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|
|Jesse Winchester *||$900,000||30||9||9||18||.35|
|Ryan Garbutt **||$900,000||29||8||17||25||.37|
|Max Talbot **||$900,000||30||5||13||18||.22|
* 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.