Ian White was almost certainly the best part of the return that the Flames obtained in the Dion Phaneuf transaction this past January. The Steinbach, MB. native moved into Phaneuf’s first pairing slot alongside Robyn Regehr with minimal fuss, finishing his stay in Calgary with 4 G, 9 A and a +7 rating in 27 games. White is a RFA this summer, and recent rumblings suggest that he could be headed to arbitration next month. In the spirit of past efforts from Japers’ Rink and Copper and Blue, we now offer a mock arbitration for the Flames’ rearguard. I’ll present the case for White, followed by Kent Wilson’s argument on behalf of the club.
Brief on behalf of the player (Ian White):
Ian White is a mobile top-four defenceman that completed his fourth full NHL season in 2009/2010. He possesses above-average skating, passing and shooting skills for a NHL defenceman, and has been relatively durable, missing only 18 games in his career. Over those four seasons he has consistently played against top six forwards, with the QComp numbers for 2008/2009 and 2009/2010 suggesting his competition was upgraded to first-line level at even strength. Despite that level of competition, he is a career +15, with his only minus season occurring in 07/08, when the Maple Leaf goaltenders posted a sub .900 EV SV% behind him. His team also out-shoots the opposition, with his relative Corsi rating for 2009/2010 finishing at a fairly healthy level.
In terms of offensive production, Ian White has been a consistent EV scorer for his entire career. His EV point totals and league ranking amongst defencemen are as follows:
06/07 – 76 GP, 20 EV pts, 30th
07/08 – 81 GP, 20 EV pts, 25th
08/09 – 71 GP, 20 EV pts, 34th
09/10 – 83 GP, 29 EV pts, 5th
The points accrued were not merely accrued via assists, either. In 08/09, White finished tied for 4th amongst defencemen with 8 EV goals. This past season, he was tied for first in the league with 10. Over the last two seasons, only Shea Weber and Mike Green have totaled more than White’s 18 EV goals, each scoring 21. Given that EV play constitutes roughly 75% of time played in the NHL, a player who can produce at a high level during that game state is valuable to any NHL team, and Ian White has exhibited that skill four seasons running.
For the purposes of this exercise, four players from two different seasons have been selected. Dennis Wideman’s and Tim Gleason’s seasons from 07/08 will be used, along with the 08/09 seasons of Dennis Grebeshkov and Tobias Enstrom. All numbers are from Behind The Net. The Zone Start numbers are for regular D on their respective teams, with 1st representing hardest. Most teams will have 5/6 defencemen that play at least 10 EV minutes over at least 40 games. For Relative Corsi, 1st would represent the best number amongst that same peer group of defencemen. The salary numbers are what the players were paid in the following season.
|Qcomp||top pairing||top pairing||top pairing||2nd pairing||top pairing|
|ZoneStart||50.4 – 5th||47.5 – 1st||41.6 – 3rd||48.4- 3rd||57.9 – 7th *|
|Salary||3.9 M||2.75 M||3.75 M||3.1 M||TBA|
You’ll note the asterisk next to White’s ZoneStart number. BTN combined his full season numbers, but in the interests of fairness, it should be noted that White’s ZS during his 27 games in Calgary was 2nd toughest amongst the regular defencemen, trailing only Robyn Regehr.
As for the comparables, only Grebeshkov produced more at EV, but he did so against lesser competition, and his PDO number (combined EV SH % and SV%) suggest a player that benefited from more good fortune than White. It would be fair to say that in terms of productivity, Ian White is, at a minimum, in the range of these four players, and a legitimate argument is in place that he’s had a better platform year than any of them.
Ian White is a quality NHL defender, capable of playing against good competition on a nightly basis. He is, and has been, a consistent performer at EV, as well as showing worthwhile PP skills. Given his career numbers and his productivity relative to his peer group, a significant increase in his compensation is in order. With that in mind, a salary award of 3,500,000 for the 2010/2011 season appears to be a fair reflection of his value.
Brief on Behalf of the team (Calgary Flames):
Ian White is a valued asset to the Flames organization and the team hopes to come to an equitable agreement. However, White is also an undersized defender at 5’10" and 190 pounds and has some issues defending against the leagues bigger and stronger forwards. This is reflected in the fact that the he rarely played on the penalty kill during his time with Calgary (4:25 total). This year was also the first season in White’s career that he regularly faced top six opposition and though the results were good, the Flames contend that they were potentially aberrant and not truly indicative of the skater’s abilities. The team is thereore wary of overpaying for peak rather than actual performance.
While White was indeed deployed by the Toronto Maple Leafs as a top four defender, his circumstances were relatively soft nonetheless. White partnered with establshed players in Francois Beauchemin and Tomas Kaberle during his time there and had one of the easiest offensive to defensive face-off ratios on the team (60%) at even strength. In fact, that would have been a league leading zone start ratio had White remained in Toronto and continued to be fed the favorable starting postion – amongst regular NHL defenders, the Flames Adam Pardy finished with the highest offensive zone start in the league last year (58.8%).
Studies have shown that a relatively high amount of offensive zone draws tends to skew possession stats (corsi, shots) and counting stats (points, plus/minus) to the benefit of the player. The Flames contend that this was a primary driver of White’s 2009-10 totals in goals (13) and points (38) and even strength points (29), which stand in contrast to his career norms. Over three previous seasons, White averaged just six (6) goals and 24 points per year. Given the larger data set and the circumstances in question, these norms are likely a better representation of White’s abilities.
With the team’s contention in mind, comparables based on career average, rather than 2009-10 totals only, were sought out. In the interest of fairness, the Flames are willing to exclude White’s first season in the league (2005-06) and include the high water mark of 2009-10. Over four (4) seasons and 311 NHL games, White’s averages are presented below:
Comparables based on career averages include:
|Dan Hamhuis||Joe Corvo||James Wisniewski|
|2009-10 Salary||2.0 M||2.625 M||2.337 M|
*Wisniewski’s 2005-06 season was limited and therefore excluded
The Flames believe these players are compable to Ian White across a number of dimensions:
1.) Career norms fall within range.
2.) Similar types of player, with relatively comparable levels of competition and amount of minutes per game.
3.) Contract level. The salaries listed for Hamhuis and Wisniewski above were the second significant contract of each player’s career, negotiated when they were approaching restricted free agency. It should also be noted that Corvo’s salary is highest, but was granted via unrestricted free agency and was therefore based on a larger, more established body of work. He also possesses the highest point average amongst the comparables.
Ian White is a defender with a single season of truly noteworthy results. The Flames contend that that single season is not grounds for a four-fold increase in compensation given his physical limitations, prior results, circumstances in Toronto and peers in terms of both performance and contract level. As such, the team believes that a contract of 2,350,000 for 2010-2011 is a fair reflection of his value.