Arbitration case file: What might Paul Byron’s next contract be worth?

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:

Player Age Cap Hit Goals Assists Points
Casey Cizikas 23 $1 million 9 9 18
Brett Connolly 22 $850,500 12 5 17
Brian Flynn 26 $637,500 5 12 17
Marcus Foligno 23 $1.875 million 8 12 20
Marcus Kruger 24 $1.325 million 7 10 17
Richard Panik 23 $735,000 11 6 17
James Sheppard 26 $1.3 million 7 11 18
Ryan Spooner 23 $760,000 8 10 18
Paul Byron 25 $600,000 6 13 19

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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:

Player Age Cap Hit Goals Assists Points
Taylor Beck 23 $550,000 8 8 16
Luke Glendening 25 $628,333 12 6 18
Dmitrij Jaskin 21 $803,333 13 5 18
Andrej Nestrasil 23 $550,000 7 13 20
Jean-Gabriel Pageau 22 $613,333 10 9 19
Devante Smith-Pelly 22 $800,000 6 14 20
Paul Byron 25 $600,000 6 13 19

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.

  • CMpuck

    The Flames loss vs the Ducks was a good example of a team being outmatched both in terms of skill and size. I believe the Flames are improving the skill base but need to get bigger/heavier to be able to match the Ducks. If you sign players like Byron (fast, strong possession stats, small, no finish) then you will not achieve your objectives.

    Sadly…bye bye Byron…time to move on and progress within our Division!

      • RealMcHockeyReturns

        Mike…are you saying Flames cannot walk away from the arbitration award? I am not 100% familiar with the rules. Unfortunately, if he gets over $900K, I assume Flames will try to trade him given Bouma will get at leat $1.6M via arbitration or signing, and Jooris $1M perhaps and Flames have other young players to get into lineup

        • Yes, a team cannot walk away from a player elected arbitration UNLESS the award is $3.5M or more, then they can.

          So the Flames will have Byron for at least one more year. Where to put him in the lineup is a whole other discussion.

          • mattyc

            They could always waive him (but why bother).

            Re: size:

            When I think about possession, I think about ‘winning the puck battles’, ‘grinding it out in the corners’, being ‘strong on the backcheck’, ‘hard on your stick’… etc. All these cliches are typically associated with ‘big’ players. But logically, if Byron, Jooris and Backlund (and to a lesser extent Gaudreau and Hudler) are our best forwards at doing those things (and conversely Bollig and Engelland are by far the worst), what does that say about the utility of size?

    • RealMcHockeyReturns

      ThT’s perception, not fact. At forward at least.

      Our “lack of size” was the perception because our defensemen (Whether that’s small Kris Russell, Average sized Dennis Wideman, or massive Deryk Engelland) were terrible at possessing the puck. So we had to send our Bolligs out there to “Match Anaheim’s size”.

      Which was wrong, all wrong.

      Look at Chicago’s forwards roster that humiliated the “Huge” Ducks. Patrick Kane. Teuvo Teravainen. Andrew Shaw.

      These players were allowed to play to their strengths against the huge ducks because their defensemen , whether it was Oduya, Hjalmarsson, Seabrook or Keith, were able to get the puck.

      Size is the perceived weakness when you don’t have the puck. When you have the puck it doesn’t matter because you’re not trying to take it away from bigger, stronger guys, those slower, bigger guys are trying to take it away from you.

    • hulkingloooooob

      you say we need a mix of size and skill. i agree whole heartedly, but it has to be done thoughtfully. i’d love to see one fast/skilled/small? guy on 3 of the four lines, someone who keeps the opposition on their toes. someone who can sneak behind their d and get something going. and the way byron plays, you put him on a line with a couple bigger gritty dudes with some amount of skill and you have a great 3rd/4th line. I’d much rather that then have a med slow line of brutes. i think he’s more important that most realize. and at that price, you’ve got to be happy.

      plus he’s great on the p-kill and at 4 on 4.

      go byron go!

    • Tomas Oppolzer

      You do realize that Chicago is basically the same average size as Calgary, right? Adding size for the sake of size is dumb and shouldn’t happen. Calgary was manhandled by Anaheim because their (Calgary’s) best players are young, inexperienced, and haven’t filled out physically. When Monahan and Bennett fill out they will both probably be over 200 lbs. Not to mention Byron hits hard like a 200+ lbs player.

  • Trevy

    Sadly, as much as I love our little energizer bunny, we have too many forwards as is and already have a small skilled forward in Gaudreau. Besides, what does he really have that another one of our young forwards don’t have? Someone like Granlund would be just as good and perhaps a better point producer.

    I agree that having size (Anaheim) is not what truly makes a championship team, as what was proven by Chicago, but even Chicago limits themselves to just having one great small skilled forward in Kane. Where would Byron fit anyhow? In the bottom six? Those are reserved spots for bigger forcheckers that wear down the opposition. The Ferlands, Boumas and Colbournes.

    I would sign and see what the trade market dictates on his value and go from there. IMO

    • OKG

      What does he have?

      An ability to blow past a defender with an explosive first step, creating separation that gets the puck into the offensive zone.

      BTW Granlund was one of our worst possession players last year. How would he be “just as good” as one of our best possession players?

      • Trevy

        Yes, he does have those attributes! Then I wonder why he’s a 25 yr old player that’s been in and out of the line up or in the minors or hurt looking at potentially getting a 1-2 yr deal. If he was as good as everyone thinks he is, he would of been more of a priority signing rather than another fringe player.

        Again, I love the guy and perhaps playing in the bottom 6 with a couple other bigger players with some skill may elevate his game to the next level, the fact is he hasn’t proven a whole lot in his career thus far and he’s in direct competition with a few others in the same boat on the Flames that are younger and bigger.

        • FlamesRule

          There was another guy like that… More talented but because of his size no one wanted to take a chance with him… The Flames bought him out of his meagre contract.

          He took his talents elsewhere, won a Stanley Cup, a Hart, a few art rosses.

          • OKG

            St. Louis was more talented. Not even close, he was an exceptional elite player in college while Byron was just a good player in Junior.

            That said, Marty had 4 goals and 16 assists as a Flame (24 years old). The Flames didn’t even think he was worth a roster spot because of his height. Byron’s season last year was actually better than the season St. Louis gave us.

            Even if Byron went on to become a quarter of the player St. Louis was (Carl Hagelin maybe) we will have lost out again on a hell of a player. Again.

            We know Byron’s a good hockey player, his advanced stats make that painfully obvious. And we know Byron has some real upside if he ever simply starts sinking breakaways.

            Giving up on him because he’s small is stupid.

            These are your words, NOT mine:

            “I wonder why he’s a 25 yr old player that’s been in and out of the line up or in the minors or hurt looking at potentially getting a 1-2 yr deal. If he was as good as everyone thinks he is, he would of been more of a priority signing rather than another fringe player.”

            replace “25” with 24″ and they fit Marty St. Louis to a tee. Like, the kind of argument that got Marty bought out instead of joining Iggy and Savard for multiple Cups

    • FlamesRule

      Absolutely sign him for something like this and make one of the guys on the farm outplay him for a spot. None of our current prospects can be slotted into any line like Byron can – we need that for injury replacement.

  • Jeremy

    Anything over the absolute minimum is an overpayment. He’s an AHL player, not NHL. You need to score not miss all the time.

    Minimum and a 2 way deal. Thats fair for Byron.

  • Johnny Goooooooaldreau

    “Can fit in just about anywhere, from the first line to the fourth”

    No thank you. If you have that guy in your top 6 you are NOT making the playoffs, never mind winning the cup.

  • The Last Big Bear

    If I had to choose only one player out of Byron, Bouma, and Jooris, it would be a tough decision.

    But I would take Byron.

    If it becomes Byron@$900k vs Bouma@$1.6m, then it’s not even a question for me.

  • TheoForever

    Byron’s 25 now and has been passed by many of the younger guys on the depth chart. With the overwhelming congestion at the forward ranks I could see this being it for him, a sign and trade, as opposed to losing him for nothing had they not re-signed him would be a logical option at this point, not sure if he actually holds any level of trade value though.

    Nonetheless it would open up more opportunity for some of the younger players establishing themselves.

  • Graham

    Unlike previous years the Flames have lots of options for the bottom part of the lineup. Sign Bryan for fourth line money or let him walk. We’re not in a cap crunch yet, but we need to be smart signing these low end guys.

  • There are too many younger, better prospects coming up (Ferland, Poirier, Arnold etc), no real reason to keep this guy in the long term plans, I would expect this to be his last year wearing red.

    He’s not a top 6 guy putting up offense and isn’t an ideal bottom six guy either, he’s like Colborne in the sense that he isn’t either of those things and just kind of spots in wherever. He’s been a solid little depth guy for us but I would imagine he’s going to struggle to get ice time this year, barring injuries, given how we even have more full-time forwards looking for full time jobs this year than any other

  • Way over rated by all the “be all end all” Corsi obsessed writers on this site that constantly use that single stat alone to determine a player’s worth. That’s great he can move the puck towards the opposing teams goal, but he does absolutely nothing productive with it once in a scoring position.

    At the end of the day he doesn’t put points on the board and impact the final score of the game and that’s all that matters. He’s become expendable with all the forward depth we have now, one year max is what I’d expect the flames choose, hopefully it’s under $1M awarded to him

  • Trevy

    Byron gets bumped off the puck too easy and is injury prone as hell, he can’t handle the physicality of playing against much larger grown men.

    My 12 year old nephew is the exact same height and weight as this guy, yikes