The Flames have three restricted free agents who filed for arbitration, and of the three, Paul Byron is both the oldest, and the last to come up. His date is set for July 30, but hopefully, a deal can be in place before then; after all, not only is he the ideal bottom six player, but he’s all we have left to remember Robyn Regehr by.
Byron wowed fans this past season by his ability to go on many breakaways, and his inability to score on all but one of them. (It was on Craig Anderson.) He wowed stats nerds with his impressive WOWY numbers, and he wowed grit lovers with his exceptional grit chart scores. In short: he’s pretty great.
But throughout it all, Byron has only just recently made the NHL. That, combined with the number of injuries he’s gone through, and it can make him seem inconsequential to the Flames’ lineup. Is that really the case, though, when we’re talking about a player who seems to do all of the little things right, and can fit in just about anywhere, from the first line to the fourth?
Of course the Flames should want to keep Byron. The question is, for how much?
Paul Byron’s case
The stats available are not particularly kind to Byron. NHL.com’s enhanced section is something of a mess, and doesn’t include higher end stuff, such as With Or Without Yous, which is where Byron really shines. His own raw SAT of 46.51% isn’t kind, but again: things were bad in that department for everyone on the Flames.
His SAT% Rel of +2.5 is much more respectable, but hard to draw any good comparisons from. Tyler Toffoli works in this case – his SAT% Rel in 2014-15 was +2.3, and he signed an extension for $3.25 million – but he also scored 49 points over the season, which simply cannot respectably compare to Byron’s 19.
Byron does all of the little things right, but actually scoring is part of the game, too, and Byron doesn’t really score.
That doesn’t mean he can’t be in line for a decent raise, though. All numbers from the 2014-15 season:
|Casey Cizikas||23||$1 million||9||9||18|
|Marcus Foligno||23||$1.875 million||8||12||20|
|Marcus Kruger||24||$1.325 million||7||10||17|
|James Sheppard||26||$1.3 million||7||11||18|
To aim for a higher cap hit, we can point out that Connolly re-signed for $1.025 million, Flynn for $950,000, Panik for $975,000, and Spooner for $950,000. With those new values, these cap hits average out to $1.175 million: nearly double what Byron received last season.
None of these players’ enhanced stats necessarily compare to Byron’s. He’s a tricky case: he’s a good possession player, but playing on such a poor possession team takes its toll. The closest on this list to his stats is Panik, with his 47.71% SAT and +1.4 SAT% rel.
With Panik making nearly a million – and with this list of players, most of which who scored about as much (and actually, less) than Byron – Byron’s camp can easily argue he deserves double his salary, to $1.2 million.
The Flames’ case
The Flames, of course, love Byron. While it may seem there’s no place for him, that’s due to two reasons:
- He fits literally anywhere in the lineup. He’s gone from the fourth line to the first over a matter of games. There’s no solid place for him because he’s the perfect rover: game more suited for the bottom six, but adequate to fill in on the top six and elevate those players’ games in case of injury.
- Speaking of injuries: he gets them a lot. Byron has only played 104 games over the past two seasons.
Byron is an asset to the Flames, but there’s simply no telling on just when, exactly, he’ll be healthy enough to play for them. Furthermore, he puts up some points, but not a lot – and there are a handful of players with comparable numbers to encourage a salary still under $1 million.
All numbers from 2014-15:
Beck was re-signed for $875,000, Jaskin for $775,000, Nestrasil for $912,500, and Pageau for $900,000. With all these in mind, the cap hit averages out to about $815,000.
This still gives Byron a raise – and no doubt, he’s earned one – but not double his salary. Rather, a modest upgrade for a player who wasn’t able to make the NHL until his mid-20s, and hasn’t been able to find a consistent spot in the lineup, all the while not putting up a lot of points.
The enhanced stats don’t match up here, either – everyone with a comparable SAT% Rel has a vastly superior SAT, and everyone with a comparable SAT has a vastly inferior SAT% Rel – but of this group, Nestrasil may be the best match. His SAT% Rel of +2.7 matches up well with Byron’s +2.5, as do his points totals. Their contact situations are similar, as well: underpaid for their work this year, but Nestrasil was granted a pretty good raise, even if not quite $1 million.
The Flames could argue for something similar. The $815,000 value may be fair; even $900,000 would work, give the player more money, and the team still with excellent flexibility.
What should the final decision be?
Byron truly is a victim of the NHL’s inability to properly catch up with advanced stats: but it may be for the Flames’ gain. Make no mistake about it; while he comes in cheapest of the Flames’ three arbitration cases, particularly due to his lacking points totals, he may actually be the most valuable of the group on the ice.
Byron slots anywhere in the lineup, makes his linemates better, is a valuable penalty killer, throws his fair share of hits for the physicality fans, and often ends up on breakaways and scores the occasional goal. He’s a jack of all trades, just not at an exceptionally high level – and he gets injured.
The terms aren’t even that far apart in this case. It’s nearly impossibly to argue Byron deserves anything more than a 100% raise, and of course, with upcoming cap pressures, the Flames would like that to be a little lower. After all, if you end up in a cap squeeze and struggle to fill out your lineup with good players, Byron really is the answer.
Anywhere from just a shade under $1 million to a shade over seems fair for both parties. The Flames get a valuable depth player for cheap, and Byron gets the raise he’s deserved for some time now.