals per game and shots per game rates hitting career highs, Yandle has not been exposed against tough competition and has always played the majority of his hockey on the offensive zone. Add the fact that he is getting little to no playing time on the penalty kill and turning 27 before the season starts and you have to wonder if Yandle should be more known as an “offensive quarterback” than a real defenseman.
Alexander Semin, Zach Parise, Mike Richards, Jeff Carter
The next list consists of players with giant contracts and question marks that are a bit too huge for them to make the top 50 and hitting their age 29-30 seasons. After years of being unfairly ridiculed as a soft player, Alex Semin found a new home in Carolina and immediately become one of the Hurricanes’ most important players. As a result, Semin received a 5 year/$35 million extension after years of only signing small expensive ones. But like his other years, Semin will forever be described as one that will never step up in big moments after Carolina collapsed in the latter stages of the regular season.
For Zach Parise, leadership and relentlessness will always be etched on his hockey card. But considering that he has this 13-year disgrace of a contract hanging over him, Parise will have to live up to every single dollar until he is 41 years old. With all this said, Parise has always been a volume shooter and will guarantee you, at least, 30 goals a season. It’s his assist rate and shooting percentage that have gone down since he tore his meniscus in 2009 that will seperate him from being one of the best forwards in hockey.
Mike Richards and Jeff Carter will forever be linked. Both were drafted in the first round in 2003 by Philadelphia. Both players received contracts that last over 10 years but with small cap hits considering their talents. Then, both players were part of a three-team trade in the summer of 2011 that sent Carter to Columbus and Richards to Los Angeles. Both players started out miserable as the Kings were on the outside of the playoff picture and Carter was putting up his worst numbers since his second year in the league. Then, Carter was traded to Los Angeles in exchange for Jack Johnson and a conditional 1st round pick (this year’s #27 overall pick, Marko Dano). It took a while to bring the chemistry back, but once the 2012 playoffs came around, they have been reunited and the rest was history. Since then, the Kings have now become the masters of puck posession and put the Blackhawks to the test in their Western Conference finals showdown. Both Richards and Carter have now been in one Stanley Cup championship, two Stanley Cup finals, four conference finals and a combined 183 playoff games together. But since leaving Philadelphia, both players have been diminished to the second line and their minutes and production have gone down since. Who knows if these two players would have ever deserved long term contracts and the appreciation they will ever deserve.
I am kidding with Chris Stewart. He is just way too inconsistent for me to put on any portion of this list so far, but that was what Colorado thought of him and then up-and coming prospect Kevin Shattenkirk. Despite Shattenkirk starting so well that he finished the 2011 season as the second highest scoring defenseman on Colorado behind John-Michael Liles, the Avalanche decided to trade him, Stwart and that summer’s 2nd Round pick (Ty Rattie) to the St. Louis Blues for former #1 overall pick Erik Johnson, Jay McClement and their 2011 1st Round Pick (Duncan Siemens). Let’s break down this nightmare of a trade.
After having a disastrous 2012 season, Chris Stewart rebounded nicely last year to have 18 goals in 48 games last year, a pace that would have given him his first 30-goal season. Erik Johnson went from being the best defenseman on Colorado by default in 2012 to being demoted to the 2nd line. Jay McClement only lasted one more season with the Avalanche before signing with Toronto last offseason. As for Mr. Shattenkirk, he is now being counted on to put close to 10 goals and 40 points every season for the St. Louis Blues. His shots per game and assist rate have gone down and he has proven to be a poor playoff performer so far, but with a new 4 year, $17 million deal, Shattenkirk can rest a little easier and can patiently develop into a more sound defender.
Even if prospects Rattie and Siemens haven’t had any NHL playing time yet, that trade can be felt as well. Siemens is projected as a solid top four defensive pairing prospect, but nothing more than in the mold of a Barret Jackman type player. As for Ty Rattie, he was among the leading scorers for a loaded Portland Winterhawks team and could be a top six forward in the mold of a Tyler Ennis. So to break it down, Colorado received two defenceman who won’t be a core piece long term and a cup of coffee with a fourth line forward for one of the best puck moving blue liners and two top six forwards. We have not seen a trade this dumb since Nashville traded away Scott Hartnell and Kimmo Timmonen to Philadelphia. Good job, good effort Greg Sherman!!!
James Neal, Max Pacioretty
Think of these guys as the “last two out” if we want to use NFL training camp lingo on this. Yes, they are offensive wizards with high volume shots per game rates and both are considered bargains based that $6 million should be treated like bare minimum for a top 50 player according to capgeek. What separated Pacioretty and Neal from making the list is the lack of competition they play against. For Pacioretty, he was not able to register a single point in the playoffs and his playing time actually went DOWN despite being 24 years old. For James Neal on the other hand, he was fantastic in the playoffs with 6 goals and 10 points in 13 games, but his minutes also went down from last year and he’ll turn 25 next week. Either the coaches on both teams don’t utilize them as much as they should or they decided to not put them out their due to something that completely limits them. Who knows, but what I do know is that this is a question that has to be answered if Neal and Pacioretty want to make the top 50 next year.
50. Henrik Zetterberg
It was really hard for me to add him on the list because of his contract lasting until he’s 40 and that his shooting percentage is hitting the equivalent of a puck moving defenceman at 6.4%. With that said, you can’t deny his pedigree as a 2008 Stanley Cup Champion, Conn Smythe Winner and owner of 120 playoff games. Zetterberg is still a high volume shooter and despite his career low scoring rate, he produced a career high assist rate. But with such a long contract, one would hope the captain of the Red Wings’ puck luck would turn around fast.
49. Patrice Bergeron
Even though Patrice Bergeron will never post elite offensive numbers, he is the human switch blade. Tell him to dominate on the penalty kill and he’ll do that. Tell him to score big playoff goals time and time again, and he’ll do that. Most importantly, tell him to win faceoffs the likes of which we have not seen since Rob Brind’Amour and he’ll do that. He is the soul reason why I was inspired to write this blog post a few months back. A week later, he and the rest of Boston made sure Pittsburgh never won a faceoff ever again and dominated possession throughout the series. He is currently the best two way forward in hockey and Boston will never be the same without him. That is why he is worth an 8 year, $52 million extension that will last him until he is 36 years old.
The Stanley Cup Winner
48. Corey Crawford
Like I said, analyzing goalies is the worst, and Corey Crawford is reason number 1,000,000 for that. Within two years, Crawford has went from being a major weakness to a key ingredient of not just a cup contender, but a potential dynasty in the Chicago Blackhawks. The franchise has spent the last four seasons showing the NHL how you win the Stanley Cup the “right way”: by stockpiling on talent through the draft, doing whatever you can to not overpay your best players and most importantly, never ever ever EVER overspend or give long contracts to goalies. Corey Crawford is the embodiment of the “Blackhawk Way” by being on the last year of only a 3 year, $8 million contract. He may leave for better pastures next summer, but I bet you Chicago will either draft his predecessor or spend less than $3 million a season on his veteran replacement. Besides, I wouldn’t write out the fact that Crawford might have earned an extra million dollars a year for his great motivational speaking.
Huge Defensemen with huge responsibilities on their shoulders
47. Zdeno Chara
With 1055 regular season games, 129 playoff games and the greatest Stanley Cup hoisting celebration of my lifetime, you would think Zdeno Chara’s body will begin to wear down as he’ll turn 37 in March. Instead, he is nothing short of a human metronome; constantly bringing his cannon ball slap shot and logging over 27 minutes a night. He’ll still have to live up to his reputation as Jeremy Jacobs will have to pay him 5 more years with a $6.5 million cap hit. Can he do it while keeping the Bruins window alive, or will the window shut along with his career? Stay tuned.
46. Dan Girardi
Meanwhile, the much younger version of Chara will forever be away from the spotlight that will always shine on his much more dynamic defensive partner (more on that person in Part 2). I am sure that Dan Girardi will not care for that, as he will always be amongst the league leaders in blocked shots and doing whatever he can to shut down the best forwards in hockey (not to mention having the looks to get an acting role in the next “300” sequel). Girardi will enter the last year of a bargain of a 4 year, $13 million contract, and agents to many stay-at home defencemen will watch to see how the market will go in the near future.
Twins on the last year of their deals
45. Daniel Sedin
44. Henrik Sedin
For the 1,000,000th time, we have to put the Sedin twins together for any list that involves them. I know, it’s like telling a “knock knock” joke thousands of times, but you still have to consider that these two have been wanting to play together from day one in the NHL. Now they will be 33 in September and heading into the last year of their current contracts together. Despite the fact that Henrik and Daniel had their lowest shots per game average since the 2007-08 season and 2006-07 seasons respectively, Vancouver can not afford to lose them if they want to either continue their championship window or move on to the next era of Canucks hockey. With that said, new head coach John Tortarella knows a thing or two for putting off the team’s best offensive players, so who knows what will come out of this saga.
Big Contract forwards with questions
43. Nicklas Backstrom
It has been four years since we projected Nicklas Backstrom from becoming one of the best centermen in hockey. He still is a very talented player and among the most important pieces for the Washington Capitals, but he hasn’t come close to his 33-goal output from the 2009-2010 season. If anything, he had his lowest goals per game rate since his rookie season. However, he is still amongst the game’s best passers and he still at the peak of his career. Who knows if it is the concussion he suffered from 2012 or dealing with system adjustments from three head coaches in two years, but we still haven’t seen the best out of Nicklas Backstrom yet…and that’s a bit scary.
42. Corey Perry
Did you know that Corey Perry won the Hart Trophy in 2011? Neither did we because we wasted our time wondering when our beloved Sidney Crosby would come back from his devastating concussion or when Alex Ovechkin can get back to playing like the player he once was ever again. However, if you add the fact that he has never topped 76 points outside of the Hart Trophy winning season and you can see why Corey Perry doesn’t get the love he deserves. Did you know that in the last 45 years, Martin St. Louis was the only other forward to win the Hart Trophy in a non-shortened season to NOT hit 100 points in the same year, and that was in the last season of the infamous “dead puck era”. Now he has an 8 year, $69 million contract that will end when he is 36 years old. Good luck living up to that contract buddy.
41. Marian Hossa
To continue on the subject of “did you knows”, did you know that Marian Hossa will be 35 years old in January? With the way he has been playing all these years, I wouldn’t blame you if you didn’t. In the quietest way possible, Hossa has tallied 1018 games, 434 goals and 935 points in his career and doesn’t look to be slowing down anytime soon. Considering that right wing isn’t that talent laden of a position, Hossa can still hit elite status for quite a while longer. Since his debut season in 1997-98, only Joe Thornton, Jarome Iginla, Jaromir Jagr, Teemu Selanne and Daniel Alfredsson have had higher point totals than him. However, since he has played with five teams because of doing what he can to win a Stanley Cup (mission accomplished and then some!), he will unfairly not be considered a hockey legend. Even in today’s salary cap era, it is hard to be remembered without staying on one team or hitting your peak for one team. Hossa did neither, but have him stay in Chicago for the rest of his career and maybe something can happen. If things go his way, he won’t be the first hall of famer with such an interesting journey.
Young up and comers w/ $6 million a yr deals
40. Jordan Eberle
This list goes to two players who just received $6 million a year extensions in the offseason. Ever since he scored more goals than any Canadian in World Junior Championship play, expectations for Jordan Eberle have always been high. So far, Eberle has been living up to them. His shooting percentage fell to his career average, making you wonder if he’d be more of a 60 to 70-point player instead of an over 80-point one. But Eberle has all the time in the world to figure out how much his star will shine. With Taylor Hall, Nail Yakupov and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, he won’t be the center of attention. But with a new head coach, a new division, and fantastic additions in Boyd Gordon and David Perron, the pressure will be on Eberle to make Edmonton into a consistent playoff team. While Eberle turned 23 in May, another one won’t hit that mark until January.
39. Matt Duchene
Matt Duchene is one fast human being on skates. Matt Duchene was expected to be amongst the best scorers in hockey. Instead, Matt Duschene has not even hit the top-20…yet. After a disastrous 2012 season with 14 goals in only 58 games, Duchene rebounded with his highest goals per game season of his career in 2013 His shots per game rate was also a career high and is on the verge of becoming one hockey’s most dependable shooters while playing over 20 minutes a night for the first time in his career. Oh, and let’s not forget that his faceoff percentage hit a career high 54.6% last season. Now with Nathan Mackinnon as his new linemate and a new coaching staff, expect Duchene’s skills presented with such a furor that the league is not even close to prepare for. Add the fact that Duchene will be paid $33.5 million for the next six years versus Eberle’s $36 million and Duchene wins this matchup. Bonus points also go to Duchene for making such a generous gift to a young Bruins fan during his offseason.
38. Antti Niemi
Since becoming a full time NHL goaltender in 2009-2010, Antti Niemi has gone on to have success at such a rapid rate. A Stanley Cup championships, two conference finals, 56 playoff games and 213 regular season games later, Niemi is considered one of the biggest bargains in hockey as he enters the second to last year of a $3.8 million per year contract. As if this can not be beaten to the ground any further, you can not to afford to overpay or give such a long term deal to a starting goaltender that has any chance of not living up to it. San Jose never did that when signing him to only a one year deal in 2010 and then only paying him to such a cheap four year deal when he was 28 that it is only the 19th richest contract among goaltenders. Now San Jose gets bang for their buck and can spend all the money they needed on bringing back the Joe Pavelski’s, Logan Couture’s and any other pieces in which they want to use for the long term.
37. James Reimer
36. Braden Holtby
These two goaltenders are just destined to be together in these rankings. Both are comically making less than $2 million per year and are always seeing their statuses as being starting goaltenders placed under question every single season. For Holtby, it is the fact that his challenger, Michal Neuvirth will be making $700,000 more per year than him for the next two years. For Reimer, it is the fact that Dave Nonis thought it was a good idea to see if Roberto Luongo was available at the right price at the trade deadline and then trading one top tier backup goaltender in Ben Scrivens, for an even better one in Jonathan Bernier this offseason. Yes, Reimer suffered a concussion in 2012 that could have affected him in the long term and Toronto has not seen any sign of world class goaltending since the final years of Ed Belfour, but give the man a break. In fact, Toronto needs to give him so much a break that it needs to avoid continuing to pepper Reimer with his current career average of 32 shots per 60 minutes. Meanwhile, Holtby has already seen 21 playoff games and could be a darkhorse candidate to win the starting goaltender job for Canada in the upcoming Olympics. Holtby too has faced a high amount of shots at 31 per 60 minutes and has saved 92.3% of them in his career so far. All these two men need is some time, space and maybe a little raise in the long term and they’ll find a way to live up to their full potential.
Big big BIG Contracts!!!!
35. Kris Letang
Now we get to a section of the top 50 that I flat out hate. If it was any other time, we will constantly ridicule their contracts and say that they will never live up to it, but we can’t because these players are at the prime of their careers and are among the best players in the league. The first one is end of discussion, the best offensive defenseman in hockey in Kris Letang. So why is he so low? That will be because after next season, he will be paid $58 million in the next 8 years after missing 44 games in the last two seasons due to injury. Yes, Letang is hitting the peak of his powers at 26 and his playing time has increased every season, but he needs to stay on the ice and prove that he can play at an elite level and get Pittsburgh to championship status.
34. Rick Nash
Rick Nash is one of the greatest mysteries in hockey. To say he is built like a locomotive with tentacle arms at 6’4″ and 219 pounds is an understatement. He was one of the keys to Canada winning the Olympic gold medal and finally had his chance to get out of the shadows of Columbus and into the limelight of New York City. He had his best regular season since 2008-09…and then the playoffs happened. While having 310 goals in 718 regular season games, Nash only has 2 goals in 16 games right now. One can hope that Nash’s 3.6% career shooting percentage during the playoffs will regress to his 12.6% regular season mean, especially considering that his playoff shots per game rate (3.43) is close to the same as his regular season rate (3.42). With five years left on an 8 year, $62.4 million deal, the Rangers would hope so and fast.
33. Shea Weber
Until this year, Shea Weber was considered the consensus best all-around defenseman in hockey. It was why it came as no surprise that his contract would go for something as outrageous as 14 years and $110 million; easily the most expensive contract amongst all defensemen. Even if Philadelphia made the offer, Nashville had no choice but to match it if they ever wanted to matter in the hockey universe. But as a result of a contract that will last until Weber is 42, the expectations for him to lift the Predators to such great heights every year will be put on him, fairly or unfairly. The sad truth is that Weber did not live to those standards. So while Nashville will continue to have Barry Trotz on the bench with little to no goal scoring whatsoever, Weber will hope to tap into his inner Chris Chelios.
32. Duncan Keith
Even after winning his second Stanley Cup, one has to wonder if Duncan Keith is beginning to slow down, numbers wise. Since his Norris Trophy winning season in 2010, he has not even come close to scoring double digit goals. His assist per game rate was the highest since that 2010 season, but his shots per game rate is no longer at two per game. Now he will be hitting his age-30 season after playing over 23 minutes a night for every season and only missing 15 games his entire career. Can he maintain being an elite and injury free defenseman with 10 years left on a 13 year, $72 million contract? We shall see.
31. Ryan Suter
After many year’s of being linemates with Shea Weber, Ryan Suter decided to not be a part of Nashville’s core and create a new one in his hometown team in Minnesota. By doing so, he received the SECOND highest contract amongst defensemen at 13 years and $98 million. Unlike Weber, Suter was easily the Wild’s best player and helped guide them to their first playoff appearance since 2008. Add the fact that he was able to gel so well with 19-year old sensation Jonas Brodin (one to watch out for in these rankings in the future) and this is why he is higher than Weber.
30. Claude Giroux
After being in the shadow of Mike Richards and Jeff Carter in the beginning of his career, Claude Giroux exploded in 2012 with 65 assists and 93 points in 77 games. He did not come close to those numbers in 2013 after a rough start, but picked it up with 34 assists and 47 points in 48 games. It was also the first time Giroux had a season where he shot less than 10%. If things improve to the mean, Giroux will bounce back and get back to his 25-30 goal self. He will have to do that as the Flyers gave him an 8 year, $66.2 million extension coming into the 2014 season.
29. Ryan Getzlaf
After having a horrifically unlucky 2012 season, Ryan Getzlaf bounced back and hit his career high goals per game rate at 0.34, good enough for 26 goals in an 82 game season. His 34 assists and 49 points in 44 games were also enough to get close to his career norms. Like his teammate, Corey Perry, Getzlaf will be starting an 8 year contract in which he will be relied upon as Anaheim’s best playmaker and their captain.
Another Stanley Cup winner
28. Brent Seabrook
By being a fellow puck mover with Duncan Keith in Chicago’s first line pairing, Brent Seabrook has had a brilliant career and is showing no signs of slowing down. At age 29, he is at year three of a cheap 5 year, $29 million contract. If 2013 was not a lockout-shortened season, Seabrook would have hit double digit goals for the first time in his career. With that said, his shots per game rate was a career low, but his shooting percentage was a career high. Oh puck luck. No matter what the numbers say, Seabrook has now been through it all. He’s one an Olympic gold medal for Canada in 2010 with hopefully a second on the way in 2014. He was a member of Canada’s greatest junior team in 2005. He’s won in two Stanley Cup finals and been to three conference finals appearances and possibly counting. Chicago should be happy to have a player as talented as him have such a low contract.
Coming Soon: Part 2 of the DCSportsDork’s 2013 NHL Trade Value Rankings