Paul Byron, and other upcoming UFA forwards of similar cap hits

With Paul Byron re-signed, the arbitration monster is officially done with for another season. Byron and the Flames never even reached the point of exchanging case files, complete with ask amounts, so we’ll never know just how far apart they ever were.

Instead, they quickly agreed to a 50% raise, re-signing the speedy, hard-hitting forward to a one-year, $900K deal. 

There are a lot of forwards with similar cap hits. An extreme amount, really: and it’s because that’s entry level contract money. Sean Monahan and Johnny Gaudreau make more than him, despite still being on their first contracts.

Byron isn’t a star player. He’s someone who’s had to grasp and claw his way to proving himself an NHLer, taking one-year deal after one-year deal. This is already his fifth contract.

How does he compare with others in a similar position?

Impending UFAs, from $800-$900K

After this season, Byron will be an unrestricted free agent. This is the second time in his career that’s the case: the first being the more unorthodox situation of not being qualified as a restricted free agent, but re-signed as an unrestricted one regardless.

Now, though, he’s 26; will be 27 for his next contract. That means his restricted free agency days are completely behind him. 

Originally drafted by the Buffalo Sabres, he played eight games for them before being traded to the Flames, valued at about the level of a second round pick. He played NHL games every single year he has been with Calgary, but didn’t officially make the big league until the 2013-14 season. He has yet to crack the seven figure mark over this time.

Byron’s position isn’t particularly unique. He now joins a group of 12 NHL forwards who carry cap hits of $800-$900k, and who will be unrestricted free agents when their contracts expire. These are the cheap veterans throughout the league. All numbers from the 2014-15 season, unless otherwise stated:

Player Cap Hit Age Goals Assists Points Points Per Game
Andrew Desjardins $800,000 28 5 5 10 .14
Ryan White $800,000 26 6 6 12 .35
Jordin Tootoo $825,000 31 10 5 15 .22
Stephen Gionta $850,000 31 5 8 13 .21
Zac Rinaldo $850,000 24 1 5 6 .10
Jesse Winchester * $900,000 30 9 9 18 .35
Ryan Garbutt ** $900,000 29 8 17 25 .37
Kyle Brodziak $900,000 30 9 11 20 .27
Max Talbot ** $900,000 30 5 13 18 .22
Kyle Chipchura $900,000 28 4 10 14 .20
Chris Terry $900,000 25 11 9 20 .35
Paul Byron $900,000 25 6 13 19 .33

* Jesse Winchester suffered a concussion in preseason which kept him out of the lineup for the entire 2014-15 season. His stats are from the 2013-14 year, which was the season that earned him his $900K cap hit to begin with.

** Ryan Garbutt and Max Talbot were both traded, with 50% of their cap hits retained by their original teams. The cap hit on the team they play for is $900K, though, and that’s what we care about: a team valuing a player from $800-$900K.

Some fun facts:

  • Byron, at 25, is the third youngest player on this list (Terry is 20 days younger than him). 
  • He also has the fourth highest points per game, outperforming many of his peers.
  • Of the players with greater points per game, Garbutt played 67 games and had 32 points the previous season (and a vastly reduced shooting percentage this season, from 10.3 to 5.6%), so he can probably maintain that pace. Winchester had a career season, but has scored at similar paces before. White only played 34 games, so his points per game may have dropped had he been able to get in the lineup more.
  • Terry is the most interesting, and probably most similar to Byron. Like Byron, he played 57 games this past season, but scored five more goals.
  • Terry also shot at 15.5%. Byron, 9.7%. Swap their shooting percentages, and Terry would have finished the season with seven goals, and Byron, 10. 

In short: taking only points into account, Byron is one of the best valued players around this cap hit. Yes, he misses on a lot of breakaways; he also sets up his teammates and does enough to provide a tangible difference.


Via War on Ice, a quick look at how the 11 relevant players were used over the 2014-15 season:


And suddenly, Byron’s value among this group skyrockets.

He has easily the best CF% rel at +2.31. The only other player who comes close is Chipchura, who clocks in at +2.17; otherwise, everyone else was just barely a positive for their team, or a detriment. Check out the major difference between Chipchura and Brodziak despite playing in basically the same circumstances. 

Almost all of the players on this list had negative relative offensive zone start differentials, which makes Byron and Chipchura’s performances all the more impressive. Chipchura comes out looking rosy due to just how much more drastic his defensive zone starts were, but Byron played a higher quality of competition, beat out only by Garbutt.

Of this cost-effective group, though, Byron’s underlying numbers are the best.

Putting it all together

The NHL is still catching up to valuing players with good underlying numbers, which has allowed the Flames to keep Byron for cheap for another season.

Compared to his peers, Byron is probably the best signing of this group. Not only does he have the best CF% rel in fairly difficult circumstances, but he’s one of the highest scorers. Chipchura is the only one who can challenge him when it comes to possession stats, but not only is he older, he scores less, too.

Byron is exactly the player you want for depth. He doesn’t score a lot, no. But whenever he’s on the ice, he helps his team, never hurting it. That’s the very least you can ask of a player: if you aren’t going to score, at least make sure nobody scores on us. And that’s an area Byron does a particularly good job in.

If he starts converting on breakaways – which he generates by means of his talent to begin with, and it shouldn’t be understated – then watch out. His next contract could very well break the seven figure barrier, especially on the open market.

For now, though, he’s a very valuable signing. Hopefully injuries won’t derail his season, and he’ll be able to find his place on the Flames after all.

  • DestroDertell

    Where does Byron fit in this team? Where would his skill set, style,and spunk be best serve this team. Would a line of Bouma/Backlund/Byron be an effective 2b line or would he more of a help in this situation Byron/Bennett/Frolik as a 2a line. Or should he be on a line like this Byron/Stajan/Jooris?

    It’s kind of fun to play with the possible line combinations that BH has at his disposal. Hopefully he can find the right combinations to help the first line and take some of the pressure of of them. for the first time in a long time there is the possibility to ply 4 solid lines; if Bennett is the player we think he is and Ferland is the player we hope he is then there is a lot to be excited about.

    • Ari Yanover

      If Hartley wants to play Bennett at centre, then I’d love to see a Byron – Backlund – Frolik shutdown line: they could handle the toughest assignments and score along the way. Plus this would allow Bennett to play in sheltered circumstances in his rookie season.

      • DestroDertell

        Where do you play Bouma then? Does he become Bennett’s body guard or play on the 4th line? So would a Bouma/Bennett/Jones(he’s likely of 3rd best rw behind Hudler and Frolik) make any sense?

        • Ari Yanover

          Ferland worked well with Stajan and Jones; maybe Bouma goes in that line and Ferland with Bennett? Or Bouma with Bennett if the playoff line stays intact… and Jooris or Colborne or Shore or someone on the right.

          Waaaay too many forwards right now. I’d prefer Byron with Backlund over Bouma, though.

          • Ari Yanover

            Has Byron ever played the rw? Have Bouma/Backs and Byron ever played together?

            You are so right that we have an abundance of forwards 18 with Frolik that played with the flames last year. and that does not include Arnold or Agostino who had good ahl seasons last year.(It does include Bollig who I believe will have a difficult job earning his spot over the kids)

          • Ari Yanover

            You could explain Bollig’s place in the lineup last year; with the number of prospects that have either made it/are knocking on the door right now, plus Frolik, I don’t think you can anymore. Even if he’s just a permanent healthy scratch/pressbox cheerleader, that’s fine, but him actually taking to the ice with this forward group is much harder to justify. (Especially if the Flames want him there for his physicality… What, like Bouma and Ferland don’t have that covered, along with already being better?)

            Byron has played the right side before! Remember when Hartley initially wanted to put him on a line with Gaudreau and Colborne because dick jokes or whatever? A quick glance through some past starting game lineups shows him playing both LW and RW.

            I don’t think Bouma – Backlund – Byron has ever been a line, and that would be interesting to see… but man, I want to see Backlund with Frolik so bad. Treliving talked about how it’s a league of pairs in regards to forward lineups. Gaudreau/Hudler was one last year (though that may be replaced with Gaudreau/Monahan now); Backlund/Frolik seems like it should be one, too.

          • piscera.infada

            You really like the idea of Backlund and Frolik but to start the season I think it would be best for them to be apart. Again what I really like is that there are plenty of options. I also like the Bouma/Backlund option as well.

          • piscera.infada

            I guess (for me at least–because I’m not as well versed in possession metrics as some on this site), it comes down to what would have the greatest impact on the team as a whole.

            Is it better to spread your best possession players throughout the lineup (hoping for [moderate?] “wowy”-style improvement en masse), or is it better to have one great possession line? Would there any tangible difference really?

          • piscera.infada

            Why not try putting some of your better possession players, such as Jooris and Byron with Backlund together to drive the team North and leave Bouma and Jones with Stajan? So you have two relatively strong defensive lines to give some easier minutes to the top two lines.

            That would put Frolik with Bennett, if you want the latter to play center, and the team then has a wide selection of players to put at left wing. Not Colborne or Bollig.

            I’m assuming last year’s first line is left alone.

          • piscera.infada

            I wonder about the logic of splitting Backlund and Bouma up. Bouma had a career season playing with Backs and the hope has to be that he scores over 10 again for each of the years of his contract. Backs play was not significantly hurt playing with Bouma.

            Who on this team would be a lW who could fit with Frolik and Bennett? If you exclude Colborne then it leaves you with Raymond(hoping for a bounce back season). Ferland who is also a rookie and an unknown quantity(although this really interests me). Personally I would consider either Jooris or Byron here as well as I think it would be good for Bennett to have a second center on his unit if he struggles on FO.

  • piscera.infada

    I was actually enjoying this article until the Corsi stats came out as the way of determining a player’s value/worth.

    Interesting as well the author chose players with the same contract value AND $100k less as direct comparables, rather than adding on players with $100k more as well to ensure Byron’s salary was the media salary rather than the upper limit of the comparables.

    Doing that shifts the conversation in Byron’s favour, which we know aligns with the authors already existing narrative about this player all year.

    I don’t mind Byron but this article is biased and the angles chosen specifically Cherry picked to support Byron’s signing. A more objective assessment would provide more usefulness.

    Not sure if he even makes the starting 12 this year, I have my doubts. With all the young kids coming up that need ice time and opportunity to develop I’m more pro “ensure the youth gets their needed opportunities” rather than anti-Byron but barring a break out year I could see this being it for Byron as there are much younger, shinier, fancier toys that will surpass him on the depth charts by next year

  • piscera.infada

    Meh…a bottom roster player that may play in the top 12/13 or may not.

    Time to make room for the kids (Ferland, Shore) that are in the same position on the depth chart, but younger with more upside. Byron is what he is, the other kids are still developing and likely haven’t hit their ceiling. That’s where ice time needs to be made available