Random Thoughts – Probably Should have Signed Brodie Long Term


Most of you probably missed it, but the Carolina Hurricanes re-signed young defender Justin Faulk to a 6-year, $4.83 million deal at the end of March. That’s significant because Faulk is a strong comparable to the Flames own T.J. Brodie.

And THAT’S significant because when Brodie was re-signed last summer, the length and amount of his potential new deal was a contentious point in Calgary. The Flames came out and said they were only interested in a short-term, bridge type deal. I came out and elucidated why I thought it would make sense to lock-up Brodie with a Roman Josi (and now Justin Faulk) like contract and was literally called insane by some of the, err, more legitimate media members here in town.

Less than one year out and a player the same age and with comparable (although not quite as impressive) results signs long-term for nearly 5 bills a year. It will only take a bit of a cap increase and another marginal step forward by Brodie next year to get him over that threshold.

So who is crazy now?

– I mentioned this comparable on twitter at the time and some balked at my mentioning Brodie in the same company as Faulk, but the truth is TJ is probably the better player. Here is each guy’s pertinent numbers this year for example:

Player Points ES ice PP ice TOTAL ice rel corsi qual comp ZS%
Justin Faulk 28 18:52 2:09 23:20 3.4 29.3 52.7
TJ Brodie 30 20:14 1:48 24:03 8.5 29.6 42.1

In the table: points, even strenght ice time per game, PP ice per game and total ice per game. After that we have relative corsi (possession rate) and quality of competition and zone start.

As you can see, Brodie has scored more, played more and played in more difficult circumstances than Faulk. The Flames youngster starts way more often in his own zone, plays less on the powerplay and drives possession to a greater degree.

This isn’t meant to denounce Faulk, who is a pretty good player at 23 years old. It’s just to show that Brodie’s results are not only comparable but at least as good, if not superior.

– That means Brodie will probably be worth whatever he gets in his next deal anyways, so the news isn’t terrible. Unfortunately, the club likely could have had him at a steep discount if they had been willing to take a bit of gamble on the kid last off-season.

– I’m not going to say much about the Maple Leafs collapse except this – those of you who sent me messages and comments talking about how Toronto had exposed the short-comings of possession-based analysis owe me an apology 😉

– Nominally connected to the Brodie discussion is this article from Tyler Dellow, looking at Dallas Eakins struggle to reconcile the old school hunger for big, tough defensemen with the emerging trend towards the more nimble, puck moving types (like Brodie).

I mention this because watching the Brodie and Mark Giordano become perhaps the best first pairing the club has seen since Lepold and Regehr, it struck me that this is the dawning of the age of the puck mover. Once upon a time the prototypical defenseman was the hulking behemoth (think: Derian Hatcher) who could clear the crease and put the fear of god into opposition forwards.

As evidenced by the Eakins struggle in the linked piece, that mindset still kind of exisits, but I think it is rapidly receding before mounting evidence. Duncan Keith might win his second Norris trophy this year. A glance at the best defenders in the league and numerous top pairings around the NHL almost universally yields players who can skate and move the puck. On the other hand, there are very few plodding “defensive defensemen” at the top of the rotation anymore. Even the few bigger bodies appearing atop the average total ice charts are also guys who can move the puck or score.

Which isn’t to say tough or mean guys don’t belong in the league anymore. It’s just those can’t be your only – or even primary – assets as a blueliner anymore.

– Finally, it’s kind of hilarious that the Flames are trying to lose and their goalies are thwarting the tank job by standing on their heads. I don’t mean the org is telling their guys to take a dive or anything, but the personnel decisions are clearly, um, more geared towards “player evaluation” than to icing an optimized line-up. The entire bottom half of Calgary’s roster is below replacement level (rookies and enforcers galore) and last night I saw Brian McGrattan on the ice in the final minute of one goal game for the first time…well, ever.

Not that I’m condemning the Flames for their roster decisions. There’s absolutely no reason for vets to be playing through injuries or for Hartley to shorten the bench given the incentives the team faces, but it’s a bit of a cruel joke to see Ramo and MacDonald putting up first star performances when the games don’t matter (and, in fact, wins are technically not ideal).

Oh well. The one bit of good news about this is that Ramo’s numbers are starting to look at least like an average NHL starter. His ES SV% is now .923 on the season, which puts him right inside the top-15 amongst goalies who have played at least 30 games this year.

That said, Ramo has only seen about 700 shots at ES so far, which is still a relative drop in the bucket sample size wise when trying to nail down a goalie’s true talent level. It’s a good sign, however.

  • Byron Bader

    Nice read, Kent.

    McGrattan was on the ice for the final minute last night when the Devils, playoff hopeful, were coming from every angle trying to tie it. They’re doing everything they can to get that 4th overall pick. I guess 5 it is.

    Forget Leopold and Reggie, I think Brodano might be the best pairing the Flames have had since MacInnis and Sutter. They are truly incredible together.

  • SmellOfVictory

    It’s killing me to think that the Flames were so close to picking 4th overall, only to have my hopes dashed by goaltenders. Not only that, but the fact that one of these draft killer games was won by Joey MacFreakingDonald is what really gets me.

    On Brodie: I do think he’s better than Faulk, but there is the distinct possibility (likelihood, even) that his better numbers look so much better because of Giordano. I don’t know who Faulk plays with for Carolina, but whoever it is, they’re not as good as Gio is.

  • Parallex

    I’ll cop to being one of the folk that wasn’t in favor of giving Brodie the Josi type contract last offseason… although I wouldn’t have said it was insane. I just like to air on the side of more information and Brodie hadn’t yet played a full season in the big league. Looks like I was wrong… although Brodie will still be an RFA so we’ll have some leverage in extension talks which I would hope would be hammered out at the earliest opportunity.

    Nice to see Ramo rounding into a legit starting NHL goalie. He’s another guy I want to see extended once the window for extensions opens next season. I feel that with Ramo & Ortio we can likely expect at least league average goaltending.

  • Bean-counting cowboy

    I agreed with you then. I agree with you now. When will the MSM wake up to advanced metrics in a more appreciable way?

    The Brian Burke built Maple Leafs are still a hot mess and I think Burke still wants the bruising shut-down defender. Scares the hell out of me.

  • Burnward

    Can’t have it both ways guys.

    We deride Edmonton for overpaying their kids too soon, and rightfully so, but Brodie’s earning his money.

    This is exactly what should happen to young players. He’s learning to work like a pro and get better…and then get paid.

    There is no negative here.

    • SmellOfVictory

      They didn’t overpay their kids too soon; they overpaid SOME of their kids, period. Gagner: overpaid in spite of a very long and clear track record of mediocrity. Eberle: overpaid because of a career season.

      Hall was not overpaid. In fact I’d say the only mistake the Oilers made with Hall was not making his contract longer. RNH, I’d argue, also not overpaid.

      Also, there is negative in the missed opportunity to get better value for a high end player like Brodie. Every 500k or million that you can shave off a core player’s contract adds up very quickly in cap space to strengthen the supporting cast of the team.

  • Tenbrucelees

    First, congratulations on the prediction that it would cost the Flames a lot more dough to sign Brodie should he have a good year.

    Second, congratulations to TJ for having the kind of year that points to a much higher contract.

    Given the decision made by the management at the time, I have no problem with the result.

    The Flames have nurtured one of their own draft choices into a solid NHL defenceman, bookended with another homegrown guy, undrafted Mark Giordano.

    May we see more and more of this scenario play out over the next few years.

  • Tenbrucelees

    agree 110% with Burnward.

    this was brodie’s first real contract. no reason to overpay a guy based on half a season of tryouts. big mistake to let those youngsters think that they can just collect their paychecks doing jack all. they gotta work for it and earn it – i believe the coilers are trying to help us here. there’s a lot of good to be learned (or a lot of bad to be avoided) by looking up north. may as well thank them and buy ’em a beer!

  • SmellOfVictory

    first, who says the kids in edm aren’t worth what they’re making? hall is 7th in points this year and the other two have scored at pretty close to a first line rate in the years before their scoring peak. why is it okay for them to make less than market value?

    second, people seriously think that having to commit more money to the player than you would have last summer over the same number of years is a good thing? why?

    • mattyc

      Well for one thing no one can see into the future.

      And for all we know, the Flames *did* offer a longer term contract, but Brodie’s agent refused, because he thought that Brodie could earn more later on?

      • Tenbrucelees

        what does that even mean? everyone has to predict the future, that’s how contracts work. fact: all three players are at least within league minimum of what they should be paid based on production. you can’t argue that those contracts aren’t at least reflective of their actual value.

        feaster explicitly said this summer that a longer term deal wasn’t in the picture.

        • You can see into the future? I need some cash, can you what I should pick for Sport Select today?

          Believe it or not, the future is not **precisely** predicable. You’re blaming the Flames for hedging?

          Good grief, there’s a career awaiting you consisting of getting whacked by commodities futures.

          If that is what Feaster explicitly said, then you realize that doesn’t actually mean the Flames didn’t offer him a long term contract, right?

    • Tenbrucelees

      simple. You are paying for a message that is being sent to the players. “you earn your money” It is a financial investment. The team is investing real money into a mentality that is intangible.

          • ChinookArchYYC

            no, hall, not brodie, but the concept is the same. prove that a players production goes down if he gets a contract before he earns it. otherwise it doesn’t matter.

            my contention is that a player is going to be good or is going to be bad regardless of his contract’s value. unless you can find some patterns to make me think otherwise, I will continue to believe this.

      • SmellOfVictory

        Agree. Brodie has earned every nickel of his increase & if we wind up signing him to a new 5-6 year deal at 5.0-5.5 mill per, so what? If we had given him 4 mill per year for 5 years last year & Brodie underwhelmed, the vultures on this sight would have been circling, especially one buzzard would have dedicated 5 things to pick at that potential CSI event.

        Wish we had a crystal ball.

        • SmellOfVictory

          except we knew he was going to be at least a first pairing defenseman as far back as 2012 so that doesn’t really hold water. show me something that proves a players production goes down if he’s given a contract before he “earns it”. otherwise, that argument is bull.

          • ChinookArchYYC

            it’s not about players performance going down because of the contract. It’s about players given money they haven’t deserved/earned thereby increasing the risk of their contract being a burden.

            Ganger, Alex Burrows, Alexi Yashin … the NHL is littered with players that have contracts they don’t deserve. Waiting until a player has proven his quality of play is a way of mitigating risk, not eliminating it.

          • Parallex

            burrows and yashin both earned those contracts though, right? both were really good players when they signed and were making less than they could have previously. I’m not sure how you can say they didn’t earn paydays. what about the guys who are underperforming league minimum contracts?

            seems to me that a pretty good way of mitigating risk is to sign a first pairing defenseman who’s 23 at below market value for as long as possible instead of paying him more the very next year

  • Derzie

    Why do you care so much what Brodie gets paid? We are not a cap team, you’re not an owner or a player. It is irrelevant. What is important is that he is here and contributing. His compensation affects no one but him and his boss.

  • ChinookArchYYC

    Thanks to FN and then Extra Skater, I will likely win a nice bet. Before the season started, I put a bet on Toronto NOT making the playoffs this year. At the time, my buddy thought he was stealing from me.

  • ChinookArchYYC

    “- I’m not going to say much about the Maple Leafs collapse except this – those of you who sent me messages and comments talking about how Toronto had exposed the short-comings of possession-based analysis owe me an apology ;)”

    Don’t blame the math or the messenger, blame your crappy team.
    “Corsi begets scoring chances, scoring chances beget goals”

  • Byron Bader

    so what happens if the Flames signed Brodie to a 6 year 5 mill contract and he took a massive step back this year or next year in his development. It turns out last year was an anomaly. Then the flames are in an even worse cap situation.

    • Byron Bader

      but we knew he wasn’t going to do that because he had proven himself to be a first pairing defenseman. market value last year was more like 7×4.5. look at gryba and josi. you think brodie is going to take 4.5 long term next summer? hell to the no.

      • ChinookArchYYC

        you can only say you knew he was a 1st pairing defenceman because of what he’s done this year. 45 games last year is too small of sample to determine.

        • Byron Bader

          45? try 104 dude. more than an entire seasons worth of data saying that there continued to be improvement culminating in last year. literally his entire career we’ve upped expectations. I wrote an article before last season showing that he was comparable to or better than oel. he’s been first pairing for a while.

        • mattyc

          I think that’s a fair point. It wasn’t a certainty that Brodie was going to be first pairing this season. There was certainly an element of risk in tying him in long-term, and it could have back-fired.

          Having said all that, the argument, which I think is a good one, is that the available information we had pointed (pretty strongly) towards Brodie being a very capable defensemen. Given that, an aggressive approach in lowering Brodie’s long-term cap hit could have theoretically given us space to add a player we otherwise won’t have the cap space to add.

          More generally, the conservative decision that was made last year with Brodie’s contract (and Subban’s before that etc. etc. etc.) is symptomatic of (imo) a GM climate where you are rewarded in short time scales (a couple years). For example, if Feaster had signed Brodie long-term, and the risk didn’t pay off (against the odds), it looks bad on him. On the other hand, if he makes the long term contract, and Brodie plays well in years 3-5 (outperforming his cap hit), Feaster looks good, but by that point he’s probably gone anyways. Add to that, that if Brodie would have struggled in his first year of a long term and underperforms his contract (even if he outperforms it over the life of the deal), Feaster still looks bad.

      • The Last Big Bear

        Really? How? Brodie had “proven himself to be a first pairing defenceman.” This is a stretch. Brodie has had decent progression and he’s going to be a good defenceman but on most decent teams, he’s a 3 or 4 d-man at best. Give him two or three years and he might develop into a legitimate 1/2 but reallity check for those who think he would be a top pairing guy on teams like LA, St. Louis or Boston. So when we say he’s a top pairing guy, let’s also include the caveat that it’s with a Flames team that has Wideman in a 3/4 spot.

          • Parallex

            I would certainly argue against that.

            Boston –> Chara & Seidenberg(who’s actually injured)

            Montreal–> Subban & Markov

            LA –> Doughty and Muzzin (kinda iffy with Muzzin)

            PHX–> Ekman-Larsson & Yandle

            CHI–> Keith & Seabrook

            MIN–> Suter & Brodin

            NSH–> Weber & Josi

            STL–> Bouwmeester & Pietrangelo

            Above are the only teams in the entire league who I believe have 2 defence man who regularly play TOGETHER that are both better than Brodie. Only 8 pairings. In fact, there are some like Seidenberg and Josi who I believe are basically the same, if not worse than TJ, but I included them just to create a more balanced picture.

            A lot of teams have 1 really good defence man( Mcdonaugh on NYR, Letang on PIT, Kronwall on DET, Vlasic on SJ, Karlsson on OTT, Hamhuis on VAN), but they lack another one to match, which Brodie would provide. For example, would you rather have Brodie or Girardi (NYR), or Orpik(PIT), J.Ericsson(DET), 37 year old Dan Boyle (SJ), Methot (OTT), Bieksa (VAN)?

            Some teams have more established guys than Brodie, but are they better? I’m talking about guys like Bieksa, Campbell, Beauchemain, Streit, Phaneuf, etc.?

            When it comes down to it, I believe TJ Brodie would be a first pairing guy on a lot of teams in the NHL, even at this stage of his career.

        • Parallex

          I’d conceed that he wouldn’t be a top pairing guy… easily conceed that… on St. Louis but after Doughty and Chara who do LA and Boston have that is indisputably better?

  • Byron Bader

    I can see both sides. But one thing to consider … lets say we signed Brodie to the Faulk deal ($4.8M x 6 years – $29M in total). Or alternatively to the Josi deal ($4M x 7 years – $28M total). On the flip side, we sign Brodie to the contract he’s on now ($2.125M x 2 years – $4.25M) and then go on to sign him to a six year deal half way through next year. Assume the cap’s going up and he gets a little bit more than Faulk so ($5.5M x 6 years – $33M) – $37.25M in total. Because he’s already got those two cheap years at the start, for comparison to Faulk, we can look at just the 1st 4 years of Brodie’s new deal and omitting the last 2 from the calculation. So we end up with paying $29M compared to $26.25M. In the Josi case, you can shave a year off so $28M compared to $27.5M. Unless Brodie turns into Erik Karlsson next year and earns himself $7M+ a year than it looks like it basically balances out, if not slightly coming out ahead by signing him to the bridge deal. I mean you get a slightly higher cap hit later on signing him to the later contract but it’s not a back breaker.

    • ChinookArchYYC

      I think you’re taking more ufa years away from brodie on a long term contract now so you’ll have to pay a little extra later. flames can afford to pay extra now because they’re not a cap team. won’t be as okay to pay extra (relatively) when they are a cap team in two seasons.

      • Byron Bader

        IMO – They will not be a cap team in two seasons unless they make some really, really bad UFA signings for too much term this summer and next. As Monahan, Baertschi, Gaudreau come to term, other guys will be coming off the books and more youth should be ready to play. Paying Brodie $5.5M compared to $4M in a year will not break the bank. Especially with the cap going up exponentially.

  • Byron Bader

    When you look at the CSS rankings, it appears that it’s a bit of a crapshoot anyway. Two guys that Calgary could end up with at no. 5 (Reinhart or Draisaitl) were ranked 1 and 2 at one point in the season. Barring Calgary running the table, or someone winning the lottery, we appear to be a lock at 5 and end up with a good pick.

  • oldtimehockey4

    I said at the time, and I still stand by it, the bridge contract was the better option. If he doesn’t play like he is this year, you’re happy that you don’t have him locked up long term, and if he plays like he is right now, and continues to improve next year, you will be happy to have to give the money that is deserved, because you will be sure you have a top 2 defenseman on your team.

    He still hadn’t had a full season to judge him on last summer, it would have been foolish to lock him up long term without a larger sample size to see if he was the real thing. Now the Flames can be more comfortable to have him part of the core for the long haul.

  • TheRealPoc

    As always, nice job Kent.

    The only nice thing about the Brodie situation – aside from the fact that he’s becoming an elite top pairing blueliner in front of our eyes – is our ability to accommodate whatever salary inflation this ahead-of-schedule emergence might cost us, with relative ease. As long as the final term isn’t ridiculous, I’m fine with Brodie surpassing the Josi/Faulk deals in AAV; quite frankly, it’s very likely he’s better than both of them anyways.

  • RexLibris

    Great read, Kent.

    On Eakins, it was interesting that it was in response to Mark Spector, someone who has been critical of Jeff Petry as being “too soft” as a defenseman.

    On Brodie, the Flames will need to pay him more but this also offers an opportunity. They can offer him a significant increase (in the Faulk range or higher) but at the same time demand something in return like a longer term. It also could allow them to set a line in the sand with his contract, using it as a signpost for future contracts.

    On the Flames drafting 5th, the downside is that the Flames may have to settle with selecting the best prospect from a group that the first four teams have picked over and so doesn’t allow for preferential selection – maybe. We don’t know what the Flames’ draft board is going to look like.

    The possible upside is that the Flames could also benefit from someone falling at the draft and in either case, selecting fifth in a draft considered by many to be five deep isn’t a catastrophe.

    Were a team above them in the standings to win the draft lottery and knock them back to sixth, though, that would be a significant setback.

  • TheRealPoc

    I don’t know why people think Faulk signed a discount deal. He is in the top 30 in terms of cap hit among D-men in the entire NHL and he is signed a long term deal. If anything the guy is overpaid.

    Overpaying your kids in anticipation of what they may become is a piss poor way to build a team. So is using a crystal ball to take gambles on big long term deals. Kids need to earn their contracts. I don’t want the entitled culture in Calgary.

    Besides, who said Brodie had any interest in signing a long term contract with a “steep discount”? I wouldn’t have if I was him.

    • Parallex

      For argument’s sake, by the time a guy has “earned” a significant raise, his prime years could only be for a few more years. If a guy was 25 by the time he earned his big deal, and was signed for 7-8 years, that would take him to 32-33 years old. Who knows how long it would take for his performance to start to fall? Perhaps the guy you extended at 25 for 7-8 years begins to decline at age 31; you then have a bad contract, which still lasts for 1-2 years. By that time, a rebuilding team (like the Flames currently are now) should certainly be a contending team. A bad contract would limit their financial flexibility.

      Hope that made an ounce of sense lol. Confused myself.

  • TheRealPoc

    yup now MacDonald wants to be a goalie and start stealing games. Just another year in the life of this more often than not Bass Ackwards outfit! Good to be a Flames fan! lol

  • The Last Big Bear

    I’m with the Nations’ dudes on this one, 100%.

    The only way the Flames lose on a long-term deal for Brodie is if he not only regressed significantly, but then STAYED regressed for the duration of a long term contract.

    That was quite unlikely.

    Brodie turning down a long-term deal would have been retarded.

    “Hey, I could just take this $25m cash in hand, and be set for life… OR… I could sign a bridge contract, which is effectively gambling $20+ million dollars in the hopes of a potential payoff of and extra 3 or 4 million if all goes well. Hurr da durr.”