A couple of bits are causing some consternation in Flamesland these days – specifically my takes on TJ Brodie and Keegan Kanzig.
For Brodie, there’s a lot of push back on my interest in inking him long-term. Not an unreasonable reaction to tell you the truth – the issue at the heart of the debate is risk vs reward. If you don’t rate Brodie as I do or are uncomfortable with the level of risk involved, you won’t have much interest in a 7-year type commitment. And fair enough.
I’ll say again I don’t think a short-term bridge deal is a necessarily a bad play and if the Flames go that direction (which I assume they will), I won’t be upset. My presumption is there’s more upside to be ahd in locking him down long-term and buying UFA years cheaply now versus what I assume they will cost down the road.
Let’s put it another way – 7 years sounds like a long time, but Brodie is in RFA territory for the next 5 years of his career anyways – meaning the Flames will almost certainly be paying him something between now and when he can potentially go UFA. The extra commitment in a 7 year deal is the additional 2 years which are completely optional from the team and player perspective.
So the key question on a long-term deal based on the parameters I previously established are:
1.) How much more expensive is Brodie at 3.5M/year versus a cheaper, bridge contract?
2.) Will Brodie be cheaper/more expensive than 3.5M to re-sign as an RFA after the bridge deal expires?
3.) How much will it cost to buy Brodie’s UFA seasons in the future vs now?
Personally, I think there’s a non-trivial chance given Brodie’s underlying numbers, his comparables and a raising cap that he costs more than 3.5M post-bridge contract. If Brodie is top-3 on the Flames blueline in terms of ice time and points for the next couple of seasons, his future pricetag rises incrementally with each step closer he gets to unrestricted free agency.
One need not compare Brodie to PK Subban, Alex Pietrangelo or Drew Doughty to project a future 5M+ cap hit. There are defenders in the league who make five bills or more who aren’t perennial all-stars or established, high impact first pairing guys. For example, James Wisniewski ($5.5M), Matt Carle ($5.5M), Paul Martin ($5M), Alexander Edler ($5M), Mark Streit ($5.75M), Tobias Enstrom ($5.75M), Tyler Myers ($5.5M) and of course Oliver Ekman-Larsson ($5.25M). While some of these guys resigned as UFA’s, keep in mind the closer a player gets to UFA in the current market, the more likely a team is to pay UFA market price to retain the player. The Kris Letang extension is a recent example of this effect.
In addition, many of these players were inked when the cap was lower. Cap Geek has a list including their percentage of cap hit in the first year each deal was signed, with the range settling between 6.77% and 9.33%. If Brodie’s bridge last two years and he is a top-3 blueliner for the Flames over that period, it’s not outrageous to assume he could settle into 6.5-7% of cap ceiling territory. That would put his next deal conservatively at $4.5-$5M, depending on where the cap settles out two or three years from now.
So that’s where I am coming from on this issue. Again, if Calgary inks him for something $1.75M for the next two years, it’s not a terrible move. They’ll likely get really good value out of him during the contract at that price and the deal protects them should he take a step backward or fail to actually develop any further. On the other hand, if he continues his rapid ascent up the depth chart and especially if he gets a 35-40 point season under his belt, look for his pricetag to probably triple when the bridge ends.
– On a related note, it’s ironic that the Josi contract put me in mind of this deal for Brodie because I don’t actually like the contract for Roman Josi. He is the same age as Brodie, played roughly the same number of games and appeared on Nashville’s first pairing last year, but his underlying numbers are nowhere near as good. As a rookie his possession rates were meh. With Weber on the top pairing this past year, he mostly got beat up. Oh, and when he wasn’t skating with Weber, his rates were even worse.
Josi is also getting $4M/year from the Preds which I would consider on the high side for Brodie (3.5M or less would be my comfort zone for him at 7 years), making it an even worse bet.
– Next, my panning of the Keegan Kanzig pick. It’s true I had not seen the player play when the Flames called his name in the third round. It’s possible though not probable he’s a diamond in the rough like Zdeno Chara, rather than a immobile goonish type player. If so, I will naturally be thrilled if Kanzig turns out to be a monster shut-down guy in the show and perhaps that sort of upside is worth tossing a long-bomb in the third round now and then.
But I’m not sure some folks realize just how long of a long-shot Kanzig is.
Third rounders make it to the NHL at a rate of about 10-15% overall. If we limit our investigations to defenders – specifically, defenders who score at a low rate like Kanzig, the odds shift to lottery ticket territory. I noted this article on defenseman scoring in junior and future NHL success around the time of the draft, but failed to link to the follow-up which includes a few more details.
Here’s the key graph from that post:
This shows all the defenders picked in the 51-100 range from the CHL between 1999-2008. As you see, this where a lot of the low scoring guys tend to get chosen. As you can also see, not one of them who scored anywhere near Kanzig’s rate (0.1 points-per-game) played a meaningful number of games in the show. One guy managed just north of 20% of all games available, but most of them cluster around never even getting a cup of coffee.
Considering the entire data set (including first and second rounders), there was one successful pick of 105 players over a near decade of drafts who scored between 0-0.2 PPG and crossed the 40% game played threshold (but not 50%) highlighted in the graph. That’s a success rate of less than 1%.
Furthermore, you can count on one hand the number of very big men (over 240 pounds) who have been useful at the NHL level beyond the mucker/goon role since the first lock-out in 2004: Zdeno Chara, Dustin Byfuglien, Andy Sutton and Hal Gill – and I’m stretching things a bit to include Gill and Sutton who were mostly 3rd pairing guys. Tyler Meyers is in the conversation as well given his height, although he’s not quite 240+ (yet).
It’s a short list not only because men of that size are rare, but because huge dudes are often hampered by issues of speed, agility and dexterity. While hockey is a game of strength, violence and intimidation, it is also a game of speed, agility, decision-making and split second reactions. Just as small guys tend to have challenges at the one end of the spectrum, giant man mountains tend to struggle at the opposite end.
Of course, none of this means Kanzig won’t be that rare outlier like Chara because sometimes you win the lottery. From the available data, though, it currently seems like the Flames converted a 10-15% chance at an NHL player to a less than 1% chance for the privilege of wishing on that outcome.