Stajan Extended, Hartley Fined


(courtesy uiowa.edu)

A bit of news coming down yesterday that merits some attention.

The Flames signed centre Matt Stajan to a four-year contract extension worth an AAV of $3.125 million per year. The NHL also announced that Flames coach Bob Hartley was fined $25,000 for the shenanigans on Saturday night. (He got off light, as John Tortorella was banished from the NHL for 15 days/6 games.)

Let’s deal with these one at a time.

THE FINE

First, the fine. Hartley trotted out an interesting starting five or the Vancouver game – Brian McGrattan, Kevin Westgarth, Blair Jones, Ladislav Smid and Chris Butler. Then insanity went down. The NHL’s basis for the fine was by-law 17.3(a), dealing with conduct detrimental to the league. Specifically, the league’s stance is Kevin Westgarth was acting like a fool – trying to engage an unwilling combatant in Kevin Bieska – and Hartley was responsible for his actions by putting him out there in that situation. Under the NHL’s by-laws, the league can fine just about anyone for any reason.

Were they justified here? 

Yes. They probably were.

THE EXTENSION

Matt Stajan is now signed until the end of the 2017-18 season. His cap hit is $3.125 million, placing him behind Jiri Hudler, David Jones, Dennis Wideman, Mark Giordano and Ladislav Smid in cap hits among players signed for next year. He’s ahead of Karri Ramo and Curtis Glencross. But what’s his value?

Calgary has four "regular centres" – Stajan, Mikael Backlund, Sean Monahan and Joe Colborne. Let’s compare them.

  • Scoring goals: Stajan has 7 goals, just behind Backlund (8) and well behind Monahan (13).
  • Generating points: Again, Stajan’s 17 points is behind Backlund and Monahan, tied with 19.
  • Winning face-offs: Stajan wins 48.5% of draws, which isn’t great, but he’s a giant on a team with a group average of 46.0%. He leads the team, especially Backlund (46.5) and Monahan (45). Colborne is at 48%, but takes much fewer face-offs.
  • Tough sledding: Stajan’s second amongst centers in PK time (behind Backlund). His Relative Corsi is 3.8, second among centres behind Backlund (11.5) and ahead of Colborne (1.6) and Monahan (-7.1). Adjusting for quality of competition – Stajan faces the second-toughest sledding among centres behind Backlund in an effort to shield the younger kids – we have a Relative Corsi QoC that’s, again, better than everyone but Backlund. And Stajan has the lowest offensive zone starts percentage on the team.

So Bob Hartley constantly tosses Stajan out there in the defensive zone, either at even-strength or on the PK, against the second lines of every team. And Stajan produces decently well, drives play to a good extent, and, more impressively, wins face-offs more consistently than any other Flame. (Side-bar: more impressive is Backund driving play against top lines, but I digress.) He also gives you a leadership element in the room that can’t be undervalued or overlooked, but is also extremely difficult to quantify or measure.

In terms of cap hit, I can get it. Stajan gives you something right now that other guys don’t give you. But the key there is "right now."

Backlund is an NHL centre. Colborne is a project. Monahan’s a rookie, but has showed some promise. In 2014-15, your top two centres are probably Backlund and Stajan. That’s fine, as they can effectively shield Monahan. But who else is coming in? Corban Knight and Bill Arnold may be here next season, but both would probably welcome the Monahan shielding, at least to start. Beyond next year, though, the hope is that Sean Monahan finds his sea legs like Backlund did and needs less shielding and favourable match-ups – you can give those to Arnold and/or Knight.

By year 2 or 3 of Stajan’s extension, you probably hit a bit of a crunch in terms of ice-time and situations you can put players into, and that’s presuming Stajan doesn’t start regressing over time. The four-year term is a bit odd. A two-year deal would’ve been perfect for the Flames, but I reckon the Stajan camp wanted a bit more security, so four years became the figure.

  • MWflames

    I’m sure for the longest time almost every flames fan could not wait for the time that stajan’s contract was done. Interesting how times change and here we are with the Flames handing him a four year extension.

    I have to say though, I would have been very surprised if they traded Stajan. As was noted in the article, the Flames need a guy like Stajan for the next year or two at least. Calgary’s chances at decent UFA’s this year are a long shot. And if nothing else, he works hard and is apparently decent in the locker room.

    The term is probably one year longer than I was hoping for, but the AAV is a good deal. At the end of year 2, I suspect this contract is very movable to a team needing a reliable depth center. We might not get a huge return exactly, but I believe he will be movable when the time is right.

    If Stajan isn’t signed, the Flames would effectively be relying on Monahan playing 2nd line next year assuming Backlund is healthy all year. That’s not fair to either player, and would resemble similar burn it to the ground rebuilds that have been going on somewhere else in Alberta.

    The real kicker will be whether or not there is a NTC or NMC. Have the details been released yet??

    • piscera.infada

      Agree… we could use a guy like Staje going forward… plus his trade value is somewhat poor… better to move assets that will net a better return…

      Term is only one year too long… all in all a prudent move

    • Burnward

      I heard this morning on the Fan they were saying he had a modified NTC like last time…

      Meaning he can likely name 10 teams he doesn’t want to be traded to.

    • piscera.infada

      I would agree with you – it is 1-2 years too long, I tend towards 1 year. That said, with the sad state of affairs this team is going to be in, adding an extra year to ensure the stability of someone who the organization knows isn’t too big a deal. If younger players prove they’re ready at any amount of time throughout Stajan’s contract, the organization knows he’ll be willing to move down the depth chart accordingly.

      @MWflames

      As I understand, team’s generally don’t release that kind of information. Pinder tried to get it from the Flames, and they told him they don’t release contract clauses. I would assume, if anything, there’s a modified NTC, probably with a short list of teams he wont go to (around five seems to be average for these type of deals) – pure speculation though.